Brian T. Olszewski, The Catholic Virginian
Bishop John Afoakwa of the Diocese of Obuasi, Ghana, is enthusiastic about helping the Diocese of Richmond. That help comes from the service of two priests from his diocese: Father Stephen Opuku-Boaheng, parochial vicar at St. Pius X Parish, Norfolk, and Father Francis Boateng, parochial vicar, at St. Bede Parish, Williamsburg.
Visiting the Diocese of Richmond for the first time, Bishop Afoakwa said Sept. 21 that it is natural that one diocese would help another.
“The Catholic Church is universal,” he said. “We need to help each other wherever there is a need; it fits in with evangelization.”
Bishop Afoakwa has enough priests in his diocese to cover each of its 24 parishes, with larger parishes being served by two priests. He anticipates ordaining three priests next year. The diocese also has 40 seminarians.
In addition to meeting with his two priests, the bishop was visiting the Diocese of Richmond to meet with Msgr. Mark Richard Lane, administrator of the diocese, and Fr. Tim Kuhneman, delegate for clergy.
Noting that Europeans had brought Catholicism to Africa, Bishop Afoakwa said having priests from his diocese serve in the United States is an opportunity to “give back.”
“I am happy to share our priests,” he said. “They get a different exposure. They are more competent as a priest when they come home with these varied experiences that they otherwise would not have.”
Among those experiences is learning how Catholics in the United States and Africa view time differently, particularly when it comes to liturgy.
“In Africa, Mass is two hours, two and a half hours,” the bishop explained.
He noted that in African time, there is no pressure.
“Homilies are 30 minutes,” he said, noting that he preaches “whatever is in my heart.”
When Bishop Afoakwa said that there is a lot of singing and dancing at Masses in his diocese, Father Francis Boateng demonstrated, with arms uplifted, how people dance as they bring their offerings to the altar at the offertory.
“We don’t rush,” the priest said. “These are gifts from the heart.”
Priests of the Diocese of Obuasi also serve elsewhere in North America — three in Rochester, NY; one in Syracuse, NY; one in Savannah, GA; and four in Canada. As a priest, the bishop served in Rochester, 2007-2010, while earning a graduate degree in education at Le Moyne College. According to the bishop, priests from his diocese spend an average of five years in North America.