The Member of Parliament for Buem in the Oti Region, Kofi Adams has joined the Roman Catholic Church of Ghana and the diocese of Jasikan to celebrate the centenary memorial of the ordination of the Very Reverend Father Anastasius Odaye Kofi Dogli, the first indigenous Catholic Priest of the Gold Coast.
In statement read on the floor of Parliament on Friday July 1, 2022, Mr. Adams said Father Dogli impacted significantly on the expansion of the Catholic Church, as his ordination inspired many. He noted that there was a spike in baptisms and many of the locals were keen to have one of their own baptize their children.
The House was informed that Father Dogli encouraged young men and women to enroll in the seminaries and encouraged parents to send their boys and girls to school to receive formal education.
“Father Dogli’s first station was Kpando. He travelled with Bishop Herman (on bicycle) to Papase and Kete Krachi where he opened stations. He was sent to Gbi-Bla from Kpando in 1928. While at Kpando, he was requested by Bishop Herman to open and to start the Catholic Church at Jasikan. He worked at Kpando, Jasikan, Hohoe, Abor, Liati, Baglo and Lome,” Mr. Adams stated.
The Buem MP said he was exceptionally pleased that in memory of Father Dogli, a Vocational and Technical institute has been established in New Ayoma to eulogise the first indigenous Catholic Priest. He called on the Minister of Education and the GETFUND to support the infrastructural needs of the school.
Father Dogli who spent 48 years in priesthood died on May 28, 1970.
Kofi Adams expressed his sincere appreciation to the Most Reverend Gabriel Akwasi Ababio Mante, the Bishop of the Jasikan Diocese and the organising committees for the planning and celebration of such a memorable centenary memorial of the ordination of an illustrious son of Buem.
Below is the full text of Hon. Kofi Adams statement to Parliament:
STATEMENT ON THE ORDINATION ANNIVERSARY MEMORIAL OF THE LATE REVEREND FATHER ANASTASIUS DOGLI, BY HONOURABLE KOFI ADAMS, MP FOR BUEM.
Mr. Speaker, 2nd July 2022 marks a significant day in the history of the Roman Catholic Church in Ghana and especially the Catholic Dioceses of Jasikan. It is an exceptionally special day for the peoples of Baglo in particular and Buem in general. It is in this respect Mr. Speaker that I begin this statement by rendering my sincerest appreciation and gratitude to the Most Reverend Gabriel Akwasi Ababio Mante, the Bishop of Jasikan Diocese and the organizing committees for the planning and celebration of such a memorable centenary memorial of the ordination of an illustrious son of Buem, Very Reverend Fr. Anastasius Odaye Kofi Dogli, the first indigenous catholic priest of the Gold coast.
Birth and Provenance
Mr. Speaker Odaye Kofi Dogli was born in Baglo in August 1888 to his father Yawo Okanta Dogli and his mother Justine Nzowu Englobe. Baglo is one of the towns of the Buem traditional area, a group of indigenes belonging to the Lelemi-speaking people with the paramountcy located at Bodada. Anastasius Dogli was the third of five siblings.
On 25th December 1904, Dogli was baptized at Baglo by Fr. Heinrich Schröder, SVD, his name appearing in the baptismal register in Kpalimé. The entry NLB 156 records his name as Anastasius Deikofi which is probably a corruption of the name Odaye Kofi.
Fr. Dogli’s formal education began about 1902 at Lipke Avedzeme. In 1903, having impressed the missionaries who found him to be a brilliant and “zealous soul,” he was taken to Agome where he received training as a catechist “under a three year bond” with the German SVD missionaries. Having completed his formation, he subsequently served as a teacher-catechist and organist from 1907 through 1912. He was appointed to teach at Gbi-Atabu. In 1909, Dogli was promoted Head-teacher after he successfully completed training at the Ackerbauschule in Notsé. It was after this that Dogli was transferred to Adzanu Fiagbe.
Marriage, Family and Widowhood
On April 19, 1909, in the Church of the Holy Spirit, in Agoue, Kpalimé, Anastasius Dogli married Agnes Doklo. Mr. Speaker their marriage was blessed with a daughter, Philothea Akosiwa Dogli. The joy of the family was however to be short-lived as in April 1912, Agnes passed away leaving Dogli behind with their fourteen-month-old infant. He would take his daughter Philothea to the Missionary Sisters of Our Lady of Apostles in Keta later and request of them to raise her up.
Vocation to the Priesthood
The death of Dogli’s wife, turned a page in his life. Dogli was now set on becoming a priest. According to Bishop Hummel, Dogli during his days as a teacher with the missionaries had “manifested the desire to become a priest”. He again recounted that Dogli’s request to the Divine Word Missionaries to be accepted as a seminarian in 1912 was born out of a desire he had nurtured for a long time rather than out of shock from the death of his wife.
Preparation for the Priesthood
Dogli was admitted as a mature student at the minor seminary at Bla (Hohoe) in 1913 where he began his study of Latin. In the 1914 academic year, Dogli was permitted to work as a teacher at Gbi-Atabu during the day and take lessons at the seminary in the evening. His formators, realizing the challenge the situation posed, recommended that Dogli be transferred to Anecho (in Togo), in 1915 as a full-time seminarian.
In 1917 due to the First World War, the missionaries left Anecho and this brought Dogli to Lomé where he continued his formation to the priesthood. In June 1919, after having successfully completed two years of philosophical studies, Dogli commenced his theological studies. It was during this period that Dogli received the first tonsure. Dogli was subsequently sent to continue his theological studies at Keta to study under Fr. James Fisher. In August 1920, the minor orders were conferred on him. He was subsequently received into the subdiaconate on Easter Sunday, April 16, 1922 and was ordained deacon on Pentecost Sunday, June 4, 1922. Both events took place in Cape Coast.
