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EASTER MESSAGE 2014
By
Most Reverend Robert P. Ellison CSSp

A. The stories of the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead as told by the four evangelists differ quite considerably. None of them attempt to give a clear historical account of what happened during the forty days between Easter Sunday and the Ascension of our Lord into Heaven. However, these stories are filled with powerful scenes of hope and new life as Jesus appears and disappears at random among his disciples during those forty days.
And no matter how we look at the Easter stories, they present us with a very fragile beginning for a religion that has lasted for almost 2000 years! As we read them or listen to them, many of us are often tempted to focus our attention on the empty tomb, on that morning, on what did or did not happen there. And we find it so difficult to talk about the Ressurection of Jesus to those who are unable to believe. Nobody has ever seen what happened very early on that Easter morning at the tomb in the garden near the place where Jesus was crucified. A disciple of Jesus called Joseph of Arimathaea had been given permission by Pilate to bury the dead body of Jesus. It was truly a thoughtful gesture of compassion on his part to have taken such an initiative on behalf of Mary, mother of Jesus, the other women and John the beloved disciple. How could they have been prepared for such a need in such tragic circumstances?
What happened in the tomb from the time it had been closed on that Good Friday evening until it was found empty on Easter Sunday morning was entirely between Jesus and God.
For the rest of us, Easter began the moment the 'gardener' said to the woman ('Mary') and she knew who he was. That is where the real 'miracle' happened. She had come simply to anoint the dead body. And that continues to this day for each one of us as we experience the Risen Lord on our journey together along the road of daily life with its joys and sorrows.

B. According to the Gospel of St. John, Mary Magdalen played a key role in helping to bring the disciples to faith in the Risen Lord. John seems to tell us that she was the first to go to the tomb very early on 'the first day of the week' (Sunday). She saw that the stone had been rolled away and the tomb was empty, so she ran back at once to report to Simon Peter and John. This is what she told them: 'They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don't know where they have put him'. She speaks about 'we'? And she presumes that somebody has stolen the body. Understandable in a sense, for we know from Matthew's Gospel that the Jews asked Pilate to place some soldiers to guard the tomb in case the disciples of Jesus would steal the dead body. They were aware of a rumour that He would rise again on the third day.

In any case, Simon Peter and John ran to the tomb. John got there first but waited for Peter to catch up. Was this simply a question of the younger man being more agile; or was it a gesture of respect for Peter as the leader of the apostles - even if he had denied Jesus three times? Whatever the reason, Peter entered the tomb first and inspected the empty tomb and John then followed. Peter saw for himself the linen cloths for the burial lying on the ground. John also saw the linen cloths. Both of them saw only an empty tomb. However, John tells us that he both saw and believed. We are not told what exactly he believed. By implication, it seems that Peter was unable to believe. Then he and Peter returned home.

C. The rest of this story belongs to Mary Magdalen. This is the Mary mentioned by Luke as being one of the women of Galilee who followed Jesus and his disciples and who ministered to him. These women even provided for them out of their own resources. According to each of the Evangelists, Mary Magdalen was present at the crucifixion and the burial of Jesus, and went to the tomb on Easter Sunday to anoint the body.
John tells us that this Mary was standing outside near the tomb weeping. We can only presume that she went back to the tomb when Simon Peter and John went there. And she remained there when they went back home. She was alone and reluctant to leave that graveside. It was a scene of great sadness as she mourned the loss of her beloved one. Or was she hoping against hope that something might happen? And then it happened. She heard a voice: 'Woman, why are you weeping? Whom do you seek? Turning around, she said: 'Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him'. She thought she was looking at the gardener. Then Jesus said to her 'Mary' and she replied at once 'Rabboni' (Master). Then He said to her: 'stop clinging to me, but go and tell my brothers that I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God'. Mary Magdalen went at once and told the disciples: 'I have seen the Lord' and that he had said these things to her. According to John, this first appearance of Jesus took place in the morning of Easter Sunday.
Mary Magdalen was the first to see and believe in the Risen Lord, and to proclaim his Resurrection to the Apostles. In the early Church she was fittingly called the 'Apostola Apostolorum' (Apostle of the Apostles).

D. The second appearance of Jesus took place 'in the evening of that same day, the first day of the week' when Jesus came and stood among his disciples. However, one of them was missing - Thomas. When the disciples told him 'we have seen the Lord', he refused to believe. Eight days later, Jesus appears again. We have a story within a story. It is a typical experience of doubt, struggle and faith. It is something that most of us may have experienced at one time or another.
Jesus is patient with Thomas. Tradition has often unfairly described him as a stubborn personality. What would we do when a good man in whom we have placed all our hopes and expectations is put to death unjustly by both civil and religious authorities? Our immediate reaction to such a crisis is to run away and hide. Perhaps this is why he was missing for the first appearance of Jesus to the disciples. Then he had to face up to the embarrassment of accepting to believe when Jesus went so far as to invite him to see and to touch the wounds on his body - in front of the other disciples. And then the words of Jesus: 'You believe because you can see me; blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe'.
Thus, Thomas was wounded by the circumstances in which he finally came to belief in the Risen Lord. He was healed by the wounds of Jesus. And when he finally did believe, he made a most wonderful act of faith: 'My Lord and my God'. We should remain for ever grateful to Thomas for the honesty and openness of his struggle to believe. He could easily have pretended to believe, to avoid being the 'outsider' of his group.
Thomas had a nickname. He was called 'Didymus' which in Greek means a twin. The question has often been asked: who was his other half, his twin? One answer is: we can see his twin by looking into the mirror! If you have ever struggled with the pain of wanting to believe, of doubt or of despair, just go back to the story of Thomas and how he slowly struggled and came to believe.

E. We have looked at Peter and John, Mary Magdalen, the disciples as a group and then Thomas on his own. Each story reveals the very diverse ways in which each of them comes to believe in the Risen Lord. In each case, none of them expected what happened. Apart from that, we see various degrees of readiness in coming to faith. According to John, Mary Magdalen was the first to believe. Even though she thought Jesus was the 'gardener', as soon as He called her by name: 'Mary', she believed instantly. According to all four Evangelists, the women in general were the first to believe. And they were told by Jesus to go and tell his 'brethren'. But there was something very strange about those women to whom Jesus chose to appear? His own mother, Mary, is not mentioned in any of the resurrection stories. I have never heard of any discussion about this. If you have, please let me know!

May the Risen Lord bless you, your families and your friends; And may He bring you from the sorrows of this life to the joys of eternal life. Forever, Amen.



Brother Dismas - Nazareth Hermitage

I am a Canonical Penitent Hermit of Divine Mercy in the Diocese of Banjul, The Gambia. As a hermit, my life is dedicated to prayer, contemplation and caring for the sick poor who come to the hermitage daily. My personal rule of life is an adaption of the first order rule of St. Francis of Assisi, thus I have become a beggar for the needs of the people who come to Nazareth hermitage seeking medical help and also for the Catholics in this (mainly Muslim) village in order to help them grow in their walk with Christ.
You can really help by sending medical supplies/medicines or money donations for the sick poor; spiritual books for hermitage use or DVD's that can be shown to the Christian community. If you would like to assist in any way, contact me at brotherdismas@yahoo.com God bless you! Brother dismas- Nazareth Hermitage- Catholic Secretariat- PO Box 165- Banjul, The Gambia- West Africa cell: 220 773 1912


NEW YEAR MESSAGE 2014
ONE HUMAN FAMILY, FOOD FOR ALL.

1.Many years ago, a worldwide campaign was launched to put an end to the evil of poverty. I can remember the words of the slogan which was found on posters, banners and small tags pinned to our clothing. These words were: 'MAKE POVERTY HISTORY 2015'. This great surge of concern for the poor and the oppressed was linked to a special message of Blessed Pope John Paul II for the Jubilee Year 2000 - the opening of the third millennium. Now, he said, is the time for a new 'creativity' in charity not only by ensuring that the poor have something to eat but also by 'getting close' to those who suffer in this way. By doing so, the hand that helps is seen not simply as a humiliating hand-out but as a sharing among brothers and sisters in the one human family of God where the poor can feel at home.

2. If we think seriously about such a challenge, we are tempted to say that these words of Blessed Pope John Paul II are indeed very desirable but in reality they are more like a dream. The very fact that the beautiful slogan 'Make poverty history, 2015' seems to have gone up in smoke - proves in a certain sense that we find ourselves helpless in the face of such enormous undertakings even where there is a lot of goodwill. The spirit may be willing but the flesh is repelled by the very thought that such a dream could become a reality. And so, we are confronted with a harsh choice: to give in to the futility of even trying to do something, OR, of making a genuine attempt to do something even if we know that we can never achieve our goal. God does not command the impossible; but he does expect us to attempt all questions when we ultimately come face to face at the final judgement. 'I was hungry and you gave me to eat...whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers and sisters that you do unto me'. Jesus explicitly identifies himself in a special way with the poor. Every hungry person we meet on the street brings us face to face with the suffering of Jesus in person. When we find ourselves confronted by such realities, I feel like saying: 'this is intolerable language; how could anyone accept it?' (John 6, 60) just as his disciples vigorously objected to his teaching on the bread of life. How can this man give us his flesh to eat?

3. The story of mankind and the story of our Church has its ups and downs. From time to time, the Spirit of God breathes a new impetus into the hearts of all believers. Right now, the opening of our eyes and hearts to the 'scourge' of hunger is knocking on the doors of all men and women of goodwill once again. It is an appeal to all of us to follow up on the efforts of all those generous and energetic volunteers who tried to make 'Make Poverty History, 2015' about thirteen years ago. 'It is time now for us to wake from sleep. The night is far gone and the day is at hand...' (Rom. 13,11). The object of this new undertaking is very similar: a Global Campaign against Hunger. And the new slogan is: 'ONE HUMAN FAMILY, FOOD FOR ALL'. We are co-responsible for each other as children of the one Father in Heaven, God.

4. Caritas International is responsible for the overall animation, planning and organisation of this worldwide campaign. Each Diocese will also have to map out its own concrete plans and programmes. The Diocese of Banjul will depend to a large extent on our Catholic Development Office (CaDO) and its Board of Directors to help our parishes and institutions in this respect. We should also join forces with other men and women of goodwill who share the same values and beliefs e.g. the office of the Vice-President of The Gambia where the 'National Nutrition Agency and Food Safety Authority' has been launched. The Gambia Christian Council is also addressing a similar need with a special sub-committee for 'Food and Nutrition'. The St. Vincent de Paul Society has been involved in this work in our Diocese going back many years. It has been caring for the needy irrespective of creed or ethnic group attentive to the words of Blessed John Paul II: '...so that the hand that helps is seen not as a humiliating hand-out but as a sharing between brothers and sisters...where the poor feel at home'. From their personal contacts with the people they have been serving, they have a lot to teach us and to share with us in terms of 'One Human Family, Food for All'. But it is not simply a question of material 'hand outs'; compassion and friendship are vital elements of their home visits where many feel lonely and abandoned by society. Most important of all is the spirit and the personal commitment that each actor must bring along if we want to sustain the goal of eradicating the scandal of hunger.

5. According to reliable statistics, there is enough food for everyone in the world today. However, one person in eight does not get enough to eat each day. The way in which food is produced, marketed and distributed does not take into account the needs of the poorest. We live in a world where trading and market forces control the 'system'. This is an injustice to which we can no longer turn a blind eye or remain indifferent. However, that may be an area which calls for some expertise ('advocacy groups').

'You, yourselves, must give them something to eat' (Matt. 14, 13-21). It all just happened one day when Jesus withdrew by boat to a lonely place with his disciples. He had just heard that John the Baptist had been beheaded in prison and probably wanted some quiet time to mourn the death of his cousin. However, a large crowd followed Him. He took pity on them and healed their sick. When evening came, his disciples said to Him: 'this is a lonely place...so send the people away...to buy themselves some food.' And He replied: 'there is no need for them to go; you give them something to eat, yourselves'. The disciples objected to this idea - we have only five loaves and two fish'. It was an understandable reply. But Jesus ignored them and got to work and fed the multitude who ate as much as they wanted. At the end of the meal, they gathered up twelve baskets full of scraps. No waste, no want...

6. No doubt, we would want to argue...ah yes, but we cannot work miracles? In that way, we are trying to do the impossible on our own. We forget that we belong to a large worldwide institution, the Church. And we are all members of that one Body of Christ, in communion with each other and with Christ as Head. And whenever we try to honestly live that spirit of communion, we manifest this oneness in a spirit of universal solidarity. The very first Christian community identified themselves as having one heart and one soul ('Cor Unum et Anima Una)'. They held all things in common: their prayer life, their sharing in the breaking of the bread and their possessions. We too cannot truly reverence the presence of Christ in the sacrament of His Body and Blood, whenever we fail to restore the dignity of our brothers and sisters deprived of the basic needs for living. Perhaps it is more due to forgetfulness or simple ignorance of our faith as disciples of Christ, than a willingness to respond.

7. Where to begin? I believe that we need to dig a solid foundation of prayer and sharing the Word of God. We need to go deeper into the life and teachings of Jesus if we want to be able to commit ourselves to the great challenge put before us: One Human Family, Food for All'.

'MAY THE LORD BLESS AND PROTECT YOU.
MAY THE LORD LET HIS FACE SHINE UPON YOU.
MAY THE LORD UNCOVER HIS FACE TO YOU AND BRING YOU PEACE'.
AMEN.

CHRISTMAS MESSAGE 2013

1 'After Jesus had been born at Bethlehem in Judea, during the reign of King Herod, some wise men came to Jerusalem from the east. 'Where is the infant king of the Jews? they asked. It was a very innocent question coming from men regarded as 'wise'. They were simply trying to follow the path of a special star which, they believed, might lead them in their search for the truth, perhaps even for the one true God. In those days, there were some rumours or expectations that the ruler of the world would come from Judea. This star pointed them towards Jerusalem. On arriving there, they asked for guidance and direction: 'where can we find the infant king of the Jews'? Little did they know of the consequences of that innocent question. King Herod at once felt threatened. He summoned his religious advisers. And they told him that the Prophet Micah had foretold that the Christ would be born at Bethlehem in Judea. Herod then called the wise men and told them to go to Bethlehem. After that, they should let him know where he too could find the infant king so that he in turn could go and pay homage to him!

2.The evangelist Matthew records this story among the various events that surrounded the birth of Jesus. At the end of this story, he tells us that '(the wise men) were warned in a dream not to go back to Herod and returned to their own country by a different way'. Matthew then continues his Gospel with two short stories: the Flight into Egypt and the Return to the Land of Israel. The angel of God speaks to Joseph in a dream. He is told to get up quickly and take the child and its mother and to flee into Egypt and remain there until he gets further instructions. The reason: 'Herod is about to search for the child so as to destroy him'.

A few years before that, Herod had two of his own sons executed. He suspected that they were a threat to his power. Then around the time of the birth of Christ himself (4 B.C.), he killed a third son for the same reason. It goes without saying that the question which the wise men put to him must have alarmed him. It was clear that nothing would stop him from putting an end to the life of the 'infant king of the Jews.' His solution led to was what we know today as the massacre of the holy innocents.

3.'Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, was in a furious rage and ordered that all male children in Bethlehem and the region, who were two years old or under, should be killed....judging from the time that the wise men had asked about the 'infant king'. Herod was now certain that he had been betrayed by the wise men. And along with that the rumour of a belief in the coming of a Messianic king at that time called for swift action. He sensed hostility or opposition all around him. And he was determined to wipe out any threats to his power as king of Judea. In the meantime, Joseph, Mary and the child were well on their way to Egypt where they could expect to find some security and shelter. Apart from that, it is hard to imagine the physical discomfort of such a journey. Then on top of that, there was the constant anxiety about the safety of the child and their future as they made their way to Egypt along the dusty roads in winter time - helped only by their faithful donkey. Their experience as refugees in this part of the world reminds us today of the thousands of families and others who are victims of the same suffering and hardship.

4. After some time, Joseph receives another message in a dream from the angel. He is told that Herod has died and so the time has come for him to return home with his family. But there was still one final bridge to cross. Joseph learns that the new King of Judea is a fourth son of Herod the Great, the most brutal of all Herod's sons. In this case, there is no going back to Bethlehem (Judea). And Joseph is instructed once more in a dream to go back to Galilee, where they eventually settle in Nazareth, where everything began with the visit of the Angel Gabriel to Mary. Later on, in the public life of Jesus, this would cause some confusion with regard to the prophecy stating that the Messiah would come from Bethlehem in Judea! 'Can anything good come out of Nazareth'? Nathanael would say... 'Prophets don't come from Galilee', the Pharisees would argue. From Nazareth to Bethlehem; from Bethlehem to Egypt; and from Egypt back to Israel - to settle in Nazareth, Galilee. Such was the fate of the Holy Family in its early months as recorded by Matthew. In Luke's Gospel, the early days of the Holy Family are less tragic than those we read about in Matthew's Gospel (which we will hear this year, 2013). Such events remind us today that the mystery of the 'Word made Flesh' was truly real. The Son of God became a man like us. Come to me all you who are overburdened. Have no doubt that he understands our problems.

5. Even as a tiny baby, He was subject to the upheavals and violence of history and its political rulers at that time. In those early days when Mary would have carried him a lot in her arms, he must have sensed those moments when his mother experienced a lot of fear and anxiety When we hear or read about the awful tragedies and suffering of the people who now live in what we call the 'Holy Land' and its neighbours (Syria, Lebanon, Egypt), we are shocked and saddened at their present situation. Christians in particular are affected by these upheavals. The Patriarch Gregory III of Laham in Syria reported: 'the fear is not from my Muslim neighbour but rather from the fear of extremists'. It would seem that life has hardly changed for these people since the time of Christ almost two thousand years ago. The actors involved have changed, yes: the perpetrators of the injustice along with the unfortunate victims of these evils. Consequently, our world today is going through an unprecedented surge of migrants and refugees as they seek to escape in large numbers for safety. Pope Francis reminds us that, in such situations, refugees continue to live in hope in spite of situations that seem helpless. Deep down in their hearts, they long for a better future not only for themselves but also for their families. Because of this, they are ready to undertake huge risks and suffering in search of a better world. We can so easily condemn them . ...as if all were pirates!

6. Every year, we (Catholics) are invited by the Pope to contribute generously to a Universal Solidarity Fund in aid of the 'Holy Land'. It is a country that is sacred to Christians in a special way - the place of the birth, life death and resurrection of Christ. It is also sacred to Jews and Muslims. Unfortunately, it is a land that is torn apart by political and religious violence, strife and injustice. Over the last few years, Christians have been forced to leave the country and find refuge elsewhere due to persecution. This is a cause for concern for all of us....how long more can we expect to find the presence of a stable Christian community, living in peace, in the Holy Land. Will we continue to have access to the sacred places where we wish go on pilgrimage? Our collection for the 'Holy Land' takes place each year in early February. I appeal to all Catholics in the Diocese of Banjul to contribute generously to this worthy cause. I would also like to invite all Christians as well as men and women of good will in The Gambia to make their own contribution.

