The Ordination Ceremony
Today Catholics all over the country will witness the ordination ceremony of only the second Archbishop of Freetown and Bishop Monsignor Edward Tamba Charles. The ordination ceremony has a lot of symbolism which goes with it.
Rev. Fr. John Garrick took time off to explain the significance of the events and certain parts of the whole ceremony to Awoko.
According to Fr. Garrick, “the ordination is a very significant event in the lives of the ordinary. When you are talking about ordination you are talking about the necessary preparation, the spiritual preparation that will enable the person that will be ordained to carry out his duty. When you read the bible especially in books of Kings when Kings were chosen they were being anointed by the prophets in order to strengthen them and enable them to carry out their duty so it is a spiritual preparation of the person being ordained for the duty that he is supposed to undertake.”
The first part of the mass starts with the entrance which is a procession of Bishops, Priests, and other lay faithfuls to the Altar after which the first reading (old testament) , second reading (new testament) and Gospel is read to the congregation.
After the entrance the ordination ceremony will commence with hymns and the most significant is ‘Veni, Creator Spiritus’ meaning ‘Come oh Holy Spirit Come’ as it is the invitation for the spirit of God to come and confirm what is happening.
The first part of the ordination ceremony itself starts with:
Presentation of the Arch Bishop Elect- this is a very formal process that for any formal office you have to be presented for any formal undertaking. Traditionally you cannot move from one level to another without someone presenting you. Because you are coming from the people they are standing for you, they are presenting you. So in the programme the presentation of the Archbishop elect will be done by the people with whom the Archbishop elect has been moving with as their own and also as their head.
During this part there will be reading of the Apostolic Letter which will be done by the Papal Bull after which the consent of the people is sought.
Examination of the candidates- the Examination of the Arch Bishop elect here means if the candidate is really prepared to undertake the functions which lie ahead of him. In the secular world people fight for positions because of the name and when they get the position they forget about the duty. This is not so in the church because the church is both Holy and Simple. It is Holy because Christ is the Head; it is Simple because it is made of human beings who are sinners. So the temptation will be there to behave in a similar way. So the Arch Bishop elect is being examined for him to declare his intentions, willingness, disposition of carrying out his duties that have been assigned to him.
Litany of the Saints- this is the mentioning of our ancestor in faith, not only the official list of Saints in the Catholic Church but also somebody that has touched you in a particular way. It can be your father, grandfather but who has died and who may wish well for you. The Catholic Church when you talk about the commitment of all people it comprises of both the living and the dead. So each time we congregate together it is not only the living congregating together but also those who have gone before [the living dead]. So when important occasions like ordinations and consecrations are taking place, we always invite those who have gone before, that is those that are dead, those who share the same faith with us but are dead – to come and join us. The litany of the faith is an invitation to the dead to come and pray with us.
During the litany the Arch Bishop elect prostrates himself and the rest kneel in their places. The significance of this part is a sign of humility that he [Arch Bishop elect] is nothing, he is like the dust, and God is everything. God is the power, the glory, he [Arch Bishop elect] is just a mere instrument, is just a servant. So prostrating on the floor simply means that he is recognising the fact that he is nothing and God is everything. He depends upon God to raise him up.
The next part of the ordination is that of laying of hands which normally is done by the Principal Consecrator who lays his hands on him and pray in silence for the Arch Bishop elect.
Placing of the Book of Gospels- which is the Bible but the New Testament is specifically referred to as the Book of the Gospels. And this Bible is placed over the head of the Arch Bishop as a sign that he is under the influence of the word of God. His duty is to proclaim the word of God, his duty is to live by the Word of God and he should be directed by the Word of God.
Prayer of Consecration- the prayer itself is a way of inviting God into the whole process, to ratify that which humans have done. There will be the laying on of hands, there will be all the gestures that will take place in the ordination. The prayer is an invitation to God to bless, prepare and to confirm what the humans have undertaken which is the ordination.
Anointing of the Bishop’s Head- this is being done with the oil of Chrism. The significance of this part of the ordination is compared to the days when Kings were appointed, they were anointed with oil. The story of Saul, he was anointed. When the prophets went to the house of Jesse when all his sons were brought out with the exception of David – but the prophet said those sons were not chosen by God so when David who was chosen by God came out he was anointed with oil as a symbol of consecration. So being anointed on the head is a symbol of consecration.
