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By Fr Joseph Panabang SVD
Bishop Donald Reece of St John’s-Basseterre, Antigua, now Archbishop of Kingston in Jamaica, during his visit to Ghana in 2007 was complaining that his emails wouldn’t go out. ‘See, Bishop,’ I cut in, ‘if you had used my Olympia typewriter, there would have been no problem’.
In 2007 at McCarthy Hill SVD Rest and Retirement Centre in Accra, Ghana, Brother Marcus Hipolito SVD from Brazil, one of our oldest confreres, placed Gillette shaving foam in the library. It had been left by Fr Bob Kisala SVD, our Visitator General that year. I asked Brother Marcus if I could make use of them. ‘Oh yes, oh yes,’ he said excitedly. ‘It’s toothpaste and since I broke my last two remaining teeth, I’ve stopped brushing; I can’t use it.’ ‘My!’ I gasped, smiling at the idea of foamy ‘toothpaste’.
One of the seminarians who spent his pastoral year with me was Dominic Yeboah Nyarko. In 2008 he became bishop of the newly created Techiman Diocese in the Brong-Ahafo Region of Ghana. Just before his ordination as a bishop I was rushing to the Cathedral looking for a vestment. I was about to pick one up when Bishop Joseph Kwaku Afrifa-Agyekum of Koforidua Diocese spoke from behind, ‘Oh Father, that is for the Bishops!’ Like a cat jumping from a hot stove, I leapt to the side where the vestments for priests were. ‘Wait for your turn’, said a confrere ‘consolingly’.
With barely two weeks of studying Krobo, spoken by the Krobos of Eastern Ghana, I would go to the children and practice the little Krobo I knew. The kids were always enthusiastic. But as soon as I turned my back, one of them would start imitating my Krobo and the others would enjoy the fun. And while moving away, instead of being discouraged, I would console myself, ‘Joe, do not worry; it means you are making an impact’. And so just after a month, to the surprise of everyone, I could say Mass in Krobo with ease and confidence. Secret? Recording and practicing a lot. And some call that the gift of tongues.