The Institute of Continuing Formation, ICF for short, located in Elmina in the Archdiocese of Cape Coast, has marked its silver jubilee anniversary with a solemn Thanksgiving Mass presided over by His Excellency, Most Rev. Jean Marie Speich, the Apostolic Nuncio to Ghana. The anniversary Mass which was attended by many Men and Women Religious, was concelebrated by the host Bishop, Most Rev. Matthias Kobena Nketsiah, the Metropolitan Archbishop of Cape Coast and Most Rev. John Bonnaventure Kwofie (C.S.S.P), the Bishop of Sekondi –Takoradi Diocese and many priests as well.
The Apostolic Nuncio based his homily on the first and second readings of the Mass and talked at length about the need for Christians to be thankful, prayerful and joyful in all circumstances as Paul enjoins on all believers to do. Speaking to a text from Isaiah 12, Most Rev. Jean Marie Speich said that the Prophet Isaiah even though had not seen the deliverance of the people of Israel being brought about, still encouraged them to be thankful to God because God was ever desirous to comfort His people in their spiritual struggles. God, according to him, always gives His comfort to His people and so Christians should always be ready to receive such gift and also share with one another. His Excellency further urged the Religious Men and Women to live their lives as giving deliverance to the people they minister to in their various apostolates as God would do. Religious Men and Women should endeavor to bring salvation to others like Jesus would do, he said. They should be conscious of their calling and use their freedom to deepen their relationship with God. Finally, he exhorted all Religious Men and Women and indeed all Christians to be prayerful, thankful and joyful in all circumstances because that simple act of faith in God, would lead to abundance of blessings.
In his address, Rev. Brother Bertrand Nee-Wayoe, the current Director of the Institute, expressed his profound appreciation particularly to the Nuncio and the two Bishops who attended the function as well as all the priests and religious who made it. He also paid tribute to the past Directors and Board members who had worked tirelessly to sustain the Institute for the past 25 years. He gave a brief history of the Institute.
The Conference of Major Superiors of Ghana realized that, among its members, individual congregations had personnel and resources that, if well mobilized, could respond to the need to equip and train religious for the ministry of formation.
A training program in Ghana could thus be structured and given an orientation and focus that would find meaning in, and also be relevant to the African situation.
The major superiors decided to collaborate with one another and to pool resources together. The outcome of all the efforts was the birth of the Institute for Continuing Formation (ICF) in January, 1992, precisely 10th January 1992.
Brother Maarten Bouw a Dutch FIC Brother became the first Director of the Institute. Together with Sr. Virginia Tuonebe, SMI, and Br. Nee Wayoe, CSC, they formed the pioneering core team to begin the Institute and to see to its growth and development.
Since then Br. Jan Kleinpenning, FIC of blessed memory, Fr. Mark Schramm, SVD, Sister Donna Webber, SSPS, Br. Robert Aaron, CFC and Fr. Vincent Kwame Owusu, SVD, have succeeded Bro. Maarten as directors.
Other Religious have served on the staff of the Institute. They include: Bro. Vincent Gross, CSC, Sr. Madeleine Sophie Korsah, OLA, Sr, Helen Kennedy, FMM, Sr. Genevieve Offori-Atta, HDR, Sr. Veronica Enooson, SIJ of blessed memory, Sr. Rebecca Dombero, SMI, Br. Paul Mensah, CSC and Sr. Philothea Osibe, SMMC.
From that humble beginning in January 10, 1992, the Institute has gradually grown and today offers quality and holistic formation to religious and priests. Efforts continue to be made to expand and improve upon existing programs, while other services like counseling, psychotherapy, spiritual direction and retreats are also being provided. How can we not give thanks to God for this remarkable feat and growth of the Institute?
Over the years, Participants and staff have come from many cultural and International backgrounds emphasizing our unity in diversity. Some have come from Ghana, New Zealand, Nigeria, The Nederland, Angola, Cameroon, Australia, The Gambia, Sierra Leone, Togo, Malawi, Kenya, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Egypt, South Africa, and Liberia. Others have come from India, Indonesia, The Philippines, Brazil, The Democratic Republic of Congo, Poland and the U.S.A. Over the twenty-five year period, over 1,000 religious and priests have gone through the various programs. Our outreach services have been of significant benefit to well over 1000 people too.
Archbishop Matthias Nketsiah and Bishop Kwofie Cboth congratulated the Conference of Religious Men and Women in Ghana for their foresighted vision and the effort they had put in to support the Institute in its 25 years of existence. Some past and present Staff of the Institute were awarded for their dedicated service to the Institute.