7. Brothers and Sisters in Christ, God has given us yet another year in which we can celebrate with joy and hope the birth of the child that is called the 'Prince of Peace'. It is right and just that we do so by sharing together some tasty food and drink. But we must also remember in some way the stranger, the refugee, the hungry not just in our own country. We belong to a human family that is wider than ourselves.....for if we fail to remember these, we cannot 'celebrate' the good news of great joy in spirit and in truth.

O Emmanuel, God present in our midst and long awaited Saviour, come and be with those torn by war or those abandoned in any way.
Amen.

DIOCESE OF BANJUL
APPOINTMENTS / TRANSFERS
SEPTEMBER 2013.

  • Fr. Peter S. LOPEZ: Director, Gambia Pastoral Institute.
  • Fr. Peter GOMEZ: P.P., Blessed Sacrament Parish, Kanifing Estate.
  • Fr. Jean Noel FAYE: P.P., St. Peter's Parish, Lamin.
  • Fr. Aime Joseph COLLEY: P.P., Mary, Mother of God Parish, Soma.
  • Fr. Peter JAMMEH C.S.Sp.: P.P., Sacred Heart Parish, Bansang.
  • Fr. Edu GOMEZ: P.P., Resurrection Parish, Brikama.
  • Fr. John MENDY: P.P., St. Charles Lwanga Parish, Fajikunda.
  • Fr. Joe Carl GOMEZ: Chaplain to Gambia National Army (Resident at Cathedral Parish, Banjul).
  • TEMPORARY APPOINTMENT AS DEACON: 10th August - 31st October 2013:
    Rev. Victor NDECKY: St. Therese Parish, Kanifing.

PLEASE NOTE: All appointments / Transfers become effective during the last week of September in conjunction with the respective predecessor. This should allow time for a proper handover and a prompt start for the new Pastoral Year on the 1st October 2013.

Fr. Joe Karbo will take a Sabbatical Year during the coming pastoral year at the Institute of St. Anselm, Kent, U.K. where he will follow a course on 'Training in Psycho-Spiritual Therapy'. We wish him God's blessings and hope that he will have time also to relax after his seven faithful years as Director of the G.P.I.

Wishing all of you a blessed and fruitful ministry in your new apostolate as we continue to serve God in the work of building up His Kingdom in our Diocese and country. Sincerely in Christ,
+ Robert P. Ellison C.S.Sp.
Bishop of Banjul.
1st August 2013.





CHILD PROTECTION POLICY IN THE DIOCESE OF BANJUL

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Download the Child Protection Reporting Form
Introduction:
Children are a gift from God to families, church and society at large. They are human, created in the image of God (Gen. 1:27-28) and as such they deserve to be treated with care and dignity. How children are nurtured now will have some impact on them as future adults.

The interest in child protection is based on the increasing instances of their abuse and the desire to protect and form our future generations in the best way possible. Childs' rights are promoted world wide; The Gambia has enacted a law (Child Act 2005) to safeguard the rights of the child which also includes their responsibilities. Similarly the Diocese of Banjul wishes to contribute its quota in ensuring child welfare through this policy within Parishes, Schools and Institutions belonging to the Diocese.

1. Goals of the Policy:

  • To ensure that children within the Institutions, Associations, Parishes and development projects supported by the Banjul Diocese are treated with dignity, respect and without any discrimination and their rights are promoted, fulfilled and protected including their right to protection from violence, abuse, exploitations and neglect.
  • To provide children with opportunities to develop to their full potentials in all Diocesan Institutions, Associations, Parishes and supported projects.
  • To ensure that due attention is given to child welfare all throughout the Diocese.

2. Definitions:

  • A child is any person aged from birth to 18 years (United Nations Convention on the Rights of The Child, 1989 and under The Children Act 2005 Laws of The Gambia.
  • Staff are people who are contracted wage earners, Revrend Sisters, Priests, Teachers, Volunteers, Catechists, working full time or partime in any Discezsan activity.
  • A Volunteer is any person working in a Disceasan program with or without remuneration, including elected lay members.
  • Emotional Abuse is the persistent emotional ill treatment of a child or vulnerable adult such as to cause severe and adverse effects on their emotional development. It may involve conveying that they are worthless or unloved, inadequate or valued only insofar as they meet the needs of another person.
  • Neglect is the persistent failure to meet the basic physical and or psychological needs of a child or vulnerable adult's. It may involve a parent or guardian failing to protect, provide adequate food, shelter, warmth, clothing and cleanliness. It may also include leaving a child home alone, exposure in a manner likely to cause unnecessary suffering or injury or the failure to ensure that appropriate medical care or treatment is received.
  • Physical Abuse may involve the actual or attempted physical injury to a child or vulnerable adult including hitting, shaking, throwing, poisoning, burning, scalding, drowning, suffocating or otherwise harming them. It may also be caused when a parent or care giver feigns the symptoms of or deliberately causes ill health to a child whom they are looking after. Physical abuse may also be a deliberate act, omission or failure to protect.
  • Sexual Abuse involves forcing or enticing a child or vulnerable adult to take part in sexual activities whether or not they are aware of or consent to what is happening. The activities may involve physical contact, including penetrative or non-penetrative acts. This may include non-contact activities such as forcing children or vulnerable adults to look at or be involved in the production of pornographic material, to watch sexual activities or encouraging them to behave in sexually inappropriate ways. Boys and girls can be sexually abused by males and/or females, including persons to whom they are not related to and by other young people. This includes people from all walks of life.
  • Children and vulnerable adults may experience harassment or negative discrimination because of their race or ethnic origin, socio-economic status, culture, age, disability, gender, sexuality or religious beliefs.
  • Bullying is unwanted, aggressive behavior that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated over time. Bullying may have serious lasting effects on the victim. It is important to recognize that in some cases of abuse, it may not always be an adult abusing a young person or vulnerable adult. It can occur that the abuser may be a young person, which is a case of bullying.

3. Recruitment and Posting of Staff

  • All staff to be recruited for all Catholic Institutions, Associations, Parishes and Diocesan supported projects dealing with children must be screened for child abuse - these institutions and associations include schools, health care institutions, youth groups, missionary childhood associations including altar servers, and all who work with the church.
  • Applicants for employment with a history of a sexual offence and or child abuse shall not be considered for placement or hire.
  • Should it come to light after the employment of any staff that such a staff had a history of child abuse, exploitation, and violence against children and such a staff had failed to disclose that at the time of his or her recruitment, the staff shall be dismissed forthwith without the benefit of serving any notice period or entitlement to any compensation financial or otherwise.
  • Applicants for employment shall supply the names of two references, and the hiring agents will make reasonable efforts to verify their suitability with specific questions asked in relation to the applicant's history of child abuse.
  • Persons found to have abused children are barred from employment in all Diocesan Parishes, Institutions, Associations and supported projects.
  • All staff to be recruited must sign a declaration form declaring any previous court convictions and or pending/previous investigations.
  • All staff and volunteers must be briefed on the implementation of the Child Protection Policy within 2 weeks of their employment start date
  • Catholic Institutions and Associations shall include some personnel with child protection expertise so as to monitor and evaluate the activities of the staff on regular basis. Parishes shall be encouraged to involve reliable personnel within them, like religious, parish chairperson, and reputable persons.

4. Code of Behaviour for Staff and Volunteers DO:

  • Be aware of dangers to children and vulnerable adults, including peer relationships.
  • Be visible to others when working.
  • Encourage discussion and open expression.
  • Be a positive role model.
  • Be caring, and responsible.
  • Demonstrate kindness and empathy.
  • Demonstrate fairness and equal treatment.
  • Involve children and vulnerable adults as appropriate in conversations and making decisions which affect them.
  • Ask permission of some responsible person in charge before taking a photograph (includes mobile phones, cameras/computers) of any child or vulnerable person.
  • Inform and empower children and vulnerable adults by discussing their rights, and who to go to with complaints.
  • End parish programs by 6:30PM to allow children get home before dark. If an activity goes later than 6:30PM, parents and guardians must be informed in advance.
  • Parents and guidance must give written consent to allow their children to participate in activities that will take them away from home such as trips, excursions, retreats, parties, sports, picnics and similar activities.
  • Record who attends the activity, and the time of beginning and ending.
  • Play a positive role in protection and safety.
  • Have kindergarten children escorted to and from school by people known to the teachers.
  • Work with a parish member if you are an expatriate Volunteer.
  • In respect to local customs, staff and volunteers will dress in a way which at least covers shoulders to knees.
  • A teacher or care giver should be vigilant and report any incidence of abuse or suspected abuse.
DO NOT:
  • Spend time alone with children, away and out of sight from others.
  • Take children to your home if you will be alone with them.
  • Hit or otherwise abuse.
  • Develop sexual relationships with children or vulnerable individuals in your care.
  • Use language, make suggestions, and or offer advice which is inappropriate, offensive, sexual, aggressive, or illegal.
  • Shame, degrade, humiliate, or belittle.
  • Discriminate, exclude, or stigmatize.
  • Expose children or vulnerable adults to pornography.
  • Expose children to hazardous work.
  • Violate confidentiality agreements or privacy.
  • Touch or fondle children inappropriatly

5. Communication:

  • Notices will be displayed in public view in institutions, parishes and projects supported by the Diocese with contact details of the Designated Child Protection Officers indicated
  • The Child Protection Policy will be available within the Child Welfare Office
  • Children will be made aware of their rights through sensitization within institutions, associations, parishes and projects supported by the Diocese.
  • Parents, Guardians, teachers and all those indicated will be sensitized on the child protection policy.

6. Code of Conduct for Staff:

  • The laws of the state are binding on all staff of Catholic Institutions, Parishes, Associations and Diocesan supported projects
  • A code of conduct for staff dealing with child protection shall be established for all Catholic institutions, Parishes, associations and Diocesan supported projects
  • Staffs, all adults within Catholic Institutions, Parishes, Associations and Diocesan supported projects shall comport themselves with dignity and integrity expected of a child's parents.
  • Staff and adults within the Catholic Institutions, Parishes and Diocesan supported projects shall see the welfare and protection of the children under their care as their responsibility before God

7. Preventing Child Abuse:

  • The Diocese shall set up an office (Child Welfare Office) in the Catholic Secretariat to educate personnel within the catholic institutions and Parishes about their responsibilities towards the welfare and protection of children by August, 2013.
  • The Child Welfare Office shall comprise of a Child Welfare Officer, a Deputy Child Welfare Officer and a committee of five people comprising of: a Priest, Reverend Sisters, Lawyer and two lay faithful.
  • The Child Welfare Office shall monitor and evaluate the protection of the child and vulnerable persons in all Parishes, Catholic Institutions and Associations
  • The Child Welfare Office shall deal with all cases of child abuse on behalf of the Diocese.
  • The Child Welfare Office shall collaborate with institutions in The Gambia that deal with children's affairs such as but not restricted to Social Welfare and Child Protection Alliance.
  • The Child Protection Designated Officer within the Child Welfare Office is:
  • Name:
    Role:
    Contact Number:
    Email:

  • The Deputy Child Protection Designated Officer within the Child Welfare Office is:
  • Name:
    Role:
    Contact Number:
    Email:

  • The Designated Officer must be trained in child safeguarding and in the implementation of this policy.
  • The Child Welfare Office provides for regular monitoring, on-going assessment and review of these standards.

8. Dealing With Cases of Child Abuse:

  • The staff member or volunteer must refer all cases and suspected cases of child abuse to the Child Protection Designated Officer at the Child Welfare Office.
  • The Head of Institution/Association or Parish Priest shall not personally investigate the child abuse allegations but refer such cases to the Child Welfare Office. All cases of child abuse and suspected child abuse must not be concealed or attempted to be solved privately.
  • The Designated Officer will interview the child and or person reporting the incident, ideally in the presence of another designated individual - if the complainant is agreeable to this.
  • The complaint will be documented in writing either at the time or immediately after the interview with the complainant, using the Child Protection Reporting Form.
  • The case file must be opened and updated accordingly and kept in a secure location for viewing by Designated Protection Officers and the Bishop.
  • If medical attention is required, the Designated Officer will arrange this.
  • The Child Welfare Officer may refer cases and allegations of child abuse to the police and or the appropiate authorities including the Social Welfare and the Child Protection Alliance
  • The parents/guardians will be informed immediately of cases of child abuse
  • The Designated Officer must inform the Parish Child Welfare Office.
  • The Bishop must be informed of any allegation/report of abuse.
  • Should the accusation involve any member of staff or volunteer they will be immediately suspended from duty until the case is investigated and resolved.
  • Counselling services will be provided for the victim.
  • Where appropriate, medical services will be sought and provided for the victim
  • Offenders should be recommended for counselling
  • The Designated Officer and others involved in the investigation of child abuse and abuse of vunerable persons will treat the individuals and the report in a confidential, compassionate, respectful and responsible manner.
  • The child's name should remain confidential at all times.
  • Revictiminazion of the child shall be avoided at all times
  • The protection officers shall receive training and guidance on child/ friendly procidures and communication with children.

9. Reporting procedures

  • All complains should go to the Child Welfare officer who will review and investigate the complaint in a confedential manner and he / she shall make appropriate recommendations which will be shared with the commitee who makes the final decisions, recomendations and protocols followed.
  • The Child Welfare Officer in the event of serious allegations of physical and or sexual abuse of a child shall immedetiately refer the matter to the appropriate civil authorities like the Police, Doctors, Social Welfare and also inform the committee.
  • The Child Welfare officer should be vigilant in making follow ups of reported cases.
  • If following investigations regarding a case of abuse or suspected abuse and the allegations turn out to be false, the person making the allgation should apoligize publicly which shall also be documented in writing.
  • A person who has been falsely and maliciously accused of child abuse and abuse of vulnerable persons may take up the matter in a civil proccedings
  • If it is ascertained that the child welfare officer failed or refused to deal with a case of abuse. A parent, staff and any other person may bring this to the attention of the committee for investigation.

10. Annual review:
Annual review of the work and findings of the Child Welfare Office shall be made by the Child Welfare Officer which will be confirmed and signed by the committee and filed in the office with a copy given to the Bishop.

11. Time frame
This policy shall take effect as from the 1st August 2013 and shall be reviewed not later than the 1st August 2015.

Signatures:
Name of Leadership: ____________________
Role of Leadership: ____________________
Signature of Leadership: ___________________
Date: ____________________
Stamp: Name of Child Designated Officer: ______________________
Signature of Child Designated Officer: ____________________________
Date: _____________________________
Stamp:




CONGREGATION FOR THE DOCTRINE OF THE FAITH
Note with pastoral recommendations for the Year of Faith

