Bamenda, Cameroon. These few days have been filled with Joy and Thanksgiving for the Claretian family in the Archdiocese of Bamenda. Festivities started in Saint Claret Relief Academy, followed by the final profession of three Claretian students: Joseph, Moise, and William. In effect, this celebration began last year with the arrival of the General Superior Fr. Mathew Vattamattam, CMF.
Five Claretians from the then Claretian Province of the USA: Fr. Ralph Berg, Br. Rene LePage, Fr. Alberto Ruiz, Fr. Gerry Caffrey, and Br. Richard Suttle implanted the Claretian charism in Anglophone Cameroon. From Bamenda, the Congregation spread to Douala, Buea, Kumbo, and Kumba.
These Claretians arrived in 1986 at the heart of the Lake Nyoss disaster and were very involved in their relief services through water tanks and toilets in the Cathedral.
Here is a testimony of one of the first missionaries:
“The team arrived in Bamenda by the first of August 1986. We were assigned to various parishes in Bamenda to learn pidgin and the culture while meeting with the Archbishop and looking at the places where he said the need was the greatest. After some time, it was decided that Fr. Alberto and Br. Richard would begin in Babanki Tungo while the other three continued to search; they later decided on Batibo. However, before we could go to begin the mission in Babanki Tungo, a natural disaster occurred, Lake Nyoss. The Archbishop put Fr. Alberto and Br. Richard was in charge of the relief effort, and we worked without stopping until the people were all taken care of. Later, Br. Rene worked to provide water supply for the people. Also, prior to opening St. Patrick’s Parish in Babanki Tungo, Br. Richard was assigned as Manager of the school at Big Mankon, and Fr. Alberto worked on a project to provide toilet facilities to the Cathedral. Those first years as we started the mission in Babanki Tungo and Batibo were both exciting and challenging. We accomplished a lot in a short time with the help of God and the wonderful people in those villages.”
The Claretian charism for these years has touched many people in Batibo, many villages in Ndop Deanery, Babanki Tungo, Fulikom, and all the villages in Santa, and the charism keeps spreading.
The Jubilee project has been the construction of “St. CLARA” (Saint Claret Relief Academy). This relief initiative came up in Santa when all schools were closed. The Claretian Missionaries courageously campaigned and reopened the catholic primary schools. This year, 2021/2022, the Claretians are glad that private schools and mission schools of other denominations have reopened, and school attendance is a reality.
The Archbishop of Bamenda, His Grace Andrew Nkea laid the foundation stone for Saint CLARA and ordained Seven Claretian Missionaries as Deacons. In his homily, the Bishop thanked Claretians for the wonderful service to the local church. He admonished them to continue working in synodality.
The parish Chairperson expressed unalloyed gratitude to Claretians for their Spiritual, pastoral, and humanitarian care. The day ended with traditional dancing and an agape meal. The Claretians look forward to celebrating the Fortieth anniversary soon.