Global Solidarity Partnership Program
Madison delegation: Visits Ghana
Both the weather and the welcome were warm for the eight delegates from the Diocese of Madison to the sister Diocese of Navrongo-Bolgatonga in Ghana.
The fourth delegation between the two dioceses was able to see the differences that have been made by the Global Solidarity Project, begun in 2002 under the auspices of Catholic Relief Services (CRS).
Much as the recent delegation from Ghana experienced here, the Madison delegates had an opportunity to visit parishes and see the origins of the chocolate in Divine Chocolates, a fair trade organization, as well as meet officials and beneficiaries of the Donkey Project.
The delegation arrived in Accra, the capital of Ghana, and met with CRS officials Thomas Awiapo and Michelle Borne. Accra, a city one delegate compared to Chicago, is a port city in the southern and more rain-forest-like part of the country.
From Accra, they drove five hours into the city of Kumase, where they visited the Cocoa Cooperatives, where chocolate is grown for Divine Chocolates. After meeting with the farmers, the delegates were given a surprise audience with the chief of the Ashanti tribe.
After Kumase, the delegates traveled to Bolgatanga in the northeastern, sub-Saharan part of Ghana. There they met beneficiaries of the Donkey Project and had Mass and breakfast with Bishop Lucas Abadamoora of the Diocese of Navrongo-Bolgatanga. They also were able to meet with the Regional Minister, Mahami Salifu.
While in the diocese, the delegates visited six different parishes and small villages.
Afterwards, they reconvened for a workshop at a retreat center to discuss ideas for improving the relationship between the two dioceses.
Afterwards they went to the Multicultural Center for dinner and a show that included students demonstrating their cultural dances. On the final night the delegates celebrated with Bishop Abadamoora with a Mass and dinner.
"If I learned anything about our trip, it is the importance of good friendship and the cultural diversity of a wonderful diocesan relationship," said Brittany Wendt, parishioner at St. Ann Parish, Stoughton.
"I will never look at a map of Africa the same again," said Eric Schiedermayer, executive secretary of the Diocese of Madison Office of Evangelization and Catechesis and parishioner at Blessed Sacrament Parish, Madison. "When I hear the word 'Africa,' images come to mind. Now I know people there.
"My own problems, my own struggles have been given a new perspective," Schiedermayer said. "I came away with a deeper understanding of the tremendous gifts that God has bestowed upon me . . . opportunities that are ours because of the rule of law, the stability of government, the personal freedoms guaranteed to us by our constitution, and the wisdom and sacrifice of our forebears.
"I've been thinking about these things a lot lately, and wondering about our responsibility to share these gifts with the world," he said.
Santo Carfora, a parishioner at Nativity of Mary Parish, Janesville, said what he gained the most from the experience was the connection with the people of Ghana.
"They treated me like royalty. It was embarrassing, humbling, and rewarding all at the same time," he said. "They welcomed me into their hearts."
He said that the Global Solidarity Program was a "two-way street" of education and assistance. "I am extremely touched with the work of CRS," Carfora said. "I never realized how much they do and what a difference they make in the lives of these people.
"I came away from this trip awestruck," he said. "I am open to the Spirit to lead me in the most useful direction it sees fit as I share this experience with friends, family, and members of the parishes and the community."