Bishop Isidore Klaus (2 nd Apostolic Vicar) & the Railway Line Missions

In November 1904, Fr. Isidore Klaus arrived from Nigeria to succeed to Bishop Albert as Apostolic Vicar and head of mission. Although his ministry was short, only one year, it was eventful.

Sekondi was a harbour town; and the completion of the railway link between Sekondi and Kumasi made Sekondi an important trading centre, which attracted peoples from all over the Gold Coast. Settlers from Elmina had already started a community, which the priests from Cape Coast used to visit for baptisms, confessions and masses. For their meetings, St. Paul's hill was acquired, and two settlers from Elmina, Mr. J.E. Andoh and Mr. W.F. Laast, helped raise funds to build a chapel-school. When it was ready, Bishop Klaus went to bless it and to promise them resident priests. This was in 1905.

Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson

""Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson, a former Archbishop of Cape Coast (Ghana), was born on 11 October 1948 in Wassaw Nsuta, Ghana. He was ordained for the Diocese of Cape Coast on 20 July 1975 and holds a doctorate in Sacred Scripture from the Pontifical Biblical Institute, Rome.

From 1975-1976 and 1980-1981 he served as staff member at St Theresa’s Minor Seminary, and from 1981-1987 as staff member at St Peter’s Major Seminary. 
On 6 October 1992 he was appointed Archbishop of Cape Coast and was ordained on 27 March 1993.
He served as President of the Ghana Catholic Bishops’ Conference (1997-2005) and member of the Pontifical Commission for Methodist-Catholic Dialogue; Chancellor of the Catholic University College of Ghana; member of the National Sustainable Development, Ministry of Environment; member of the Board of Directors of the Central Regional Development Committee and treasurer of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM).
Created and proclaimed Cardinal by John Paul II in the Consistory of 21 October 2003, of the Title of S. Liborio (St. Liborius).
Member of:
Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments; 
Pontifical Councils: for Promoting Christian Unity; for Justice and Peace;
Pontifical Commission for the Cultural Heritage of the Church.

SVD Fathers in Accra

Two SMA Fathers had been taking care of Accra since 1926, but it required more hands and greater presence. Its mixed population of different tribes and languages called for specialized ministries. Therefore, in 1939, the SMA Fathers ceded the pastoral care of Accra to the SVD Fathers, Accra, with its principal stations of Koforidua, Nsawam and Akim Swedru, and their outstations were entrusted to the American SVD Fathers. 

Bishop Ignatius Hummel (3 rd . Vicar 1906-24) and the Era of Expansion

On 12 th April 1906, Bishop Hummel succeeded Bishop Klaus as Apostolic Vicar of the Gold Coast. Lay Catholics had spread the faith far and wide, and communities had sprung up all over. The method for extending pastoral care to these communities consisted in setting up residential stations, whose priests organized visits to the villages and outlying communities.

The Dutch Period

For whatever it was worth, Catholic presence in and around El-Mina would be practically snuffed out by the Dutch with the defeat of the Portuguese and the capture of the castle in 1637.

When Holland got involved in the trade with the Guinea coast, she made use of Portuguese and Spanish ports. With the defeat of Portugal by Spain at Alcantara in 1580, however, the king of Spain took over the administration of Portuguese interest and forbade the use of Portuguese ports along the guinea coast by the Dutch. As a result, the Dutch developed their own ports along the Guinea coast, at Shama, Kormentse and Moree in 1612, and tried unsuccessfully to capture the Sao Jorge castle at El-Mina in 1625. in 1637, the Dutch attacked the Sao Jorge castle a second time, and succeeded in capturing it. All the Portuguese who were found in the castle, with their African wives and children, were all banished to Sao Thomé. The vicar and the other missionaries were later deported to Brazil, to Pernambuco.

Catholic Re-entry to the “Mina” Coast in the 18th & 19th Centuries

1. Initial Attempts in the 17 th Century : 

When the French began to trade with the Guinea coast, the Prior of the Dominican General Novitiate in Paris had also been charged with the care of the missions of the West Indies. To this, the Propaganda Fide added the new mission in West Africa. And so, in 1687, Fr. Moisset set out to open a mission at Komenda, where the French Dominican missionaries had built a small church against Dutch warnings and threats. The Dutch, accordingly, organized local attacks on the French to foil the mission at Komenda.