Dressing of the Bishop
The Arch Bishop has certain dresses he puts on – among them is the Episcopal Ring -this is a symbol that the Bishop is tied to his Diocese. It is symbolic because with the Episcopal ring the Bishop is supposed to be faithful. He must carry out his work diligently as Christ is related to the Church who is his bride. This symbolises faithfulness through integrity of faith and purity of life towards Mother Church and in particular towards the local church over which he must watch as a spouse.
The Mitre- the newly ordained Archbishop wears a Mitre which recalls Episcopal Holiness and the crown of glory which the chief Shepherd will confer on his faithful people of the diocese.
Shepherd staff /Crosier- the Arch Bishop will receive a Crosier which is the symbol of the office of the Good Shepherd who watches over and leads with care the flock entrusted to him by the Holy Spirit.
Installation or Seating of the Bishop -the Arch Bishop has a throne and that throne is called the Cathedral – a special seat that is always in the cathedral the Arch Bishop is then installed with the seat.
Profile of Monsignor Edward Tamba Charles
Monsignor Edward Tamba Charles is the son of late Sahr Charles and late Sia Kormoeh Charles. He was born on the 18th of April 1955, in Kainkordu, Soa Chiefdom, Kono District, in the Eastern Province of Sierra Leone.
He started school at the St. Augustine’s Primary School in Kainkordu in 1963, and in 1969 he passed the Selective Entrance Examination to enter Yengema Secondary School in Kono.
He lost his Mother in 1969 at the age of 13 while he was in Form one. From that time onwards his schooling was taken care of by his Aunt. He lost his father in 1983 when he was already in his sixth year in the seminary.
In 1969 he was baptised by Rev. Fr. Patrick McGiveer, CSSp, and was confirmed in 1973 by His Lordship Bishop Joseph H. Ganda, then Bishop of the Diocese of Kenema
While he was at the Yengema Secondary School, Rev. Fr. Charles developed interest in the priestly ministry and used to accompany the Holy Ghost Fathers to the outstations of Christ the King Parish for Masses.
Upon his successful completion of his Secondary School education in June 1977, he entered St. Kizito’s Pre-Major Seminary in Kenema for Spiritual Year. In October 1978 he was admitted into St. Paul’s College – Seminary in Gbarnga, Bong County, Liberia. He completed his Philosophical studies in June 1982 and was awarded Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy. In October the same year he started his Theological studies, which was completed in June 1985, with a Bachelor in Sacred Theology, awarded by the Pontifical Urban University in Rome.
Monsignor Charles was oriented deacon on the 28th of April 1985 by Archbishop Michael Francis of the Archdiocese of Monrovia. He returned to Sierra Leone in June 1985 and, after a year of diaconate ministry in the St. Paul’s Cathedral Parish in Kenema, he was ordained priest by Bishop John C.O’ Riordan, CSSp, at the Church of the Uganda Martyrs Parish, Koidu, on the 4th of April 1986. He was reappointed to the Cathedral Parish as Assistance Cathedral Administrator and Diocesan Youth Chaplin.
In September 1989, he was recalled to St. Paul’s College-Seminary, Gbarnga, to teach Philosophy. He accompanied the Seminary to Kenema and later Makeni, when the Liberian civil war escalated in April 1990. In June 1991 he left for Rome to pursue a Licentiate and later a Doctorate in Dogmatic Theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. Upon his return to Sierra Leone in 1996, he was reassigned to the major seminary in Makeni and appointed Vice Rector and later as Acting Rector. In August 1999 he had to accompany the seminary again, this time to Freetown, when Makeni fell to the rebels. He was officially appointed Rector in July 2000, and has been serving in that capacity and teaching courses in Dogmatic theology until his recent appointment as Archbishop of Freetown.
In addition to his official seminary duties Monsignor Charles has also been serving as Priest-in-Charles of the newly established St. Paul’s Catholic Community on the Major Seminary campus at Regent, in the West end of Freetown until his appointment as Archbishop of the Catholic Archdiocese of Freetown and Bo by His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI on 15th March 2008.
The Arch Diocese will today have a new Arch Bishop after the retirement of Arch Bishop Ganda. Monsignor Dr. Edward Tamba Charles will be ordained to fill that position which has been vacant for almost a year now.
In an exclusive interview with Awoko Monsignor Charles gave an insight into his life as a common man and as a priest.
Awoko: how long (how many years) have you been a Reverend Father?
