The Juggling Act of a Mission Bishop

What would you give to have a clean, reliable water supply? For most of us in this country, it's not something we worry about. When a city in the United States has issues with delivering safe water to its citizens, it makes the national news. For many people in the missions, it is simply a way of life.

A conversation with Bishop Peter Paul Y. Angkyier of Damongo, Ghana shed new light on the issue for me. Bishop Peter Paul was in Boston to finish his travels, speaking to parishes around our country about the many needs of his diocese. He kindly paid our office a visit before heading home.

When asked what his great need was currently in Damongo, he smiled, rubbed his forehead, and asked, "Where should I start?"

Bishop Peter Paul spoke about the need for help supporting his seminarians. As worldwide donations to the Society of St. Peter Apostle decline, mission dioceses are being forced to shoulder more of the burden of the education of their future priests. Keep in mind that mission seminarians are pulling their own weight in the venture of their education; when not in class, they raise much of their own food as well as work with chickens, pigs, and other livestock to keep each other fed.

This depends on the rains. There are two seasons in Ghana -- rainy and dry. If the rains don't come, if they come at the wrong time, or if there is not enough, crops can be ruined. Vegetables must then be brought from places at a great distance from the seminary. The bishop mused, "And who knows what kind of water they washed them with!"

That moved him to his next need. The diocese is currently in phase one of building a priests' retirement home. It includes finished rooms for eight men, a chapel, a dining room, and a yet-to-be-started infirmary. Their main need? There was no water for the retired priests. Knowing the place would be unusable without it, Bishop had a borehole drilled and a system mechanized with solar panels, pumps, and cisterns. When asked how he funded it, he again smiled (this time a bit sheepishly) and said, "I robbed Peter to pay Paul."

My engineer husband likes to point out that when you squeeze a balloon at one end, it just pushes the air to the other. Something must give.

My prayer is that the "something" will be YOU. Give so that Bishop Peter Paul, and those like him, in mission territories all over the world, won't have to continue the constant juggling act to grow our Church. Go to

- Maureen Crowley Heil is Director of Programs and Development for the Pontifical Mission Societies, Boston.