10th Anniversary Celebration of Our Lady of Annunciation Grotto, in Ghana, Africa by Fr. Peter Akomanyi Tawiah

GHANA, Africa

Anniversaries are a big deal for anyone, and churches are no exception. Our Lady of Annunciation Grotto, Sonyor – Bole in the Catholic Diocese of Damongo celebrated its tenth Anniversary from 7 th December, 2023 and climaxed it on 8 th December, 2023. The theme for the celebration was, “My soul glorifies the Lord; 10 years of Grace under the Patronage of our Lady”. The Apostolic Nuncio to Ghana, His excellency Henryk Mieczyslaw Jagodzinski graced the occasion which was his second pastoral visit to the diocese. He was overjoyed to see large numbers of lay faithful in a young diocese like Damongo. The anniversary begun on Thursday, 7 th December with the arrival of parishes, societies and associations within the diocese who travelled far and near for the evening’s spiritual activities in the township of Sonyor as a way of bringing, deepening and encouraging the people in the Catholic faith. The evening begun with praying the Rosary, singing of Marian hymns and praises, concluding with a healing Mass, by a team of Priests, led by Very Reverend Father David Jimah Bakeri, Parish Priest of Good Shepherd, Tuna and Diocesan Master of Ceremonies.

The following day, 8 th December, 2023 being the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the climax of the anniversary begun with a Rosary recitation procession of about 3km from Sonyor town to the Our Lady of Annunciation Grotto Shrine. This was concluded with short catechesis on the Eucharist. At 10:15am all pilgrims and priests had Stations of the Cross led by Rev. Fr. Peter Akomanyi Tawiah, the assistant parish priest of St. Peter’s Parish, Lingbinsi – Daboya. This spiritual exercise had about 600 pilgrims attending and with half of the priests and religious of the diocese. The Bishop, Most Reverend Peter Paul Yelezoume Angkyier in welcoming the Apostolic Nuncio, His excellency Henryk Mieczyslaw Jagodzinski, the main celebrant of the Eucharistic celebration and the other pilgrims gave a brief history of the establishment of the Our Lady of Annunciation Grotto. He mentioned that the idea leading to this; went through a period of time of reflection and survey.

The idea is said to have started with Most Reverend Philip Naameh, the first bishop of the diocese of Damongo, now the Metropolitan Archbishop of Tamale, in response to the pastoral need of the diocese for a Marian Shrine. Paramount among the reasons for Sonyor was its centrality as well as its history of traditional worship. The area is noted with a traditional worship of a deity called “Kupo”, who is believed to be a god of fertility as well as a god of justice. So already accustomed to traditional worship, the bishop and His team of experts thought that it was a fertile ground to introduce another way of praying for such situations, that is the devotion to our Lady – the Blessed Virgin Mary. As result, on 31 st October, 2013, the Shrine was inaugurated as a Holy Ground for devotion and a Sanctuary by Most Reverend Peter Paul Y. Angkyier Bishop of the Catholic diocese of Damongo with the Blessing of a giant Crucifix which was sponsored by Reverend Father Winfred Heid.

Most Rev. Peter Paul, used the opportunity thank all donors who have been sponsoring the Shrine’s project all these years. He also appealed for more support as the Our Lady Annunciation Grotto still needs massive structural development. He acknowledged the efforts of the team that proposed Sonyor for a Marian Shrine, thanked the various priests who worked tirelessly to ensure this place reached its current state. He indeed also thanked the chiefs and elders of Sonyor for their continuous collaboration and support for the priests in charge of the Shrine and the diocese as a whole.

The Apostolic Nuncio in his homily started by congratulating the bishop and the entire diocese on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the Our Lady of Annunciation Grotto, at Sonyor. He noted that the idea of the Immaculate Conception has its origin to the 4th century where theologians believed and taught that the Blessed Virgin Mary had been kept free of all traces of sin by the grace of God because she was to become the Mother of our Lord Jesus Christ. This belief was however proclaimed a dogma by Pope IX on 8th December 1854, stating that, “The most Blessed Virgin Mary in the first instance of her conception, by a singular privilege and grace granted by God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin.”

He noted that the first reading in the book of Genesis narrates to us the human betrayal of God and man's separation from the perpetual loving presence of God. However, did not allow the disobedience of Adam and Eve to bring everlasting condemnation to the human race, but instituted a redemptive plan to reinstate His eternal Kingdom. He passed through obedient human beings, the new Adam, Christ and the new Eve, Mary to bring reconciliation between man and God and to save humanity from eternal death brought about through disobedience. This obedience is seen in her response to the angel Gabriel, “I am the handmaid of the Lord." (Lk: 38). She avails herself completely to the will of God for human salvation. As we honour Mary on this great Feast of her Immaculate Conception, though we are sinners, let us ask her to spread her mantle of purity and grace over us. She loves us because she suffered with her beloved son for us. She wants his triumph on Calvary to be as full and complete as possible. She is able and willing to help us to gain the victory which he won for us. All that is needed is that we turn to her as humble suppliants. She will pray for us sinners now and especially at the hour of our death.
Celebrating the joy of divine providence, we celebrate also in thanksgiving to God for giving the Blessed Virgin Mary to accompany us in these 10 years of grace under her patronage. We are commemorating the graces and blessings which God gave her to fit her for the dignity he had chosen for her. She like her divine Son desires the salvation of us all. Like the human mother, she wants nothing but the best for her children. But as in human family the children cooperate. We need to all cooperate with the divine plan of God exhibited through Mary. Part of our cooperation with Mary is through the pilgrimages we make to holy grounds, such as our diocesan grotto. Pilgrimages are not simply visiting places to admire the treasures of nature, art or history. Pilgrimages are important in the Christian life because through them, we step out of ourselves in order to encounter God where he has revealed himself through the gift of his special graces. In our cooperation with Mary, we are called to have a single faith rooted in God alone. Mary remained resolute and never doubted the word of God to her. The Vicar General of the Diocese, Very Rev. Martin Mousayir thanked the tenth anniversary steering committee, the pilgrims, priests and religious who made time to honour the anniversary celebration. The entire diocese was excited to celebrate this major milestone of the Our Lady of Annunciation Grotto – Sonyor.
By: Rev. Fr. Peter Akomanyi Tawiah