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Fifty years of service to God

Jun 2, 2010, 1:01 PM | Article By: Augustine Kanjia

Stella Maris Parish has clocked 50 years in line with the propagation of the Christian faith in The Gambia. Catholics came to settle especially from France in the 18th Century followed by the Anglicans. The change of hands between the British and the French was also an influence on those who came with the Christian faith. Those were difficult days when mosquitoes and yellow fever contributed to the deaths of the white man. In the face all those odious times the early priests were able to spread.

The places they went to is as follows: from Banjul and to Old Jeshwang, Kanifing, Bakau and they started spreading.

Bakau now celebrates the 50th year of being in line with the spread of the Word of God. Panorama finds out about their celebration.

Hundreds of believers gathered at the Star of the Sea Church in Bakau to mark their celebration of their 50th anniversary celebration.

After the whole effort by the many parishioners under the leadership of Joseph Njie as the new Parish Council chairman, things were placed in position and ended in a befitting way. The parish priest, Fr. Louis Thomas Mendy CSSp., and his assistant, Fr. Peter Jammeh CSSp, were there to support and make the occasion a success. The parishioners and the Presentation of Mary Sisters at Shalom were also behind the organising and putting things in place to enable a successful completion.

Joe Njie the new Parish Pastoral Council chairman said it is wise to hold ones church close to ones heart. "We can together forge ahead by our concerted effort. This is a house of God we need love and joy. We shall push the parish ahead and make its name bigger than it is," he said.

The parish embarks on catechism, and distribution of the Blessed Sacrament on Fridays. The Reverend Sisters of the parish including interested persons teach the youngsters in catechism thus assisting them to take their First Communion and Confirmation as 18 of them were confirmed on the 50th anniversary.

The exercise at Shalom for these youngsters interested all parents and most are anxious to send their children for the classes. Many believe that from such would grow vocations into either the Sisterhood or the Priesthood but such has not been the case either.

Many believe that the notion of taking the challenge into the priesthood or sisterhood should be nurtured by parents at home and through the example of dedication to prayers and the Church's work, children should be able to choose such vocations. For many years the Stella Maris parish has been left behind without their own priest but others children come from far and wide to serve them as priests.

There were many priests who served in the parish including Bishop Emeritus, Michael Cleary CSSp, and Bishop Robert P. Ellison CSSp about 25 years ago, the Late Fr. Myles Faye CSSp, Joe Owusu Boafo CSSp, Fr. Pius Gidi CSSp, Fr. Jean Francois CSSp, Fr. Louis T. Mendy CSSp and Peter Jammeh CSSp and those that are not mentioned that were there 50 years ago. Bishop Michael Cleary CSSp, Bishop Emeritus served as the first resident parish priest.

"The photo of Our Lady stands open-handed over looking Bakau on the world map. It reminds me of the Holy Spirit descended on the Apostles, on Pentecost Day," Bishop Ellison said.

He stressed that the time had come when worshippers would come together. He says, "In my Lenten message this year, I wrote about the Eucharist and how we have celebrated it. I hope you will continue to build on that spirit."

Bishop Ellison asked for those who were married here in the past.

"We would like to remember those who came to make peace with their God and their neighbours through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. God has revealed Himself to us as One God through the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. God is absolutely One God. We try to understand that God by nature is One. It is understood by the saying, "No one can come to Heaven except through me."

The Trinity Bishop Ellison said God is a community of persons. "As my Father and I are one... It is a big challenge for us to live in harmony and peace," he said.

He revealed that he was parish priest in the Church 25 years ago, noting that the parish is a United Nations comprising of many nationalities. "Twenty-six nationals were here representing twenty-six nations."

"There are two centres in one parish. The land here was not adequate to build the entire edifice. Thus a small Church," he said.

Bishop Ellison further said that they expect those in charge to create unity among parishioners. "It is a good thing that we see children going on Tuesdays for Catechism classes. There are also other groups including CWA, Development Committee, choir etc." Bishop ended with a proverb from Fr. Jarju's reflections on the Radio, "A tasteful meal will never stay in the mouth."