“A good number of priests and Christians expected that someone should have been appointed from among the Priests within the Diocese of Buea, --- so from day one few Priests and Christians have seen me as a stranger and have rejected me and all that we have tried to accomplish---”
Brothers and Sisters, good morning and welcome to the St Anthony of Padua Parish Hall, for the first ever Annual Conference on the State of the Diocese of Buea. Let us give thanks to God who has deigned to make it possible for us to be here today.I thank all of you for honouring my invitation. I know you have all made a lot of sacrifices to be here today especially those from distant parishes and others who might have postponed other important engagements just to be here. It shows your great love for me and the Church in the Diocese of Buea. May I use this opportunity to thank all of you for the wonderful support and prayers for me since I was appointed Bishop of the Diocese of Buea on November 30, 2006.
The reason for which I have invited you here today is to keep you informed on the affairs of the Diocese. As the Bishop of the Diocese, it is not only an obligation for me to ensure that all of you are rightfully informed about the affairs of the Diocese but also your right as Christians in this Diocese whom I have been called to serve since my inauguration as Bishop on January 30, 2007 to know how your family, the Church in the Diocese of Buea is faring. This exercise is what we are expected to do regularly as Pastors of the flock entrusted to our care at the Parish and Diocesan levels but unfortunately, it is possible only now. Today God has given us the grace to begin and from now henceforth, this will be an annual exercise.
My Pastoral Background
Before I proceed, I would like to share with you briefly my spiritual and pastoral background. I was ordained in 1973 for the Diocese of Bamenda. I served in Widikum Parish and Bishop Rogan College after my ordination, before I was sent for studies. I returned from Rome in 1980 and taught at St. Thomas Aquinas Major Seminary Bambui until 1982 when I went back to Rome to finish the studies I had started. I came back in 1984 to Bambui where I was later appointed Rector of the same institution.
In 1992 the Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, appointed me as Bishop of Yagoua in the Far North Region of Cameroon. I left for Yagoua without knowing where I was going but I knew who was leading me. I was in Yagoua for exactly 14 years, one month and four days. On November 30, 2006, Pope Benedict XVI appointed me to take over from Late Bishop Pius Awa. I took over on Wednesday January 30, 2007 as the fourth Bishop of the Diocese of Buea. It is now more than eight years, seven Months since I became the Bishop of Buea. So you see I have been a Bishop for 22 years and have some of experience.
I wish to use this opportunity to thank all my predecessors whom God chose to serve this Diocese and for the great work they did in Shepherding it to what it is today.May their souls and the Souls of the faithful departed through the mercy of God rest in peace. As they came and are gone, so will I and I am conscious of this fact. For me what is important is that we do God’s will and serve the people whom God has entrusted to our care by either planting or watering. It is my firm conviction that instead of holding a candle and saying it is dark, it is better to light it and not curse the darkness.
My appointment to the Diocese of Buea from the reports of the then Apostolic Nuncio to Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea took a good number of priests and Christians aback who had expected that someone should have been appointed from amongst the Priests within the Diocese of Buea. So from day one few Priests and Christians have seen me as a stranger and have rejected me and all that we have tried to accomplish as a Diocese together have not been received in good faith. Any initiative of mine or innovation is interpreted by this group as downplaying the work of my predecessor or destroying the tradition of “their Diocese”. These persons certainly need our forgiveness and prayers.
The fact that a Bishop has been appointed to one Diocese from another Diocese is not a new thing in the life of the Catholic Church because of its universality. So whether one is rejected or not, what is more important is that we keep focused at the task ahead like Christ who embraced the cross for our salvation. As children of God’s family we are reminded to keep working following the advice of St Paul to Timothy, 2Timothy 4:2in season and out of season, for better or for worse, till the Lord calls us home. What we must avoid in situations like this is to fall into the temptation of Lot’s wife who looked behind and was turned into a “bag of salt”.(Gen. 19:26). I am calling on all the Christians in the Diocese of Buea and People of Good will not to let this unfortunate situation destroy your positive spiritand love for this great Diocese.
