On 8 November 1953, Bishop Joseph Oliver Bowers SVD, Catholic Bishop of the then Diocese of Accra, now Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Accra came to the New Juabeng Traditional Area in Eastern Region, Ghana on his first pastoral visit. He held discussions with Nana Frempong Mposo II, chief of the area, which led to the Roman Catholic Church mission acquiring land at Effiduase in Koforidua. Father Anthony Bauer and Fr. Henk Janseen were then asked to survey the land and their report was favourable. Early in 1955, Bishop J. O. Bowers decided to build a junior seminary for the Diocese of Accra on that land. In January 1955, Fr. Jude SVD, Dr. Balduricus and Dr. Lucian Orians came to construct the first buildings, one classroom block and a combined Fathers’ residence and administrative block. In early 1957, Dr. Damian Brockmann SVD constructed the first Science Block. Today in its place stands a students’ dormitory called Elsbend House, named after the first headmaster. In October 1957, Bishop Bowers appointed Rev. Fr. Alphonse Elsbend as the first Headmaster and Seminary Rector, assisted by Rev. John O’Sullivan and Rev. Joseph Skorupka and Bismark Sosu. The school’s chapel was constructed the following year in 1958.
Bishop Joseph Oliver Bowers SVD
On 21 January 1958, St. John’s Seminary and College officially opened with 45 students; 14 seminarians and 31-day students in two forms. One Ghanaian lay teacher, Mr. Paul Ohene-Boakye was employed to help the 3 SVD priests who had been appointed by the Bishop to teach and instruct the young boys in their academic work, moral and religious lives. In June 1958, electricity was extended to the school at the cost of 45 pounds. On 20 July 1961, the first Speech and Prize-Giving Day was held. The Guest Speaker was Rev. Maurice Lesage SVD. M.SC., then headmaster of St. Thomas Aquinas Senior High School in Accra, and the distribution of prizes was done by Nana Frempong Mposo II, chief of Effiduase. The school’s enrollment at this time was 23 Seminarians and 90-day students, totaling 113 students. Pius Kpeglo (now a catholic retired Monsignor), Senior Prefect of the seminary and school, was successful in his G.C.E. examinations, and left on Scholarship on 7 August 1961 to do Philosophy and Theology at the Diocesan Seminary in Regensburg, Germany.
Pope John XXIII
Growth and development
The mustard seed which the Society of the Divine Word (SVD) Fathers of the Catholic Church sowed under the supervision of Bishop Bowers has hence seen remarkable growth and development. In July 1992 the Roman Catholic Diocese of Koforidua was erected, giving it autonomy from the now Metropolitan Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Accra. Most. Rev. Dr. Charles G. Palmer-Buckle became the first bishop of the new diocese. The management of Pope John Senior High School and Minor Seminary thus became the responsibility of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Koforidua within the Ecclesiastical Province of Accra. Today, there is a professional teaching staff of 92 and a non-teaching staff of 85. There are over 2000 boarding students with a little under 100 seminarians. Pope John Secondary School now ranks as one of the best in Ghana, making its mark on all fronts; academics, sport, music, discipline, among others.
More than 8,000 students have passed through the classrooms and examination halls of Pope John Senior High School and Minor Seminary. Over 100 of its former students who have been ordained as priests for the Catholic Church, including Archbishop Charles G. Palmer-Buckle. Others have become pastors for other churches and many more can be found in all spheres of life both on the local and international job market, contributing in diverse ways to the development of humanity.
The Sacred Heart of Jesus monument
After years of existence without any official school anthem, Rev. Fr. Burke SVD (headmaster from 1985-1995) began the process for the school acquiring one. This was also partly influenced by the fact that though a young institution, Pojoss had already begun to claim many laurels and perform excellently on the educational scene of Ghana. In 1997, he asked a student, who was also a member of the school choir to compose an anthem for the school. The student was Master Anthony Barnieh. Anthony’s composition (“O Great Pojomma Arise and Shine”) was submitted and was immediately adopted as the official school anthem. It was first performed by the school’s choir in 1998. Today Mr. Barnieh is a teacher of social sciences in Pope John and the music director for the school choir and all musical groups in the school. Additionally, he is the founder and director of one of the best choirs in Ghana.
Early in the first decade of the twenty-first century, the monument of the Sacred Heart was dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus under the chaplaincy of Rev. Fr. Justine Mensah and Master Emmanuel Obeng Codjoe (now a Catholic priest). The need for a song to the Sacred Heart arose and this was the ode chosen to pay respect to Jesus Christ. History, however, indicates that it was composed and used as an anthem by the school long before the introduction of “O Great Pojomma Arise and Shine”. The two songs of Pope John have become associated with all meetings and gatherings concerning the school or its alumni (notable among which are the opening and closing masses), and have been incorporated into a hymnal for students. Other songs related to students’ life on campus include the famous Father Burke hits: “Life in this world is a great struggle”, “I danced in the morning” and “We are going”.