Two continents, one Church: Fr. Wallis and Fr. Metzler visit Archdiocese of Kumasi, Ghana
FORT WORTH — In August, Father Jonathan Wallis, diocesan vicar general, and Father Brett Metzler, vocations director and Nolan Catholic High School chaplain, traveled to Ghana and spent three weeks with Archbishop Gabriel Justice Yaw Anokye of Kumasi.
What do the two dioceses from opposite sides of the world share?
A relationship that’s deeper than one might speculate, considering the differences in culture, language, history, and economies. But it’s a relationship that’s poised to grow closer.
In September, Archbishop Anokye reinforced the enduring relationship by traveling 6,295 miles to the Diocese of Fort Worth, where he celebrated Mass with the diocese’s Ghanaian Catholic Community and visited with the three priests from the Archdiocese of Kumasi who serve as missionaries in North Texas: Monsignor Francis Boakye Tawiah, parochial vicar at St. Philip the Apostle in Flower Mound; Father Philip Boateng Brembah, pastor of St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Arlington; and Father Peter Wiafe Akenteng, parochial vicar of St. Joseph Parish in Arlington.
Archbishop Anokye celebrated Masses at each of the three parishes served by a Ghanaian priest, and he and the three Ghanaian priests also met privately with Bishop Michael Olson, Fr. Wallis, and Fr. Metzler.
Miles of joy
In 2020, Bishop Olson, accompanied by Father Maurice Moon, who now serves as the director of collegian seminarian formation, traveled to the Archdiocese of Kumasi. Bishop Olson said the personal connection with the archdiocese “promotes our lives as brothers and sisters in Christ. Ghana is not just a place where we get priests.”
When Fr. Wallis and Fr. Metzler visited Kumasi, they stayed with Archbishop Anokye. Fr. Brembah and Msgr. Tawiah served as guides, and the priests attended many Masses and visited a seminary, university, and orphanage.
The Catholic Church in Ghana, observed Fr. Wallis, “is very alive, very young — I think the average age in Ghana is 21. It’s amazing to see so many kids and young people with just a real openness to the faith, a love of the Church, and a tremendous hospitality as well. Fr. Metzler and I were welcomed not as strangers, but as brothers.”
Fr. Metzler noted that Catholic signs and Scripture passages were seen frequently as they moved “in the public, in the community, the city, everywhere. Everybody loves to be Catholic.”
Nowhere was the joy of faith more evident than in the procession on the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, August 15.
The faithful began a nine-mile procession at 4 a.m., carrying a statue of the Blessed Mother while they danced and sang, remembered Fr. Wallis, who added that the visitors from Texas rode in the procession with the archbishop.
Fr. Metzler perceived that Ghanaian Catholics may be poor materially, but they are rich in spirit. “They’re really, really grateful for what He’s done for them, which I think this is why there’s so much singing and dancing. There’s so much happiness. There’s also a lot of suffering, a lot of suffering. But the people are very resilient. They’re very faithful, and they’re very joyful and grateful.”
Another highlight for Fr. Wallis and Fr. Metzler was being welcomed into the homes of the families of Msgr. Tawiah and Fr. Brembah. The vicar general said, “For the men who serve as missionaries, there is a tremendous sacrifice because it’s a long way from home and the culture is quite different, but the Gospel is the same. Their own willingness to lay down things that they love and take up ministry here in our diocese — it’s a tremendous witness to their faith and love and dedication to Christ in the Church to be here with us.”
Fr. Wallis picked up a few phrases in Twi during his visit to Ghana, but a more enduring lesson was firsthand observation of the universality of the Church. He said, “The Church is everywhere; the Church has something to say to all people and all cultures, and all cultures can find a home in the Church. All that is truly of the Lord has a place in the Church as well.”
The trip “strengthened those fraternal bonds” with priests, Fr. Wallis said. “It was really great sharing time with the other priests that were there because, no matter what, we’ve all been through seminary, we all studied philosophy, and we all studied theology. There’s a lot of common experience, even if we’re not all in the same place,” he said.
EDITOR’S NOTE: In November 2024, the Diocese of Fort Worth plans a special collection to support the needs of the Catholic Church in the Archdiocese of Kumasi, Ghana.