Introduction
With the Apostolic Letter of 11 October 2011, Porta fidei, Pope Benedict XVI declared a Year of Faith. This year will begin on 11 October 2012, on the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Ecumenical Vatican Council, and will conclude on 24 November 2013, the Solemnity of our Lord Jesus Christ, Universal King.
This year will be a propitious occasion for the faithful to understand more profoundly that the foundation of Christian faith is "the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction."[1] Founded on the encounter with the Risen Christ, faith can be rediscovered in its wholeness and all its splendor. "In our days too faith is a gift to rediscover, to cultivate and to bear witness to" because the Lord "grants each one of us to live the beauty and joy of being Christians."[2]
The beginning of the Year of Faith coincides with the anniversaries of two great events which have marked the life of the Church in our days: the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council, called by Blessed Pope John XXIII(11 October 1962), and the twentieth of the promulgation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, given to the Church by Blessed Pope John Paul II(11 October 1992).
The Council, according to Pope John XXIII, wanted "to transmit doctrine, pure and whole, without attenuations or misrepresentations," in such a way that "this sure and immutable teaching, which must be respected faithfully, is elaborated and presented in a way which corresponds to the needs of our time."[3]In this regard, the opening words of the Dogmatic Constitution Lumen gentiumremain of primary importance: "Christ is the Light of nations. Because this is so, this Sacred Synod gathered together in the Holy Spirit eagerly desires, by proclaiming the Gospel to every creature, (cfr. Mk 16:15) to bring the light of Christ to all men, a light brightly visible on the countenance of the Church."[4]Beginning with the light of Christ, which purifies, illuminates and sanctifies in the celebration of the sacred liturgy (cfr. Constitution, Sacrosanctum Concilium) and with His divine word (cfr. Dogmatic Constitution, Dei Verbum), the Counil wanted to elaborate on the intimate nature of the Church (cfr. Dogmatic Constitution, Lumen gentium) and its relationship with the contemporary world (cfr. Pastoral Constitution, Gaudium et spes). Around these four Constitutions, the true pillars of the Council, are arranged the Declarations and Decrees which address some of the major challenges of the day.
After the Council the Church - under the sure guidance of the Magisterium and in continuity with the whole Tradition - set about ensuring the reception and application of the teaching of the Council in all its richness. To assist in the correct reception of the Council, the Popes have frequently convoked the Synod of Bishops,[5]first instituted by the Servant of God, Paul VI, in 1965, providing the Church with clear guidance through the various post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortations. The next General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, to be held in October 2012, will have as its theme: The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith.
From the beginning of his pontificate, Pope Benedict XVIhas worked decisively for a correct understanding of the Council, rejecting as erroneous the so-called "hermeneutic of discontinuity and rupture" and promoting what he himself has termed "the 'hermeneutic of reform', of renewal in the continuity of the one subject-Church which the Lord has given to us. She is a subject which increases in time and develops, yet always remaining the same, the one subject of the journeying People of God."[6]
The Catechism of the Catholic Church, in this same vein, is both an "authentic fruit of Vatican Council II"[7]and a tool for aiding in its reception. The Extraordinary Synod of Bishops of 1985, convoked on the occasion of the twentieth anniversary of the closing of the Second Vatican Council and to measure its reception, suggested the preparation of a Catechism in order to offer the People of God a compendium of all Catholic doctrine and a sure point of reference for local catechisms. Pope John Paul II accepted this proposal as a desire which "fully responds to a real need of the universal Church and of the particular Churches."[8]Compiled in collaboration with the entire Episcopate of the Catholic Church, this Catechism "truly expresses what could be called the symphony of the faith."[9]
The Catechism includes "the new and the old (cfr. Mt 13:52), because the faith is always the same yet the source of ever new light. To respond to this twofold demand, the Catechism of the Catholic Church on the one hand repeats the old, traditional order already followed by the Catechism of St Pius V, arranging the material in four parts: the Creed, the Sacred Liturgy, with pride of place given to the sacraments, the Christian way of life, explained beginning with the Ten Commandments, and finally, Christian prayer. At the same time, however, the contents are often expressed in a new way in order to respond to the questions of our age."[10]This Catechism is "a valid and legitimate instrument for ecclesial communion and a sure norm for teaching the faith."[11]The content of faith finds " its systematic and organic synthesis in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Here, in fact, we see the wealth of teaching that the Church has received, safeguarded and proposed in her two thousand years of history. From Sacred Scripture to the Fathers of the Church, from theological masters to the saints across the centuries, the Catechism provides a permanent record of the many ways in which the Church has meditated on the faith and made progress in doctrine so as to offer certitude to believers in their lives of faith."[12]
The Year of Faith is intended to contribute to a renewed conversion to the Lord Jesus and to the rediscovery of faith, so that the members of the Church will be credible and joy-filled witnesses to the Risen Lord in the world of today - capable of leading those many people who are seeking it to the "door of faith." This "door" opens wide man's gaze to Jesus Christ, present among us "always, until the end of the age" (Mt 28:20). He shows us how "the art of living" is learned "in an intense relationship with him."[13]"Through his love, Jesus Christ attracts to himself the people of every generation: in every age he convokes the Church, entrusting her with the proclamation of the Gospel by a mandate that is ever new. Today too, there is a need for stronger ecclesial commitment to new evangelization in order to rediscover the joy of believing and the enthusiasm for communicating the faith."[14]
At the invitation of Pope Benedict XVI,[15]the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, in consultation with the competent Dicasteries of the Holy See and with the contribution of the Committee for the Preparation of the Year of Faith,[16]has drawn up this Note, with some recommendations for living this time of grace, without precluding other initiatives which the Holy Spirit will inspire among Pastors and faithful in various parts of the world.
Recommendations
"I know him in whom I have believed" (2 Tm 1:12). These words of St Paul help us to understand that faith is "first of all a personal adherence of man to God. At the same time, and inseparably, it is a free assent to the whole truth that God has revealed."[17]Faith which is a personal trust in the Lord and the faith which we profess in the Creed are inseparable; they focus on each other and they require each other. There exists a profound bond between the lived faith and its contents. The faith of the Witnesses and Confessors is also the faith of the Apostles and Doctors of the Church.
Thus, the following recommendations for the Year of Faith desire to aid both the encounter with Christ through authentic witnesses to faith, and the ever-greater understanding of its contents. These proposals are intended as examples to encourage a ready response to the invitation of the Holy Father to live fully this Year as a special "time of grace."[18]The joyous rediscovery of faith can also contribute to consolidate the unity and communion among the different bodies that make up the wider family of the Church.
I. On the level of the Universal Church
1. The main ecclesial event at the beginning of the Year of Faith will be the XIII General Assembly of the Ordinary Synod of Bishops, convoked by Pope Benedict XVI in October 2012, dedicated to The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith. During this Synod, on 11 October 2012, there will be a solemn celebration of the beginning of the Year of Faith, in remembrance of the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council.
2. In the Year of Faith pilgrimages of the faithful to the See of Peter are to be encouraged, to profess faith in God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, in unity with him who today is called to confirm his brothers and sisters in the faith (cfr. Lk 22:32). It is also important to promote pilgrimages to the Holy Land, the place which first saw the presence of Jesus, the Savior, and Mary, his Mother.
3. During this Year, it will be helpful to invite the faithful to turn with particular devotion to Mary, model of the Church, who "shines forth to the whole community of the elect as the model of virtues."[19]Therefore, every initiative that helps the faithful to recognize the special role of Mary in the mystery of salvation, love her and follow her as a model of faith and virtue is to be encouraged. To this end it would be proper to organize pilgrimages, celebrations and gatherings at the major Marian shrines.
4. The next World Youth Day, in Rio de Janeiro in July 2013, will offer a special occasion for the young to experience the joy which comes from faith in the Lord Jesus and communion with the Holy Father, in the greater family of the Church.
5. It is hoped that many symposia, conferences and large gatherings will be held, even at the international level, to encourage encounters with authentic witness to the faith and to promote understanding of the contents of Catholic doctrine. Noting how, still today, the Word of God continues to grow and spread, it will be important to give witness that "all the anguish and all the longing of the human heart finds fulfilment"[20]in Christ Jesus and that faith "becomes a new criterion of understanding and action that changes the whole of man's life."[21]Some conferences should be particularly dedicated to the rediscovery of the teachings of Vatican Council II.
6. The Year of Faith will offer a special opportunity for all believers to deepen their knowledge of the primary documents of the Second Vatican Council and their study of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. This is especially true for candidates for priesthood, particularly during the propeduetic year or in their first years of theological studies, for novices in Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, as well as for those in a period of discernment for joining an Ecclesial Association or Movement.
7. This Year will provide an auspicious time for a more attentive reception of the homilies, catechesis, addresses and other speeches and documents of the Holy Father. Pastors, consecrated persons and the lay faithful are invited to renew their efforts in effective and heart-felt adherence to the teaching of the Successor of Peter.
8. During the Year of Faith, in cooperation with the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity, various ecumenical initiatives are to be planned, aimed at "the restoration of unity among all Christians" which "is one of the principal concerns of the Second Vatican Council."[22]In particular, there will be a solemn ecumenical celebration in which all of the baptized will reaffirm their faith in Christ.
9. A Secretariat to coordinate all of the different initiatives promoted by various Dicasteries of the Holy See, or other events relevant to the Universal Church, will be established within the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization. This Secretariat should be informed timely of the main events and can also suggest appropriate initiatives. The Secretariat will open a dedicated website with the goal of making available useful information regarding living out the Year of Faith more effectively.
10. At the conclusion of this Year, on the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Universal King, there will be a Eucharist celebrated by the Holy Father, in which a solemn renewal of the profession of faith will take place.
II. On the level of Episcopal Conferences[23]
1. Episcopal Conferences, in light of the specific mission of the Bishops as teachers and "heralds of the faith,"[24]can dedicate a day of study to the topic of faith, its personal witness and its transmission to new generations.
2. The republication in paperback and economical editions of the Documents of Vatican Council II, the Catechism of the Catholic Church and its Compendium is to be promoted, as is the wider distribution of these texts through electronic means and modern technologies. 3. A renewed effort to translate the documents of Vatican Council II and the Catechism of the Catholic Church into languages which lack a translation is desirable. Initiatives of charitable support to enable translations into the local languages of mission countries, where the local Churches cannot afford the expense, are to be encouraged. This should be done under the guidance of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.
4. Pastors should work to promote television and radio transmissions, films and publications focusing on the faith, its principles and content, as well as on the ecclesial significance of the Second Vatican Council. This should be done using the new styles of communication, especially on the popular level, making these things available to a wider public.
5. The Saints and the Blessed are the authentic witnesses of the faith.[25]It is, therefore, opportune that Episcopal Conferences work toward the dissemination of a knowledge of the local Saints of their territory, also by modern means of social communication.
6. The contemporary world is sensitive to the relationship between faith and art. It is, therefore, recommended that Episcopal Conferences maximize the catechetical potential - possibly with ecumenical cooperation - of the artistic patrimony of the region entrusted to their pastoral care.
7. Educators in centers of theological studies, seminaries and Catholic universities should be encouraged in their teaching to demonstrate the relevance within their various disciplines of the contents of the Catechism of the Catholic Church and of the implications derived from them.
8. It would be useful to arrange for the preparation of pamphlets and leaflets of an apologetic nature (cfr. 1 Pt 3:15), which should be done with the help of theologians and authors. Every member of the faithful would then be enabled to respond better to the questions which arise in difficult contexts - whether to do with sects, or the problems related to secularism and relativism, or to questions "arising from a changed mentality which, especially today, limits the field of rational certainties to that of scientific and technological discoveries,"[26]or to other specific issues.
9. It is hoped that local catechisms and various catechetical supplements in use in the particular Churches would be examined to ensure their complete conformity with the Catechism of the Catholic Church.[27]Should a catechism or supplement be found to be not totally in accord with the Catechism, or should some lacunae be discovered, new ones should be developed, following the example of those Conferences which have already done so. 10. The Year of Faith will also be an appropriate time to examine, in collaboration with the Congregation for Catholic Education, the Ratio of formation for future priests, ensuring that the contents of the Catechism for the Catholic Church are present in their theological studies.
III. At the Diocesan level
1. It is hoped that each particular Church would have a celebration of the opening of the Year of Faith and a solemn conclusion to it, in which to "profess our faith in the Risen Lord in our cathedrals and in the churches of the whole world."[28]
2. It would be desirable that each Diocese in the world organize a study day on the Catechism of the Catholic Church, particularly for its priests, consecrated persons and catechists. On this occasion, for example, the Eastern Catholic Eparchies could hold a meeting with their priests to give witness to their specific experience and liturgical tradition in the one faith in Christ. Also, in this way, young particular Churches in mission territories would be able to give renewed witness to that joy of faith which is so often particular to them.
3. Each Bishop could devote a pastoral letter of his own to the topic of faith, keeping in mind the specific pastoral circumstances of the portion of the faithful entrusted to him, reminding them of the importance of the Second Vatican Council and of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
4. It is hoped that in each Diocese, under the leadership of the Bishop, catechetical events will be organized, especially for the youth and those searching for a sense of life, helping them to discover the beauty of ecclesial faith, promoting encounters with meaningful witnesses to the faith.
5. It would be appropriate for each particular Church to review the reception of Vatican Council II and the Catechism of the Catholic Church in its own life and mission, particularly in the realm of catechesis. This would provide the opportunity for a renewal of commitment on the part of the catechetical offices of the Dioceses which - supported by the Commissions for Catechesis of the Episcopal Conferences - have the duty to care for the theological formation of catechists.
6. The continuing education of the clergy can be focused during this Year of Faith on the documents of Vatican Council II and on the Catechism of the Catholic Church, treating such themes as "the proclamation of the Risen Christ", "the Church - sacrament of salvation", "the mission of evangelization in the world today", "faith and disbelief", "faith, ecumenism and inter-religious dialogue", "faith and eternal life", "the hermeneutic of reform in continuity" and "the Catechism in ordinary pastoral care."
7. Bishops are invited to organize penitential celebrations, particularly during Lent, in which all can ask for God's forgiveness, especially for sins against faith. This Year also provides an appropriate occasion in which all can approach the Sacrament of Penance with greater faith and more frequently.
8. It is hoped that there will be a renewed creative dialogue between faith and reason in the academic and artistic communities, through symposia, meetings and days of study, especially at Catholic universities, in order to demonstrate that "there cannot be any conflict between faith and genuine science, because both, albeit via different routes, tend towards the truth."[29]
9. It is also important to promote encounters with those persons who, "while not claiming to have the gift of faith, are nevertheless sincerely searching for the ultimate meaning and definitive truth of their lives and of the world,"[30]taking as an example the dialogues of the Courtyard of the Gentiles, sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Culture. 10. The Year of Faith can be an opportunity to pay greater attention to Catholic schools, which are a perfect place to offer to students a living witness to the Lord and to nurture their faith. This can be done by making use of good catechetical tools, like the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church and Youcat
IV. At the level of the parish/community/association/movement
1. In preparation for the Year of Faith, all of the faithful are invited to read closely and meditate upon Pope Benedict XVI's Apostolic Letter, Porta fidei.
2. The Year of Faith "will also be a good opportunity to intensify the celebration of the faith in the liturgy, especially in the Eucharist."[31]In the Eucharist, mystery of faith and source of the new evangelization, the faith of the Church is proclaimed, celebrated and strengthened. All of the faithful are invited to participate in the Eucharist actively, fruitfully and with awareness, in order to be authentic witnesses of the Lord.
3. Priests should devote greater attention to the study of the documents of Vatican Council II and the Catechism of the Catholic Church, drawing from them resources for the pastoral care of their parishes - catechesis, preaching, Sacramental preparation. They should also offer cycles of homilies on the faith or on certain specific aspects such as, for example, "the encounter with Christ", "the fundamental contents of the Creed", and "faith and the Church."[32]
4. Catechists should hold more firmly to the doctrinal richness of the Catechism of the Catholic Church and, under the direction of their pastors, offer guidance in reading this precious document to groups of faithful, working toward a deeper common understanding thereof, with the goal of creating small communities of faith, and of giving witness to the Lord Jesus.
5. It is hoped that there will be a renewed commitment in parishes to the distribution of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and of other resources appropriate for families, which are true domestic churches and the primary setting for the transmission of the faith. This might be done, for example, during the blessing of homes, the Baptism of adults, Confirmations and Marriages. This can contribute to the deepening of Catholic teaching "in our homes and among our families, so that everyone may feel a strong need to know better and to transmit to future generations the faith of all times."[33]
6. The promotion of missions and other popular programs in parishes and in the workplace can help the faithful to rediscover the gift of Baptismal faith and the task of giving witness, knowing that the Christian vocation "by its very nature is also a vocation to the apostolate."[34]
7. During this time, members of Institutes of Consecrated Life and of Societies of Apostolic Life are asked to work towards the new evangelization with a renewed union to the Lord Jesus, each according to their proper charism, in fidelity to the Holy Father and to sound doctrine.
8. Contemplative communities, during the Year of Faith, should pray specifically for the renewal of the faith among the People of God and for a new impulse for its transmission to the young.
9. Associations and Ecclesial Movements are invited to promote specific initiatives which, through the contribution of their proper charism and in collaboration with their local Pastors, will contribute to the wider experience of the Year of Faith. The new Communities and Ecclesial Movements, in a creative and generous way, will be able to find the most appropriate ways in which to offer their witness to the faith in service to the Church.
10. All of the faithful, called to renew the gift of faith, should try to communicate their own experience of faith and charity[35]to their brothers and sisters of other religions, with those who do not believe, and with those who are just indifferent. In this way, it is hoped that the entire Christian people will begin a kind of mission toward those with whom they live and work, knowing that they "have welcomed the news of salvation which is meant for every man."[36]
Conclusion Faith "is the lifelong companion that makes it possible to perceive, ever anew, the marvels that God works for us. Intent on gathering the signs of the times in the present of history, faith commits every one of us to become a living sign of the presence of the Risen Lord in the world."[37]Faith is both a personal and a communal act: it is a gift from God that is lived in the communion of the Church and must be communicated to the world. Every initiative for the Year of Faith should be designed to aid in the joyous rediscovery of the faith and its renewed transmission. The recommendations provided here have the goal of inviting all of the members of the Church to work so that this Year may be a special time in which we, as Christians, may share that which is most dear to us: Christ Jesus, the Redeemer of mankind, Universal King, "leader and perfecter of faith" (Hb 12: 2).
Given in Rome, at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, on 6 January 2012, the Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord.

William Cardinal Levada
Prefect


Luis F. Ladaria, S.J.
Secretary

[1]Benedict XVI, Enc. Letter, Deus caritas est, 25 December 2005, n. 1.
[2]Id., Homily on the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord,10 January 2010.
[3]John XXIII, Address of the solemn opening of the Ecumenical Vatican Council II, 11 October 1962.
[4]Conc. Ecum. Vat. II, Dogmatic Constitution, Lumen gentium, n. 1.
[5]The Ordinary Assemblies of the Synod of Bishops have treated the following topics: The preservation and strengthening of the Catholic Faith, its integrity, vigor, development, historical and doctrinal coherence (1967), The ministerial priesthood and justice in the world (1971), Evangelization in the modern world (1974), Catechesis in our time (1977), The Christian Family (1980), Penance and reconciliation in the mission of the Church (1983), The vocation and mission of the laity in the Church and in the world (1987), The formation of priests in actual circumstances (1991), Consecrated life and its mission in the Church and in the world (1994), The Bishop: Servant of the Gospel of Jesus Christ for the hope of the world (2001), The Eucharist: source and summit of the life and mission of the Church (2005), The Word of God in the life and mission of the Church (2008).
[6]Benedict XVI, Address to the Roman Curia, 22 December 2005.
[7]Id., Porta fidei, n. 4.
[8]John Paul II, Address on the closing of the Second Extraordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, 7 December 1985, n. 6. The same Pope, in the initial phase of this Synod, during the Angelus of 24 November 1985, said: "Fatih is the principal foundation, it is the cornerstone, the essential criterion of the renewal willed by the Council. From faith come custom, the stile of life and practical direction in every circumstance."
[9]Id., Apostolic Constitution, Fidei depositum, 11 October 1992, n. 2.
[10]Ibid., n. 3.
[11]Ibid., n. 4.
[12]Benedict XVI, Porta fidei, n. 11.
[13]Id., Address to the participants in the meeting organized by the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization, 15 October 2011.
[14]Id., Apostolic Letter, Porta fidei, n. 7.
[15]Cfr. ibid., n. 12.
[16]This Committee, formed by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, according to the mandate of the Holy Father, Benedict XVI, includes among its members: Cardinals William Levada, Francis Arinze, Angelo Bagnasco, Ivan Dias, Francis E. George, Zenon Grocholewski, Marc Ouellet, Mauro Piacenza, Jean-Pierre Ricard, Stanisław Ryłko and Christoph Schönborn; Archbishops Luis F. Ladaria, and Salvatore Fisichella; Bishops Mario del Valle Moronta Rodríguez, Gerhard Ludwig Müller and Raffaello Martinelli.
[17]Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 150.
[18]Benedict XVI, Apostolic Letter, Porta fidei, n. 15.
[19]Conc. Ecum. Vat. II, Dogmatic Constitution, Lumen gentium, n. 65.
[20]Benedict XVI, Apostolic Letter, Porta fidei, n. 13.
[21]Ibid., n. 6.
[22]Conc. Ecum. Vat. II, Decree, Unitatis redintigratio, n. 1.
[23]The following recommendations made for Episcopal Conferences are also offered, in an analogous way, to the Synods of Bishops of Patriarchal and Major Archepiscopal Churches, as well as to the Assemblies of Hierarchs of the other Eastern Catholic Churches sui iuris.
[24]Conc. Ecum. Vat. II, Dogmatic Constitution, Lumen gentium, n. 25.
[25]Benedict XVI, Apostolic Letter, Porta fidei, n. 13.
[26]Ibid., n. 12.
[27]John Paul II, Apostolic Constitution, Fidei depositum, n. 4.
[28]Benedict XVI, Apostolic Letter, Porta fidei, n. 8.
[29]Ibid., n. 12.
[30]Ibid., n. 10.
[31]Ibid., n. 9.
[32]Cfr., Benedict XVI, Apostolic Exhortation, Verbum Domini, 30 September 2010, nn. 59-60, and 74.
[33]ID., Apostolic Letter, Porta fidei, n. 8.
[34]Conc. Ecum. Vat. II, Decree, Apostolicam actuositatem, n. 2.
[35]Cfr. Benedict XVI, Apostolic Letter, Porta fidei, n. 14.
[36]Conc. Ecum. Vat. II, Pastoral Constitution, Gaudium et spes, n. 1.
[37]Benedict XVI, Apostolic Letter, Porta fidei, n. 15.

THE YEAR OF FAITH
11 OCTOBER 2012----24 NOVEMBER 2013

In the Acts of the Apostles, we learn that God has opened the door of faith for the early Church.But did you know that God has opened the door of faith for each one us and he invites us to step through the threshold into a deeper relationship with him.The upcoming Year of Faith is an opportunity for every Catholic to turn towards Jesus Christ, encounter him in the Sacraments, especially the Eucharist and rediscover the Faith and Church.
With his Apostolic Letter of October 11, 2011,Porta Fidei. . . , Pope Benedict XVI declared that a "Year of Faith" will begin on October 11, 2012 and conclude on November 24, 2013. October 11,2012,the first day of the Year of Faith, is the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council. . . (Vatican II) and also the twentieth anniversary of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. During the Year of Faith, Catholics are asked to study and reflect on the documents of Vatican II and the catechism so that they may deepen their knowledge of the faith.
"The 'door of faith' (Acts14:27) is always open for us, ushering us into the life of communion with God and offering entry into his Church."---Pope Benedict XVI, Apostolic Letter Porta Fidei for the Indiction of the Year of Faith.
The upcoming Year of Faith is a "summons to an authentic and renewed conversion to the Lord, the One Savior of the world" (Porta Fidei 6). In other words, the Year of Faith is an opportunity for Catholics to experience a conversion - to turn back to Jesus and enter into a deeper relationship with him. The "door of faith" is opened at one's baptism, but during this year Catholics are called to open it again, walk through it and rediscover and renew their relationship with Christ and his Church.

