By Amin Kef (Ranger)
The revered figure of Archbishop Emeritus Joseph Henry Ganda, a trailblazing Catholic Priest in Sierra Leone, has passed away at the age of 91. His demise occurred on Wednesday, August 9, 2023, at Freetown’s Choithram Hospital, where he was under medical treatment for prostate cancer. Archbishop Ganda had been grappling with severe health challenges over the last few months. During this period of reflection and mourning, the Archbishop earnestly called upon the community to unite in prayer, seeking a tranquil and sanctified repose for his departed soul.
Born on March 22, 1932, Archbishop Ganda played a pivotal role in shaping Sierra Leone’s Catholic legacy. His historic journey began when he assumed the role of the nation’s first native Priest in 1961. Demonstrating unwavering dedication, he ascended to the esteemed position of the inaugural native Bishop of the Diocese of Kenema in Eastern Sierra Leone in 1971.
In a significant milestone in November 1980, Archbishop Ganda was inaugurated as Sierra Leone’s first native-born archbishop of the Archdiocese of Freetown. Under his stewardship, notable landmarks were erected, including the iconic St. Paul Cathedral in Kenema and the revered St. Paul’s Seminary in Regent, Freetown. His legacy encompasses a remarkable commitment to nurturing young vocations, actively encouraging youths to partake in the Church’s service as priests or nuns.
Having dedicated over three decades to the Catholic Church, Archbishop Ganda retired in March 2007, leaving an indelible imprint on the faith community. His mantle was taken up by Archbishop Edward Tamba Charles in the Archdiocese of Freetown.
As Sierra Leone mourns the loss of a spiritual luminary, Archbishop Emeritus Joseph Henry Ganda’s contributions to the growth of the Catholic faith and his lasting impact on the lives of countless individuals remain an enduring testament to his life’s work. The nation joins in remembrance and prayer, cherishing the memory of this venerable figure.
In a somber announcement, President Julius Maada Bio expressed his deep sorrow upon learning of the passing of The Most Reverend Joseph Henry Ganda, Archbishop Emeritus of the Archdiocese of Freetown and Bo.
President Bio extended his heartfelt sympathies and condolences to the Ganda family, the Catholic Diocese, as well as the communities of Serabu and Sierra Leone, as they grapple with the profound loss of Archbishop Emeritus Ganda.
The late Archbishop Emeritus Ganda held a special place in President Bio’s life, having been a cherished friend and family member. The President fondly recalled the shared moments he and Archbishop Emeritus Ganda had experienced. He praised the Archbishop’s unwavering devotion to his faith, describing him as a committed Christian who dedicated his life to serving others. Notably, Archbishop Emeritus Ganda made history as the first native-born Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Freetown in Sierra Leone.
President Bio acknowledged the indelible impact that Archbishop Emeritus Ganda had on the development of the Church and the propagation of Roman Catholicism within Sierra Leone. His religious calling contributed significantly to fostering harmony among various faiths in the nation, an accomplishment that the President and the nation hold in high regard.
As the nation mourns the loss of a respected figure, President Bio’s sentiment of missing Archbishop Emeritus Ganda reverberates among all who were touched by his presence. The President concluded with a hopeful prayer for the eternal repose of Archbishop Emeritus Ganda’s soul until the promised Last Day of Resurrection, where all shall meet once again. The nation joined in saying, “Amen.”
In a poignant remembrance, Fr. Peter Konteh, a Priest from Sierra Leone, pays homage to the life and legacy of Archbishop Emeritus Joseph Henry Ganda, the trailblazing figure who secured his place in the hearts of Sierra Leoneans as the first African Bishop. Archbishop Ganda’s remarkable journey ended on August 9 at the age of 91, following a battle with illness.
Archbishop Ganda’s pioneering role began with his ordination as Sierra Leone’s inaugural Catholic Priest. He embarked on an extraordinary journey, leading him from the Diocese of Kenema in the Eastern Province to the pinnacle of the Archdiocese of Freetown. Fr. Peter Konteh, who refers to himself as Archbishop Ganda’s spiritual son, underscores the lasting impact of his leadership.
Fr. Konteh underscores Archbishop Ganda’s compassion, humility, and unwavering devotion to his people. His tenure was marked by tireless efforts to strengthen the presence of the Catholic Church, foster unity, and nurture spiritual growth. The late Archbishop distinguished himself through pastoral care, reaching out to marginalized communities and championing social justice causes. He fearlessly raised his voice against injustice, advocating for the rights and dignity of all individuals. His commitment to the tenets of Catholic social teaching and his contributions to peace and reconciliation will be celebrated.
Born on March 22, 1932, in the Bo District, Archbishop Ganda’s journey unfolded within the context of Sierra Leone’s history. He entered the Bigard Memorial Seminary in Enugu, Nigeria, and achieved Priesthood in April 1961, coinciding with Sierra Leone’s declaration of independence.
On November 23, 1980, Archbishop Ganda achieved a historic milestone by becoming Sierra Leone’s first native Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Freetown. After over three decades of unwavering service, he retired on March 2, 2007, passing the torch to Archbishop Edward Tamba Charles.
Archbishop Ganda’s impact on Sierra Leone was multifaceted. His co-founding of the Healy Foundation stands out as a beacon of hope for the victims of the 11-year Sierra Leonean civil war, which concluded in 2003. This foundation provided support to widows, vulnerable children, amputees, and survivors of gender-based violence, healing the wounds of war.
Fr. Konteh emphasizes Archbishop Ganda’s profound commitment to education, recognizing it as a transformative force. Under his guidance, the Catholic Church in Sierra Leone expanded access to quality education, establishing schools that paved the way for countless children to shape their futures.
As Sierra Leoneans bid farewell to Archbishop Ganda, they do so with gratitude and admiration. His indomitable faith, unwavering dedication to the Catholic Church, and tireless service will continue to inspire generations. His memory will stand as a blessing to all whose lives he touched through his ministry. As the Catholic Church mourns his passing, they take solace in the knowledge that his legacy will forever guide their path.