Answer: I was ordained on the 4th of April 1986 which means I am 22 years and a couple of weeks as a priest.
Awoko: during your 22 years did you ever dream of being elected Arch Bishop?
Answer: Not at all! Not at all! Never in my wildest dreams did I ever dream of becoming Bishop let alone an Arch Bishop. I have a very modest view of myself. I just wanted to become a simple priest working in the rural area amongst the people. So it’s been difficult for me to adapt myself to things but eh well…
Awoko: I understand that your name had come up some years ago for Arch Bishop, how did you feel when it did not materialise? Were you disappointed and did you contemplate leaving?
Answer: You are telling me these things, they don’t tell you. In any case it was rumoured that I was among those thought of for the position of the Bishop I suppose you mean for Kenema. But again it was never my ambition to become a Bishop and so I took it as a rumour since in this matter the candidates themselves are not consulted so you take it as a rumour and I went about my business as if nothing happened so I was not disappointed.
Question how did you feel on that day that you were told you will be the next Arch Bishop?
Answer: I was shocked! Very shocked as a matter of fact that was not the very day I knew about the appointment. I had been told on the 6th of March that the Nuncio wanted to see me and that I should go to Conakry immediately without telling anybody – which I did and I succeeded in avoiding contact with anybody until I got back here. It was there that the Nuncio told me that the Holy Father had appointed me Arch Bishop. At that point I almost collapsed it was never my dream to become a Bishop not to talk of an Arch Bishop.
Question is there any particular process of being elected as Arch Bishop or is the process almost the same as selecting the Pope?
Answer: More or less to become a priest you have to go through a process of training the same thing does not happen for the nomination of the Bishop. Rome has its own criteria according to which they look at candidates in consultation with the people around they select you. Actually myself I was consulted about this business for the Arch Diocese of Freetown and Bo and I actually gave my candid response to the questions that were asked naturally it was not my own name. So you can imagine how shocked I was when I realised that in fact I was among those being considered. It is done in secrecy in Latin we call it ‘sub secre to’ maybe the Arch Bishop was probably consulted but I don’t know.
Question: Now that you have been elected as the Arch Bishop of Freetown and Bo what new things do you plan to implement?
Answer: Well the Church has a definite mission to evangelise to preach the gospel of Christ and so that’s what I intend to do and I will try as much as possible to be faithful to that. We are involved in education, in health services and social services as well so we intend to continue that. As I was saying a while ago I was never thinking of becoming a Bishop let alone an Arch Bishop so I don’t have a manifesto hidden in my cupboard like the way politicians do. If you elect me this is what I will do. So now that it has happened I have to sit down and study the situation and then draw up a programme of action in consultation with the Lay Faithful and the Clergy. It is not a thing that you will sit down in your own small room and plan yourself. You are dealing with people, human beings, their lives are involved so you have to consult them. So I will do a lot of consultation and then we plan together. So when you plan together with people you make them identify with the projects and they may be happy to implement it. But when you go alone then they will say “Nar di pa een yone so watin na you bizness”. I have the experience here in the seminary when we work as a team, working with my colleagues here so I intend to carry over that experience by working together in a team with others.
Question: your predecessor was known for speaking out frankly and boldly even risking a head long clash with the government on issues which affect the people in this country whether political or health like AIDS or economic – will you follow that trend yourself?
Answer: Nobody set out to start a fight with anybody. Situations are created, to which you will respond and usually what many people don’t see or realise is that behind the scene there may have been processes of dialogue and when this fails you go into some form of public confrontation or public pronouncement so my own approach will be this – to dialogue and I suppose that was the approach of the Arch Bishop and people do not realise it (is essential) to dialogue. I am a Sierra Leonean and I will be in a position of authority I will give my candid opinion on issues but in an atmosphere of dialogue not confrontation. As I said nobody goes out there to fight you dialogue with people it is only when dialogue fails then you will begin to say let’s try other means. So basically my approach will be one of dialogue rather than confrontation.
Question: As Arch Bishop Elect is this the end of the road for you or should we expect to see you in Rome eventually?