Buea, the Oldest Diocese
I came to the Diocese of Buea expecting to meet a very dynamic Church considering that it is the oldest in Cameroon. Today Buea Diocese is 65 years old. Any Spiritual Leader coming here would expect to meet a Church above the level of primary evangelization where things are stable, set and far advanced. With that in mind I thought what would be needed would be just more knowledge for Christ’s Faithful to enable them consolidate and actualize their vocation and mission in the Church in accordance with the concept of Church as articulated by the Second Vatican Council. I was soon to realize that this was not the case. Though the Church in the North where I had worked was still more at the level of primary evangelization, we hadmade some great strides asChrist’s lay faithful there were already participating actively in running the affairs of the local Church. My aspirations that it was going to be much easier in Buea to build a virile and self –reliant Church that can attain ecclesial adulthoodwith a well informed and competent clergy and a correspondingly vocation and mission conscious laity was far from the reality.
I soon discovered that clerical Church leadership concept was still strong. Customarily lay people were mostly regarded by the clergy as a passive, subordinate group who should obediently submit to their directives without a voice. I found out that everything about the inner workings of the Church was shrouded in secrecy. In the mind of the Church, to regard lay people as inferior and incapable of assuming decidedly ecclesial posts and functions portrayed a denial of their dignity, and an attestation of the immaturity of that particular Church, revealing a defect in building a self-reliant Church after the Second Vatican Council.
The very first experience that struck me powerfully was at my inauguration ceremony as the new Bishop of Buea during the Lunch that was organized after the Solemn Holy Mass. At the table where I was, some Christians expressed their desire to deepen their faith. Some were university lecturers who said their faith as Catholics was at the primary or secondary school levels. One person said they were already going to the Archdiocesan Theology School in for the laity at the weekends in Douala. I immediately said to them that it would not be necessary to go to Douala if things went well. We would have our own Theology School here in Buea.
The second experience which remained very memorable in my mind was when I requested that more lay people be involved in our first financial council meeting which hitherto comprised only the Bishop, the Diocesan Financial Administrator and some selected priests. In the North where I had served, the Diocesan Finance Council had 13 lay persons and only three priests. Strangely I received strong resistance from some clergy within who felt that it was unheard of to bring lay people on board. However, they eventually had no choice but to accept since I insisted. During that first meeting the financial situation of the Diocese was reviewed and it was immediately realized by the lay financial experts some of whom were bank managers that the diocese had no financial reserves, no investments and no financial security. The foreign account that the Diocese owned at that time was making about 10,000 Euros of interest a year. I felt that if the money is ploughed in Real Estate or other income generating projects, it will be more beneficial to the Diocese in the long run. In the North we were working on projects worth 500 million francs CFA at the time I left.
Against this backdrop and coupled with the fact that Buea was the mother Diocese in Cameroon, I decided to rework my pastoral strategy. There was the need to visit the Parishes, listen to the Christiansand see how they could be empowered to own their faith and develop their communities. Many Communities were shocked that I would allow them do certain things just by saying “if you think you can do it then go ahead”. My visits to the Parishes revealed so many things about the Christians of Buea Diocese. I could see enthusiasm amongst Christ’s faithful in the Diocese to do things. I could see generosity and goodwill on their part to get going. But one thing was certain, they lacked the knowledge to drive this change hence the need to put education on our priority goals. God created us to know him, love him and to live forever happily in heaven. Without knowledge, without an informed laity whoarethe majority, it would be difficult for them to take their rightful place in the Church.
In a bid therefore to take the Diocese of Buea to a self-reliant stage with more involvement of the Laity in the Church, I set out to continue what my predecessors had been doing. It will be important to look at the major areas and see how far we have gone – both successes and failures. Remember, it is about us doing it together and not Bishop Bushu, or particular group of persons or the Clergy. It is about our Diocese.
As a Bishop I believe we should open new parishes to bring the faith closer to the people (like the Pallotine and Mill Hill Missionaries did); build our own Yamassouko (the Co-Cathedral project); make our own Havard in Buea (University Project) and have our own Radio and Television Station to teach the faith like other Dioceses in the world. Let us look at the major areas briefly, starting with pastoral activities.
- PASTORAL ACTIVITIES
From the pastoral standpoint which forms the basis of diocesan activities, much had been accomplished before I took over office. However the proliferation of sects especially from neighboring Nigeria has been a growing concern as every day new faith communities spring up. Studies show that majority of those moving to the sects are Catholics. The previous situation was that there were very few parishes while a multitude of mission stations were left to the care of catechists most of whom were not well versed with Catholic doctrinal, social and moral teaching. This left many Christians dumfounded in the face of the sects with all kinds of doctrines.
