Sankofa 2023 Immersion Experience
to Ghana, West Africa
The Sankofa 2023 Pilgrimage was a two-week immersion experience that would provide all participants the chance to ‘Sankofa,’ to go back, fetch the past, retrieve it, and learn from it. Shanedra Johnson, Director of the Office for Urban Ministry at the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, was one of the thirty-six pilgrims who traveled overseas to be immersed in Ghanaian culture. “I began the journey to Ghana with my heart and mind open to new experiences the Spirit would provide,” says Shanedra, who has traveled to the continent of Africa before, but had not traveled to Ghana prior to this immersion experience. “Going into the trip, I expected to learn something, what that would be, I was unsure, but I knew it would make me reflect on life, faith, and the past.”
Reflecting on the powerful experiences and encounters in Ghana, one that stood out to Shanedra was the visit to the Ancestral Sites. She explained the Ghanaian guide asked for the permission of the ancestors prior to entering the sacred grounds as a symbol of respect for those who have gone before us. The guide invited the pilgrims to be fully present in the moment and experience. “We were asked to not take videos when the guide was talking and to not take photos of other pilgrims while being in the sacred grounds.” This is out of respect for those who have passed, and to also preserve the experience of the place. “Taking videos and photos have the potential to taint the experience for others. By being fully present in the moment, each pilgrim had the chance to take in the raw emotions and sacredness of the space,” says Shanedra. As she took time to reflect on the past, and on those who have gone before her, she realized that you do not have to live in the past, but “it is beneficial to learn from it and understand where you come from.”
Upon returning to the U.S., Shanedra hopes to carry the lesson of simplicity in her daily life. “This experience has allowed me to see the simplicity in being human- we do not need so many materialistic items.” With her newly found lens of simplicity, Shanedra recognizes that “God is everywhere.” So, as you go forth into your daily life, how do you recognize that God is everywhere?