Wednesday, 25 September 2013

From Lewes to Cameroon

Original Church in Bonepoupa
Tom Rajah-Tannin from Lewes parish reports:
Father Michel Tchoumbou, a priest of the Archdiocese of Douala in Cameroon, is no stranger to Lewes. He lived at St Pancras for the academic year 2008-2009 at the start of his doctoral studies at the University of Sussex, and since then he has returned to Lewes each summer to continue his research. Back in Cameroon, Fr Michel acts as secretary to the Cardinal, teaches Sacred Scripture in the diocesan seminary and is involved in the on-going formation of priests. He is a busy man!

At the beginning of last year, Fr Michel was given the pastoral care of the Catholics in the village of Bonepoupa, some twenty miles from Douala, a journey he makes each Sunday on an old motorbike, christened “the iron donkey” by the people of Bonepoupa. He usually arrives with a couple of seminarians hanging off the back of the bike!

What Fr Michel found when he first arrived in Bonepoupa was a small wooden hut which served as the Catholic Church of St Joseph (see the “before” photograph) for the 7 Catholics in the village. What he now has (see the “after” photograph) is a church building which is bigger than our own church of St Pancras in Lewes! More importantly, though, he now has 150 people attending Mass each Sunday!

New Church in Bonepoupa
It has cost just £17,000 to build this new church of St Joseph. The raising of this money has been our parish project for the last academic year, and one of our responses to the Year of Faith inaugurated by Benedict XVI. Individual parishioners and groups of parishioners have come up with all sorts of fund-raising events – the “SPY” (St Pancras Youth) Group had a cornflake-cake-bake-and-sale, there was a funk-soul-disco, tea concerts, talks, plant sales, pony rides, a parish recipe book… and we sponsored Fr Jonathan and Martin (who was with us for six months discerning a vocation to the priesthood) to run in a 10K race!

What next? To sponsor a seminarian or two through the Society of St Peter the Apostle (part of Missio, the worldwide network of Pontifical Mission Societies) so that St Joseph’s, Bonepoupa, might have a resident priest and be established as a parish.

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