The immediate solution was therefore to make the priests readily available to all Christians. Christ commanded the Church to “go out to the whole world and proclaim the good news to all nations”(Matthew 28:19). The present Holy Father, Pope Francis, has called on the Church to change its evangelization and Pastoral Strategy. Priests should go out and meet the Christians instead of Christians coming to the priests. It is for this reason that I have created more parishes thereby stepping up the number from 22 to 43. The Churches are still full. So the question is where were these Catholics worshipping? Take just St Anthony Parish Buea Town as an example. Today, carved out of St Anthony, are 5 more parishes functioning very well. The number of Sunday Masses have increased and some Christians are requesting for more Priests. I agree with you that more parishes mean more Priests.
The Priests in the Diocese since I took over has risen from 47 to 104 and the Christian population has grown up from 300,000 to about 700,790. Another thing we have done is that the new Parish Priests have been installed. By this ceremony we expect the Priests to be with their communities for at least 3 years except for pastoral, administrative or reasons of grave misconduct. Many Christians in the Diocese had never witnessed the installation of their Priests and I must say that the creation and installation of Parish Priests have been electric. The attendance at these ceremonies has been wonderful and one can see the enthusiasm and joy of the Christian community.
While this initiative has proved to be very successful in fighting the mass exodus from the church to the Pentecostal groups, some priests who have been in financially challenged areas have been unhappy and have spread false stories that I do not care about priests’ welfare. If we have to fulfill the mandate of Christ to “go out” then a lot of sacrifices is demanded from the Priests. I am appealing to Christians to help and support our priests to enjoy their ministry and be ready to serve the Lord anywhere in the Diocese. When a Priest is transferred to certain parishes, some agitate and the Christians join them to lament that they have been punished. They even advise them not to take their transfers. Some even say that the priests have been demoted. They are being demoted to what level? This is a terrible thing. Priests are spiritual leaders. Are these parishes empty? Don’t they need good priests too! Can’t we build them to be great parishes like the early missionaries did? The Church is now in the hands of indigenous priests. What is our own pastoral legacy?
I am calling on all, priests and laity in the Diocese to look at transfers and appointments as meeting pastoral needs which include the health of the Priest, the needs of the parishes at a particular time, the maturity of the Priest, the request of the Christian community and other diocesan exigencies that may arise such as Sabbatical, sick leave or priests going on studies. The Priesthood is a vocation of service and once we start making it a career, then there is bound to be dissatisfaction when people are sent to places based on one or many of the factors I have just mentioned. A true servant of the Lord will take any transfer in joy and good faith knowing that he is going to serve God’s people in other areas be they poor or rich. Jesus serves his people through the presence and work of the priest-alter christus, another Christ.
The number of religious institutes in the diocese too have increased in accordance with the Church’s admonition that ‘…particular attention should be paid to the promotion and cultivation of forms of religious life which take into account the character and way of life of the inhabitants, and the local customs and conditions’( Perfectae Caritatis, no. 19). As of now there are 17 institutes of consecrated life in the Diocese.
In view of the implementation of the provincial pastoral plan, there have been giant strides made. The Small Christian Communities and Gospel Sharing groups are experiencing a steady growth. The commissions at deanery and parochial levels are growing steadily. Diocesan councils too are functioning well and active participation of the laity in these councils has been great. Some of these include the Finance council, the celebration council, etc. As regards Diocesan Commissions, the following are functioning well - the justice and peace, communications, finance, youth, pastoral, education, religious, presbyteral, project, lay, celebrations, health and land commission. Prayer and action groups in the church are for most Christians a source of encouragement and strength to leading better Christian lives. These have equally increased in the Diocese and their effect in building the spiritual lives of Christians is enormous. The Neo-catechumenal Movement is gaining ground in some parishes which is aimed at strengthening Christians especially doctrinally.
