HISTORY OF ST. GEORGE CATHOLIC CHURCH
From very humble beginnings the church, in an open shed with a handful of faithful, has grown to become a parish and, more so, a Cathedral Church. Koforidua was once a large cocoa producing area and an important trading centre. This attracted a lot of strangers to the area especially Ewes from Togo and Fantes from the coast. The population in Koforidua was predominantly pagan with some Christians belonging to either the Methodist or Presbyterian Church.
Initially, the bulk of catholic priests who ministered to the people in the Gold Coast (now Ghana) were Europeans and were concentrated mainly in Cape Coast, Sekondi-Takoradi, Accra, Kumasi, Sunyani and Keta-Ho all of which belonged to the Vicariate of Cape Coast.
In 1911, Mr. Sylvester B. Osabutey, a catholic from German Togo, introduced Catholic worship in Koforidua. Mr. Osabutey is doubtless the founder of the Catholic Church in Koforidua. Assisted by Mr. Mensah Badagu, he began to hold church services on Sunday mornings under an open shed in Awuna town, along the Nkurakan road. As there was no Catholic mission in the whole, members turned to Keta as the best accessible in the whole area and requested the priest of Keta to come and visit them. It seems however that, by chance the first Catholic missionary to set foot in Koforidua was a German Togo one Rev. Fr. Anthony Witte, SVD. He came to visit his former parishioners who had migrated to Koforidua. It was Fr. Witte who performed the first baptism on 4th June 1913, when he baptized three infants.
The appeal to Keta brought results when in 1914 Fr. Arthur Heck, SMS came on an exploratory visit. On August 2, 1914, he baptized four infants. Fr. Heck continued to come regularly during the years 1915 and 1923, allowing the baptism register to show over 100 baptisms.
In 1923, the separation of the lower Volta from the Cape coast Vicariate became a fact and Keta was raised to a Prefecture. Koforidua passed over into the jurisdiction of cape coast and became an outstation of Salt pond, over 100 miles away.
Membership in the Catholic Mission of Koforidua had grown over these years. Various changes in places of worship were necessary to accommodate the faithful. Ewe continued to be the language used in the church, since all the original members were Ewes and the large majority remained Ewes. However, it was deemed expedient to introduce the Akan language in order to win over the native population. Fante was chosen since there were no prayers or songs in the Twi language at that time.
This change in language led many of the foundation members to leave the church, even though it was realized that the change was necessary and would offer assurance of stability and continuity for future when the church would be established among the native population.
In 1924, the catholic community decided to build a proper church building. The Omanhene, Nana Kwaku Boateng I was approached for a piece of land. Being a friend of the Catholic Mission for years, he readily agreed and a site was given at the south East of Harper Street (present school complex). The site was far from deal, being a hillside. One edge was low and swampy, the other steep leading upwards to a hill. Much effort went into the leveling of a site spacious enough for a church building and a fathers’ residence.
High praise must be given to these Koforidua Catholics for their zeal concerted efforts. Great number of Catholics came once in a week from Asokore Effiduase and Oyoko to join the Koforidua members in communal labour.
Progress increased since Accra had become a main station in June 1924. One of the two Accra Priests was in charge of Koforidua. Catechumen classes became better organized and attended, Fr. Joseph Stauffer, SMA came for the first time from Accra in April 1926. In just two years, he baptized over 70 Catechumens. Father John v/d Hout, SMA took up care of the mission and in the next three years added 135 names to the baptismal register. With the arrival of Father John Lemens, SMA a new chapter was opened in the history of St. George Church. Fr. Lemens became the first resident Priest. Without delay and with great energy, he continued leveling the Mission land, moving the hill into a swampy valley to build the first three classrooms on.
