Interviewed by John Neba and Ireneaus Chongwain Chia
News of the creation of the Kumba Diocese is still fresh in the minds of many Christians especially those of Kumba who had longed for a diocese for over ten (10) years. The Holy Father Pope Francis did not only create the diocese, but also appointed Mgr. Agapitus Enuyehnyoh Nfon, former Auxiliary Bishop of Bamenda, as its first Bishop. L’Effort Camerounais caught with Bishop Agapitus and sought to know from him how prepared he is to take up his new duty as pioneer Bishop for Kumba, among other concerns. Excerpts:
My Lord, how did you receive news of your appointment as the Bishop of Kumba Diocese?
It came to me as a surprise. I was a bit confused and, of course, feeling that it is a big responsibility. I wondered how prepared I am for it. It is the natural reaction every human being will have when such a big responsibility is put on his shoulders.
How did it come as a surprise when you have been serving as the Auxiliary Bishop of Bamenda since 2011? Do you not already have the needed experience?
It was a surprise, of course. I thought I will either replace the Archbishop or be transferred to an existing diocese and a more mature bishop of our province will come to Bamenda as the Archbishop. I did not expect that a diocese will be created and I will be sent there.
How are you looking forward to taking up your pastoral ministry as the pioneer Bishop of Kumba Diocese?
I feel encouraged with the reactions and messages I have received from people. I equally consider that there are some strong and dynamic priests in Kumba. I taught some of them in the Bambui Major Seminary. I already feel at home and ready to work hard with the priests. The lay faithful are also very dynamic as a number of them are very eager to welcome me. This gives me a lot of courage to know that I am being awaited and they are ready to work with me.
Have you visited Kumba since you were appointed Bishop?
I have not yet visited Kumba, but I am already working with some of the priests especially those in the main parishes in Kumba. I have asked them to keep me updated and to begin preparing for my installation which will come up on May 7, 2016. I hope to be in Kumba by the end of April.
How do you see your pastoral ministry given that Kumba is a new diocese?
It is very challenging. Every pastor struggles to do his work according to the mind of the Church and the mind of Christ. I am already twenty five (25) years old as a priest and almost five years as a bishop. I have been faithful in my duty, not by my own strength, but by God’s grace. I believe that He will continue assisting me in carrying out my work faithfully. I will not say successfully because the important thing is to be faithful in what I do.
Do you have the required number of priests, religious, lay faithful and infrastructure for Kumba Diocese to start hitch free?
I have never known of a required number of priests or parishes to start a diocese, but if I compare Kumba with Mamfe Diocese which started with only seven(7) parishes and Kumbo Diocese which started with nine(9) parishes, Kumba Diocese is already on a good footing as it has twenty(20) parishes. Kumba is in a better position than Mamfe and Kumbo Dioceses when they were created. Kumba Diocese has about thirty eight (38) priests, but I do not think there were up to twenty (20) priests in the other two dioceses when they started. For personnel and parishes, there is still a lot of work to be done. Structures will come with time. God’s people have been waiting for the creation of the Kumba Diocese for the past ten (10) years as I heard them say. If they have been waiting, then they should be prepared as well. I believe that when we start, work will move on fast. The main structures will be put in place with time.
It is true you have not yet been installed, but do you already have any pastoral vision for your diocese?
It will not really be a new vision as such. In the Ecclesiastical Province of Bamenda we have the Provincial Pastoral Plan in which we set up Small Christian Communities with the various commissions that touch the lives of Christians, not only spiritually, but also in the area of development and materially so that they should live an integral life. The lay faithful run these commissions when we set them up and priests only guide them. So, it is the same pastoral strategy that I am going to use in Kumba Diocese. Nothing is actually new. We just need to implement the Provincial Pastoral Plan so that all should know that they are part of the Church. Gone are those days that the Church was a bishop and priests. The Church is the people of God.
How do you feel leaving Bamenda Archdiocese after serving there as Auxiliary Bishop since 2011?
We are all humans. Wherever you live; even just for a week, you have memories. I have been in Bamenda for close to fifteen (15) years, ten (10) years at the Major Seminary in Bambui and five (5) years as Auxiliary Bishop. I have also been very useful to the priests and Archbishop Esua who sent me to the Major Seminary and ordained me priest. I have had good moments with him in Kumbo Diocese and in Bamenda Archdiocese. So as humans it is difficult to part company with someone you have shared your life with for many years. I have also worked with the priests and wonderful lay faithful in Bamenda who are spiritually and materially supportive. So, it is not easy leaving them. I will miss them but since we are missionaries, we must be ready to move whenever the Church calls.
As a pastor and shepherd of God’s people, have you any message for Christians on this Year of Mercy?
God is all merciful and loving and He is a just God. I urge our Christians all over Cameroon to be merciful as the Father is merciful. None of us has a reason to hold anybody at heart because God is good to us. If we were to keep count of the wrongs we have done, none of us will qualify to enter God’s kingdom. We therefore need to be loving and compassionate towards one another to create a wonderful society in which to live happily.