Thomas Awiapo

Cardinal McCarrick Welcomed in Ghana

Once a CRS donor asked me a unique question; “I have given millions of dollars to CRS over the past several years and will forever continue to do so because it is not just something that I do, it is who I am, it is my faith. And now, Thomas, apart from money, what else do you need from me?”

I thought that was a great and interesting question. However, I didn’t have an immediate answer for it. And so, I was silent for a moment, then, I said to the donor, “Come and visit us; Come and see us; Come and experience us; it is the gift greater than any check that you can give to CRS.”

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Cardinal Theodore McCarrick (Right) and Thomas Awiapo at the Cape Coast Slave Castle in Ghana. The castle was one stop on a visit Cardinal McCarrick made recently to Ghana. Photo by Jean Marie Adrian/CRS

Living out my response to the donor’s question, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, a 79-year-old retired cardinal and board member of CRS, paid a 7-day visit to Ghana and Benin to unite with the people. How great was our joy to have him in our midst!!

Cardinal McCarrick came not only as a leader of the US Catholic Church; he came as an ambassador of global solidarity, once again pledging the US Catholic Church’s commitment to solidarity with the people of Africa and Ghana. He paid tribute to Catholic Relief Service staff around the world who he considers as the front line agents of their love and service to brothers and sisters in need in Africa.

In the biography of the Cardinal, he served on the CRS Board for 18 years. A doubting Thomas as I am, I refused to believe that. So you can imagine that my first question to the Cardinal was what could keep him on the CRS board for 18 years? Humorous as he is, he said, “I think they kept me on the CRS Board all these years because they thought I was really funny.” That was so cool! I got a real kick out of that. And let me confirm that, he was really funny and I enjoyed his unbeatable sense of humor. He brightened our lives and put lots and lots of smiles on the faces of many of people who encountered him.

For a more serious answer to my question, The Cardinal said, “It is the extraordinary competence and willingness of the CRS staff to serve the poor. It is the selfless commitment of the American people to support the mission of CRS to give hope to a world of need. That is the strength and inspiration that has kept me going as a Board Member for all these years.” This was a unique source of encouragement to me and hopefully to all CRS staff around the world.

The Cardinal visited the Cape Coast Slave Castle for about an hour. I watched the Cardinal and I could tell he had more questions than answers as he walked through the dark, sticky and stinking slave dungeons where slaves were stored awaiting shipment to the Americas. The Cardinal spent a moment of silence looking through the “Gate of No Return” through which many Africans passed through in chains never to be seen again.

In my own mind at that moment, I began to reflect on modern day slave trade. You would wonder what I was thinking about. I was thinking about the millions of my brothers and sisters who are held captive by the chains of poverty and disease, by the chains of lack of education and all the socio-economic injustice in the world. Yes, I heard our knowledgeable tour guide say, the transatlantic slave trade ended in the early 18th century but my question is, when will the socio-economic slave trade end? Probably, only God knows when.

Cardinal McCarrick will be remembered for many things but most especially for his humility and simplicity. Personally, I was anxious and tensed about the Cardinal’s visit and wondered what to do to appropriately receive him. Guest what? It was an anticlimax when he finally arrived. He was so simply and humble I wondered if he was the cardinal we were expecting all this while. It was a moment of grace and fun to be around him. I wish he stayed longer.

Cardinal McCarrick, it was so nice to be with you those few days. My world was so much better with you by my side. I know the journey was long and tiring, we never gave you any rest, kept you on the road for long hours, but your sense of humor and joy was more powerful. Thank you for your visit. Thank you for sharing your life with us. You asked for our prayers as you departed the soils of Ghana. I promise you our prayers now and always.

– Thomas Awiapo
As a child in Ghana, Thomas Awiapo was a beneficiary of CRS school feeding programs. Now, as an adult, he works for CRS Ghana and travels to the U.S. annually to tell his inspiring story to American Catholics at schools, parishes and communities. Thomas will be a featured guest blogger and will be reporting from Ghana about the issues he witnesses firsthand.

Watch the video: Empowered for Life: The Thomas Awiapo Story.

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5 Responses to “Cardinal McCarrick Welcomed in Ghana”

  1. Carl Farrington Says:

    The Social Concerns Committee of the South Coast Interfaith Council in the area south of Los Angeles, California will be looking at this blog to keep in touch with Thomas and with what is happening in Ghana. This article about Cardinal McCarrick is very interesting. We look forward to hearing about the visit of the Obama family.

  2. Rebecca Devereaux Says:

    We will eagerly await stories from Ghana and from Thomas Awiapo on this blogsite. The Wa-St. Bede Mission Partnership could not have been born without the generous care and support of CRS Ghana and Thomas as our facilitator. So glad, now, to call him friend as well.

    The world’s eyes are on Ghana… and our hearts are there as well!

  3. Fr. Jim Gehl Says:

    Having visited Ghana and been given the blessing of being toured by Thomas for eleven days, I want to testify first hand to the wonderful work of CRS. They were so good to me and those from our parish community who visited. We saw the amazing service they are providing to the people of Ghana and, for that matter, the people of our world who are in need.

    My hope is that Cardinal McCarrick’s visit will bring even more publicity to the needs and to the response necessary from the rest of us to meet those needs.

    God bless Thomas and CRS!

  4. bonnie hoskins Says:

    I meet Thomas in Ghana last summer as our team from St Bede Catholic Church in La Canada, CA went to Ghana to develop a relationship with Wa Diocese to learn and share with them our faith, hope and life experiences to better all of our lives. CRS was instrumental in our ability to make this experience possible and Thomas is a wonderful example of what CRS can do to make a difference in someones life.

  5. Carl Brey Says:

    My dear friend Thomas has been, is now, and will continue to be a most eloquent and forth-right representative for CRS. He apparently has affected others as much as he has affected me. Thomas and Malone were very instrumental in assisting us of the Diocese of Madison, WI establish a Global Solidarity Partnership with the Diocese of Navrongo-Bolgatanga just to the east of the Wa Diocese referred to above. This partnership started in 2002. So far we have sent four delegations to Ghana and have received one back to Wisconsin. The partnership has developed to such an extent that we are now working and developing together without the direct involvement of the CRS. We are now in the process of establishing a donkey farm just south of Bolgatanga so that the financial lot of the women farmers will be improved, and through them, the entire economy will be raised. None of this could be or would be possible without Thomas and the other wonderful people of CRS. Continue the good work and please stop and visit us when you are again our way. Jessica and I hope to be visiting you and all our other friends in Ghana in the not too distant future. Hopefully in the winter this time when the temperature is down to the nineties. God bless CRS.

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