Cameroon: thirty years of mission

By Anne Daban, Idente missionarie

The Idente mission in Cameroon began on the 25th June 1988. The Archbishop of Yaoundé, H. E. his Lordship Jean Zoa, had solicitated the arrival of Identes missionaries. After meeting with the Jacquard brothers, French priests, who manufactured prosthesis especially for leprosy patients in Cameroon and other countries. These priests had known a young doctor, Anne Daban, who had worked in the Amazonian forest in Peru, at San Pablo de Loreto with the doctors Ma del Carmen Orts and Ma del Pilar Brandrés all Identes missionaries.

On the 22 June 1988, Fernando Rielo sent from Spain, the first missionaries destined for Cameroon. Amongst them, Anne Daban and Montserrat Serra Renom with the following words filled with emotion: “Be apostles of Africa, missionaries of all Africa.

His Lordship Jean Zoa was waiting for them at the Douala airport, to drive them in his personal car to Yaounde. Right from the beginning, they experienced his paternal love and care for each of them, as well as his identification with the Idente charism, as he repeated the phrase “we are all peripatetic” (” somos todos itinerantes”).

The Identes missionaries were installed at the parish St Marie Mediatrice, the second parish in the archdiocese of Yaounde created in 1932 by French missionaries. At the beginning, they lived with some Cameroonian priests, this helped them to better understand their mission in the African culture and customs as these priests shared their experiences. These priests advised them to take the necessary time to learn the mentality for “taking ones time” is a very common concept present in the African Wisdom. Time to observe, time to listen, time to talk, time to reflect… The words of our founder, “look at Africa across the pupil of Love”, equally helped them to enter in a world which was completely new to them.

The evangelization of Cameroon had begun since 1890 with the German Palotin fathers. As from the dedication of the land to Mary Queen of apostles, on the feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary, evangelization took deep roots in the land. Thus in 1990, the first centenary of evangelization was celebrated with a new apostolic revival. To conclude the activities of this anniversary, on the 8th December 1991, Mary was crowned Queen of Apostles and Patroness of Cameroon, hence consecrating Her the country.

It is in this historical and providential context that the first group of Idente missionaries, sisters and brothers arrived and immediately began to take care of the parish entrusted them. Besides, the missionaries sisters equally worked in the domains of health and teaching, giving classes at the minor seminary and in catholic schools.

On the 20th January 1993 and in the presence of the general superior of the Idente missionaries, fr Luis Casasús, His Lordship Jean Zoa ordained as priest Enrique Guedeja a Spanish Idente missionary who had arrived in this mission in 1989. Sometime later, in 1990, Jose Manuel Conde equally Spanish and priest arrived and was made parish priest for many years.

Ordenación sacerdotal de Enrique Guedeja, por parte de Mons. Jean Zoa, el 20-1-1993 en Yaoundé

Another historical event was the juridical recognition of the institution inCameroon, in 1998 with a coincidence that at the same time we were celebrating the funerals of His Lordship Jean Zoa. We saw in this a sign of his intercession for our mission.

After the visit of the president of the institution, F. Jesus Fernandez Hernandez, and the superior general, Ma del Carmen Garcia Viyuela, the mission was strengthened by the arrival of a Spanish priest Efren Blanco (1994) and an Equatorian sister Bertha Caiza (1995).

In 1996, the second foundation of the Idente mission was opened in Chad. The words of our founder were accomplished as he had said; “the foundation of Cameroon shall be the door of Africa for other new foundations”. Jose Manuel Ballesteros, medical doctor and priest, Acisclo Díaz also priest, and few months later, Paul Alexandre arrived Yaounde, destined for the mission in Chad. Afterwards, Justo de la Fuente, medical doctor (1997) and others missionaries sisters, Ma Lourdes Real, Ma Carmen Diaz and Haydée Alvarez ( 1999).

 

The Archbishop who succeeded after Lordship Jean Zoa was His Lordship André Wouking. He authorized the construction of two formation houses for both female and male missionaries. Each house had a versatile center for youth activities. We saw in this project the intercession of he who had first opened the doors of his Archdiocese to us, he who had been a good shepherd for us.

In the year 2000, the Holy family parish of Elig-Assiga was entrusted to the Idente Missionaries thereby subdividing the parish St Marie Mediatrice into 3. At the same time, the blessing of God our Father towards our beloved founder was manifest in the institution especially in youths through a rapid expansion of the Idente Youth.

A center of design was created at the St Marie Mediatrice parish, it continued as a theversatile center of female missionaries for youths; a center to help girls and women with limited economic means in their professional formation; special classes in alphabetization for girls and women. On their part, the male missionaries proposed workshops in electricity and in carpentry for the boys and men, first in the parish premises and later on in their own versatile center.

In 2008, Justo de la Fuente and Ma Lourdes Real arrived from Chad to Cameroon. The mission had been closed momentarily and they came as a support in the mission of Cameroon which was now fast expanding. The new Archbishop of Yaounde, His Lordship Tonye Bakot had given a new mission to the missionaries. The Catholic University Center Yaounde II created by the Jesuit priest was now transformed into the Sts Peter and Paul Parish and given to the responsibility of the Idente Missionaries. This was providential as the official order was on the date of the 25 June 2008, coinciding with the 20th anniversary of the arrival of the first Idente missionaries in Cameroon.

In June 2009, a group of more of 30 persons participated at a pilgrimage in Rome at the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the institution. Some friends and Idente missionaries, pilgrims of the parish all went to Rome for the occasion and they were all a motif of edification and of communion for other communities by their piety and their joy. These were special days of graces and hapiness. The link, still present, is manifest every 6 December at the anniversary of the entry of our founder in heaven. Another special grace for that year was the priesthood ordination of Justo de la Fuente by His Lordship Tonye Bakot at the university parish Sts Peter and Paul Soa on the 22 of November.

Presently, there are already young professed missionaries, female and male, and youths who are in formation. Families equally live the charism and they collaborate in apostolic activities in the two parishes. Some are members of the parish counsel, of caritas, catechism, counselors of couples and just to name a few. We are experiencing the desire of His Lordship Jean Zoa which was to “construct a team like Christ himself had done with the twelve apostles and the 72 disciples, in order to reach out to the crowd”.

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