- a. CARITAS
We have created CARITAS Buea Diocese to serve as a social pastoral tool and to promote social justice, solidarity and love. As of now Caritas in the Diocese of Buea has three ongoing projects: Firstly, humanizing the living conditions of prisoners in the Buea central prison which involves medical intervention, sanitation, computer studies, education, counseling, feeding of prisoners and gardening. The prisoners are also introduced to embroidery, metallurgy, shoe mending and tailoring. Caritas also offers judiciary assistance to the inmates. Secondly, sustainable agriculture and rural development project whose objective is to promote development in rural areas through sustainable agricultural approaches and self-promotion. Thirdly, there is the vocational computer training to foster youth empowerment and enhance their participation towards the development of the whole society. This is specifically directed at the rural areas. It is the plan also that Computer laboratories will be established in each of the five deaneries in the Diocese.
- b. HEALTH AND BEPHA
From the standpoint of health, there are five health units namely: Mount Mary Hospital in Buea, Regina Pacis Health Centre in Mutengene, Catholic Health Centre in Fiango, St. Michael’s Health Centre in Baseng and Associated Rehabilitation Centre for the Handicapped (ARCH) Dibanda (Mile 14). These have been and continue to be very essential for proper assistance of the ailing. There are plans to create new health Centres in other areas of the Diocese that are in need of health facilities. The big challenge has been the administrative management of some of these health units.The BEPHA scheme has been very successful too but only with regard to the schools. The families are a new point of concern at present and we hope there is going to be much success with regard to the incorporation of families into the BEPHA health program.
- c. Social Communication
I took over the leadership of the Diocese when the media landscape around was highly suffocated with many radio and television stations. So many of them were owned by sects whose target was Catholics. There was an urgent need to provide an alternative for our Christians and so we started a radio station with a television station in view. We got a provisional permission from the government and started Divine Mercy Radio with the view of extending its coverage to the whole Diocese. However, we were forced to halt our plans to follow the provincial project. But as the project became slower we went further and procured a 1 KW Transmitter to extend our own Diocesan radio coverage but the provincial project has come again very strongly and we have been forced to wait for the second phase of the project which is to provide radio stations in Buea and kumbo.
In other areas regarding social communications, we tried to network our Diocese through an American network service known as the Evergreen project but when we had prepared everything the government rejected our application for a license towards getting that. No money was spent on this project. When this did not work, we acquired an optic fibre so that the Diocese can be linked to internet services at cheaper rates but we have not been able to get enough cooperation from our parishes to get this running.
a) Schools – Nursery to Secondary
When I came in, I inherited an impressive educational structure left behind by Bishop Pius Awa. It was that the administration of schools had shifted from Parish priests to lay superintendents.Educational administration was then in the hands of professionally-trained persons.The catholic Education Secretariat put in a better financial policy and teachers were regularly paid.Court cases that teachers had with the Diocese were amicably settled out of court.Teachers were provided with better facilities and their lifestyles were improved. The net result was improvement in output in our schools.Schools were regularly supervised and teachers sat up to their responsibilities.More Schools were added to the existing ones such as the Molyko, Limbe and Kumba Nursery Schools; the Kumba, Tiko and Buea evening Schools, St Anne Girls School Limbe, and Our Lady of Grace Secondary School, Muyuka, Regina Coeli Comprehensive High School, Tombel. These reforms could not be carried out in consultation or approval of the other Dioceses in the Ecclesiastical Province of Bamenda because the rapid urbanization with its inherent economic and social problems in the Diocese called for unique solutions in its educational framework. That was how we saw them.
Unfortunately the purpose of these reforms meant to address the social, economic, and religious needs of the Diocese and itsteachers were misconstrued by few Priests and Laity who decided to put a strong resistance to the reforms. Some members of the Diocese and beyond interpreted the reforms as a way of splitting the Ecclesiastical Province of Bamenda which had hitherto been running the same kind of system. Some Priests, particularly Priests managers became bitter that administration of schools had been taken from their hands to be given to the Laity. The goal was to give Priests more time to focus on the pastoral and spiritual needs of the pupils, a task which only they could do as ordained ministers. Being a good thing I had to see it realized by taking some hard decisions against Principals who did not want change. A glaring example was Sasse College which led me to remove three Principals consecutively. My argument was that until I got the right person I would keep changing. And we finally got one who has since 2010 made all of us proud especially the SOBANS by bringing back Sasse as a School of Excellence and Standards.