PA SYSTEM

The Gambia Pastoral Institute has secured a state of the art Public Address System (P.A System). You can hire it for your social and religious programmes at a reasonable price.


THE COMMUNICATIVE CHURCH: ARE WE READY TO USE THE MICROPHONE

"The media really have become increasingly part of the fabric of society or like the air we breathe. It is important to look at where the trends are today and, especially, to get ahead of the curve and see where they will be tomorrow. Often, I think we tend to be too reactive in dealing with new developments in society. We should try to be more pro-active, looking at what is on the horizon, in order to be more ready, involved and capable of spreading the Gospel in the new cultural contexts and with the new languages created."


EASTER MESSAGE 2012

Most of the Resurrection stories in the four Gospels tell us that the disciples of Jesus failed to recognize him when he first appeared to them. I have often wondered why or how this could have happened. After all, there was a very short interval of time between the Last Supper and the various occasions when he appeared to them after he rose from the dead. Had he changed that much in appearance? True, it was no longer a mortal body that they saw but the glorified body of the Risen Lord. But then, did not Peter, James and John have that special privilege when they saw him transfigured on Mount Thabor - when they were given a glimpse of the Risen Christ in glory. That was an ecstatic experience never to be forgotten, so much so that Peter wanted to remain on top of the mountain. It was just like heaven on earth.

Then, as they came down the mountain, Jesus told them to say nothing about what they saw 'until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead'. And still, they failed to put two and two together when the hour had finally come. St. Luke comments on this issue very simply: 'SOMETHING prevented them from recognizing him', when he describes the experience of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. For them, at that moment, Jesus was dead and buried, gone forever, as far as they were concerned. There was no future for them to stay around Jerusalem. The man who was walking beside them along the road was just a stranger. Their hearts had become clouded and numb with grief. It was in fact something very normal, very human and understandable....

Whenever we meet people whom we know, we tend to see only what we expect to find. And we look only at the cover of the book. We cannot see the inside - the sadness and the brokenness that others carry around within themselves - especially during the loss of a very close friend. Most of us try to put on a brave expression - or even a smile. But rarely can we conceal the pain or sorrow on the inside. That is how Jesus found those two disciples as he joined them quietly along the road that first Easter Sunday evening. He was patient enough to allow them to pour out their sorrows and disappointment at the loss of the One in whom they had placed all their hopes. And when they had finished telling him their story, he began to tell them his own story, ending with the words: 'Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer and so enter into his glory'? Love is patient, love is kind and love is gentle.

As soon as the Risen Lord had vanished from their sight, the disciples looked at each other and said: 'Were not our hearts burning within us as he spoke to us on the way'? In the words of the Tantum Ergo hymn we sing: Sight is blind before God's glory, faith alone can see His face (Praestet fides supplementum, sensuum defectui). It is clear that the disciples were slow to believe that Jesus had risen form the dead. They simply were not expecting this - in spite of the fact that He had told them several times that this would happen. It took some time before the first Christian community could come to believe fully in this great mystery of the Resurrection: the triumph of life over death. Sometimes we may be tempted to criticize them or look down on them being so slow and dull as they struggled to come to terms with this mystery.

In Europe today, people question the whole idea of a life AFTER death; is there such a thing? For many Africans, it is the very opposite: is there a life BEFORE death - meaning a quality of life that is truly human, that is worthy of the dignity of every man, woman or child? Too many people seem destined to live in such horrific or inhuman conditions? And so we are tempted to stand back feeling helpless and hopeless in such situations.

The Easter message is the story of a gifted young man called Jesus of Nazareth - a man of unique integrity and commitment. And for that very reason, he met with a lot of opposition. At a certain moment in his life, he could sense what lay ahead for him. And so he spoke to his disciples: 'There is a baptism I must still receive and how great is my distress until it is all accomplished'. Did he feel a sense of total failure on the cross as he found himself condemned to death by the very religious authorities to whom he, as a Jew, was subject? Was his cry from the cross 'My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?' a cry from the depths of his being or simply a prayer from one of the psalms?

For those who believe, there is no worse pain than to feel abandoned by God himself. Jesus had to go through this bitter human experience. But that was not the end.....The Easter message tells us that light has overcome darkness; that love has overcome hatred; and that life has overcome death. 'Death has been swallowed up by victory', is the way in which St. Paul puts it. This is a victory we all hope share in. God is greater. God is always greater than our sinfulness, our failures and our feelings of despair. It is my prayer that we may discover a renewed sense of joy and hope as we celebrate once again the Easter mystery. And may God bless and protect all of you and your families today and always. AMEN.

+ Robert P. Ellison
Bishop of Banjul

RECOWA BISHOPS MAP OUT ACTION PLAN AGAINST BAD POLITICAL LEADERSHIP

YAMOUSSOUKRO, IVORY COAST - Feb 01, 2012 (CNSNg.org): The Catholic Bishops of the West African region have expressed grave concern on the negative impact of bad political leadership on the lives of the people and have therefore articulated plans for collective action by members of the region's Bishops' Conference to combat the problem along with other vices that are retarding the developmental growth of the continent.
Making particular reference to the West African region, the Bishops therefore called on political leaders "to see their assumption of office as a call to service instead of an opportunity to exercise crude force and indulge in unbridled selfishness and corruption."
This observation and call were contained in the communique issued at the end of the First Plenary Assembly of the Regional Episcopal Conference of West Africa (RECOWA-CERAO) at Yamoussoukro, Cote d'Ivoire, held from January 23 to January 29, 2012.

According to the communique titled Our Common Destiny and signed by Theodore Adrien Cardinal SARR, Archbishop of Dakar, Senegal; and Rev. Fr. Octavius Yipagtuo Moo, President and Secretary General of RECOWA-CERAO respectively, the bishops alerted on the challenges of leadership and stated: "The Church in Africa recognizes her prophetic mission towards our people suffering under the effects of bad leadership. We are greatly saddened by the lack of good leadership in most countries in our region"

Aligning with the concern of the Holy Father in this respect, in his Apostolic Exhortation on the second Synod of Bishops for Africa - Africae Munus, the bishops contended: "This miscarriage of justice is the cause of conflict in most countries in our region."

While commending the efforts of the Economic Community of West African States, (ECOWAS) in promoting good leadership and sustaining nascent democracies of member nations, the bishops also expressed concern on the state of insecurity of life and property in the region with particular reference to the movement of arms and ammunition across member states' borders with little or no control.

They said: "Rising crime rates in our societies and the widespread non-enforcement of the law which represent a violation of human rights are causes of great concern for RECOWA. While armed-robbery, kidnapping, bombing and other terrorist acts remain serious issues calling for concerted attention and subsequent eradication the unlawful movement of small arms from one country to another, has become a great cause of insecurity and terrorism."

"We are appalled at the long neglect of responsibilities by some customs officers which has led to the infiltration of weapons and drugs across our frontiers and appeal to all competent authorities to cont


ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSION
NEW YEAR MESSAGE 2012

BY MOST REVEREND ROBERT PATRICK ELLISON CSSp
BISHOP OF BANJUL

1. The end of one year and the beginning of another is usually a time to look back at what has been and to look forward to what can be. Looking back can be challenging! By avoiding to look back, we fail to learn from our past experiences... and these include both our achievements as well as our disappointments. 'Experience is the best teacher', the proverb tells us. And so I would encourage you to try and recall at least some of the major events that touched your own life over the last twelve months....for better or for worse. Things that happened to yourself personally, in your family, in your local community, in our country and perhaps even what has been happening in the world around us as the news unfolds from day to day. These things can also have an impact on our own personal lives as much as on our society. We live in a world which is much more interdependent today than it was even one generation ago. The world has become a global village. A business man once told me: if the U.S. gets a cold, then the rest of the world can get pneumonia! For example: 'cutbacks' have become a reality in the daily lives of many people - especially in Europe and the USA. Here in the Gambia, we have begun to experience the consequences of these.

2. The prophet Joel, inspired by God, spoke these words: 'I will pour out my Spirit on all mankind. Your old men shall dream dreams and your young people shall see visions'. It's important to dream...for example to imagine how I could help to make the world a better place to live in. Some 40 years ago, a youth group in Italy founded a lay association called 'the Movement for a better World'. People will commit themselves to such an ideal only when they believe that ...it is possible. The alternative is to succumb to a kind of fatalism. That can become a serious virus in any society. It destroys the dignity of the human person, especially young people. We need to look at leaders or visionaries who have shown us that what seems to be impossible is actually possible. 'I have a dream'. Those are the words with which Martin Luther King believed he could inspire his people with a ray of light and hope. Tourists were visiting a large hostel run by the Missionaries of Charity in Calcutta for terminally ill and abandoned people. They were horrified by the huge number of sick that Blessed Mother Teresa was caring for. They asked her: how can you cope with such numbers in such a pitiful condition? She answered very simply: 'I give each one of them the time and the care that they need before I move on to the next. At the end of the day, I have to leave others in the hands of God'. Here is a powerful example of a holy woman who committed her life 100% to what was possible and was then ready to accept what was not possible - due to her natural limitations.

3. There are thousands of people in our world today doing such work. Their names rarely or never make the headlines: religious, lay faithful, believers and also those who do not profess any religious belief. I had the privilege to share in a very small way in the work of the Sant' Egidio community in Rome - a lay association which cares for destitutes living around Rome as well as immigrants from all over the world. These have no home to live in, no immigration papers and no work. This community was founded almost 50 years ago just after Vatican II by a Professor who taught in one of the large Universities of Rome. His vision or his dream was born after he read the document on the Laity from the 2nd Vatican Council.

4. Your old people will dream dreams and your young people shall see visions. A journalist who attended the World Youth Day in Madrid last August wrote about his impressions of the day on which Pope Benedict arrived and addressed the youth that same evening. There were more than 2 million of them coming from the four corners of the world gathered at an airport outside Madrid. Thirty young Gambians were part of this event. The temperature was almost 40 c. Just as the Pope began to address the youth, a severe thunder storm broke out and heavy rain began to fall leaving everybody saturated. The Pope was unable to continue his homily and for a short time it seemed as if the event could not continue. Then the Pope spoke again briefly. He told them that they would encounter trials in their lives much worse than this rain and that they should stand firm in their faith. (I suspect he was saying very politely - don't run away). Then as the storm continued to rage, the Pope knelt down before the Blessed Sacrament and the 2 million young people lapsed into silence.

Police who were on duty that day said afterwards that they had never witnessed anything like this. Had a storm like this hit a rock concert or a football match with such a crowd, there might have been a stampede. 'Here there was silence and stillness before something immense and mysterious'. All those who were present on this occasion could recognize something intangible which they would never forget.

The World Youth Day in Madrid took place four months ago. I would hope and pray that the young people from The Gambia who were there would keep alive in their hearts the unique experiences that must have touched their lives last August. May they keep the flame of faith and hope alive; and not let it burn out with the end of the year 2011. May they share it with their peers who did not have the opportunity that they were privileged to enjoy.

God our Father, as we begin another New Year, we are aware that we are walking into the unknown. May you hold each one of us in the palm of your hand and keep us safe from all harm and evil.

We ask you to touch the hearts of all World Leaders political and religious that we may become more and more aware of our God given responsibility to promote justice and peace in a world so broken and divided by greed and selfishness.

We pray in a special way this year for our President Elect and the Government of The Gambia as they take on another term of office. May they continue to work for Peace, Progress and Prosperity in our homeland, The Gambia. AMEN.

By the most reverend Bishop Robert P Ellison CSSp
Bishop of Banjul


ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSION
CHRISTMAS MESSAGE 2011

BY MOST REVEREND ROBERT PATRICK ELLISON CSSp
BISHOP OF BANJUL

1. 'The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light. For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given and his name shall be called: Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace'. These words of the Prophet Isaiah were spoken abut 700 years before the coming of Christ. At that time, the northern kingdom of Israel had been attacked by the armies of Assyria and many of its people were taken back there as prisoners . The words of the prophet were intended for those who had been left behind. However, some 700 years would pass before his message would be fulfilled at least partially. This is what we celebrate as the birth of the promised Messiah each Christmas. And now almost 2000 years later have elapsed since His first coming. But unfortunately:

Millions of people have still never heard the Good News of the Gospel message. Millions of others have heard it but are unable to believe. 'It's too good to be true', many would say. Millions again have heard and believed. However, I should often ask myself WHAT do I truly believe? HOW does this impact on the way I live? God became man....yes! God loved the world so much that he gave us his only Son. Yes. And by doing so he took no shortcuts. In fact, he had to face many unexpected diversions as soon as he was born: his birth in Bethlehem; his flight into Egypt. If there had been no Roman census, all this could have been avoided. But he accepted all these conditions that are part of sharing in our human lives.

2. A little girl was staring quietly at the baby in a crib. Her father was with her. After a while, the little girl broke the silence and whispered to her Dad: 'I wonder if God enjoys being a baby'? The power of wonder.. This was the key to unlocking the many questions that were going through her little mind. Mary 'pondered' in her heart the same mystery, we are told. Unto us a child is born...Unless you change and become as a little child, you cannot enter the Kingdom. 'Father, I praise you for revealing these things to mere children...'. Did God come to us because he had a passion... to share with us our frail human condition in all its beauty as well as its darkness and shadows. The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light. Yes, God became man because he wanted to see us and to be seen by us; to touch us and to be touched by us; to understand us as much as to be understood by us.

St. Francis of Assisi created the first crib in a cave in a small village called Greccio in the mountains of central Italy. The people of the village gathered on that first Christmas night in the presence of the crib. The shepherds came in from their fields. One of St. Francis' companions wrote later about his experience of the joy and the peace that overflowed in their hearts on that night when they celebrated the birth of Jesus around the first crib. This is what he wrote: simplicity was honored; poverty was exalted; and humility was glorified. Ever since the birth of Jesus, Christians from all walks of life and in all ages, have tried to penetrate the mystery of Emmanuel / God with us. It began with Mary herself as she pondered over the child she carried in her arms; then there was St. Francis and his followers who chose the words simplicity, poverty and humility to describe their experience of the mystery which we call the Incarnation. Then there was the little girl who asked herself 'I wonder if God enjoys being a baby'? Each of these was an attempt to hold together the mystery of our God who became a man like us in such unbelievable conditions.

3. As we celebrate this joyful feast once again in this year 2011, I would like to invite you to sit down quietly during this holy season and ask yourself two questions: what DO I believe? In what way does this part of my faith touch my life or my lifestyle as a disciple of Christ? Christmas can come and go so quickly each year. We are caught up in our daily work, in the ordinary cares of life along with all the extra 'preparations' that are part of this busy season. These things have their proper place as long as they don't exclude or REPLACE our need to look at the awesome mystery that beckons us to dig deeper into the things that really matter: the beauty and the majesty of the omnipotent God clothed in the weakness and frailty of a tiny baby? 'Martha, Martha, you are busy about many things; but only one is necessary and Mary has chosen the better part'. It is so easy to become stagnant in our faith. If it stops growing then it begins to die....I invite you to bring a child or two to visit the crib in your Church or in some other place. You might choose to give them a little explanation about what they see; or you might decide to let them look on their own; and they might end up surprising you by their comments or questions!!

Holy child of Bethlehem, born in a stable; help us to remember all those children living in poverty or even abandoned by their parents. Holy child of Bethlehem, whom Herod sought to kill; help us to remember all those holy innocents of our own time who suffer abuse or neglect in so many different ways.

Holy child of Bethlehem, a refugee in Egypt; help us to care for all those children who are forced to live far away from their homes.

May the God of love bless all of you, your families and our nation this Christmas with his gift of peace and happiness? AMEN.

MOST REVEREND ROBERT P ELLISON CSSp
BISHOP OF BANJUL


The coming light symbolised in the Advent wreath

IT'S difficult for Gambians on our 'sunshine coast' to imagine cold, pre-Christian Germany. There, in the darkness of winter, pagans used to make wreaths and light bonfires to express their longing for spring and the coming of new light and life. When Christianity came to Germany, people continued this custom by making wreaths and lighting candles to celebrate the Advent hope in Christ. By the 16th century Catholics and Protestants alike were making Advent wreaths, and the custom has since spread to many parts of the world, including The Gambia, where they are increasingly displayed in churches and homes.
The wreath is a circle which has no beginning or end. It symbolises the God who was, who is, and will be for ever.
The greenery symbolises life.
The lighting of the candles - one the first week, two the second week, and so on - symbolises the progressive revelation of God's saving plan for mankind. By lighting a new candle each week, by accumulating the brightness, we signify our hope in the coming light of Christ. Lighting the Advent wreath in our homes and churches enacts our faith in John's testimony: 'The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.' (John 1:5)
Simple task
Making an Advent wreath is quite simple. In the home it provides a focus for family prayer, which will particularly involve the children.
To make the wreath you need some sort of circular framework on which to fix greenery, four candle holders and four candles.
If you use fresh greenery - which is best - you will need periodically to renew it. You may prefer shop-bought artificial greenery, which you should make sure is inflammable.
Traditionally, three of the candles are purple (or blue) and the fourth is pink. But if you can't find these colours, candles of any colour may be used. Some wreaths have an additional fifth gold or white candle in the middle, which is lit on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
Don't allow candles to burn down into the candle holders on the wreath. Candles should never be placed near curtains or anything that catches alight easily. Don't allow small children to touch the wreath.
Now you've made your wreath, use it for its symbolic purpose. Here are some prayers and readings to help you (but you may devise prayers of your own).
A prayer of blessing: O GOD, by whose Word all things are made holy, bless this wreath, and grant that we who use it may prepare our hearts for the coming of the Light of the World, our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.
First week (one purple candle is lit): GOD of Abraham and Sarah and all the patriarchs of old, we acknowledge you as our Father. Your love is revealed to us in Jesus Christ, your Son and Son of David. Help us to prepare to celebrate his birth. We ask this through Jesus Christ, Light of the World. Amen.
Hail Mary. Our Father.
Suggested readings: Isaiah 7: 10-14. Isaiah 11: 1-10. Matthew 1: 18-24.
Second Week (two purple candles are lit): GOD our Father, you spoke to the prophets of old of a Saviour who would bring everlasting peace. Help us as we prepare to celebrate our Saviour's birth, to share with those around us the good news of your love. We ask this through Jesus Christ, Light of the World. Amen.
Hail Mary. Our Father.
Suggested readings: Isaiah 2: 1-5. Micah 5: 2. Matthew 2: 1-2, Matthew 3: 1-6.
Third week (two purple candles and the pink candle are lit): GOD our Father, you gave to Zechariah and Elizabeth in their old age a son called John. As John the Baptist he spoke to his people of the coming of Jesus, and baptised them in the River Jordan to wash away their sins. Help us, who have been baptised into Christ to welcome him into our hearts and grow strong in the faith. We ask this through Jesus Christ, Light of the World. Amen.
Hail Mary. Our Father.
Suggested readings: Malachi 3: 1-5. Romans 8: 18-25. Luke 1: 5-17.
Fourth week (all four candles are lit): GOD our Father, the angel Gabriel told the Virgin Mary that she was to be the mother of your Son, and she responded with joy. Help us, like Mary, to share in your work of salvation by showing others your love and healing. We ask this through Jesus Christ, the Light of the World. Amen.
Hail Mary. Our Father.
Suggested readings: Isaiah 52: 7-10. Luke 1: 26-38. Revelation 21: 1-4.


