By Katrina Genereux/Staff Writer, OND
Recently, the Diocese of Crookston hosted two priests through the Mission Cooperative Program.
“The purpose of the Mission Cooperative Program is to support missions and to inform and inspire the faithful by letting them hear firsthand the stories of foreign missionaries,” said AJ Garcia, Director of the Office of New Evangelization and Justice. “Our collaboration with dioceses, organizations or religious orders demonstrates the universality of the Catholic Church. We should take care of those in need locally, and through the mission co-op, we are given opportunities to also impact people in need around the world.”
In August, the South Central Deanery hosted Father Joseph Savino Gyimah, the Development Coordinator from the Dicoese of Konongo-Mampong in Ghana, Africa. He has been a priest for 25 years.
“Many of the people in the diocese are subsistence farmers. Being farmers, they depend on rain for everything. If it doesn’t rain much, they are not going to get much,” Father Gyimah said. “The needs of the diocese are many. Many people have become Catholics and … don’t have church buildings. Some of the villages don’t have schools … some don’t have clean water.”
Father Gyimah appealed to parishioners in the South Central Deanery during weekend Masses throughout August for his diocese, particularly to provide access to clean water and transportation for their priests to better minister in the rural diocese.
He said during his time in the Diocese of Crookston he picked up on a strong sense of community life.
“It has been wonderful. The people, the priests are very nice, very generous. Since I came to this diocese I’ve never felt homesick,” he said.
According to Garcia, contributions toward Father Gyimah’s diocese were received, and a check for more than $30,000 was sent to the Diocese of Konongo-Mampong.
Father Santosh George, a Trinitarian priest, spent much of the month of October speaking at parishes in the Northwest Deanery.
Father Santosh is from India. He was ordained a priest for the Trinitarian order in 2007 and spent three years working in their missions in India. He has been in the United States for more than seven years, six of which were spent as a pastor. For the last year, he has lived at the Trinitarian provincial house in Baltimore and traveled to do mission appeals, meet with groups to speak about the Trinitarian order and take care of special projects.
One of the main focuses of the Trinitarians – since their beginning 819 years ago – is helping the persecuted. The community began during the crusades when their founder, St. John de Matha, went out to ransom enslaved Christians so they could be free to practice the faith.
“We are supporting Christians in different countries, especially in Syria, Egypt and Iraq, those places where Christians are severely attacked,” he said. The order also has projects in India and other places where they educate, train and provide faith formation for those in need.
“These people are very poor people but they have a good heart for the Lord. They don’t know much theology, they don’t know the Catechism, they know about the Catholic Church very little, but they love Jesus. They would say to you that they would die for him,” Father George said. “They need to know a lot with their own journey of faith so we need to take care of that.”
Father George is very grateful for his order and grateful to be a priest. He grew up in an area of India visited by St. Thomas the Apostle in A.D. 52.
“Our Catholic families in that region of India are very strong, very faith-oriented, very family-oriented,” he said. “I always give credit to God for making me a priest and with that, I also give credit to my own family and the community that I grew up with.”
Father George has enjoyed his time in the Diocese of Crookston.
“This is my 27th place that I’m travelling to … and to be honest with you, this would be my best experience,” he said. “Here I feel very much like family.” He said the people and priests he has met here have been very generous and loving.
“I thank the bishop and also the priests and all the community members that I have been preaching to,” he said.
In the past six months, 60 requests to visit the Diocese of Crookston have been received from dioceses, organizations and religious orders.
Garcia said groups request to spread the word about their ministry and make a financial appeal to support a specific need. Once they are invited to participate in the Mission Cooperative Program, they are connected with a deanery and the dean works out the schedule for the visit.
In 2018, the Northeast, Southwest and Southeast Deaneries will host mission visitors.
Father Andrew Obel, the Parochial Vicar at Holy Rosary, Detroit Lakes will visit one of the deaneries. He will make an appeal on behalf of his home diocese, the Archdiocese of Tororo, Uganda. Father Obel told Garcia the most urgent needs in his diocese are support for an orphanage and clean water for villages.
AJ Garcia contributed to this article.