Today, while some Dioceses are closing down schools, those of Buea Diocese are strong thanks to the fact the current Education Secretary continued with the reforms and has improved on them. The Common pool system for colleges and Primary School Districts is functioning well as we are able to pay all our teachers for 12 months; institutions have bursars and accountants, fees are now paid through the banks and Catholic teachers have ATM cards. The contracts of teachers have been modified to ensure job security, and the Economy of Communion Micro Finance created for teachers to enable them have access to loans and have a better life is running very well. In terms of statistics, Buea Diocese has 21 Nursery Schools and 81 Primary Schools making a total of 102 with 11 Secondary Schools all having both cycles.
When I took over, the government had a policy of recruiting most of our teachers. This was a huge crisis as without good teachers there is no assurance of quality education. I immediately opened the St John Bosco Teachers Training College to address the exodus of teachers to the government. Since its creation so many teachers have graduated and have helped to solve the problem of teachers. With regards to the need for the laity to know their faith, I also opened John Paul II Institute of Theology at Molyko. Now the institute has branches in Limbe and Kumba. These institutes were created to address particular needs as you have seen even though our detractors interpreted them as a deliberate attempt to downplay the work of my predecessor and split the Ecclesiastical Province of Bamenda since similar institutes were functioning in Bamenda and Kumbo.
c) University – The Catholic University Institute of Buea(CUIB)
Immediately I took office as Bishop of Buea, what struck me most was the struggle by many qualified students to gain admission into the University of Buea (UB), the then lone Anglosaxon University in Cameroon. I decided that the Diocese of Buea needed to have its own university that would admit some of the students so that they could realize their dreams of acquiring university education. So I put a committee in place and the project was worked out. In the meantime there was discussion going on about a University for the Ecclesiastical Province of Bamenda. I gave my 100 percent support to that project but felt that the Diocese should run its own separate from the Provincial University as the mission of both universities were different. CUIB was to focus on Job creation and employability. In that project, I did not need to consult any other authority because “Ex cordae Ecclesiae”, the Church’s document on Higher Education allows any Superior or Diocesan Bishop to own a University so long as it meets the National and Ecclesiastical standards. Based on my word to support the Provincial University 100 %, the Diocese supports the Provincial University project financially and currently we have three persons: two of our priests and the Finance Administrator working there. The current statistics from the Ministry of Higher Education shows that there are 174 Private Higher Educations Institutions in Cameroon, with the South West recording 20 and the North West Region 12. Is this not but wonderful that the oldest Diocese with the oldest Secondary school should run a university? Is Buea Diocese not capable?
I have a lot of good news for you about CUIB. Our university is making its mark and fulfilling the objectives for which it was established. CUIB was ranked as the no. 1 University in the South West Region by the Ministry of Higher Education. Currently, there are 1,300 students, with more than 100 Faculty and staff members. It is well known in the international world as it is the only African University that is a member of the prestigious Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities (ACCU) in the USA. On the 6th of December 2014, it graduated its First Batch of Seniors and Higher National Diploma students making a total of about 270. . Of this number, 11 percent are self-employed; 14 percent employed, 39 percent’ are doing graduate studies, 7 percent are on work experience and stand as potential employees to their companies, 11 percent working towards their admission in foreign universities and 18 percent are still undecided on what to do. CUIB’s management is solid with a Board of Trustees to oversee it.
The Bishop of the Diocese of Buea is the Chancellor of the University and Chairman of the Board of Trustees. The Board of Trustees appoints the President based on merit and the requirements set out by the Ministry of Higher Education. By Cameroon and international regulations, universities are juridic personalities having administrative, financial, and academic autonomy. This is important because in the event of any lawsuit, the Proprietor is not liable. Apart from the initial financial support that the Diocese put into the project at its inception in 2010, the university hasbeen running on its own financially without Diocesan support. It has started the process of acquiring a 40 hectre of land at Mokonje in Kumba, in the hope that CUIB will eventually expand to Kumba. 30 Million has been disbursed by the University to the Chief of Wokaka to acquire another 5 hectare of land at Molyko. The University has and is currently putting up more new buildings at theWokaka Campus, renovated the Molyko Campus, bought two 70 seater campus shuttle buses to convey faculty, staff and students from one campus to the other and have for all these years paid its workers based on the Cameron Government Salary Scale (bareme). On behalf of the Board of Trustees, I would like to thank the Administration of CUIB for making all of us proud and training our children to be job creators versus job seekers with spiritual and moral values who will contribute to the sustainable development of their communities.