Golden celebration for Sister Jean-Therese

FRIDAY 29th October at the Cathedral in Banjul was a happy occasion for the Sisters of St Joseph of Cluny and for sisters and clergy in general, as well as for many lay people. It was the day that a pioneer Gambian reverend sister, Jeanne-Therese Ndey, celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of the taking of her final vows. She was the first Gambian to join the Sisters of Cluny.
Sr Jeanne-Therese also marked her anniversary by taking part in the recent Gambian pilgrimage to Fatima and Rome.
The actual anniversary was 15th September. In 1971 Sr Jeanne-Therese began her devoted service as a fully-fledged teaching sister. She herself had been educated at St Joseph's primary and secondary schools in Banjul, then run by the Cluny sisters. She was encouraged in her vocation by the sisters and by Fr Woulfe.
Sr Jeanne-Thérèse undertook her formation in Guinea Conakry and subsequently taught French in Ghana and Sierra Leone as well as at St Augustine's, Banjul. She is now helping in the administration of Blessed Anne-Marie Javouhey Academy at Brusibi.
At present eleven Cluny sisters are serving in this country. Their founder, Blessed Anne-Marie, visited The Gambia in 1922. Since 1883 - 128 years ago - the Catholic Church in The Gambia and the Gambian people have been continuously served by Sisters of St Joseph of Cluny.


OUR FIRST BISHOP

Saturday 31st December is the 20th anniversary of the death of the Right Reverend Michael Joseph Moloney CSSp, First Bishop of Banjul

TWENTY years ago, on 31st December 1991, the death occurred of Michael Joseph Moloney. For ten years he had been living at the retirement home in Kimmage, Dublin, of the Holy Ghost Fathers - known more familiarly these days as Spiritans. Monsignor Moloney been a priest for 54 years, almost 42 of them devoted to the Catholic Mission and to all the people of The Gambia, regardless of religion.
Michael Moloney was born into a farming family in Bodyke, County Clare, Ireland, almost one hundred years ago, on 12th May 1912.
After completing primary school he went to Blackrock College, the Spiritan boys' school in Dublin, where an uncle was a teacher. He was a bright pupil, but is particularly remembered as a sportsman, being one of the few who had the distinction of playing on the senior school rugby team for three successive years. Later, as a prefect in Blackrock he played in the senior or 'First Castle' team. In his second year he was captain of the team, playing centre. With Michael Moloney in the team, Blackrock won the Leinster Schools' Cup in both 1928 and 1929.
After Blackrock, Michael Moloney entered the novitiate of the Holy Ghost Fathers and studied philosophy and theology at Kimmage. He was ordained priest on 20th June 1937.

To Bathurst
The Irish Province of the Holy Ghost Fathers and Fr Moloney wasted no time. Only 16 months later, on 27th October 1938, he disembarked after a sea voyage in the then British Colony and Protectorate of The Gambia. This small country was then very much a missionary backwater: compared with Nigeria, Catholic missionaries in The Gambia worked on a small scale in an almost overwhelmingly Muslim environment, although there was a sizeable minority of Methodists, Catholics and other Christians in the capital, Bathurst (as it was then called). A few years earlier, the population of Bathurst had been officially given as 14,370, of whom 4,681 were Christians: Anglicans 1,119; Methodists 1,477; Catholics 2,486. (1932 census)
The Anglican Diocese of Gambia and the Rio Pongas, under Bishop John Daly, had been created in 1937, a year before Fr Moloney's arrival. But the Catholic Diocese of Bathurst in Gambia, as it was at first named, was not to be established until twenty years later.

Young and zealous
On 30th December 1938 the recently-arrived and zealous Michael Moloney was installed in Basse, over 200 miles up-river from Banjul, by his Superior, Fr John Meehan. Fr Meehan had been Superior since 1908, having first arrived in The Gambia in 1905.
Fr Moloney at once set about getting to know the outlying villages, travelling on foot and by bicycle up to forty miles towards Fatoto as well as in the direction of Fullabantang and across the river, setting up small catechetical schools in various places.
When Fr ... Haegy visited in April 1939, Fr Moloney could already show him villages he called 'promising', including Kebba Kunda, Nafogan, Saraboja, Kudang, Sambatako and Stutina.
Fr Haegy recorded that the site of the mission house was well chosen, being in the centre of Basse, on high, dry ground, opposite the Anglican church. He wrote: 'The school is the best public building in town and well situated and well ventilated. The actual attendance was 31, but only a few were Christians. The spirit of the children is excellent, and there is hope for good results with their formation and education. The compound is clean and spacious and planted with young fruit trees. A school garden is being fenced in, to encourage horticultural experiments by the school children.'

Three round huts
But the wharf town environment of Basse was not to Fr Moloney's liking. He preferred the village of Mansajang as suitable for evangelisation. By November 1942 he had built a small chapel there and three round huts - one for sleeping, one for eating, and one for meeting visitors. An Anglican school had already been established in Mansajang by the Anglican Bishop, John Daly, but the school had fallen into disuse during Bishop Daly's absence in England during part of the Second World War. Fr Moloney took over the school, and Bishop Daly, on his return, opened a school in the direction of Fatoto, in what was to become the village of Christikunda.
Fr Moloney was happy at Mansajang. He passed nights with Fula herdsmen. He made friends with such people as John Baldeh, Thomas Baldeh and Francis Jawo. He became sufficiently fluent in Fula to be able to compose a grammar, a short Bible history, a catechism and readings from the New Testament. He became known throughout the region as the 'Big Man'.
Fr Moloney sought out Fulas who were not Muslim and who might become Christian. In Borokunda he prepared 32 boys for baptism, but when the time came their parents refused their consent. Some adults were willing to be baptised, but could not accept Christian teaching on marriage. But despite many failures and disappointments there were sufficient successes to encourage the Mission in Bathurst to invest more personnel in the Fulladu region.
Fr Moloney identified the village of Fullabatang as a strategic location for evangelisation.

Two priests, one bowl, one bicycle
In 1942 Fr Moloney returned from leave in Ireland accompanied by a priest new to The Gambia, Fr James White. Many years afterwards, Fr White still remembered his first week at Fullabantang, with its two round huts, a few provisions and a bicycle. The two priests ate from one bowl with one knife and one fork.
By 1943 Fr Moloney had opened a small school in Fullabantang, with James Ogoo as teacher.
In February 1947 Sr Lawrence and Sr Brigid of the St Joseph of Cluny Convent took charge of the school in Basse.
In January 1848, Fr Moloney was joined in Mansajang by Fr ... Corrigan, who the following year helped in the construction of the mission house.
The Catholic Church now had two mission houses in the Upper River region, with a convent, priests and sisters. But although Fr Moloney had accomplished a good deal, conversions were few. Living conditions were primitive and roads were impassable from July to November because of the rains.
By 1949 the Catholic Mission had ten schools throughout the country with an enrolment of 1,221 pupils. There were 25 pupils at St Therese's Fullabantang and 65 at St George's Mansajang.
Fr Meehan, the Superior, had not taken leave since 1934, and he was tired. From September 1946 he spent about 13 months in Ireland, leaving Fr Matthew Farelly as acting Superior.
Fr Farelly had arrived as recently as January 1944. The Holy See appointed him Ecclesiastical Superior on 24th July 1946, with the task of preparing the way for the Mission to become a Prefecture Apostolic. Fr Meehan returned to Bathurst in October 1947 to live in retirement.
Fr Farrelly led the centenary celebration in 1949 of the founding of the Mission in January 1948.
(Fr Farrelly is now living in retirement in Dublin. On 12th January 2012 he will celebrate his 99th birthday.)

Monsignor Moloney, Prefect Apostolic
In April 1949, the Apostolic Delegate, Archbishop .... Matthew spent a week in The Gambia, visiting not only all the churches in Bathurst and its surroundings but all the mission houses in the provinces. He met government officials, priests, sisters and many of the laity.
The archbishop's visit featured discussions on whether the Mission should be raised from the self-governing status it had enjoyed since 1931 to that of Prefecture Apostolic. The archbishop asked the priests to vote for one of their number to lead them when the time came to establish a Prefecture. Two years later, on 15th April 1951, the Prefecture Apostolic was established, and seven and a half months after that Fr Moloney was named Prefect Apostolic, having spent thirteen zealous years among the people of Fulladu.
He was created CBE - Commander of the Order of the British Empire - in the British honours list.
Monsignor Moloney (as he was now formally addressed) took up residence in Hagan Street, Bathurst, along with Fr Farrell and Fr Frawley.

Educational challenge
Almost as soon as he took up his appointment, Mgr Moloney was faced by what he saw as a threat by the government. An official from the Colonial Office in London had made a tour of inspection of schools in The Gambia and subsequently submitted a report - known as the Baldwin Report - which recommended that the four secondary schools in Bathurst (St Augustine's, St Joseph's, Methodist Boys' and Methodist Girls') should be closed and replaced by one government secondary school. The Methodists duly amalgamated their two schools to form the new Gambia High School. But Mgr Moloney withstood considerable official pressure, and was much relieved when the Legislative Council voted against the Baldwin proposal.
Mgr Moloney set about strengthening teaching at St Augustine's. In 1958 five fathers were on the staff - Frawley, Carroll, Cleary, Costelloe and Darcy - along with four lay teachers: Thomas Foster, Roger Rives, John Thomas and Michael Touray.

Fr Meehan breathes his last
Over the next four years or so, new priests arrived: Fr Reginald Gillooly, Fr... Costelloe, Fr Michael Cleary (later, Bishop Cleary) and Fr ... Browne.
In May 1954 the Mission celebrated Fr Meehan's golden jubilee as a priest. Shortly after, Mgr Moloney travelled with Fr Meehan to Dakar, where an earlier diagnosis in Bathurst was confirmed: Fr Meehan was suffering from throat cancer.
Fr Meehan spent three months in hospital. He died at home in Hagan Street on 15th September 1954. Mgr Moloney and Fr White were on holiday at Cape Point, and rushed to Banjul to be at the dying man's bedside.

The Gambia's first Catholic bishop
On 24th June 1957 Pope Pius XII raised the status of the Prefecture Apostolic of The Gambia to that of a diocese, with the title, The Diocese of Bathurst in The Gambia. The new diocese was directly subject to the Holy See under the continued direction of the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith. In November The Gambia was visited by the Apostolic Delegate, the Most Revd J.R. Knox, and on 3rd January 1958, as everyone expected, Mgr Michael Moloney was named as First Bishop of Bathurst. He was aged 46.
It was then customary for missionary bishops to be episcopally ordained in their country of origin.
Michael Moloney was ordained bishop on Sunday 4th May 1958 by the Apostolic Nuncio to Ireland, the Most Revd Albert Levane. Present were the President of Ireland, and the Taoiseach (prime minister), Eamon de Valera. Among many bishops present were the formidable Archbishop of Dublin, the Most Revd McQuaid. The new bishop's mother, three brothers and three sisters also attended the consecration.
The Gambia Echo of 21st July 1958 described the episcopal ordination as 'indeed a most memorable and impressive ceremony, printed indelibly on the mind of all who were fortunate to be present at it'.
Present from The Gambia were Fr Cleary, Martha Gomez, Vicky Blain, S.F. Njie, P.L. Halden, A.L. Blain, J.G. Wadda and J.J. Ndow. Also there was the sister of Dr.... Pike, then Anglican Bishop of The Gambia, who had been a fellow rugby player of Bishop Moloney.
At the subsequent reception, the Taoiseach declared that the Irish people could feel proud that they had given their sons as missionaries. A telegram to the new Bishop from Bathurst was read out: 'Greetings on the occasion of your consecration as Bishop of Bathurst. Our prayerful thoughts are with you and we send you our heartiest congratulations and grateful thanks to the Holy Ghost Fathers of the Irish Province to whom your elevation to this high office is a fitting tribute.'

The 'staunch loyalty' of Gambia's Catholics
Bishop Moloney concluded his own address at the reception: 'The Gambia is considered a very difficult mission. The Church has to work in a strong Islamic setting more in the pattern of the Middle East and North Africa than of the great Christian and pagan lands of central Africa.... It is a challenge to the Church's universal mission. She must vindicate her claim to preach the Gospel to every creature in spite of seemingly insurmountable difficulties, But though we may be small in number we are encouraged by the staunch loyalty of our Catholic community.'
Bishop Moloney's coat of arms married the Moloney arms on the right with a dove representing the Holy Spirit descending on the River Gambia above a shamrock and palm branches. His chosen motto was Docete omnes Gentes - 'Teach all nations'.
Bishop Moloney was enthroned in Hagan Street Church, Banjul, now renamed the Cathedral, on the Feast of Christ the King, 26th October 1958. Among those present was the Governor, Sir Edward Windley.
A few days later Bishop Moloney named Fr Michael Farrell as his Vicar-General and Fr Andrew Carrol, Fr Michael Frawley and Fr James White as his Consultors.
In May 1959 the wooden high altar in the cathedral was replaced by a marble altar in memory of Fr Meehan. In 1961 work began on building a cathedral tower. It was still under construction when Queen Elizabeth II visited Bathurst and passed along Hagan Street. The tower was completed in February 1962, and on Easter Sunday Bishop Moloney blessed a bell.
In the educational field there were to be further challenges by government. On 7th November 1961 an education bill was published. It included provision for a Common Entrance Examination. If mission schools wanted to benefit from public funding they would have to allow government control over the selection of pupils. In February 1963 Bishop Moloney decided to accept the Common Entrance exam as the means by which pupils were selected for Catholic secondary schools.

Gambian independence
On 18th February 1965 The Gambia achieved Independence. The Apostolic Delegate, Archbishop Emile André Jean-Marie Maury, represented the Holy See. Archbishop Narcissus Thiandoum of Dakar and Bishop Prosper Dodds of Ziguinchor were among other Catholic dignitaries at the celebration. The following day, Archbishop Thiandoum celebrated a High Mass of Thanksgiving at the Cathedral.
The advent of Independence and the closing not long afterwards of the Second Vatican Council opened a new chapter in the life of the Catholic Church in The Gambia.
Having taken part in the Council, Bishop Moloney returned to The Gambia from Rome on 13th January 1966.
Following Vatican II, bishops' conferences were set up throughout the Catholic world. The Diocese of Bathurst joined the Bishops' Conference of Senegal and Mauritania. Bishop Moloney first hosted the conference in January 1968. A highlight was High Mass in the Cathedral at which the preacher was Cardinal Thiandoum, and garden parties were held at Government House and the convent in Buckle Street.
Bishop Moloney felt that the diocese would gain more if associated with his English-speaking colleagues in Sierra Leone and Liberia, and their first meeting in Bathurst was held in Easter Week 1972. During this meeting, Archbishop Carrol of Monrovia consecrated new St Therese's Church at Kanifing.

Opening a junior seminary
It had always been difficult to secure the services of missionary priests and sisters, and in any case there was a felt need of local vocations. On 12th November 1972 Bishop Moloney opened St Michael's Junior Seminary at Bakau, in the building now used by the Ecole Française. The first Director was Fr Pierre Sagna (later Bishop of St Louis de Senegal). Among the 19 first seminarians were Anthony Gabisi and Peter Gomez. Later seminarians were Edward Gomez, David Jimoh Jarju and Anthony Sonko. These five later became priests.
Priests from Ireland continued to arrive during the 'Moloney years': Fr John Hogan (1966), Fr Michael Casey (1967), Fr Philip Hawes (1969), Fr Hasson (1972 - he stayed only two years), and Fr McNally 1976). Four priests came from Nigeria at the end of the civil war there: Fr Fitzpatrick, Fr O'Connor, Fr Frawley and Fr Matthias Murphy. On 27th October 1970 our present Bishop arrived: Fr Robert Ellison. 1972 saw the arrival of Fr Joseph Gough. Other priests to arrive were Michael Murray (1973), (Fr Grimes (1975), Fr Smyth (1977) and Fr Casimir Eke, from Nigeria (1977).
St Joseph's High School transferred to its present premises in Box Bar Road, Banjul, in 1974. On 17th April 1976 the Minister for Education, M.C. Cham, announced free non-compulsory primary education and the raising of the entry age to eight years. He also stated that in September the government would take charge of all mission schools. Alarmed at the prospect of a takeover, on 3rd May Bishop Moloney went with the Revd J.C. Faye, representing the Anglican Bishop, and the Revd Charles Pratt, Chairman of the Methodist Mission, to see President Jawara. The President assured them that government would not take over the mission schools, though the other changes announced by Mr Cham were implemented.
Master of informality
A flavour of Bishop Moloney's style was given in Fr Edward Grimes' account of the origins of GPI:
'In 1976, Bishop Michael Moloney formally invited me to his home. This was unusual, as he was the master of informality, and conducted business wherever and wherever he met a person. The bishop invited me to sit, which meant a longer meeting than usual. He produced a letter with a Vatican postmark.
"I want you to start a pastoral institute."
I asked him if he had any guidelines.
"Read the letter and get going," was his reply.
I then remarked that some finance would be necessary.
"There's no money in this poor diocese. Obtaining financial support is part of your task - so get going!" '
A new departure in Catholic educational provision was the opening in 1978 of St John's School for the Deaf.
Diplomatic relations between The Gambia and the Holy See were established in 1979, the first Gambian Ambassador being Alhaji Ousman Semega-Jammeh. In February 1980 Archbishop Johannes Dyba presented his credentials to President Jawara as Papal Nuncio to The Gambia.
Bishop Moloney laid the foundations of the present high standing of the Catholic Church in The Gambia, He was very conscious of his duty to support his missionary priests, and travelled long distances to encourage them. In Basse, 'Bishop Moloney Avenue' is named after him.

Debilitating illness
From the beginning of 1978 Bishop Moloney was unwell. He was suffering from diabetes. He went to Ireland for medical treatment, not returning until October.
In February 1979 the bishop hosted what was to be his last Bishops' Conference. Continued ill health obliged him soon afterwards to return to Ireland.
On 15th September, while the bishop was away, the diocese commemorated the twenty-fifth anniversary of the death of the long-serving Superior, Fr John Meehan. A packed parochial hall heard speeches by Fr Farrell, the Revd J.C. Faye, René Blain and Solomon F. Njie.
Bishop Moloney returned to his diocese on 8th December. He was still unfit, and was soon obliged to leave yet again. In March 1980 he offered his resignation to the Holy See on the grounds of ill health.
On 4th April 1980 Bishop Moloney, in a letter to all the faithful of the diocese, announced that the Holy See had accepted his resignation. He apologised for the suddenness of his departure, and asked forgiveness for any deficiencies he may have shown in attending to the spiritual welfare of his people. The bishop assured the people of his deep affection for them and of his regret at having to leave The Gambia after almost forty-two years.

