Though it has been a short period of time since my arrival back in Damongo, Ghana, so much has happened. Firstly, our senior class graduated. I will probably not see them again. Although I never mastered all their names, I will never forget their smiling faces.
We were blessed to have Bishop Peter Paul in attendance at the graduation to send the girls off with his blessing.
Also in attendance was the queen mother of the largest tribe in this area.
The queen mother is the president of our school’s PTA. Even though the family is Muslim, her daughter attends our Girl’s Catholic High School.
Although not necessary, when I am in the presence of the queen mother I bow and greet her with the formal greeting given to a tribal queen, and I do it in her language. She replies, also in the language of her tribe, calling me her princess. Her way, I believe, of showing that she appreciates the respect given her.
Also in attendance was one of the tribes chiefs. Of course, before the festivities ended, I had to have my picture taken with him.
My fellow lay missioner, Diane, teaches a nutrition class. Most of the girls in her class have never seen the stove, for their families cook over a fire outside their dwelling. Diane had them to our Bungalow for a demonstration on how to cook eggs four different ways: fried, scrambled, boiled and poached. Most of us, myself included, have difficulties poaching and egg.
In the video you can hear the excitement as a student cracks an egg and attempts the task. As you can see, however, she is more excited about being in a video than making a perfect egg.
Unfortunately, our head mistress’ father passed to be with our Lord. Mr. Siesegh, 90, was one of the first catechists to evangelize in the North West Region of Ghana. A region that now has one of the largest concentration of Catholics. Many priests serving in Damongo are from his village as well as our Bishop, Peter Paul, the Archbishop of the neighboring diocese of Tamale and the deceased Cardinal Peter Poreku Dery, who is in the process of being beautified and canonization.
Mr. Siesegh was well loved by his entire village. Thursday, when we arrived, over 100 were gathered in a field behind his home. Twenty seven girls from SAGISS performed three different tribal dances.
The body of Mr. Siesegh sat in a large chair under a beautifully decorated tent.
Under a tree a group of men played what appeared to be a wooden xylophone.
Food was abundant. Many of the mourners stayed in the field all night in honor of the man who spent nearly his entire life evangelizing in the area. The following day, still in the field behind the family home, the body was placed in a coffin.
Over 20 priests were present to celebrate the burial Mass. To my surprise, as the Mass ended, a “fued” broke out between two rival tribes. Mr. Siesegh’s coffin could not be taken away for burial until his tribe paid enough money to the rival tribe. A collection took place right there, at the coffin, in the middle of the field. Because Mr. Siesegh’s tribe did not raise enough money, it was necessary for them to hand over a goat. At this point the payment was enough for the body to be released for burial. This "fued" was carried out with laughter and cheers, however, the payment was real.
Mr. Seisegh was buried at his home, in the same area where he, for years, evangelized to all, regardless of which tribe they belonged. With the help of the Holy Spirit, he preached the Gospel with the aim of uniting the tribes and motivating them to live together in peace. I was blessed to be able to celebrate the life of a man who gave his all to bring the Word of God to his people.