June 5, 2003
By Deacon Tom Picciano/ SUN contributing writer
Our Lady of Good Counsel parishioners provide support to people of Ghana Endicott — Hot showers and flush toilets are the norm in the U.S. In Beposo, Ghana, there are no showers. Warm baths are possible only by heating water taken from a well or stream. There are no toilets, only outhouses or the open earth.
Some three or four thousand people in Beposo will see a better life because of the generosity of 1,500 families at Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish. During Lent, parishioners learned more about the village which is home to their parochial vicar, Father Edward Owusu Ansah. “A lot of people have said to me that the thing they are most touched by is that they put a face on poverty,” said Deacon Tom Harley. “The pictures and all the descriptions of the lifestyle put a real face on the people.” Displays, information sheets comparing Beposo and Endicott, and the “just thing” to do were presented to parishioners. Contribution envelopes with a scale compared Endicott to Beposa. The JustFaith group at Our Lady of Good Counsel (OLGC) was looking for a way to channel what they’d learned. Group member Frank Frankovsky spoke of concern for social justice in the world. They were drawn to St. Francis.
“We wanted to be like St. Francis, detached from riches and worldly possessions. We went on a weekend retreat and we bonded together as a group concerned for the poor and the marginalized,” Frankovsky said. “Out of our acquiescence there came a new light like something from the Holy Spirit and a new courage that surged through us to denounce poverty and right oppression. From that we established goals to share with the poor.” The deaths of two committee members drew the group toward Africa. One had longtime ties to the continent, the other worked with Free The Children which focused on Africa. Then came the appointment of a new parochial vicar, Father Ansah. “Father Ansah has never asked us to do this. He’s been very gentle about the whole thing,” said Theresa Bendert. The current priest serving Beposo is Father Andrew who was assigned in Syracuse until last year. “When he got back there he realized even more the needs of his people and was just amazed that the Holy Spirit was working. He said the same things we were thinking,” Bendert added.
JustFaith participants at OLGC were moved from their comfortable lives to action, said Debbie Trivedi. “It’s not real to us, the poverty. I think when Father Ansah came, there was a face of someone who had lived that every day,” she noted. “He helped us to see how people in his village would exist on a day-to-day basis,” Trivedi said. “I think when our parishioners were made aware of the contrast and what’s there and what’s here, they couldn’t help but respond.” The group sent disposable cameras to Ghana so they could take pictures and return them to Endicott. What came back were photos of everyday life in Beposo, including a look at a communal outhouse and primitive water pump. “We presented the parish with the pictures showing the living environment the meal allowance. Some of them ate only two meals a day,” said Frankovsky. “We needed to balance the scales of inequality. In our minds we saw that they were poor and we had much too much. So we set a goal to raise about $10,000 that would enable the village to drill water wells,” he said, “to create some sanitary conditions in church and school.” The response was overwhelming. Parishioners, non-parishioners and even children contributed. More than $15,000 has been donated so far. Letters are also being sent to other potential donors. “I’m amazed that in this area we’ve had many people laid off and without jobs and still they’re willing to make the sacrifices,” said Marie Magill. “So many people have been affected in our area, yet they’re willing to share whatever they have.”
Father Ansah is pleased by the response. “The people are very good. They are very nice to me and they welcome me. I feel comfortable to be working with them,” Father Ansah said. “I think it’s a work of the Holy Spirit I was sent here, and there was also Africa to help. I think its amazing.”