Last visit
In February 1981 it was announced that Bishop Moloney's successor was to be his Vicar-General, Fr Michael Cleary. The new bishop was episcopally ordained at St Augustine's High School on the Feast of the Annunciation, 25th March 1981, and Bishop Michael Moloney returned to The Gambia for the last time to take part in the ordination of his successor.
In retirement, Bishop Moloney maintained a keen interest in the Diocese of Banjul, being kept well-informed by missionary priests on leave in Ireland from The Gambia.
The principal celebrant at Bishop Moloney's requiem in Kimmage Church was Bishop Michael Cleary. Present to show their respects were many bishops, priests and friends.

Box
The Right Reverend Michael John Moloney CSSp
Born in the Diocese of Killaloe, Ireland 12th May 1912
Professed in the Congregation of the Holy Spirit 3rd September 1930
Ordained to the priesthood 20th June 1937
Missionary in The Gambia 1938 - 1981
Named Prefect Apostolic of Bathurst 28th November 1951
Appointed Bishop of Bathurst (now Banjul) 24th December 1957
Episcopal ordination in Kimmage 4th May 1958
Resigned through ill health 14th February 1981 Retired in Kimmage 1981 - 1991
Born to eternal life 31st December 1991


NATIONAL YOUTH CROSS

The Resurrection Parish, Brikama seems to be the heart beat of the Catholic Diocese of Banjul. Within two months, three memorable events were celebrated in grand style. The first was Father Edu’s priestly silver jubilee celebration, the annual parish feast and lastly the hosting of the annual Youth Cross weekend. The latter was held last weekend, 10th -12th June 2011.

It could be remembered that last year during the celebration of the year of the priests, a day was proposed to celebrate with the youths of the diocese. This activity was marked with a long procession of youths and adults with a giant cross of Jesus Christ from the Fajikunda Parish to St. Peter’s Parish, Lamin. This event was hailed as a tremendous and memorable success because it brought joy and happiness to all who participated.

Last weekend, 10-12th June 2011, the event of the National Youth Cross was repeated in Brikama Parish. The weekend entailed the long procession with the giant cross of Christ, a talk and forum for faith discussions, carnival dance entertainment and thanksgiving mass to end the weekend.

Friday, 10th June was the first day and youths from the various parishes gathered in large numbers at the gate of the Gambia College at 4.30pm, where the procession began. The youths sang with great joy and danced to gospel music. The procession went through the streets of Brikama and ended at the Presentation Upper Basic School after two hours. The evening was concluded with prayer devotion and youths retired sleep after nice dinner.

The second day of the weekend was Saturday 11th June 2011 and the day began with the celebration of Holy mass at 7am followed by breakfast. The main activity of the day was a talk and faith deliberations, which was led by Father Edu Gomez, the host priest. He led the youths to reflect on the theme of the day, i.e “Firm in faith, we walk in the footsteps of Christ” (col2:6-7).

Father Edu challenged and encouraged the youths not to be passive but active in their commitment to their faith. He underlined the following points quoting from Blessed John Paul II, which the youths should take note of:

1. The youths should see their baptism as a source of their calling, identity and dignity in Christ so that they can offer their services always in the Church.

2. The youths should look outward and go out to live the gospel, speak the gospel and make the gospel know and affect change in society.

3. The youths should be reminded that they grow to have various vacations but in all these they should work together to build the Kingdom of God.

4. Lastly, they youths should be given ongoing formation so that they can grow into maturity to know their calling better to walk in the footsteps of Christ.
After Father Edu’s talk, the youths gathered in groups of various forms to discuss more on the talk.
The climax of Saturday evening was the carnival entertainment and dance. The youths dressed up in different tribal attires took to the streets of Brikama again singing and dancing to their delight. The carnival dance began from the presentation school, where they resided to the Gambia College gate and back. Everyone including passersby in the streets could not help but danced with the jubilating youths.

Sunday, 12th June was the third and last day of the weekend and it was the feast of Pentecost day. It was marked with the celebration of holy mass of thanksgiving with a much larger congregation of over one thousand worshippers from Brikama and other parishes. Father David Jarju, Vicar General was the celebrant together with Fathers Edu, Bruno, and Yenes. Father Jarju dealt in his sermon on the meaning of Pentecost and later challenged the youths to be self reliant in their venture to seek funds for the activities of the youth cross weekend. He advised that they should first look for their own ways and means of getting funds instead of relying on others.

The mass was followed by a lunch for all who attended and the next National Youth Cross weekend was pronounced to be held in the Cathedral Church, Banjul in 2013. This means that the organizers shifted the event from being an annual even to a bi-annual event. All these activities for the youths were held by the Catholic Church for the spread of the gospel of Jesus Christ among youths and to the glory of God.

EASTER MESSAGE 2011

Brothers and Sisters in Christ, Brothers and Sisters in the Muslim community and all men and women of goodwill, I bring you greetings on behalf of the Catholic community in the Diocese of Banjul as we celebrate the Solemnity of Easter.

  • The competition among film Directors to produce the life of Jesus of Nazareth has set some very high standards. During my own life time, I could count about six different attempts. One of these, in my opinion, has excelled in presenting us with a very powerful portrayal of the events surrounding the resurrection of Jesus. It has helped me to get some idea as to how the good news of Christ risen from the dead began to touch the lives of the first disciples. There were no witnesses to tell us what actually happened on that say.

The story begins at the Upper Room in Jerusalem, the very place where Jesus shared the last Supper with his disciples –the sacrament or sign of his body given for us and his blood poured out for us. Now, three days later, it is early morning on the first Easter Sunday. The doors of the room are firmly locked. The Video camera moves quietly around the room and shows us the faces of the disciples. There we see signs of fear, guilt, dejection and grief. And all is silent. Then suddenly comes a knock on the door. Nobody moves. They look terrified. Could it be that the religious or civil authorities have now come to arrest the followers of Jesus? Then comes a second and a third knock…and one of them opens the door. To their great relief, it is Mary Magdalen.

  • Mary has returned from a visit to the tomb of Jesus and she tells her story: while at the tomb, an angel of the Lord said to her: ‘No need to be afraid. He is not here; He has risen as He said. Come and see the place where he lay, then go quickly and tell the disciples that he has risen from the dead’. Mary then leaves the room. Astonishment is apparent on the faces of the disciples. The message only adds to the trauma they have been going through.

Peter and John run to the tomb to verify what Mary Magdalen had said. They find everything exactly as she had reported. John saw and believed….Peter also saw – but he was still unable to believe.

When they return to the Upper Room, the disciples are anxiously awaiting a statement. Instead, the silence continues. The camera turns on Peter. He is clutching a wooden support between the floor and the ceiling of the room. He seems to be staring into space – almost unaware of the presence of the others in the room. John is looking at him intently – waiting for Peter to say something. Then John, no longer able to restrain himself, speaks directly to Peter: do you believe? Peter slowly begins to nod his head up and down. John then asks him: Why? Finally, Peter speaks: ‘Because the Master said so’. And so began the flow of belief in the presence of the Risen Lord – like a tiny trickle of water beginning with Mary Magdalen and the other women, followed by John, then Peter.

  • In spite of his denials, it was important for the other disciples to hear what the leader would say. During the Last Supper, Jesus said to Peter: ‘I have prayed for you, Peter, that your faith may not fail; and once you have recovered, you must confirm your brothers in their faith’. And so the initial trickle of faith became a stream and then a river and then an ocean. And today, we belong to that ocean of believers…

‘He is not here (in an empty tomb); he has risen from the dead; go and tell….’

‘Death with life contended, combat strangely ended. Life and death together fought, each to a strange extreme was brought’. This is how the Sequence prayer on Easter Sunday attempts to put words on the Passover of Christ – from death to life.

 The message of Easter, more than anything else, is a message of hope; a hope that reassures us that we can always make a new beginning. No matter what misfortune, or failure or tragedy has come my way, I can always make a fresh start. There is no sin or loss or betrayal that can separate us from the love of God which is ours in Christ the Lord. It is so easy to get locked or lost in the mistakes and hurts of the past. I know that I will never have true peace in my heart if I keep on clinging to all kinds of disappointments, grief and sorrow. By doing so, I am only hurting myself. I am staring into an empty tomb where the angel said ‘He is not here, he has risen from the dead’.

  • ‘I was regretting the PAST and fearing the FUTURE, when Yahweh (God) said to me: My name is I AM. When you live in the past, with its mistakes and its regrets, it is hard, because I am not there: My name is not I WAS. When you live in the future, with its uncertainties and fears, it is hard, because I am not there. My name is not I WILL BE. When you live in this present moment, it is NOT hard, because I am there. My name is I AM”. I am with you always…..

In this year 2011, we continue in our daily lives to share in that mystery of the suffering and death of Jesus which brought about the life of the new creation.

If you dare to believe, you can overcome every fear.

If you dare to believe, you can forgive every hurt.

If you dare to believe, you can help to mend a broken world – because now everything is possible.

 May the Risen Lord give you peace, joy and hope – now and always. Amen.

MOST REVEREND ROBERT P. ELLISON CSSp
BISHOP OF BANJUL



LENTEN PASTORAL LETTER 2011

LET US BUILD THE CHRISTIAN FAMILY ON CHRIST

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
During Lent, each year, the Church invites us to take a close look at our lives in the light of the Gospel. As we receive the ashes on our forehead on Ash Wednesday, we are told: 'Repent and believe in the Gospel'. These simple words are a far greater challenge to our faith than the older formula that we used to hear: 'Remember that you are dust and into dust you shall return'.
And so this year I invite you to take this 'acceptable time' to pray, to reflect and to work together on building up the Christian Family on Christ who is our Rock. The Church has always reminded us of the importance of the family as the foundation of its own life as well as that of society itself. Even outside the religious sphere, the family has, until recently, been accepted as the basic building block for a healthy society. Unfortunately, in the last ten or twenty years, we have witnessed the adverse effects of the breakdown of family life especially among young people. Suicide, drugs, delinquency and other various forms of violence have become a major cause of concern.

On the 30th September, 2010, Pope Benedict gave us an Apostolic Exhortation 'Verbum Domini' (The Word of the Lord) subsequent to the Synod of Bishops that took place in Rome in 2008 on this very subject. With the Word of the Lord, he says: 'we find ourselves before the mystery of God who has made himself known through the gift of his word' - especially when that Word was made flesh with the birth of Jesus. 'Your word O Lord is a lamp for my steps and a light for my path.' Let us begin by turning to the Book of Genesis to revisit what God intended when He created man and woman in His own image and likeness.

The Bible tells us in story form about the special union between man and woman - a union that was designed by God and was also something innate or instinctive for man. Adam is almost in ecstasy before Eve when he awoke from his deep sleep: 'This at last is bone of my bone and flesh from my flesh'. Then light is shed on the nature of their union: 'That is why a man leaves his father and mother and joins himself to his wife, and they become one body'. Thus, the image of God is found not only in each individual but even more so in the coming together of man and woman, united in love, as one body. The image and likeness of God is only fully complete in the union of both man and woman where both are equal yet each is distinct.

This then was the ideal created by God and given to our 'first parents'. Then came along 'the serpent who was the most subtle of all wild animals' and said to the woman: did God really say that you were not to eat the fruit of a certain tree…? Both succumbed to the temptation and immediately they felt naked before God and each other. They experienced a sense of alienation from God and from each other. They were ashamed and went into hiding. And so, sin entered the world because man abused the gift of freedom given him by God. This is a story – a powerful story that tries to portray the dis-order, the dis-grace, the di-vision that wounded our 'first parents' and ultimately the whole human family. We call it the 'original sin'. It is a story that points to the breakdown of human relationships – of trust, fidelity, openness and honesty. It is a story that echoes experiences that are all too familiar to people in every age, in every corner of the world.

The history of God's chosen people in the Old Testament records the ways in which the original plan of God was affected by the original sin: polygamy, divorce, infidelity…However, the Covenant which God made with his people through Moses would become a sign of the total fidelity of God to his chosen people in spite of their infidelity towards him – 'I will be your God and you shall be my people'. This constant fidelity on God's side became the ideal or model for the fidelity which God intended between man and woman in the marriage covenant. The prophet Hosea was inspired by the Spirit of God to speak about this in the moving words: 'How can I give you up, Israel? How can I abandon you? My heart will not let me do it! My love for you is too strong' (11.8). Hosea's own experience of a disastrous marriage to an unfaithful wife also inspired him to speak with such authority.
The Pharisees confronted Jesus one day with the question of divorce which, according to the law of Moses, was permissible in certain circumstances. Jesus replied by reminding them of how God created man and woman at the beginning and then added: 'So then, what God has united, man must not divide'. Marriage therefore is something SACRED (it comes from God), it is UNIQUE (between one man and one woman), and it is INDISSOLUBLE (a lifelong commitment). These are the foundation stones on which God wanted to build the fundamental unit of all society – the family.
However, when Jesus' disciples heard this teaching, they reacted strongly and said. If that is how things are between husband and wife, then it is better not to marry! To which Jesus replied: 'not everyone can accept what I have said, but only those to whom it is granted'. Jesus is unbending with his teaching about marriage; but he does not condemn those who fail to live up to this high ideal. He understands our human weakness. The story of the woman caught in adultery reveals to us a Saviour who teaches us the truth about sin but who is always ready to forgive the repentant sinner. 'Woman, neither do I condemn you, but go now and sin no more.'

PARENTS: communication, communication, communication! Misunderstanding, hurt, neglect or other difficulties have surely come your way. Learn how to share your feelings with each other and how to listen to each other with respect and courtesy. It is a mutual obligation. This is how you can continue to build trust and confidence in each other. 'Forgiveness is the needle that knows how to mend'.
I strongly recommend that you set aside a quiet time together at least once each week. Begin by praying and sharing the Word of God together. 'If anyone listens to my Word, my Father will love him and we will come to him and make our home in him' (John 14,23).
If as parents you can learn how to grow in your understanding and respect for each other, then I believe that you are in a stronger position to educate your children to appreciate the Gospel message as well as the social and traditional values of Gambian culture. 'How often in my long career has this great truth come home to me! It is so much easier to get angry than to be patient, to threaten a child rather than persuade him. It is so much more convenient for our own impatience and pride to punish them than to correct them patiently with firmness and gentleness' (St. John Bosco). This can be a formidable task; but that is no reason to shy away from it. You have a responsibility before God and our Gambian society which cannot be left to others.

PASTORS: I urge and encourage you to take your Marriage Preparation Programme seriously and involve Religious and Laity in those areas where they have their own gifts and experience to contribute. A minimum of three months should always be respected and this should include twelve sessions with the parties concerned. These should begin with some prayer and reflection on the Word of God.

Finally, I would like to make an appeal to our lay faithful to revive the CATHOLIC FAMILY SUPPORT GROUP. 'Carry each others' burdens and so you will fulfill the law of Christ' (Gal. 6,2). God, Creator and Father of all, bless and protect our Christian families as well as all families in the Gambia.
Jesus, Son of God and Son of Mary, you learnt how to live for thirty years at home in Nazareth in obedience to your mother and father' even though you also experienced the call at an early age to be about your Father's business.
Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of Christian parents with your gifts of wisdom, understanding, courage and piety.
AMEN.

Robert P. Ellison CSSp.
Bishop of Banjul

PRESS RELEASE

The Catholic Diocese of Banjul, The Gambia will be hosting the Administration Council of the John Paul II Foundation for the Sahel as well as observers from the Italian and German Catholic Bishops' Conferences, and the Pontifical Council "Cor Unum" in Rome from the 7th to14th February 2011. The Foundation is made up of 9 (nine) West African Countries (Burkina Faso, The Cape Verde Islands, The Gambia, Guinea Bissau, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal and Chad). Such meetings of the Administration Council of the John Paul II Foundation for the Sahel and their major donors take place every year, generally in February on a rotational basis in each member country.

The Pope John Paul II Foundation for the Sahel is an organization of the Catholic Church that was created on February 22nd, 1984 by the late Pope John Paul II to provide support for Sahelians regardless of race or religion, on the basis of projects submitted according to specific criteria and selected by the Foundations Projects Committee. Up to the end of February 2009, more than 100 projects have been approved by the JPII Foundation in the Gambia. During the past twenty-five years, the total amount the Gambia has benefited from the Foundation is an amount of one million Euros equivalent to D32, 000,000.00 (thirty two million dalasis).

A local planning committee has already been designated to start work on the preparations for this important conference. The conference is ours to host and we hope to accomplish this challenge in a way that will do justice to the reputation of The Gambia as a place of welcome, hospitality and competence.
+Bishop Robert P. Ellison CSSp
BISHOP OF BANJUL


THE POWER OF THE CROSS

The largest gathering of youths in the history of this diocese took place on Friday 9th July 2010. Thousands of Catholic and non-catholic youths, priests, religious and lay faithful gathered at St. Charles Lwanga Parish to witness the introduction of the world Youth Day Cross. This was the beginning of an eventful weekend marking the end of the year of the priest and the end of the pastoral year in the diocese of Banjul. The 3.8 metre high wooden cross modeled like that of the international world youth day Cross (WYD Cross) was the centre of attraction and it began its journey in the Gambia from Faji Kunda. The money for the cross was donated by Sadia Shallop a Lebanese Catholic in the Gambia and built by a young Catholic at St. Charles Lwanga parish.

The World Youth Day Cross is the most significant tangible symbol of World Youth Day. Originally the idea of Pope John Paul II, the 3.8 metre high wooden Cross was built and placed as a symbol of the Catholic faith, near the main altar in St Peter's Basilica during the Holy Year of 1983. At the end of that year, Pope John Paul gave this cross as a gift to the youth of the world, to be carried through the world as a symbol of Christ's love for humanity. Since then a good number of dioceses all over the world have built a cross like that of the WYD Cross in response to our Holy Fathers request. For the first time in the history of the diocese a cross traveling through the streets of this country is build and handed over to the youth of the diocese.

After the blessing of the cross on Friday, a large number of young people followed behind singing, praying and dancing. This was a clear manifestation of the inner yearning of the young people in this country to come together and pray. A general veneration of the cross was done at arrival at st.Peters Church in Lamin. Thee procession was prayerful and attracted not only the young but elders as well who joined in from Faji Kunda to Lamin.

Other events for the weekend included a carnival of different cultural performances from the different youth groups in the diocese and an awards ceremony on Saturday. This was a way of recognizing the good work of some youth people and priests in the diocese which will also encourage others to see how best they too can be of help to their parishes. The youth weekend ended with a solemn high mass presided over by Bishop Robert Ellison. In his homily the Bishop reminded the youth of the message of the West African Bishop when they met in the Gambia last year of the dangers involve in illegal migration. At the end of the mass the cross was officially handed over to the youth of the Resurrection parish in Brikama where the next youth weekend will take place.


How to present a project proposal

THE PRESENTATION of project proposals was the subject of a ground-breaking two-day workshop on 11th and 12th May presented by Dr Eamonn Brehoney, who has worked in many African countries in the area of development, project proposals and evaluation workshops.
On each day there were morning and afternoon sessions, attracting about 40 participants in the morning and about 25 in the afternoon. The workshop was conducted at GPI. Bishop Robert Ellison afterwards spoke of the workshop as 'most impressive', and was pleased at the numbers attending.