In 1933, Fr. Henry Sevriens came to join Fr. Lemmens. A period of real expansion started. The two Fathers had to cover the vast area of Kwahu, Akim, Krobo, Akuapim and New Juabeng. They did a marvelous job considering roads and communication systems so primitive in those days. Fr Lemens, a former philosophy professor, travelled mostly on foot or by mammy lorry, away stations, took him often more than three months. Many new stations were opened and schools founded.
In 1938, Fathers Auguste Gehring, SVD and Alphonse Elsbernd SVD arrived in Accra on an exploratory and inspection tour of the mission. The Society of the Divine word Missionaries was willing to take over the Accra Mission from the SMA Fathers. On 25th October, 1938, Fr. Gehring arrived in Koforidua. Together with Father Lemens, SMA he made a through trek through the whole Mission. As a result of Fr. Gehring’s report to his superiors in Rome, Fr, Elsbernd, SVD was appointed in 1941 as the first SVD priest of Koforidua.
Right from the change – over, Fr. Elsbernd, SVD and the assistant Fr. Anthony Bauer, SVD plunged into their missionary assignment. By leaps and bounds, the church and the school progressed beyond expectation. New out-stations were opened and old ones consolidated. Other missionaries who took over the running of the station from time to time were Rev. Joseph O. Bowers, later Bishop of Accra, Rev. John Dauphine, Rev. George Wilson and rev Henry Janssen, all contributing greatly to the spiritual and material progress of the parish. In 1952, Fr. Anthony Bauer, SVD built the modern twin – towered church, while Fr. Henry Janssen, SVD added the present Priests’ residence to the church compound. In 1963, the St. George Church celebrated its golden jubilee. Under the dynamic leadership of Rev. Theodore Van Eyndthoven, SVD the parish priest, a nation-wide unity congress was hosted in Koforidua: ‘That all may be one’ was the theme. Progress continued in the following years. Mention must be made of the opening of Madonna International School in 1966 and of the new parish center ‘Blessed Arnold’ in 1977. In the Adweso Estates a multi-purpose hall was built providing Koforidua with a second parish hall in 1979.
Four years after celebrating the seventy-fifth (75th) anniversary of the Catholic Church in Koforidua, the long awaited good news was announced to us, the creation of the Koforidua Diocese, 21st Nov, 1992 by his Holiness Pope John Paul II. The new diocese was curved out of the Diocese of Accra with Rt. Rev. Charles Gabriel Palmer-Buckle as her first resident Bishop, (now the Archbishop of Accra Archdiocese) with Rev. Fr. Joseph Afrifa-Agyekum as the first Vicar General and the Cathedral Administrator.
Progress in the church in Koforidua was eminent after the seventy – five (75) years achievements. Through the efforts of St. George Cathedral parishioners and the support of our Bishop, Most Rev. Charles Gabriel Palmer-Buckle, St. Bakhita Catholic Church at Old – Estate was built and separation of Bakhita members from Cathedral effected in 2003.
Progress continued with a number of ordination of priests and profession of final vows of some Religious for the church. To mention just a few of them from the Cathedral; Very Rev. Francis Adoboli now Vicar General of Accra Archdiocese, the Late Rev. Fr. Samuel Owusu-Frimpong, Rev. Fr. Gabriel Owusu-Frimpong, Rev. Fr. Raphael Gyapong-Frimpong, Rev. Fr. Derrick Mawuli, Rev. Sister Patricia Asante, HDR, Rev. Sister Edgitha Opoku, HDR, Rev Sister Comfort M. Apedzi, OLA, Rev. Brother Richmond Tawiah, SVD. Others belonging to the Catholic Church in new Juabeng have also been ordained for the church, notably, Rev. Fr. Peter Debrah from St. Theresa Catholic Church, Effiduase, Rev. Fr. Richard Dordunu from St. Dominic Catholic Church, Adweso and Rev. Fr. Augustine William Asante from St. Joseph the Worker Catholic Church, Asokore.
In 1998, the diocese hosted for the first time the Annual Plenary Assembly of Ghana Catholic Bishops Conference. The closing mass was held at St. George Cathedral Church.