Answer: I hope this would be the end because during my retreat I composed a prayer I said “Lord you seem to carry me around like … you know…” So first as a priest as I said I had a very modest idea about myself, I wanted to become a priest work around my own people in Kono. Because I saw the Holy Ghost Father celebrating mass in Kono and I said to myself I can do better than them. When I was ordained I never worked in Kono they sent me to Kenema I started learning in Mende and I was getting used to it. Just at the time I was beginning to feel comfortable in celebration of the mass in Mende I was sent to the Seminary to teach Philosophy that I had just studied myself up to Post Graduate level. I Did two years, the only time I felt I was given my own opportunity was when I went to Rome to do my own area of study which is Theology but then from Rome Bishop said ‘back to the seminary to teach.’ Jesus seems to be winning along the way but I hope this is the end of things let me be here. So I have no dream of going beyond the position of an Arch Bishop. I have no dream. Thank you.
Question: But if there is a call from Rome?
Answer: I hope I would be consulted. If we are talking in terms of hypothetical when the situation arises we would cross the bridge when we reach it. But for now let’s rise to the occasion and behave myself as an Archbishop.
Question: As you wait to be ordained in the next few hours what is your message to the Catholic community in Sierra Leone?
Answer: I tell them to pray for me. Pray for me, we are all in this thing together. Pray for me that I maybe a good Sheperd to them.
Question: What is your word to Sierra Leoneans in general?
Answer: Sierra Leone as a whole – well I’ll tell them this is the beginning of a new phase in the Church in our country. The Catholic Church will continue to render the services we have been rendering in the area of education, health and social service so we assure them of our continued service under my pastoral leadership. The form it will take I don’t know, but it will be determined by the situation because situations change and you need to change your strategy you cannot be doing the same old thing in the same way otherwise you will become irrelevant to the situation.
Question: What is it like, being a person who has sacrificed having a wife and kids and family in general for being a Reverend Father?
Answer: Well…there is no gain saying that there is an element of loneliness about it which you must learn to accept and love and get used to very well. Perhaps loneliness is the wrong word – solitude – love for solitude so that you being in contact with your God and listen to his voice to enable you to understand what he wants you to do and then follow the direction he wants you to take. Yes as you grow up you realise you don’t have a family of your own at the same time you have a larger family by yourself. Most people don’t realise that we priests take care of more people than some married people, in addition to my parishioners and other needy people – then you have your own family (relative) they all come to you asking for some help here and there. You are supposed to love everybody and that does not mean you should exclude your own family you have to help them. So I have come to reconcile myself to this fact that I have given my life to the church and there is no turning back and I am happy. If one may ask me to roll back my life to the very beginning I think I will still choose to become a priest
Question: How were you able to convince your father about this decision since you lost your Mother at the tender age of 13?
Answer: When the time came for me to decide I mean make public my intention for me to go to the seminary it was my dad I told I went to my Dad and told him that I wanted to become a priest and strangely he never objected. I probably would have had a fight with my mother knowing the type of person she was.
My aunt was not a catholic she was a Methodist since then she had started attending mass and she is very active among the CWA and with such person I believe I cannot falter because she always calls me and says father lets pray.
Question: What are your views on HIV/ AIDS should condom use be promoted or abstinence be preached?
Answer: The Churches position is very clear and I don’t intend to have any private opinion on it. The church preaches abstinence many people think condom is the easiest way out of it. Even those who promote it tell you there is a percentage of risk involved. So the churches position is clear use abstinence. However don’t forget that AIDS is not transmitted by sexual relationship alone so you have to tell people how to handle blood, who deals with women’s hair who barb. You know those you see using skin piercing instrument. But as regards AIDS and the use of condom the church position is very clear and I don’t even have a private opinion other than what the churches teach which is abstinence. From that point of view they say the church is conservative well that is fine we all should not be going with the wind you know. Sometimes those who go with the wind will realise their mistake and come back.
Question: Do you miss the act of procreation?
Answer: Do I miss the act of procreation? It is a sacred duty I respect it but I also feel that it must be done in the context of vocation into the marriage life and I feel that God has called me into my own vocation so in my point of view you look at people maybe my own class mate. The child I baptised at my first mass in Koidu I think he is graduating with BSc engineering FBC. Maybe you will say to yourself maybe if I had a child maybe my first child would have been like that. But I have many children far more than my class mate. Look at the multitude of children I have as a priest and look at the number that would be added to me when I am ordained as Arch Bishop so…
Question: You are a nice handsome man there must have been temptation on the way do women make passes at you and what is your response to them?
Answer: You are telling me I have never realised that I am handsome. As a priest people admire you. You know you are holding a very delicate something in a very fragile container you have to be very careful. Keep your distance there is a saying “if you nor wan mek fire burn u, nor go near ram” By Betty Milton