2. The Coming of the SMA Missionaries to the “Mina” Coast : 

The Dutch ceded all their holdings in the Gold Coast to the English in the Treaty of The Hague in 1871; and in 1872, the English occupied the El-Mina castle. In 1874, a new charter created the Gold Coast Colony , consisting of the Gold Coast and Nigeria (Legos). This was a political and an administrative region, and it extended from river Niger to river Volta. Ecclesiastically, this region constituted the Benin Vicariate ; and it had its center at Ouidah. The Mina coast (now Gold Coast) politically and administratively belonged to the Gold Coast Colony . Ecclesiastically, however, it belonged to an area, which was under the jurisdiction of the vicariate of the “two Guineas” (Senegambia – Sierra Leone). Thus, while the Gold Coast (Mina coast) ecclesiastically belonged to the vicariate of the two Guineas , administered by the Holy Ghost fathers, politically and administratively, it belonged to the Gold Coast Colony , sections of which (eg. Ouidah and Lagos) were already being administered by the SMA Fathers. The Mina coast, therefore, belonged politically and administratively to one region ( Gold Coast Colony ), while ecclesiastically, it belonged to another circumscription the vicariate of the two Guineas). The SMA Fathers sought to simplify the situation by asking Propaganda Fide to entrust to them the mission of the Mina coast (Gold Coast) too. 

The SMA Fathers were a missionary society founded in Lyons, France. In 1856, a French Bishop who had returned to France from India, founded a congregation of missionary Priests and Brothers for missionary work among “the most deprived/abandoned peoples” (les plus abandonnes) . He was Bishop Marion de Brasillac; and his missionary congregation was the Society for African Missions (SMA).

The SMA Fathers had succeeded the French Dominican and Holy Ghost Fathers in the mission territory of the vicariate of Benin since 1861, and they had established mission centers in Ouidah and Lagos. The jurisdiction of the SMA Fathers did not extend to the Mina coast (Gold Coast). It belonged to the Holy Ghost Fathers of the vicariate of the two Guineas . The Holy Ghost Fathers however, had not begun a mission in the Gold Coast; but the SMA Fathers who wanted to start a mission in the Gold Coast did not have the permission of Propaganda Fide to do so.

It was not until 1877, that Sir William Marshall's letter to the Tablet in England pushed the Propaganda Fide over the edge to entrust mission in the Gold Coast to the SMA Fathers. Sir William Marshall, in a letter to editor of the Tablet , had written:

“I write from a part of the world, the West Coast of Africa, in which England now has almost exclusive interest and power, but for which the Catholics of England, Clerical and Lay, have as yet done nothing …… on the whole of the Gold Coast there is not a single Catholic Priest or mission of any nation” (R. Wiltgen, Gold Coast Mission History ….., 133-134). 

3. The Role of the Holy Ghost Fathers: 

In 1878, the Propaganda Fide asked the Superior of the Holy Ghost Fathers, from their long presence in the area, to assess the chances of mission in the Gold Coast. The Holy Ghost Superior, Fr. Schwindenhammer, sent Fr. Louis Gommenginger, the head of the Sierra Leone Prefecture to do this assessment.

In 1878, Fr. Gommenginger landed at Cape Coast, traveled to Kumasi and there met the King, Mensah Bonsu and the Queen Mother in private audiences. Both asked for missionaries in Kumasi. (The missionaries were associated with education and schools). From Kumasi, Fr. Gommenginger traveled to Accra to check out the possibilities for a mission at Christiansburg. Thence, he traveled to Elmina and then on to Sierra Leone.

On July 16 1878, Gommenginger sent his report to this Superior in which he observed the following: 

• Town and villages of 3000 – 2500 inhabitants were not rare, and they were either fetishists, Muslims or Protestants (Basil Mission and Methodist). 

• Kumasi was inland and had a suitable climate; but it was financially impossible to start a mission there, because of the high cost of transportation from the coast (ships and ports). 

• Accra had good communication links; but it was unhealthy. 

• Cape Coast was not a clean town. 

• El-Mina , with 5000-6000 people, had been the center of Catholic faith before. The people were tidy and industrious. The town was scenic, healthy and with good communication links inland and abroad. 

El-Mina, therefore, was Fr. Gommenginger's choice; and for him mission in the Gold Coast could not be delayed any longer. He wrote:

“Think of it, we Catholics were the very first ones…… to take roots in the Gold Coast, and yet now we have not even a single missionary in the land. The Protestants themselves cannot figure it out. When they saw me arrive, they felt surely the sole purpose of my coming was to open a Catholic mission. Personally, I am convinced that the opportune moment has arrived. It is time for us to take up again the work began so propitiously by our missionaries of the …. 15 th century, and then interrupted so inexorably by the ascendancy of the Dutch. Conditions have changed and obstacles have in part been removed. God and souls are calling us back to the Gold Coast” (R. Wiltgen, Gold Coast Mission History ….., 138).|

There would, indeed, be a response to the “ call of God and souls” for a return of Catholic mission to the Gold Coast, but it would not be made by Fr. Gommenginger and the Holy Ghost Fathers. It would be made by the SMA Fathers, with a mandate from the Propaganda Fide