Location of the Diocese
The Catholic Diocese of Damongo was erected ten years ago, and it forms part and parcel of the Northern Region of Ghana. It is located at the Western part of the region, and is made up of four administrative districts: Bole, West Gonja, Central Gonja and Sawla Kalba districts, occupying a landmass of about 24,627 square kilometers and this is 35% of the total landmass of the Northern Region of Ghana.
Physical characteristics of the Diocese
Topographically, the Diocese lies within a region that is generally undulating with most parts having altitudes that range from 150 – 300 meters above sea level. Even though the area covered by the Diocese is part of the Guinea Savannah Belt, the vegetation is remarkable: thick grass cover and relatively tall trees. The presence of the largest National Game and Wildlife Reserve is a contributory factor to this remarkable vegetation cover, as efforts are made to discourage indiscriminate bush burning.
Demography and Socio-cultural characteristics
The population of the area covered by the Diocese is estimated at 430,000. There were 22 ethnic groups in the Diocese until the 1994/95 violent conflicts. Since the war, however, the Konkombas and their allies have had to relocate their settlements outside the Diocese. 12 out of the 22 ethnic groups are regarded as settler farmers. The traditional landowners are the Gonjas, who are equally the traditional rulers. As a result of the diversity and land tenure system emanating from the origins of the ethnic groups, ethnic tensions are volatile as great numbers of migrants keep coming in from the west into the Gonja territory for agricultural activities.Economic characteristics of the Diocese
Like the rest of the Northern Region, Damongo Diocese is equally underdeveloped. There are no factories and industries. Subsistence agriculture is the mainstay of the inhabitants. The majority of the inhabitants (Over 80%) have fallen prey to poverty. As such, commercial farming is almost non-existent. The very few wealthy ones who could do commercial farming are saddled with the land tenure system deprivation.
Alternative income generating activities could be a broad path to economic growth, but here again; limited access to credit facilities offers no incentives. Poverty cuts across almost all areas of life, and this makes it extremely difficult to penetrate with education and Evangelization.
There are only three main trunk roads. Due to the poor road network, most of the communities are often cut off from the regional and district capitals during the rainy season. This is certainly a communication barrier, as most communities are inaccessible most of the time. This is a big hindrance to the economy.
Catholics in the Diocese
The Colonial Policy systematically prevented missionary enterprise of any domination, thereby subjecting the place to little Christian influence. The following figures illustrate the Christian influence (estimates):
- Catholics: 27,896
- Other Christians: 5,440
- Muslims: 13,000
- Traditional worshippers: 383,664
These figures indicate that the Diocese is an area of Primary Evangelization.
The number of baptized Catholics is approaching 17,172. Most are children and youths. Among the rural people, who are mostly animists, there is much goodwill and interest in the Catholic faith. It is here that there are many catechumens, who, unfortunately, due to lack of catechists, do often not have regular instructions, apart from the Sunday services. However, a number of cultural practices, such as polygamy, belief in ancestors and fetishes, superstition, and immoral marriage practices, may prevent them from being baptized, although they may become catechumens and remain faithful for long periods.
Every year, during the Easter Vigil, about 650 catechumens are baptized. The Bishop visits the Parishes on a regular basis. During these visitations, he tries to visits as many outstations as possible, celebrates the Eucharist with the Christian community, and confirms newly baptized. These visitations are not only of importance for the Christians in the Parish and outstations, but all people of the village and the surroundings come together for this event. Most often the chief and his elders, and the community leaders put their problems before the Bishop, and request for his assistance. Whenever the Bishop is able to help, he will do so, stressing that when they can help themselves they should do so, and the Diocese will supplement their efforts.
The Catholics in the Diocese try to attend as much as possible the Sunday Services, at the main stations and in the outstations. Many are members of one or two devotional or lay associations, although attendance of their meetings is poor due to other cares: family, economic business, farming. Most adult Catholics in the main stations need to work hard for their daily bread; many have no steady employment, and must live from petty trading and other small economic activities, which take most of their time. In the outstations, farming and fishing are the main occupations: the people have the produce of the land and the river, but have no ready cash. Often, the women are much occupied with household activities, and have to carry water and firewood from far places. During the harvesting period, the women are occupied on the farm, and carry the produce home in large baskets. Therefore, there is not much time left for meetings during the week. Children, especially the girls, have to take part in the family activities, and have not much time to attend meetings of the CYO or Children of Mary. Quite often, their parents prevent them from going because of the work in the house. It has become a regular practice that during the months of May and October prayers are organized in the main and outstations, in honor of Mary. Also during Advent and Lent, special devotions are practiced.