Reverend Sister Mary Consolata Agyapong celebrates 80th birthday

Reverend Sister Mary Consolata Agyapong.jpeg Reverend Sister Mary Consolata Agyapong

Fri, 2 Sep 2022 Source: Isaac Ato Mensah

Reverend Sister Mary Consolata Agyapong HDR has attained the big 8-0 – happy birthday and congratulations to you Reverend Sister!

Even at 80, the modesty that has characterised Sister Consolata’s more than 50 years as a nun is still evident: the celebration is low-key, with this article being the only high pitch sound marking the octogenarian’s present station in life.

True to convention, when I informed Sister that I wanted to write this article she asked to preview it before publication all in a bid to ensure modesty.

Yes, even the Teacher from Galilee was concerned about his reputation (Please see Matthew 16:13-20).

Sister Consolata’s book “Still Bearing Fruits While They Are Gone”, published circa 2013 is still available on sale.

She is currently working on a second book project together with other Reverend Sisters.

Sister professed her First Vows with the Handmaids of the Divine Redeemer of Accra (HDR) on 6 April 1964 and her Third/Final Vows came nine years later.

She travelled to study at Xavier University and University of Tennessee in America, obtaining a masters in Fine Arts in the 1970s.

She also attended the School of Applied Theology at Berkley, California.

Sister was a Fine Arts teacher at St Mary’s Secondary School in Accra from 1974 to 1984.

The HDR congregation was established when Bishop Oliver Joseph Bowers SVD, an indigenous missionary priest from Dominica (an Island in the West Indies), who became the first bishop of Accra of African descent obtained papal approval from Rome to establish an indigenous Religious order.

The HDR is associated with Corpus Christi Basic School, Sakumono; St. Agatha Junior High School, Akim (Akyem) Swedru; St. Dominic Basic School, Akwatia; Christ the King School, Accra; St. Theresa’s School, Accra; Mary Mother of Good Counsel School, Accra; Bishop Bowers School, Accra; and Our Lady of Fatima School, Agormanya.

Sister Consolata headed St. Theresa’s School in North Kaneshie, Accra, for seven years.

She was also Directress of the HDR Novitiate in Koforidua for three years.

Though originally a local congregation, with almost all its operations in Ghana, the HDR has now begun missionary work outside Ghana.

The resilience and progress of the HDR congregation in Ghana underscores the relevance of cultural wealth/cultural capital, and the need for inculturation, a concept that Emeritus Archbishop Peter Akwasi Sarpong wrote about consistently for many years.

The life story of Sister Consolata cannot be told without integral linkages to the work of the HDR congregation – and she will have it no other way!

Though Sister Consolata was Superior General for a cumulative 10 years from 1993 to 2003, thereby overseeing the administration of the aforementioned institutions, she is very modest about her role, always emphasising the team work and formal structures through which decisions are taken within the HDR congregation.

Sister Consolata’s unalloyed loyalty to the Catholic Church is almost imprinted into her DNA: her grandparents were among the founding members of the imposing 106-year-old St. Andrew Catholic Church in Akyem Swedru with its impressive stained glass windows/vents located at the hilly part of town.

It is located about 120Km from Cape Coast where in 1880 the missionaries had earlier established the Catholic Mission in the Gold Coast.

The work and devotion of her forebears has borne fruits in a Religious – Sister Mary Consolata Agyapong, and a priest – Reverend Father Sylvester Agyapong.

Other clergy who are products of the Akyem Swedru church include His Grace Joseph Afrifa-Agyekum, Catholic bishop of Koforidua.

Yet all these 80 years will be celebrated modestly with morning Mass, reflections on how the church in Ghana has grown, prayers for more vocations to the priesthood/sisterhood, especially from her biological family, and of course a modest lunch/banquet within the Motherhouse.

The celebration will take place on 10 September at Agormanya in the Eastern Region where Bishop Bowers SVD established the Mother House and his retirement home, and where he lived until his passing at a ripe old age.

A part of that same Motherhouse estate has been dedicated as a cemetary, thus integrating life, work and death.

Not many people have been invited thus my invitation is special, and I have asked permission to attend with some children so that they can observe an alternate lifestyle.

Life in the convent is always serene, with gravitas and outward expressions of piety.

During occasional visits to the Sisters, I cannot help but acknowledge the observance of siesta – that much needed afternoon nap or rest, which refreshes and nourishes the mind, helping to reset and reboot our thinking.

But Sister Consolata admits that these days “siesta is not often taken due to busy activities” but is “taken on weekends”.

When was the last time you had a proper siesta – no, we’re not talking about a power nap – real siesta on a daily/routine basis?

Sister Consolata’s church sponsored formal academic study for a masters in Fine Art in America (which she always downplays) has no doubt influenced her contribution to society through numerous students she has imparted with knowledge of Fine Arts.

For sure, Sister Consolata will not like all aspects of this story on account of her profound humility, but our primary editorial concern here is the numerous lessons this story offers for institution building which has been graciously handed over to us by workmen and workwomen; toiling daily through prayer, meditation and craftsmanship to establish God’s kingdom here on Earth.

We should always remember that Bishop Bowers, (one of Sister’s role models) arrived at the Gold Coast through the Takoradi harbour on 1st January, 1940, slept on a bed made of mud around Agormenya, where he later established the Motherhouse, St. Martin’s Hospital and the Generalate of the HDR congregation.

Although Sister is on retirement now at the Motherhouse in Agormanya, she still enjoys composing music.

Her favourite compositions include “Apan Papa Nana”, Twi, meaning Mother of Good Counsel, “Great and awesome God”, and one specially composed for covid-19 times titled “Sa Yen Yare” meaning “Heal Us”.

Happy birthday Sister, keep bearing fruits, and may good Lord crown all your efforts with success!

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Columnist: Isaac Ato Mensah