Cameroon: Bursting at the Seams

Cameroon: Bursting at the Seams


Parish church, Fundong


Portrait of a Parish

Fundong is one of the three parishes in the archdiocese of Bamenda entrusted to the Mill Hill Missionaries

Number of outstations (called ‘Missions’ in Cameroon) :17

A team of young Mill Hill missionaries from East Africa and Asia animates this large parish situated north of Bamenda in the Kom area.

Mill Hill Team:

Noah Monday mhm

Lawrence Otieno mhm

Fr Noah Monday

Fr Lawrence Otieno

Fr Michael Mandagiri (in transit)

Austin Ochieng (MEP student)

Glenn Ndumali (MEP student)

Austine Ochieng

Glenn Ndumali

Michael Mandagiri mhm

During the long weekend I spend visiting Fundong parish Fr Noah Monday shows me around most of the outstations. It means travelling along very dusty – in the dry season – and extremely bumpy country roads.

A few impressions randomly gleaned from my diary:

One day Noah decides to drive on the Mbissi, an outstation we have not yet visited Fr Lawrence Otieno took this community as an example in his homily a few days ago. He described how the Mbissi community grew within a few decades (1993) from a single household to a small community gathering in someone's house. And from there they graduated to a community hall, then, as their numbers grew, they built a small church and now they are building a large church with semi-permanent material.

Women at Mbissi

We inspect the progress of construction of the new church. The catechist doubles up as builder. Rains have come early this year, to his despair. He tells us he hopes the rainy season will not really start until March so that he can finish roofing the building.

I am surprised to hear that the church community here consists for 90% of women. The men go down south in search of employment in the plantations and only come home for Christmas and Easter.

Noah asks me to preside at the 6 am Mass on Sunday and to preach. We concelebrate. The large parish church is packed. We read the gospel of the Beatitudes. Today the readings have a clear common theme. Our God is a God of surprises. His ways are not ours. We spend a whole life surrendering to his love. At the end of Mass Noah introduces me to the congregation. He speaks of the special bond that binds the two of us: 'teacher, rector, personal formator'.

I feel like Simeon at the Presentation in the temple: ‘Now , Lord, let your servant depart in peace….’

Sunday Mass at Fundong

After Mass we have time for a quick breakfast 'on the hoof' and then we're off to one of the 17 outstations that Fundong counts. On Sunday each of the priests and students go to different outstations. The three priests celebrate 2 or 3 Masses in different places every Sunday. It involves quite a bit of travel on often very stony roads. The state of the road determines whether you go by car or motorbike.

Noah uses the Hilux pickup to go to Atondom, an outstation. When we arrive the church is about half full, but it fills up as the Mass progresses. I feel free now to concentrate on taking photos. Noah preaches well without any notes. Public speaking seems to come naturally to many people here.

From there we move on to another outstation: Ebossung. A young and energetic catechist welcomes us. Here again there is a church bursting at the seams. We are invited to the site of the new church where Noah blesses the foundations of the new and larger church. From there we process to the old church for Mass.

Blessing the foundations of a new and larger church

After Mass – it is past 2 pm by now – we're offered a simple lunch: fufu, chicken prepared in palm oil and cooked greens. I feel quite hungry.

After that it is about a 1/2 hour back to Fundong. It strikes me that everywhere we have gone so far the readings and the homily are in Pidgin English, but announcements and everything else is in the Kom language. Kom is the language people speak amongst themselves. In some remote villages people apparently do not speak Pidgin at all.

Austine Ochieng setting off

There's one last visit Noah has planned. Appropriately it will be on one of the parish' motorcycles since the road to Fujwa is so atrocious. We set off on the motorcycle but decide to walk when the going gets tough. The church at Fujwa is nearing completion. Bernard Fox provided most of the funding. On the way back we visit a leading member of the CWA and the chairman of the parish council. It's good to meet some of the Christians at home!

Fons Eppink mhm

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