- 3. PROJECTS
- a. Co-Cathedral Project
Before I took over from Bishop Pius Awa in 2007, he gave me before leaving the Bishop’s House, Soppo a plan for the renovation of the Regina Pacis Cathedral, Soppo, Buea. This renovation was going to take almost the same amount of money as a new one. So, I decided to engage instead in a co-cathedral project for the Diocese. Arrangements were made and the project was launched with a lot of enthusiasm from the whole Diocese. A lot has been accomplished. I thank the Priests, Religious brothers and sisters and the lay faithful for their contributions towards this project. The big challenge the project has experienced is mismanagement of the Funds. Right from the beginning we insisted that the Co-Cathedral project should have a separate account. This was done. It was adminster by the Diocesan Financial Administrators. Unfortunately, the Co-Cathedral accounts were poorly managed and every time the Diocesan committee members of the project met to discuss the finances, the records were never straight. There was always inconsistency in the co-cathedral income and expenditure statistics and all receipts were not available.
This precipitated my making changes in the Bishop’s house. A year ago I asked that an audit be carried out not only for the co-cathedral project but for all diocesan institutions. The audit report was not that wonderful. I replaced the financial secretary and instructed him to stay with me so that he would be able to defend the accounts. As I am talking with you, I know as he stated in a letter left at my table before departure without my knowledge and approval, he disappeared to the United States. It is alleged that he is in the United States.
We also agreed that we should buy building materials in China and assigned one of our Christians, Mr. Louis Ngalim to carry out this task worth 156 million. Mr. Ngalim has not fulfilled his own part of this engagement. Currently, measures are being taken to recover our money. This is what happens when we cannot even trust our own Christians. Should we give up due to these lapses? I say no! I have appointed a New Project Coordinator and intend to intensify the financial management team of the Co-Cathedral project. A team of external auditors has been put in place to constantly check and direct the income and expenditure related to this project. A distinct and new account has been created whereby subsequent contributions are being paid directly and receipts forwarded to the Bishop’s House. Satan cannot discourage us from moving forward. I am appealing to all Christians that we should draw a line and start afresh. For next year, parishes can give 25% of their harvest money to the Cathedral project. It is my hope that the new team will restore confidence and accountability.
- b. Lands
Since I took over we have tried to invest in the purchase of lands. The following lands have been acquired: Small Soppo: five hectares, Sand Pit, Sasse Village, Our Lady of Grace Shrine, Mevio-Sasse, Malingo with two houses on rents, New Town Limbe with two houses on rents, Wokaka I and Wokaka II (for CUIB).
- c. Finance
Due to the world financial crises, subvention that used to come from Rome dropped drastically and the trend now is that Dioceses must learn to be more active and independent in their financial management. This makes our Diocese to depend more on local contributions done by the Parishes, Institutions, Colleges and Schools. While Schools have done a lot to support the Diocese financially, a good number of Parishes and other institutions do not make their regular contributions to the Diocese. (See Appendix on the current situation).The financial situation shows that most of the institutions are practically depending on the Diocese for their activities. In such a system, without proper management and accountability there is bound to be cash flow problems.
Since I took over the finances of the Diocese have always been audited. Last year a major audit was done which led to the replacement of the Financial Administrator. It has indeed been very challenging for some of our Financial Administrators to manage the finances of the Diocese.Christians must understand that for the sake of people’s dignity, there are certain things that cannot be made public. There is no joy for a leader to make changes all the time. Those managing the finances of the Diocese since I took over as Bishop have never been the best.In administration it is difficult to keep persons who cannot execute the job as demanded by their office. It does not mean that they are bad priests. Specialized functions need not only persons with the knowledge but at least the goodwill to run them well. I have always given everyone whom I judge can carry out the function to do so. And like any leader, once you have justifiable reasons that things are not working well, you are bound to make the changes otherwise you will be accused of condoning wrongdoing. This is the reality as we have it. I will keep changing until we have the right persons. This is not the best of situations but the reality calls one to make such decisions. A way out is to get lay experts run these units but I continue to receive opposition from some clergy who think that these functions must be occupied by priests and that Buea Diocese is not ripe enough to have lay Financial Administrators and Chancellors as we have in some dioceses in the world. I hope the new Financial Administrator whom I just appointed will work hard to ensure that the new financial system put in place will be executed to the letter so that we can enjoy some stability.
