by Sister Cynthia Godia Bienaan, CSC
To God be the glory! This statement echoed in my heart on the morning of July 23, 2016, as I sat in the Church of Our Lady of the Blessed Assumption in Fijai, Ghana, a suburb of Takoradi, watching my students all dressed in white processing to the altar to receive Communion.
It all started in January when Sister Scholastica Elizabeth Ampadu, CSC, director of temporarily professed sisters in Ghana, informed me that the owner of Greater Heights School, needed someone to teach catechism in her school. This school is one of the best grade schools in the Takoradi municipality.
One of the challenges the parents face is that, due to their work schedule, they are unable to send their children for the catechism classes organized by the parishes. After grade school, most students end up in high schools that are not Catholic, so they grow up into adulthood without receiving holy Communion. A solution posed by the parents was for someone to come to school to teach catechism classes during the hour between when classes ended and the parents picked up their children.
Opportunities & Challenges
I went home excited and scared at the same time. I felt excited because I have always wanted the opportunity to get involved in pastoral work, and scared because it was going to be my first time and also the first time the school offered this program. That night, as I pondered over it all, I told myself that I was going to do it. I went to the school the following afternoon, after my regular work at a different school, and was greeted by 38 students between the ages of eight and 12.
Five months later I received admission into a university in a nearby city. This meant I would no longer be able to teach catechism class. Were the children ready for the sacrament? If not, was there someone to take over their training?
I talked to a priest about the possibility of the children receiving Communion, but he insisted that the period had to be at least two years. Even though we were meeting three times a week—unlike parish classes that meet once a week—we still were not ready. I invited another priest to one of our sessions and after quizzing the students and listening to them he seemed impressed. He told me that he felt they were ready, but he could not administer the sacrament because the location was not under his jurisdiction. So I went to another priest who was close by and he asked me to provide him with an outline of what the class had covered. The next day he called me and gave me a date to listen to their confessions.
A Worthwhile Effort
As I sat in church watching my students process to the altar, I remembered all the fears I had at the beginning—not having enough materials, the hot scorching walk I had in the afternoons to go meet with them and the children being too tired after hours of regular school classes. I remembered the challenge of finding a priest willing and ready to administer the sacrament. Seeing the students all in their white clothes joyfully communing with the Lord, I felt all those challenges were worth it.
What I took away from this experience is that when I am assigned to do something new, I should not run away from it, especially when I think I am not up to it or it looks scary. I should instead embrace it, give it my very best human effort and trust Providence to take care of the rest. Secondly, when I am confronted with challenges while executing something I should not give up. I should keep pushing, believing that the One who sent me on the mission will make sure that I have what I need to complete it. I will forever hold this experience in my heart.