The First Indigenous Catholic Priest of the Gold Coast
The period of immediate preparation for Dogli’s ordination to the presbyteral order began in December 1921 when Bishop Hummel wrote to Cardinal Van Rossum in Rome requesting to ordain Dogli after having completed three years of theological studies. A positive response of Cardinal van Rossum led to the ordination of Anastasius Dogli to the priesthood on Sunday, July 2, 1922.
The event was one of great joy for the entire city of Cape Coast and the Catholic Mission. A large and compact crowd attended the celebration, including protestants and pagans as well as many youths, who saw in Dogli, a role-model for perseverance and success, one who had demonstrated that it was not impossible for one of their own to arrive at the altar. In response to a presentation made to him on the said day, Dogli is reported to have said that he was no extraordinary person. It was God in his mercy who had been good to him. He thus urged other young people to follow this example and come to the assistance of the missionaries.
On July 23, 1922, Dogli was in the Cathedral in Lome to celebrate his first Holy Mass. According to Bishop Cessou, the celebration began on the vigil of that Sunday with a procession which took about two hours. A dense crowd welcomed Fr. Dogli with songs and acclamation. The reception received by Fr. Dogli, made a deep impression on the European missionaries some of whom remarked to Bishop Cessou, that not even the governor would have had such a reception.
This Bishop Cessou observes was the final evidence, that a black person could become a Catholic priest. The faithful listened with rapt attention to his homily, as he also narrated his vocational journey to the priesthood, emphasizing the need for indigenous priests, while urging the youth to respond to the vocation to the priesthood and religious life and encouraging parents not to oppose the call of their children. The impact of the celebration on the people was huge. For the seminarians in particular, to see before their eyes a man like themselves climb the altar as a priest, represented the greatest encouragement to their vocations.
Other communities Fr. Dogli visited after his ordination were very welcoming. He was very warmly received in Keta, Kpalimé, Gbi-Bla, Kpando and in his own hometown of Baglo during the months of August and September of 1922. On August 6, 1922, the first record of Fr. Dogli’s baptisms appears in the Baptismal Register at Kpando. Similarly, Fr. Dogli’s first baptism at Baglo is dated August 30, 1922. Twenty-nine baptisms are recorded between this date and September 17, 1922, with Fr. Dogli as minister, indicating a spike in baptisms on his arrival, and suggesting that some locals might have been eager to have their children baptized by the indigenous priest.
Fr. Dogli’s charisma as a man who earned the respect and admiration of his people is not in doubt. The above testimony of Bishop Cessou is ample evidence of the kind of impact his ordination had on the faith of the ordinary Christian of his day. His personal validation of struggles as necessary for achieving the goal of an indigenous clergy, must have been crucial in encouraging the young seminarians present to persevere in their own vocations. This would have led to the altering of perceptions both among the faithful and of potential indigenous candidates for the priesthood, that it was indeed possible for an African to become a Catholic priest.
Activities as a priest
Fr. Doglis’s first station was Kpando. He travelled with Bishop Herman (on bicycle) to Papase and Kete Krachi where he opened stations. He was sent to Gbi-Bla from Kpando in 1928. While at Kpando, he was requested by Bishop Herman to open and to start the Catholic Church at Jasikan.
He worked at Kpando, Jasikan, Hohoe, Abor, Liati, Baglo and Lome. In his zeal to have financial support for the printing of the Lelemi Book (Vol. 1-12), he went to Rome and Holland. He finally settled at Baglo to continue his ministry. He died on May 28, 1970 after 48 years of priesthood. May his soul rest in perfect peace.
Mr. Speaker, it is worth knowing that, Fr. Dogli did not only encouraged young men and women to enroll in the seminaries and novitiates. He also whipped up the interests of his compatriots to allow boys and girls to pursue formal education. I am personally happy (and am sure Fr. Dogli is happy too in heaven) that a Vocational/Technical Institute has been established in his memory at New Ayoma. I entreat the students of Fr. Dogli Memorial School to embrace the ethic of hard work and commitment to God as championed by the great Fr. Dogli of blessed memory. I wish to take this opportunity to appeal to the Minister of Education and the Administrator of GETFUND to support the infrastructural needs of this great school. It will not be out of place Mr. Speaker for government to adopt and upgrade this school as one of the programmed TVET’s institutions in the country in honor of this respected patriot
Mr. Speaker, you will agree with me that we are celebrating the life and ministry of a distinguished son and priest of this country from Buemland. He is our ancestor; and I dare to say also that he is our saint who braved the challenges of life and left us a legacy of courage, hope, and tenacity of purpose.
Mr. Speaker who would have thought that our great, great grandfather, Fr. Anastasius Dogli, will learn different foreign languages, marry, raise a child, go through Catechism, Philosophical and Theological studies and become a priest in the Roman Catholic Church? It sounds very impossible and daunting tasks to fulfill by the poor son from Baglo-Buem at the time he did it. But, with God all things are possible. He followed his dreams and aspirations with determination and faith. He trusted in the Lord and in his capacities to succeed. It is my hope that we can also trust in the Lord our God, walk in the light of his word, do his good will as we forge ahead to fulfill our individual and collective dreams. As a minister of the Gospel, Fr. Dogli fought a good fight of faith. He finished the race. We are confident that the Lord, the just judge, has granted him a seat among the angels and saints at the table of the heavenly banquet.
Fr. Anastasius Dogli!!!
We honor and salute you!!!
Ye ma wo mmo!!!
Reference: Father Anastasius Odaye Dogli (1888-1970) And Inception of Indigenous Clergy in Ghana by Michael Kodzo Mensah, University of Ghana, Legon