Good friends of the Diocese

AT a fund-raising dinner on Saturday 15th May at the Jama Beach Hotel, Bishop Robert Ellison presented certificates to three good friends of the Diocese of Banjul: the Revd Norman Grigg, former Chairman of the Methodist Church in The Gambia, whose title is now 'Bishop'; to T.G.G. Senghore, who over many years has recorded the great events in the life of the diocese (pictured with Pierre Sambou, Minister of Local Government); and to Christine Faye, the longest-serving employee of the diocese, now in charge of the bishop's residence.


Celebrating a silver jubilee

A Mass of Thanksgiving to mark the silver jubilee in the priesthood of Fr Anthony Gabisi and Fr Peter Gomez was celebrated at St Therese's Church Kanifing on Friday 28th May. It was followed by a reception at the headquarters of the Knights of St Peter and St Paul.
Taking part in the celebrations was a priest who was ordained the same year: Fr Kamanda, Vicar-General of the Archdiocese of Freetown and Bo. Fr Kamada's sister, Sr Josephine Kamanda SJC, is working in Kanifing.
The ordination of Fr Gabisi and Fr Gomez on 13th April 1985 opened a new chapter in the history of the diocese: they were the first Gambians to be made priests since the ordination of Fr Thomas Jobe in 1934, fifty-one years previously.
Anthony Gabisi and Peter Gomez were born in Banjul and attended the newly-opened Junior Seminary at Fajara headed by Fr Pierre Sagna (later Bishop Sagna). Only four of these pioneer junior seminarians went on to the seminary in Liberia, and only two eventually became priests.
The seminary in Liberia was also newly-formed. During their long vacations the two Gambian seminarians undertook pastoral responsibilities. The Rt Revd Michael Cleary had been Bishop of Banjul for about three years when he undertook his first ordinations, travelling to Liberia to ordain Anthony Gabisi and Peter Gomez as deacons.
Fr Gabisi served his deaconate at the Cathedral, and Fr Gomez at Kanifing. They were made priests by Bishop Cleary at a Mass in the Independence Stadium at Bakau - the first such Catholic event to be held there. Fr Gabisi returned to the Cathedral as Assistant Priest, and Fr Gomez served at Kanifing.
Fr Gabisi and Fr Gomez have since ministered to innumerable Gambians in various locations. They have met the challenges of rural postings (Basse, for example) and the urban area (for example, in The Gambia's largest parish, St Therese's Kanifing). Under Bishop Cleary, Fr Gomez was Vicar-General for the western section of the diocese, while Fr Gabisi, based in Soma, was Vicar-General for the eastern section.
Fr Gomez punctuated his ministry to study Liturgy in Ireland, and returned for further studies there in 2008, when he found Ireland much changed. Fr Gabisi spent two years in Port Harcourt, Nigeria, studying for a master's degree.
Fr Gomez is now Parish Priest at St Francis Kunkujang, having served for six years as Parish Priest at St Therese's Kanifing. Fr Gabisi is Parish Priest at the Church of the Resurrection Brikama.


Honours for fathers and sisters

AT a colourful State House ceremony on Saturday 24th April, President Yahya Jammeh admitted two priests and three reverend sisters to the Order of the Republic of The Gambia.
The priests were Fr Michael Casey CSSp and Fr Matthias Murphy CSSp. Father Casey has served in The Gambia since 1967 and Fr Murphy since 1971.
The three Cluny Sisters honoured by His Excellency were Sr Catherine Jarra, Sr Pauline Leahy and Sr Jeanne-Therese Ndiaye.
Sr Pauline retired to Ireland last year, having served in The Gambia for 44 years, following 17 years in Australia. She visited The Gambia in April especially to receive her award.
Also honoured by the President at the same investiture were Sarah Grey-Johnson, whose many public interests include the Society of St Vincent de Paul, and David Somers, editorial consultant to the Diocese of Banjul Newsletter.


The priesthood considered

THE BISHOP and priests of the diocese held an evening symposium at GPI on Friday 14th May - one of a series of events to mark the Year of the Priest.
Speaking on the biblical and theological foundation of the priesthood, Fr Peter Jammeh CSSp said that the Year of the Priest could not have come at a better time. After speaking of the Biblical and historical development of the concept of priesthood he listed some contemporary challenges - emotional, psychological, social, sexual and spiritual.
He spoke also of family and economic problems and the challenges posed by globalisation, religious pluralism and secularism.
Fr Edward Gomez defined the meaning and function of a priest and outlined the ministry of priests in The Gambia since the establishment of the Catholic mission. He spoke of financial challenges facing the diocese today, and problems associated with rural parishes and with the growth of 'pentecostal' churches in urban areas.
Fr Gomez said that in his opinion there was still room for expansion in missionary endeavour. He said that priests should not be left in remote parishes for too long. The diocese should seek well-qualified personnel for financial management and fund-raising. It should seek other funding agencies than the ones it already knows.
He concluded: 'The priestly ministry in the Church can be fulfilled with God's help and the collaboration of the lay faithful. We are all partners in the ministry of the Church. Let us pray that with God's help all people may see, value and participate with the priests in their priestly ministry in the Church for the greater glory of God and his Kingdom.'


Golden celebrations at Bakau

A PROCESSION from the Church of the Holy Family to Star of the Sea Church Bakau marked the opening on Sunday 2nd May of month-long celebrations to mark the Golden Jubilee of Star of the Sea.
The culminating event was due to be held on Trinity Sunday, 30th May, at Star of the Sea - High Mass followed by breakfast and a luncheon sale.
Earlier in the month, a football tournament was held on the weekend of 8th-9th May, and on Thursday 13th May a symposium on the history of the Church.
Saturday 15th May saw a concert and dance at the Father Farrell Memorial Hall, Kanifing; and a sponsored walk was held on Saturday 22nd May.
The visible Catholic presence in Bakau began in 1915 with the building in mud of a clergy house. For many years Mass was said for small groups in private houses. The building of the present church, supervised by Fr James White, began on 3rd October 1959.
The church and its altar were paid for by the S. Madi family - as commemorated by a plaque in the church. ON 23rd January 1959 the first part of the church to be completed was the tower, and 'St Therese', a bell taken from the Cathedral, was installed.
Star of the Sea (Stella Maris) was blessed by Bishop Michael Moloney on 24th April 1960.
Renovations to the clergy house, supervised by Fr Francis Farrell, were completed on 14th April 1961. Mud walls were replaced by concrete blocks, and four bedrooms provided.
The painting behind the altar depicts our Lady against the background of the bay at Bakau. It was made by Fr Coughlin.
In late 2008, substantial renovations were made to Star of the Sea, inside and out. on the initiative of Shadia Shallop, who provided materials and labour. The entrance porch was rebuilt, the floor and lower walls tiled, and modern window frames installed; and the church was repainted, inside and out.
The Parish Priest at Star of the Sea is always a Spiritan (Holy Ghost Father), and the clergy house is the mother church of Spiritans serving in The Gambia.
The present Parish Priest is Fr Louis T. Mendy. Fr Peter Jammeh is also serving in the same parish, which incorporates the Church of the Holy Family.
Fr Mendy's predecessors at Bakau include Fr Michael Flynn, Fr Robert Ellison (our present bishop), Fr Hugh Fagan, Fr Joseph Boafo and Fr Pius Gidi.


Pastoral heads discuss their programmes

ORGANISING the teaching of religious education was the subject of a GPI workshop from Wednesday 5th to Friday 7th May attended by around 30 pastoral heads of lower basic schools all over The Gambia.
Topics included the preparation of the calendar and the liturgy and the devising of questions for examinations. The workshop was led by Sr Calixte Thomas SJC.


BISHOP ELLISON'S EASTER MESSAGE 4th APRIL 2010

1. Dear Brothers and Sister in Christ, Brothers and Sisters of the Muslim community in The Gambia and all men and women of goodwill. Peace be with you. The story of the Passion and Death of Jesus ends with the account of his burial. Luke tells us that the women who had come with him from Galilee were there and that they took note of the location of the tomb and of the position of the body. Then they returned to Jerusalem that evening to prepare spices and ointments. And on the Sabbath day they rested as the Law required.

Then follows the story of the resurrection of Jesus in the last chapter of Luke's Gospel. On the first day of the week, at the first sign of dawn, the women went to the tomb with the spices they had prepared.

It is clear that these women went to the tomb that morning for one purpose only - to anoint the dead body of Jesus. This was in keeping with local tradition. But even more so it was a final gesture of respect, devotion and loyalty to the Master. Luke names them as Mary of Magdala, Joanna and Mary the mother of James. These are also mentioned earlier on in Luke's Gospel as the first women disciples and that they provided for him out of their own means.

On arrival at the tomb, they discovered that the stone had been rolled away and that there was no body to anoint. Then two men appeared in dazzling garments (exactly as happened at the Transfiguration on Mount Thabor) and said to them: 'Why look among the dead for someone who is alive? He is not here'. These messengers of God merely confirmed what the women had already observed. But they also added some extra information: 'He has risen. Remember that he told you how the Son of Man must suffer and die and on the third day rise from the dead'. Hence, there is no point in staring into an empty tomb.

2. As soon as they began to weigh up all the evidence, they left the empty tomb behind them and ran to tell the apostles what had taken place. But this story of theirs seemed pure nonsense! Hardly surprising?

- In the society at that time, women were mere property, first of their fathers and then of their husbands. They had no right to testify and they could not study the Torah.

- Secondly, the apostles were grieving over the loss and tragedy of Jesus' death. And to add to that, most of them had run away when he was arrested; Peter was still hurting bitterly with the guilt of denying his Master.

- Thirdly, the apostles were the chosen and closest followers of Jesus. As such, they were afraid of being next on the list for arrest by the Sanhedrin or the Roman authorities. And so, in such circumstances, their minds and their hearts were simply not able to focus on, much less believe in, what the women reported. Grief, guilt and fear prevented them from seeing with the eyes of the heart

However, Peter decided to go and check out the situation for himself. He may have had a flashback to that day at Caesarea Philippi when he told Jesus quite openly: 'Lord, this must never happen to you'. He was rebuking Jesus for speaking about the suffering and death that the Messiah would have to endure. But it seems that he didn't hear the last part: that he would also rise again form the dead. And Jesus turned to Peter and said: 'get behind me Satan!'.
And in the light of this incident, he now began to wonder a first step to belief.

3. No matter how we look at the Gospel stories of the resurrection, they present us with a very fragile beginning for a religion that has lasted almost 2000 years.
On that first Easter morning, no one saw what happened or did not happen. What happened in the tomb was known only to Jesus and God the Father. And yet that is where many of us today still try to focus our thoughts - on the empty tomb and how we might explain it to those who do not believe - when even we ourselves cannot come to terms with it. 'Why look among the dead for someone who is alive'?

The Gospel stories of Easter record the many appearances of Jesus to his disciples over a period of some 40 days before He ascended into Heaven. And these encounters are filled with powerful experiences of hope and new life. The message of Easter began to burst forth the moment the 'gardener' said 'Mary' and she knew who he was. It is the beloved disciple John who narrates that early morning scene of sadness as Mary Magdalene weeps all alone at the empty tomb of Jesus. While the other two women went back to tell the apostles what they had seen and heard (according to Luke), it would seem that she stayed behind at the tomb to mourn her loss. Love is stronger than death. The conversation between them opens with the question: 'Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?' And she replied: 'Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where and I will come and take him'. Then Jesus said to her: 'Mary'. She turned and said to him 'Rabboni, Teacher'. Jesus replied: 'do not cling to me for I have not yet ascended to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God. But go and tell the brothers'

In this account from John's Gospel, it seems that Mary Magdalene had the privilege to be the first witness to the Risen Lord - the one to whom Jesus had said in the house of Simon the Pharisee: 'I tell you her sins, her many sins are forgiven because she has loved so much'. This was good news not just for Mary - but also for all of us. A woman, a woman labeled as a serious sinner, was now chosen to be the first witness and messenger of the resurrection of Jesus form the dead.

4. The Risen Lord now entrusted his own mission into the hands of weak, broken and sinful people like Mary Magdalene and the apostles. Today, he continues to do the same to us. 'Go out into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to all nations'. He is not afraid to accept the shadowy and dark areas of our human condition. He knows our capacity for deceit, for betrayal, for greed for lust and for power. He saw all of these sins in his own disciples who were the first witnesses of his resurrection from the dead. And if he could accept them, he also calls us to be his messengers to serve him to the best of our ability in spite of who we are.

If I can only accept his compassion, his pardon and his understanding of my human weakness, then I can begin to forgive and accept myself as I am.
And if I can do that, then I can also begin to show the same patience, compassion, understanding and gentleness to my brothers and sisters whom I have offended - whoever they are and wherever they come from.

This is good news for all of us. This is the beginning of heaven on earth - where together we recreate a world where the need to accuse or blame or condemn each other gives way to harmony, peace and goodwill.
May Christ that morning star who came back from the dead, shed his peaceful light on all of us today and forever. Amen.


BISHOP ELLISON'S 2010 LENTEN REFLECTION

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ

When we celebrate the mystery of the Eucharist, we share together in the most sacred act of worship that could ever be offered to God by any believer. Just after the consecration of the Mass, we proclaim the mystery of our faith the Paschal Mystery. This mystery is expressed in many ways but it always includes three elements: the death, the resurrection and second coming of Christ at the end of time. In the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, God the Father has assured us that his son Jesus conquered sin, evil and death itself once and for all time. In Holy Communion, we receive the living body and blood of the risen Lord as the spiritual food for our journey through life.

In the catholic tradition, we have always believed in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. In other words, even when the mass has ended, when we believe that Christ is truly present, body and blood, soul and divinity, in the consecrated hosts which are placed in the Tabernacle of our churches. The tradition of keeping the consecrated hosts in the Tabernacle developed for two reasons: (i) So that the faithful could spend time in the adoration of the blessed sacrament at any time of the day; and (ii) So that the sick and elderly could receive Holy Communion outside the times of mass at home or in hospital.

'The church therefore earnestly desires that Christ's faithful, when present at this mystery of faith. Should participate knowingly, devoutly and actively' (Vatican II, S.C.48). For as long as I remember here in the Gambia, I have always been conscious of the prayerful spirit of reverence and devotion with which the faithful in all parts of our Diocese have celebrated the Eucharist. However, since my return to the Diocese as Bishop I have become more and more concerned about few developments that could tarnish this admirable tradition. I refer to certain practices that can occur between the end of Holy Communion and the final blessing of the Mass. For example, when a parish celebrates its harvest festival, the second collection can become something like a fundraising event! The "M.C" gives a long exhortation to encourage the faithful to contribute generously - in the same way as one would rightly do in other circumstances outside celebration of the Eucharist. This can also be accompanied by various tactics to create a sprit of competition. Eventually, the overall atmosphere in the church becomes like a market place. It usually reminds me Jesus went into the Temple in Jerusalem and began driving out the traders buying and selling in the house of God which should be the house of prayer (Mark 11, 15-17). In St. John's account of the same event he tells us that Jesus made a whip out of cord to drive the money changers out of the Temple saying to them: 'Take all this out of here and stop using my Father's house as a market' (John 2, 14-17). Jesus expressed his anger openly and unashamedly at what was happening inside the Temple of God. We call it a Holy anger!

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this is what can happen at that high point in our celebration of the Eucharist when most people have just received the sacred Body and Blood of the risen Lord. At that very moment, we are in 'Holy Communion' with Christ. This gift of His Body given for us and His Blood poured out from us is the supreme sign of his love for us when he died on the cross. There are four accounts of the institution of the Eucharist in the New Testament. It is not by accident that each of these links the supreme gift of the last super with the tragic betrayal of Judas: 'on the same night on which he was betrayal'. One writer put it: the thirty pieces of silver must have been the most horrific bargain in the history of mankind.

Following the renewal of the Liturgy at Vatican II, the instructions given in the Roman Missal for this part of the Mass are as follows: ? When the distribution of Holy Communion has ended, the choir may sing a thanksgiving song (our communal expression of thanksgiving) ? A pause of silent prayer should then be observed (our individual thanksgiving). ? The celebrant then says the Post communion prayer.

This is usually followed by the Concluding Rite of the Mass. However, before this takes place, the Roman instruction adds: 'if there are any brief announcements, they are made at this time'.

In our own Diocese, a second collection is usually taken up at this time. Both of these needs should be carried out with a minimum of distraction or disturbance - in such a way as to maintain that spirit of prayer and thanksgiving which is in keeping with our faith in the Real presence of Christ in Holy Communion.

The elders of our community will remember how, in former times, many of the faithful used to spend ten or fifteen minutes of private thanksgiving after mass is ended- conscious of their faith in the real presence. The 'renewal' of Vatican II has brought us many blessings and benefits; but we have also lost some of its treasures. Every scribe who becomes a disciple of the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who can bring new things and old out of his storeroom (Matt. 13, 52).

I therefore appeal to all concerned and especially to all priests - who have a particular responsibility in such matters - to safeguard the sacred character of the mass. In this way, we can ensure that we will not allow our tradition of respect and reverence for the Eucharist to degenerate into something that is unworthy or inappropriate to our faith.

As we begin once more our Lenten journey, we are reminded of the call to repent and believe in the Gospel'. In this context, it would be useful to ask ourselves: what of example or witness of our faith do we want to hand on to the younger generation of the catholic community? When we enter our churches, the way in which we genuflect before the tabernacle, in which we make a sign of the cross, in which we observe a spirit of quite and silence - all of these are signs by which we show forth our faith in the Real presence of the Risen Lord in the house of God and also our own hearts and bodies as the living temples of his Holy Spirit.

'May the light of Christ rising in glory, dispel the darkness of our hearts and minds.'

Yours sincerely in Christ

+Robert P. Ellison, CSSp.
BISHOP OF BANJUL

FR. JOSEPH GOUGH DONATES TROPHY AND CASH TO THE YOUTHS OF THE DIOCESE

The name Fr. Gough rings a bell to Catholics and non Catholics alike in this country. Those who had their high school education in St. Augustine's High School in the late sixties and early seventies remember Fr. Gough for his love of sports. That zeal and love for sports is still strong in Fr. Gough

On Tuesday 5th January 2010 at the Gambia Pastoral Institute (GPI) Fr. Joseph Gough donated a trophy and D5000 (Five thousand dalasis) to the youths of the Diocese. The trophy is named after the late Bishop Maloney the first Bishop of the diocese of Banjul and donated to the youths of the diocese to organize a football tournament in honor of the late Bishop

During that short ceremony, Fr. Gough affirmed that he wants the memory of Fr. Maloney to be always remembered that is why he thought of having a trophy in his name. Present during the handing over ceremony were the Vicar General Diocese Very reverend Fr. David Jarjue, the youth Chaplain Fr. John Mendy, Fr. Anthony Gabisi and Fr. Edward Gomez

Fr Gough is in the Gambia for a short holiday after which he will return to his native Ireland



A VICTIM AND A PRIEST-ANOTHER SON OF THE SOIL IS CALLED TO THE PRESBYTERATE

The history of the Catholic Diocese of Banjul tells us that the first Gambian Priest Abbe Lacombe was ordained in 1852. He was born in Banjul to a French father and a Gambian Mother. The first full-blooded Gambia Priest Abbe Samba was ordained in Rome in the year 1869.

The second generation of Gambian priests started with the ordination of Fr Anthony Gabisi and Fr. Peter Gomez in 1985. Since then the number of Gambian Priests is increasing slowly but surely.

