ELLINWOOD — The Catholic community of Ellinwood has welcomed a new priest, John Forkuoh, from Ghana, Africa. With a bright smile and lively spirit, Father John comes to Ellinwood after training in Cincinnati, Ohio.
“It’s a great community,” said Forkuoh. “Love the people.”
Ghana is a country in western Africa of 24 million people. Father John grew up in the middle portion of the country, which is forested. Ghana is the second leading country in the world in the production of cocoa.
His mother ran a restaurant and his father was an elementary school teacher. Although Techimantia, the town where Father John grew up, was more rural during his growing up years, Father John is able to now stay in touch with his family through internet and cell phones.
He is the third child of eight, and credits his happy disposition to a childhood filled with laughter, including at school. He also believes in “dealing with issues and not allowing them to overcome us.”
Father John has had some culture shock, but not too much. The biggest difference he has noted is that Americans surround themselves with technology. “American technology is very advanced,” he said, and the country is “very democratic and the people very generous. The people are good people.”
Ghana is a former British colony and Father John learned English in school, so there is no language barrier. He also speaks Akan, an African language. There are 46 languages spoken in Ghana, so English is the common language.
Though one thing the priest does miss from Cincinnati are African stores where he could get fish as well as spices and food from home. In his mother’s restaurant, they often served rice and a dish made from starchy food such as yams or cassava, called fufu, and dipped into soup or sauce.
While in Cincinnati, the priest student was a student at Mt. S. Mary’s Athenaeum of Ohio, a graduate school of theology for the Roman Catholic Church.
Forkuoh has been an ordained Catholic priest for 13 years. He has a master’s degree in counseling and a bachelor’s degree in religion and social sciences with a post graduate diploma in education. He is qualified for career counseling, alcohol and drug counseling and family counseling.
“I love to serve people,” said Father John. In Ghana, nuns from America came to help build the church, and Father John is now returning that service.
“It was time to serve and pay back what they did,” for us, said the priest.
He was born into the Catholic church and his family was Catholic. After having had a couple of close escapes with death, Father John came to believe that it was his calling was to become a priest.
A roof collapsed on Forkuoh and his siblings while they were sleeping and none were hurt. Another time, the priest and an older brother were asleep when the room they were in caught fire. He ran through the fire to escape and both brothers lived.
“You belong to God,” said his mother at the time. “You are not mine, you are God’s.”
After those experiences and others, Forkuoh decided that he was to do God’s work.