The Holy Spirit Cathedral came into existence out of a series of interwoven events that led to the development of the Catholic faith in Ghana.
The first attempt to bring the Catholic Church in Ghana, the then Gold Coast, occurred in May 1880, when two missionaries of the Society of African Mission (SMA), led by Rev. Frs. Augustine Moreau and Eugene Murat arrived on the shores of Elmina from Rome. Although Fr. Moreau, with grief, buried his companion scarcely three months after landing in Ghana, he did not relent in his effort to spread the Word. He traveled to Kumasi to ask the Asantehene for permission to establish the Church there, in the Capital of the then powerful warrior kingdom. His request was declined.
He thus traveled along the coast of Ghana and in 1882, Rev. Fr. Moreau visited Accra from Elmina to start a mission. Eleven years later in January 31, 1893, SMA Missionaries Rev. Frs. Otto Hilberer and Eugene Raes, offered the first Holy Mass in Accra in the house of Chief Quartey on High Street. Before long, there was a community of faithful and also a school, which soon reached an enrollment of 300. Within two years, they had baptized twenty two persons.
All of these pioneer missionaries spent brief moments in the then Gold Coast and were called to eternity due to ill health caused by tropical diseases such as malaria and yellow fever. Fr. Moreau died on board a ship enroute to his home following a short illness after spending only six years in Ghana. He was buried at sea.
Rev. Frs. Otto Hilberer and Eugene Raes also died three years and five years after leaving the country. By the time the Church celebrated its Golden Jubilee in 1930, 65 missionaries who had died were remembered for their service to God.
From then, a number of religious events such as Baptism and Holy Matrimony took place.
All these while, Accra was an outstation. However, a number of meetings were held by the Church leaders in Accra after which some of the religious stayed for a few days to minister to the faithful. On November 2, 1924 a cocoa shed was bought by Rev. Fr. Stauffer, an SMA Missionary, to be used as a place of worship. Rev. Fr. Stauffer’s decision to see Accra have its resident Priest was inspired by the large size of the City and the huge number of faithful.
Records indicate that Fr. Stauffer visited Accra many times that year, and baptized 77 persons, while supervising the re-building of the cocoa shed. It was dedicated by four SMA Missionaries on February 11, 1925, as the Sacred Heart Church.
In January 1926, Frs. Stauffer and John V.D. Hout, SMA, became resident Priests and began full evangelization in and around Accra, a mission to be known later as the Accra Mission.
In 1939, the Society of the Divine Word (SVD) Missionaries arrived in the country to take over the running of the Accra Mission from the SMAs whose number had reduced. By 1940, most of the eastern portion of the Vicariate or Mission Stations of Cape Coast had been handed over to them. A number of changes were made and Fr. Adolph Noser, SVD, became the first Superior of the Accra Mission.
In 1940, Rome elevated the Accra Mission to the status of a Prefecture. Prefecture is from the Latin word Praefectura which indicates the office, seat and territory under the Prefect.
On 11th February 1945, Archbishop W. Porter of Cape Coast, invested Rt. Rev. Msgr. Adolph A. Noser, SVD, as the Prefect Apostolic (Apostolic Prefect) in the Sacred Heart Church. A year later in November 1946, the Accra Prefecture was further elevated to the status of an Apostolic Vicariate . Later in 1947 on August 22, Bishop-elect Noser was consecrated a Bishop in the USA. When he returned to the then Gold Coast in 1948, he became the Vicar Apostolic or a Titular Bishop and was installed the first Bishop of the Accra Vicariate in pro-Cathedral of Sacred Heart, Derby Avenue, a Church which probably served as the Cathedral at that time.
In the same year, Bishop Noser divided the Diocese of Accra into four Deaneries. A site was then procured by Mr. Patrick Branigan as the site for the Cathedral. Mr. Branigan was a Colonial Service lawyer and later Attorney-General and the Minister of Justice, as well as member of the Cabinet in the then Gold Coast, who helped a great deal to procure the land.
The land was solemnly blessed by Bishop Noser SVD as the site for development and construction of the new Cathedral in honour of the Holy Spirit. Mr. Patrick Branigan helped overcome the obstacles to the building of the new Roman Catholic Cathedral in Accra. For his work, the Pope appointed him as Knight Commander of St Gregory.
By this time, the community of Adabraka was congregating at the residence of one Mr. Kuevi. They later moved to the Accra Catholic Press within the St. Joseph Catholic School at Adabraka.
The first Bishop of the Accra Vicariate at the time had plans to build a new Cathedral in honour of the Holy Spirit. Bishop Noser SVD traveled to the USA in 1948 to solicit for funds for the construction of this gigantic and magnificent project.
Two years later in April 18, 1950, Pope Pius XII raised the Vicariates Apostolic of the Gold Coast to the status of a Diocese and the Accra Diocese became Suffragan Diocese of the new Archdiocese of Cape Coast. In 1992, Pope John Paul II announced the elevation of Accra Diocese to an Archdiocese and made it a Metropolitan Sea.
Rev. Fr. Joseph Jud, SVD, and Brothers Bernard, SVD, and Paul, SVD, handled the construction of the Cathedral. Procurement of building materials for the construction was handled by Rev. Fr. Charles Schneider SVD, the then Assistant Diocesan Bursar.
On February 8, 1953, Bishop Noser blessed and laid the cornerstone of the Holy Spirit Cathedral. Before then, on January 7, 1953 Bishop Noser had announced his successor, Bishop-elect Joseph Oliver Bowers, SVD.
Hence, when Bishop Noser was transferred to Papua New Guinea as Archbishop of Alexishafen, he left everything in the hands of Bishop Bowers. Bishop Bowers took canonical possession of the Diocese of Accra in the partially completed Cathedral of the Holy Spirit on September 27, 1953.
It is interesting to note that Catholics from all walks of life contributed to some of the furnishings of the Holy Spirit Cathedral. As recalled by the Metropolitan Bishop of Accra, Most Reverend Bishop Palmer-Buckle, Parishioners and pupils of St. Joseph Catholic School in Adabraka were tasked to bear partial cost of the floor, walls and pillar tiles. He was one of those pupils of St. Joseph School who paid for the floor tiles.
The Holy Spirit Cathedral was finally roofed in January 1955.
By December, the same year, the Bishop’s residence at the Cathedral, was completed. The following year in 1956, all the stain glass windows, ordered by Bishop Bowers from France, were completely fixed.
On January 5, 1957, Bishop Bowers declared the Holy Spirit Cathedral open for public divine worship though the construction was not entirely completed and some finishing touches needed to be made. The actual decree declaring the Cathedral as a Parish took effect from February 5, 1958, thereby absorbing the St. Joseph Parish in Adabraka.