- d. Challenges
The one great challenge that I have had as Bishop of Buea Diocese is resistance to change by a few clergy and some Lay Christ Faithful right from day one who did not like my appointment. This small group has continued to resist any change that I have carried out in the Diocese. Whatever I do is openly criticized and all kinds of interpretations given to discredit my service in the Diocese of Buea. These sentiments reached climax in October 2012 with the famous Memorandum of Diocesan Priests and other memoranda that were circulated publicly and sent to Rome requesting my removal from office. This group of persons has not stopped their agenda and will point accusing fingers to the Bishop or those whom they claim are collaborating with the Bishop.
A recent incident was the Death of Fr Denis Ndang (May his Soul Rest in Peace), which this group of persons hijacked and circulated all kinds of false information about his death via internet and social media. I have included in the appendix of this report a reaction to the debate that was on the internet written by someone who is not a Christian of Buea Diocese. The article is titled Bishop Bushu Bashing (BBB). It is very clear from the analysis of the writer that the agenda of these groups of persons (both clergy and laity) is to continuously create instability in the Diocese by circulating lies and foster “hate agenda” amongst Christians and Priests in the Diocese. This is the work of the Devil. To say the least, this group has gone to the extent of trying to cripple the Diocese financially.What I have seen is that they don’t want to give up and sometimes have become ruthless in their opposition.
- e. The way forward
Being the Bishop of the Diocese of Buea for more than 8 years, I am very aware that Buea Diocese, the oldest in Cameroon, is a great Diocese that is loved by many both within and without its geographical location. The Priests and Christians are very spiritual, hardworking, generous and devoted. Many Priests and Christians love their Diocese and are ready to make sacrifices to do great things for God. The Co-Cathedral project, the Schools and University Project, the 19 newly created parishes, the huge financial contributions made during harvest thanksgiving and other collections such as vocations’ collection, the rising number of Christians, catechumens and vocations in the last 5 years, the rising number of Priests ordained in the last 4 years and the excellent organizations of celebrations like the Year of Faith, ordinations and major feasts in the Diocese are living testimonies of the vibrancy and worth of its Priests, Christians and people of Goodwill. Many candidates for the Major Seminary and Religious Institutes and Priests continue to ask that I admit them into the Diocese. For now, I have many requests on hold. If this Diocese is that spiritually and financially bankrupt and that its Bishop is heading a “sinful Church” will you have these great things happening and more priests requesting to come and serve in the Diocese? This brings me to ponder and ask myself: What is the problem and where is the problem? Why can’t we accept change? Why did the Holy Father appoint a Bishop from outside the Diocese? Why can’t we acknowledge diversity? Why this constant and negative bashing of the Diocese? Why can’t we set aside our differences and work for the common good? Why can’t we work together? Why not a common front?
Today at this First Annual State of the Diocese of Buea Conference I thank you all for your presence and attention. Now is the occasion for everyone who wishes to intervene to do. We have one hour for our interventions. My humble appeal to everyone of us is that we should continue to go on working as a people of God knowing that we will never be different from our Master who faced the same kind of rejection from the Scribes and Pharisees. And like Christ, let us learn to say “Forgive them, for they not know what they are doing” and keep on serving God with joy.
Brothers and sisters, I thank you once more for coming to this first ever organised Annual State of the Diocese of Buea Conference. It has been a pleasure and joy to share with you some of the things we have been doing together for the last 8 years. It is often said “better late than never”. I would like that Parishes and Diocesan Institutions and groups should indicate in their yearly calendar a day of this nature where Christians are given an update of what is going on in their respective Parishes, groups or institutions. This is part of our duty as stewards who have been entrusted with this awesome and delicate task to render an account of our stewardship to those we serve, our masters and mistresses, lay faithful. Remember that it is not popular opinions and polls that matter in God’s house. The Catholic Church is not a democracy. What we have to do is stand by the truth and share the truth in love and justice. Let us continue to forge ahead and not be intimidated by a few. Let us continue to work together as a Church knowing that it is not about our comfort or security but about the common good, the good of all God’s people in the Diocese of Buea.
May the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and the Divine mercy to whom our Diocese is consecrated assist us. Amen.
God bless you all.
+Immanuel B. Bushu
Bishop of the Diocese of Buea.