The parish was founded in 1927 by the Missionaries of Africa (also known as the White Fathers). In 2007, the Missionaries of Africa turned the parish over to diocesan priests. It is the third oldest parish in Northern Ghana.
Over the years as the area grew, Saints Peter and Paul Parish in Fumbisi and Christ the King Parish in Sandema (which were formerly outstations) separated from St. Francis Xavier and became their own parishes.
Christianity is the largest religion in Ghana, with approximately 71% of Ghana’s population being member of various Christian denominations as of a 2021 government census. Roman Catholics are 14% of the population.
St Francis Xavier parish has been blessed with 20 native men ordained as priests (with 3 now deceased) and 6 native women as religious nuns (with 1 deceased). Two men are currently in formation for the priesthood.
The parish is part of the Diocese of Navrongo-Bolgatanga with Most Rev. Alfred Agyenta as bishop. Rev. Fr. George Asigre is the parish priest and Rev. Fr. Edward Abugri is Curate (associate priest).
Currently, the parish has over 4000 Catholics (1250+ men, 1700+ women, 800+ children — 2500+ of whom are baptized). Infant baptism is uncommon; most baptisms are adults. There is a 3-year preparation for baptism.
The main parish church is in Wiaga. There are an additional nine outstation (mission) churches in the parish (see map).
Only Gbedema and Bayangsa outstations have church buildings. A building at Chansa has been under construction for the past 3 years. The other outstations use schools for worship.
These outstations range from 5 – 20 km (3 – 12 miles) away, but travel is very slow and sometimes hazardous due to poor road conditions. Few people have the means to travel those distances (e.g., bicycle, donkey, or motorcycle) so a priest must go to the people in each area. One priest presides over Sunday Masses in Wiaga while the other travels to two outstations to celebrate Sunday Mass. That schedule allows each outstation to only have Mass about once a month. When the priest is not present, extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion fill in.
Most parishioners are very low-income earners who support their families through subsistent farming and petty trading. A Sunday collection from all the outstations is about $10 total and $50 from the main parish Church. People offer physical goods, e.g., eggs, bread, fruit, etc., to share with the rectory or for distribution to those in need. The parish cannot afford to pay the priests a salary, only a small living allowance.
See this PDF for a photobook update on parish life and how past contributions from St. Joseph parish have helped them to finish additional school classrooms and add a ceiling and fans to the church.
English is the official language in Ghana. All schools teach in English, but there are many local dialects. The main population of the parish speaks Buli. Other minority tribes include Gurunse, Kasena, Akan, Kusasi, and Bimoba.
In the Wiaga parish area there are 55 schools with 35 being Catholic schools with teachers paid by the government. A total of about 2,200 students attend Catholic school (grades K – 8) within the parish. The parish owns and operates Bishop Agyenta Academy in Wiaga with no government support. It provides a quality education for parents who cannot afford a privately owned Catholic school. It is a co-ed primary school for grades K – 8 with approximately 200 students.
The parish provides Catholic religious instruction to students not attending Catholic school. The parish has 11 parish-trained and commissioned volunteer Catechists who offer lessons after school in Wiaga and the outstation locations.
Most students attend high schools as boarding students out of the Wiaga area.
Parish Ministries and Organizations:
In addition, the Sisters of Mary Immaculate (SMI), a local religious group, work in the parish.
St. Joseph Parish Support
With St. Joseph Parish financial help in 2021 and 2022, the parishioners completed new classrooms for their children in Bishop Agyenta Academy.
Another project that contributions from St. Joseph Parish helped to complete is an upgrade to the main church in Wiaga including creation of sliding glass windows, rewiring of the church and installation of a ceiling under the metal roof and fans. Temperature in Wiaga is generally in the 85 – 103 F range (with high humidity) so the ceiling and fans will make worship more comfortable.
The church upgrades were completed in June 2023 in time for the ordination of 3 new diocese priests on July 8, 2023 including Fr. Nelson Abagsuik who is originally from St. Francis Xavier Parish. Over 90 priests attended the ordination with Bishop Alfred Agyenta and over 2,000 people attended the celebration in the upgraded St. Francis Xavier church! See a photobook of the ordination by clicking here.
St. FRANCIS XAVIER PARISH PRIORITIES
Fr. George Asigre and the Parish Council established 3 priorities for 2024.