Saturday 14th November 2009 saw the ordination of another young Gambian into the sacred Priesthood. It was a solemn and colorful event with a good number of the Catholic faithful in attendance.

Rev. Fr. Yenes Manneh, a native of Brikama was born 29 years ago to Raymond and Jorsina Prierra all of Blessed Memory. He attended Jamisa primary and Bottrop Upper Basic Schools in Brikama. He graduated from St. Augustines Senior School in June 2001.

After expressing his desire to become a priest with a burning desire to serve God and his people, he entered the junior in Lamin.

In October, 2001, he was admitted at the St. Paul Major Seminary in Ghana for his spiritual year. In September 2002, he entered the Philosophy house to study philosophy for two years. Immediately after that he started his Theological studies. On February 22, 2009, after the recommendation by the formators and his Bishop, he was ordained deacon and in June he completed his studies.

Reverend Fr. Yenes Manneh is the first Catholic Diocesan Priest from the Resurrection parish and also the first Gambian Balanta priest.

In his homily the Bishop reminded Fr. Yenes about Peters encounter with Jesus when Jesus asked him three times "do you Love me. The Bishop remarked" Jesus was far more interested in the fact that Peter was able to get up and go to the upper room. This brought him shame, but none of us should think that we have fallen so low that we cannot get up again". One of the sublime duties of a Priest is to seek to bring together the family of God. The Bishop also reminded Fr. Yenes that the priest like Jesus should serve and not be served.

The honorable Ismaila Sambou, the minister of Local Government and lands and also in Charge of Religious affairs, who also represented the President of the Republic, was in attendance. Rev. Fr. Anthony Mbanefo MSP who helped Fr. Manneh in his journey to the priesthood came from the United States of America to witness the ordination. The people in Brikama will remember Fr. Mbanefo as a zealous and pastorally minded priest. A good number of priests from Senegal were also in attendance.

The diocese of Banjul welcomes Fr. Yenes into the order of Priests and assures him of our support. May Christ who called you to himself protect you all the days of your life.



BRAVO DIOCESE OF BANJUL

The Diocese of Banjul hosted the Association of Episcopal Conferences of Anglophone West African (AECAWA) for their last meeting from the 4th to 8th August 2009 at the Kairaba Beach hotel. The 12th plenary assembly and workshop on the theme Youth and migration saw three Cardinals namely Cardinal Peter Turkson, the Archbishop of Cape Coast in Ghana who is also the president of AECAWA, Cardinal Okogie of the Archdiocese of Lagos in Nigeria and Cardinal Adrian Sarr of the archdiocese of Dakar in Senegal: also present were the Apostolic Nuncio for the Gambia Archbishop George Anthonysamy, Monsignor Novatus Rugambwa representing the prefect for the office of migrants and itinerant peoples in Rome, the Vice Present of the Republic of the Gambia Aja Dr. Isatou Njie Saidy representing the president of the Gambia, President Yahya A.J.J Jammeh and a good number of Bishops from Nigeria, Ghana, Liberia and Sierra L eone.

The Apostolic Nuncio, read out the Holy Fathers message during the opening ceremony as a mark of solidarity between Rome and AECAWA. The vice president of the Gambia spoke beautifully and buttressed the cordial relationship between Muslims and Christians in the Gambia. The speaker of the House of Representatives Mrs. Elizabeth Renner was also in attendance together with the minister of Youth and Sports. In similar sentiments, they expressed their joy and happiness and privilege to be invited to such a historic meeting of senior religious and lay faithful for the second time in the history of the Catholic community in the Gambia. The speaker of the House took the opportunity to advice parents who contribute in paying the journey for their children in search of the so call greener pastures in the western world where many loose their live as a result.

In conclusion, she urged parents to use that money to pay for the education of their children here in the Gambia instead of giving them monies to travel to unknown destinations where many of them suffer and die of starvation and cold as a result.

After the opening ceremony at the Kairaba Beach Hotel, thousands of Catholics converged at the Independence stadium for a concelebrated mass. Cardinal Peter Turkson, the Archbishop of Cape Coast in Ghana was the chief celebrant. John Paul II choir helped in the singing. Thousands of Catholics were in attendance despite the heavy rain.

It is important to note that this is the last time the English speaking West African Bishops are meeting. When they meet next in the Ivory Coast they shall be merging with the French Speaking West African Bishops.

Bravo to the Catholic faithful in the Gambia for being such nice hosts.



AECAWA BANJUL 2009
THE MEETING OF THE ASSOCIATION OF EPISCOPAL CONFERENCES OF ANGLOPHONE
WEST AFRICA (AECAWA) IN BANJUL
FROM 4th TO 8th AUGUST 2009

MESSAGE FROM BISHOP ELLISON
BISHOP OF BANJUL
The Association of Episcopal Conferences of Anglophone West Africa (AECAWA) brings together four Bishops' Conferences from our sub-region. They are:
  • The Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria (CBCN);
  • The Ghanaian Catholic Bishops Conference (GCBC);
  • The Interterritorial Catholic Bishops Conference (ITCABIC) of Sierra
  • Leone and The Gambia;
  • The Catholic Bishops Conference of Liberia (CABICOL).
The meeting in Banjul this year will be the 12th AECAWA Plenary Assembly and Workshop and it will be the second time that The Gambia has hosted such a meeting. The last one took place in 1992. These meetings which are usually held every three years serve a threefold purpose:
  • They provide an occasion for the Bishops and delegates to make a pastoral visit to the various dioceses and countries which constitute the four different Conferences of the Association. It gives them an opportunity to pray with and for us, to come and see, however briefly, how each local Church strives to live its own particular mission and ministry. The Diocese of Banjul is a small Church called to proclaim and witness to the coming of God's Kingdom in a country with a large Muslim majority.
    On Wednesday evening, 5th August, there will be a Solemn Concelebrated Eucharist at the Independence Stadium at 6.00 p.m. to which all are invited. On Thursday evening, 6th August, the Bishops and visiting delegates will be invited to visit, in small groups, about ten nearby parishes to celebrate the Eucharist and to interact with the members of our parish communities.
  • They include a Workshop that will address a specific pastoral theme that usually touches the lives not only of our local Churches but also a significant section of society in each of our five countries. This year, the Bishops will address the growing concern of: 'Youth and Migration in West Africa'.
  • Finally, the Plenary Assembly attends to the various administrative needs of the Association in a spirit of communion and solidarity.
  • The meeting of AECAWA in The Gambia this year will be its final meeting. An agreement between AECAWA and the Francophone Episcopal Conferences of West Africa (CERAO) has been made whereby the two Associations will merge together to form one Association of Episcopal Conferences of West Africa (AECOWA).
    May the Risen Lord be with us during these days and may His Spirit fill us with the gifts of wisdom and understanding, of right judgment and courage, of knowledge and reverence, and with the spirit of wonder and awe in His presence. Amen. FRIENDS FROM HOLLAND DONATE THE GAMBIA DISABLE A MINI-BUS Serrekunda social workshop for The Gambia disable in St. Charles Lwanga parish in Fajikunda received a mini bus few weeks ago. Mrs. Emily Mendy-Gomez brought the gesture to the parish through her tourist friends in the persons of Winnie and Hennie and their friends William (head of the delegation) whom she met at her work place at the Senegambia beach hotel. They drove the mini- bus via Europe, Morocco, Senegal and then finally to The Gambia. This is to enable the disable to reach their workshop in Fajikunda since joining public transport is almost impossible because of the difficulties it entails. It could be recalled that some time in the month of February, their donors help in constructing a candle factory as well as a tailoring workshop to engage them in learning skills to avoid begging in the streets. According to Mr. William who heads the delegation, the mini bus cost $4,000 and it should be put into good use and help these physically challenged men and women to develop in their respective areas of learning. When asked about their expectations from the people in the community and The Gambia at large, Resi and Ams said “you have to buy their products from the workshop in order for them to be self supportive as far as earning their living is concern”.
    However, St. Charles Lwanga parish is one of the fastest growing parishes in the diocese of Banjul in terms of infrastructure. The parish erected a multipurpose youth centre and dedicate it to the youth of the Diocese. The youth Centre which cost over a million dalasis is equipped with facilities such as computer lab, Dry cleaning, fashion and design, welding workshop, hairdressing and Barbing saloons, carpentry workshop and an administrative office. The youth centre was officially blessed and opened by the vicar general of the diocese very Rev. Fr. David Jimoh Jarju on the 14th of February 2009. The present parish Priest, Fr. Francis Ayo has been very instrumental in the funding and building of the centre.

    IMAM RATIB ALHAJI CHERNO ALIEU MASS KAH AT THE CATHEDRAL OF OUR LADY OF THE ASSUMPTION

    “This brings back to memory Fr. Meehan”. These were the words of Alhaji A A Fall chairman of the council of Muslim elders in Banjul on Monday the 19 January when the Imam Ratib of Banjul Alhaji Cherno Alieu Mass Kah paid an historic visit to the Bishop of Banjul Robert P. Ellison. It may be recalled that Bishop Ellison following the footsteps of his predecessor Bishop Emeritus Michael J Cleary visited the Imam Ratib of Banjul to greet him on the Muslim feast of Tobaski about five weeks ago. This was also a way of cementing the cordial relationship between Muslims and Christians that has existed for decades in this country. In his welcome remarks, the Parish Priest of the Cathedral and the convener of Inter Faith and Inter Religious Dialogue Committee of the Gambia Christian Council Rev. Fr. Edward Gomez reminded us that the meeting is a return visit following the visit of Bishop Ellison to the Imam Ratib. The visit said Fr. Edu is a way of fostering and strengthening the relationship between Muslims and Christians in the Gambia.
    “We are thankful to God because of the great relationship and brotherhood that exists between people of this land” said the imam Ratib of Banjul. We are specifically grateful to God for the president of the Republic of the Gambia Alhaji Dr. A J J Jammeh who cares for every body in this country he went on to say. The religious peace and tolerance we enjoy in this country is a gift of God. The imam prayed that the peace we enjoy in this country will continue for ever and ever and that the Gambia will strive to be an example of religious tolerance for our sub region and for the whole world. He went on to thank Bishop Ellison for initiating the visit which has ultimately turned out to be an opportunity for the two leaders and their coworkers to interact. The Imam spoke passionately about his desire to see people in this country live side by side peacefully irrespective of their religious affiliation.
    “We are indeed most grateful to God for this visit” remarked the bishop when he was invited to speak. He expressed his delight to the imam and his council of elders for coming to visit him and by extension visiting all Catholics in this country. This visit is another occasion for us to thank God together said the Bishop. Peace is a gift of God but mans response to this gift helps everyone to enjoy this God given gift. The bishop made mention of the fact that the president of the nation Alhaji Dr, Yahya A JJ Jammeh has been at the forefront of this initiative. This is clearly depicted in the president's recent invitation to the three heads of Christian churches at the Gambia Christian Council and some Imams to the state house. In that meeting recalled the Bishop the president of the republic asked all religious leaders to work towards peace in this Country.
    As we sit here today remarked the bishop it is hard not to notice what has happened at the Gaza strip in the past twenty three days. At this point the Bishop asked the gathering to take a minute silence to pray for all the victims of this terrible conflict, those who have died, those injured and those alive but whose lives are in shambles. While we are aware of the bad things in the world we are also aware of the good things which we thank God for. The Bishop reminded the gathering of the letter written by some Muslim scholars, Imams and Clerics representing the Muslim world in October 2007 to all heads of Christian denominations which among other things stressed that “there can be no peace in the world unless there is peace among religions”. We Christians try to live the story of the Good Samaritan which Jesus used in the gospel of Luke Chapter 10 verses 25 to 37 to teach us about who our neighbour is. In his final remarks Bishop Ellison said that he sees tremendous hope between Christians and Muslims.
    In his vote of thanks Mr. Joseph Gaye the chairman of the Parish Pastoral Council of the Cathedral Parish reminded all present that according to the history of the Catholic Church in the Gambia, Fr. Meehan of Blessed memory was the first to welcome the late Imam Ratib of Banjul Alhaji Momodou Marie Njie on the 16th of October 1919. What we are doing now is a continuation of what our fore fathers have been doing. He thanked the Imam and his council of elders for this beautiful gesture. Present at this historic meeting were Mr. Gabriel Gomez, Mr. Anthony Carvalho, Alhaji Dodou Njie Kaba, Imam Mustapha Faye, Imam Muntaha Faye, Alhaji Ebrima Mbye among others.

    By Fr. Peter S. Lopez

    CHURCH OF THE BLESSED SACRAMENT: (CBS) WHAT A WONDERFUL CELEBRATION

    > The decoration committee dressed the altar beautifully, the grounds well swept and kept, the church packed with the faithful, and everything looked perfectly ready for a big celebration. Sunday the 9th of November marked the third anniversary of the Church of the Blessed Sacrament. At 10 am the celebration started with a Holy mass of thanksgiving to God and the Chief celebrant was Rev. Fr. Bruno Toupan assisted by the Priest in Charge of the Church of the Blessed Sacrament Fr. Peter Lopez.
    In his sermon Fr. Bruno stressed the importance of the house of God and the reverence we are supposed to show as Gods people. Since it coincided with the feast of the Basilica of St. John Lateran in Rome Fr. Bruno asked all the faithful to always find time to come and visit the Lord in his Holy Church.
    The Sunday school children were fantastic in singing and rendering praises to God. The church was alive that Sunday morning like the day the Holy Spirit descended on the Apostles. The second part of the celebration was marked with fund raising events, eating and drinking, meeting old friends and making new ones. In a nutshell I can say was a grace filled day.
    The church of the Blessed Sacrament situated at Kanifing East is named after the Blessed Sacrament and was consecrated during the year of the Eucharist, 5th November 2005 by his Lordship Bishop Michael Cleary CSSp. It is a vibrant community of Gods people devoted to the celebrations of the Eucharist, as the focal point of the life of each faith member.
    HAPPY FEAST
    May you celebrate many many more

    Fr. Peter S. Lopez
    Celebration at St Therese
    THE LARGEST parish in the diocese, St Therese's, Kanifing, celebrated its annual Patronal Festival on Sunday 5th October, when the principal Mass was offered at 10 am.
    The principal celebrant was Fr Peter Lopez,
    The day-long proceedings featured parish societies, the Catholic Charismatic Singing Ministry and children's liturgical dancing.
    There was a special place for elderly parishioners, and awards for the 'Most Outstanding Parishioner'. Entertainment included varied musical performances, Jola dancing, children's games and hawareth.
    Festivities included an auction sale and the sale of food and drink.
    The Feast of St Therese occurs annually on 1st October, and is transferred to the following Sunday so that the parish may more suitably celebrate its much-loved patron saint.

    Banjul Diocese to launch 'Pastoral Year'
    ON Friday 3rd October the Diocese of Banjul launched its Pastoral Year 2008-9.
    The launching stemmed from suggestions made at a priests' meeting on 19th July.
    Writing before the launch, then Vicar-General, Fr David Jimoh Jarju, said, 'Last year we organised some days of orientation for priests, religious and novices coming newly into the diocese. Some suggested that all pastoral agents should have been included so that we would have known each other more and shared our pastoral experiences in the Diocese of Banjul and elsewhere. We hope to achieve such an objective during the launching of the Pastoral Year.'

    Vincent de Paul distributes rice
    THE branch of the St Vincent de Paul Society in St Michael's Parish, Njongon, on Thursday 28th August distributed rice and sugar worth D5.000 to homes in the parish.
    A Muslim recipient said he was praying for the society and its work.

    Not-so-serene at Tranquil
    THE AUGUST-September of the Newsletter contained heartening news from Tranquil Parish, where three expatriate ladies have raised funds and local enthusiasm and practical support for the complete renovation of St Francis' Nursery School. Since then, prior to the erection of a cement-block boundary wall, it was found necessary fell some seven trees, plus a palm rhun tree which was growing close to the classroom. On Sunday 21st September four tree-fellers successfully brought down seven trees, but the eighth fell onto the school roof. The tree smashed a gable wall and destroyed three-quarters of the roof, damaging new furniture and children's tables and chairs. Yet the crucifix that hung high on the gable wall survived undamaged.
    The school was due to re-open the following day. Instead, Maggie Maybury and Eileen Carloss inspected the damage, and estimated that the cost of replacing the roof would be in excess of D20,000.
    Meanwhile, Nawec have asked D4.700 for bringing a water supply to the school, and the sum has been paid. The charity 'Frogs' (Friends of Gambian Schools) have confirmed that they will provide about D33,000 to pay for the erection of one of the walls.
    Offers of further help to Margaret Maybury (telephone 7772629; email mmmabury@hotmail.com

    First-ever Central-River Ordination
    DIOCESAN history will be made on Friday 21st November when Bishop Robert Ellison will ordain to the priesthood a Gambian deacon, the Revd John Gomez. It will be the first ordination held in the Gambian provinces.
    The Revd John Gomez was born in Farafenni, and attended St Peter's Senior Secondary School in Lamin. He studied for the priesthood in Ghana, reading philosophy at St Paul's Seminary, Accra, and theology at St Peter's Seminary, Cape Coast,
    He was ordained deacon by at on .

    Blessed Sacrament's new hymnbook
    THE CHURCH of the Blessed Sacrament, Kanifing, has produced a new hymnal. It contains not only hymns, but devotions and liturgies for all the seasons of the year, and for many occasions and types of worship – about 600 entries in all.
    It is expected that the hymnal will be launched on Sunday 16th November.
    The extremely varied contents include traditional Latin hymns, songs in Wolof and other local languages, and hymns in English from world-wide sources.
    The book's purpose is explained in the introduction: 'This hymnal contains hymns and songs for the Church's year from Advent to Christ the King. It also includes prayers and other material to enable our congregation at the Church of the Blessed Sacrament to participate fully in the Liturgy of the Eucharist.
    'The hymnal has been compiled by the Central Committee of the Church of the Blessed Sacrament in the hope that it will inspire spiritual growth and show that the love of Christ unites languages, cultures and sensibilities.
    '” Sing the love songs of your native land,” urged St Augustine. Some of these songs have been sung for many years; others have been composed in our own generation and by our own people. We thank our local writers and composers, and pray that the Holy Spirit may continue to guide their minds and hearts.
    It is our fervent hope that, singing and worshipping together, our children and adults, men and women, may become a true community of love.'
    The hymnal's editorial board consisted of Simon V.P. Cole, Chairman of the Central Committee, Blessed Sacrament Church; Onimisa Boissey; Joseph Jallow; and Fr Peter Lopez
    In a foreword to the hymnal, Bishop Robert Ellison writes, 'St Paul urged the faithful who assemble in expectation of the Lord's coming to unite in singing psalms, hymns and spiritual canticles (Colossians 3: 16). Singing is a sign of interior joy (Acts 2: 46). St Augustine declared that to sing “is the instinct of a lover”; and an ancient proverb asserts: “He who sings well prays twice over”.
    'I am confident that your community will make full use of this hymnal so as to create, in the framework of the Liturgy, a prayerful openness and response to what the Eucharist so generously provides for us.
    I pray that we will always endeavour to achieve 'active participation in the most holy mysteries'.
    The hymnal was printed by Copies for personal use may be bought for .