Precisely fourteen (14) years old as a Diocese, a second Bishop was appointed on the 12th of April, 2006, by His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI, owing to the elevation of Most Rev. Gabriel Charles Palmer-Buckle to the status of Archbishop of Accra Archdiocese. The announcement of the elevation of the Vicar General Rev. Msgr. Joseph Afrifa Agyekum to status of a Bishop was received with grate jubilation. Most Rev. Joseph Afrifa-Agyekum Consecration and Installation ceremony by …………….. took place on 1st July, 2006 on the compound of Madonna school Koforidua. Thus, another milestone for the Catholic Church.
In the year 2008 19th Oct, St. George Cathedral hosted conferment of papal knighthood of St. Gregory the Grate on four members of the Catholic Church. One of the recipients was a member of St. George Catholic church, the late Sir Knight Augustine Kwame Adu-Amankwah. The rest from other parishes of the Diocese were Dame Josephine Sey from St. Mary Catholic Church, Asamankese, and Sir Knight Stephen Asante Ansong from St. Bakhita Catholic Church, Old-Estate and Sir Knight Kwasi Amuzu from St. Michael Catholic Church, Nkawkaw. A fifth recipient, a Presbyterian female nurse, Madam Faith Dzormeku, received a papal medal award for having worked faithfully for many years at St. Michael’s Catholic Clinic, Ntronang, in the Diocese. Most Rev. Bishop Joseph Afrifa Agyekum was the principal celebrant.
The church undertook some developmental projects within the last twenty-five years. One of the major projects was the establishment of the St. George Vocational institute which has given vocational training to a number of girls thus equipping them with work. Another development is the new complex schools building, through a joint project of the church and the New Juabeng Municipal Assembly. A face lift of pavement block was done on the cathedral compound, thus eliminating the rough and muddy ground. Importantly, renovations at the priests’ residence, in and outside the Cathedral were made. The cathedral compound was also fenced. A good place of convenience was also built on the compound behind the kindergarten block.
The New Juaben church has experienced tragic events of deaths of three young priests, namely; Rev. Fr. Patrick Adu-Amankwah in 1995, Rev. Fr. Samuel Owusu-Frimpong, in 2000 and Rev. Fr. Joseph Nkrumah Baidoo in 2004.
In 2009, 19th April, His Lordship, Most Rev. Joseph Afrifah-Agyekum lunched his development and pastoral fund raising at St. George Cathedral Parish. Representatives from all parishes in the Diocese converged at the Cathedral to support this good course.
The Catholic Church in Koforidua is 100 years. The lunching of the anniversary which started the year long programme of activities was done by the Bishop on the 22nd July, 2012 at the Cathedral. This important event coincided with the pastoral visit of the Apostolic Nuncio to Ghana, Most Rev. Leon B. Kalenga. To crown the Nuncio’s pastoral visit, he blessed the St. George Centenary Block to commemorate the centenary anniversary.
In Nov, 2012, the diocese again hosted for the second time, the Annual Plenary Assembly of the Ghana Catholic Bishop’ Conference. The closing mass was celebrated at St. George Catholic Cathedral church.
V. Rev. Fr. Felix Davordzi (Cathedral Administrator)
Rev. Fr. Augustine W. Asante (Associate Administrator)
Tue - Fri 8:00am – 12:30pm
4:00pm – 5:50pm
Mr. Emmanuel Nkrumah
Mrs. Christiana Bruce
Mrs. Joseph Adjare Danso
Tue-Fri. 8:00am – 12:30pm
1:30pm – 4:00pm
Mon./Sat. 8:00am – 12:00n
Sunday 6:30am (Twi)
Weekdays 6:20am (Mon, Tue, Thur, Sat)
1st Thursday of the month @ 7:00pm
Hour of Grace
1st Friday of the Month @ 12:30pm