St. Cloud Diocese and Ghana

The Diocese of St. Cloud has its relationship in Ghana, West Africa primarily through our native-missioner Fr. Fred Timp, SVD.

timpFr. Fred Timp, SVD

Fr. Fred Timp, SVD, is a Freeport, MN native who is currently serving as a missionary with the Society of the Divine Word in Ghana, West Africa. He entered the minor seminary of the Society of the Divine Word at East Troy, WI in 1959, and was ordained in 1971. He has since served in assignments within the United States, mostly in New Jersey, working in formation and vocations for the order. Then, in 1983, he was appointed to minister in Ghana, where he has been ever since.

Fr. Fred was home visiting in the U.S. for a short time in the fall of 2005, and graciously agreed to join us for an afternoon to share his unique stories of the work, culture, faith and friendship that he has experienced during his time in Ghana. People from throughout the area gathered on Thursday, October 6, 2005 in Mary Center in St. Cloud to hear and learn from Fr. Fred. Dressed in a traditional Ghanaian garment, Fr. Fred shared his experiences, and the stories of both blessings and challenges in his ministry. It was a wonderful gift to us!

Fr. Fred began his work in Ghana serving in an isolated rural parish for five years. He was then asked to help with the formation of the Ghanaian seminarians, and so moved to the major seminary in Tamale, Ghana. One of the blessings of his work, Fr. Fred shared, has been to be able to see some of the seminarians he helped form years ago now working as priests in various countries in Africa, South America, Europe and the United States.

timp_catechistsAfter five years at the seminary, Fr. Fred returned to parish work in northern Ghana. Because he was working in an area where there are still very few Christians (only about 5% of the population, compared to 45% Christianity in Ghana in general), his ministry has been primarily that of evangelization. In 1999 the area that he was working in became part of the newly created Diocese of Yendi. Since then he has served on the Priests’ Senate for the Diocese, as well as on the Provincial Council of the Divine Word Missionaries in Ghana and on the Local Council of the Divine Word Missionaries working in Yendi.

During his visit in 2005, and for a short time after as well, Fr. Fred was serving as Chancellor of the Yendi Diocese in northern Ghana. His ministry there included many things, including continuing work with evangelization of the Ghanaian people, and as the formation of catechumens, both children and adults. In doing so, Fr. Fred worked with about 12 full-time catechists, who were responsible for instruction of catechumens as well as leading Sunday services when the priests are absent. The catechists take part in a 3-year training program, and for their efforts receive about $35 a month. This is a growing job, as the numbers of those moving towards Christianity from their traditional tribal religions increases, and remains a challenge as they work to form them in the Catholic faith amidst such different faith-backgrounds.

One of the exciting ministries he was also a part of at this time is helping to translate the Bible and Missal into several local Ghanaian languages. This will be a great help in allowing for the participation in and enthusiasm for the Liturgy by the people, especially those who do not have enough education to be able to speak English. One of the languages that Fr. Fred has been translating did not even exist in written form until they began translating the Bible and Missal.

Fr. Fred also shared examples of the interplay between traditional beliefs and Catholicism. One primary example is the belief in witchcraft. A challenge of his ministry with the people has been to help them overcome their fears of supernatural ideas such as this, above the hope that comes from trust and belief in our supernatural GOD. Even when this can be done among new believers, it is a more difficult thing to help the surrounding communities, most of which are not Christians, to no longer live out those fears. Women, widowed especially, are often accused of witchcraft – a societal “stain” that is not easily overcome. For this reason, there are “witchcraft communities” that have been formed for those who have been accused and need a supportive, loving community within which they can live and have their basic rights met.

Fr. Fred also shared a bit of the Ghanaian culture by showing clips of home videos made in Ghana. One took place at a women’s Christmas party; not long into the video the women were moved by the Spirit and beautiful and festive cultural dancing was taking place. Another showed scenes from the “Hill of Crosses” procession – a service in which the community traveled with the Cross.

A special thank you to Fr. Fred for taking the time to share with us! And thank you to all those who were able to join us for this event last October. It was a great day to share in fellowship and information as we all strive to better understand ways that the mission-spirit and message of the Gospel and our Global Church can be made accessible, pertinent and exciting for our youth, families and parish communities.

Read more about Fr. Fred’s Ministry in past newsletters (contact the Mission Office for these additions):

  1. Winter 2013 (PDF)
  2. Winter 2010
  3. Winter 2007

Anyone interested in traveling on a delegation to visit Fr. Fred and his ministry in Ghana should contact the Mission Office; Fr. Fred is eagerly willing to host a delegation should enough people from the diocese be interested.