Interviewed by Jude Abanseka
How did you receive news of your appointment as new Bamenda Auxiliary Bishop?
My appointment came to me as a surprise. I was really shocked and speechless. I think it is in the spirit of total humility because I pondered about my background and I saw my ignorance. I thought of how knowledgeable the other priests, who have been in the ministry for years and have sacrificed a lot for the Church, are. Then I asked myself, why me and not one of the others. Then the story of David as the choice of king came to my mind. His father presented different choices but the prophet looked at them all and said God`s choice was not among. Then David, the little shepherd nobody thought about, turned out to be the right choice. At the end of the day I said if God is calling me, it means He will give me the grace to do whatever He wants me to do. This is how I look at it; knowing that I have given my life to the Church for almost 17 years now. I will be exactly 17 years in the priesthood on April 26, 2017.It has always been in my mind that wherever my bishop sends me to work, I must obey him. I must do the work God wants me to do using my own God-given gifts and talents. But at the same time, I did not expect I will be appointed bishop. From time to time people made the mistake of calling me “Monsignor” or “My Lord” and I always thought it could be because I am the Chancellor of Bamenda Archdiocese. I always felt they were joking and that was how I took it each time I was called that way. Well, I thank God for calling me into the Episcopate. I count very much on the Archbishop`s, all priests, the religious and the laity of Bamenda Archdiocese`s support so that together we can continue with the work of proclaiming the Good News of Christ to the ends of the world.
My Lord, how psychologically prepared are you to take up the new office?
Well, honestly, just a few hours after my appointment, I am still like living in a dream world. When somebody calls me “My Lord,” I turn around spontaneously to see if some other person is standing near me and when I do not see anyone else, that is when it comes to my mind that I am the one they are referring to. Even this morning when I celebrated Mass, it happened that I was the one to take the section where the Pope and the local bishop has to be mentioned and found myself calling the Archbishop’s name and mine. Well, I think very soon I will get used to. I need to take time to accept that God has chosen me to be His servant at this level.
You lived with the former Bamenda Auxiliary Bishop for five years before he was appointed Pioneer Kumba Bishop. Do you already have an idea of some of the functions you are expected to take up as Auxiliary Bishop of Bamenda?
Well, an Auxiliary Bishop is an assistant bishop and as you have said, I lived with Bishop Agapitus Nfon for five years when he was Auxiliary Bishop. I used to be involved when he and the Archbishop were drawing their programme of work on the administration of the diocese, pastoral visits and other duties. So I know part of my job will be to continue with administrative work and at the same time be involved in lots of pastoral visits. For now, we are still working on the pastoral and liturgical calendar and immediately we tidy that up, we would be able to decide who does what and who goes where for the ongoing pastoral year.
So, what becomes of your functions as Chancellor of Bamenda Archdiocese, Bamenda Maryvale Institute Director and Bambui Major Seminary lecturer?
I still carry on with my duties as of now. I have classes from this afternoon till Saturday and I have to be there. I will continue working as Chancellor till the Archbishop appoints another person. Besides, the Bishop’s Secretary has been working with me closely, so if I am not there, he knows what to do. I cannot say exactly where I will be or not be three months to my Episcopal Ordination because my programme will be unstable. It is only after my Consecration that my programme may become stable. But I am a priest and one of my main duties is to teach. So, whoever becomes the Director of Maryvale Institute can always ask for my services and I will be available. Sometimes I used to ask the Archbishop of Bamenda and the Bishop of Mamfe to teach and they did it. We pray and hope to get a new Bamenda Maryvale Institute Director. The next residential comes up in April and my consecration would have taken place. If by then we have had a new director, fine, if not, I will just continue functioning as teacher and director. Like I said, one of my principal duties as a priest is to teach.
My Lord, considering the standards you have already set for catecheses, who will you propose as your successor at Maryvale Institute?
We have a priest in Maryvale Birmingham, Fr. Emmanuel Seningka who has been taking a Masters programme for the past two years in Catechesis, which is the same thing I did and he shall finish his studies in eight months. There is also Fr. Bonaventure Ndong who has done the same programme and shall be coming back to Cameroon in August if all goes well. The director of any of Maryvale’s institutes anywhere is supposed to have been trained by Maryvale, Birmingham. So, one of these two priests can become Maryvale director. In the meantime, I am working with Rev. Frs. Stanley Njobarah and Elijah Fru, while Mgr. Sanosi is now director of the Pastoral Centre that hosts Maryvale Institute. So, I think everything is fitting into place. Like I said already, I am not out of the house.
So, having been in the house for this long and having been a priest of the Archdiocese for 17 years, how would you react to speculations that you are being prepared to succeed Archbishop Cornelius?
This is the Metropolitan See of the Bamenda Ecclesiastical Province and I think an experienced bishop is in a better position to succeed the present Archbishop and not me who has just begun. The Church has variety and when time comes, I am sure among the proposals that would have been made, the Holy Father in his wisdom will be able to choose whoever suits the position of chief shepherd of Bamenda Archdiocese. I am just the Auxiliary Bishop of Bamenda and not the coadjutor. So, I am not being prepared to succeed Archbishop Esua, but I have been appointed to assist him. Wherever the spirit assigns you, you just have to go. I know people are making a lot of speculations and this is just human and normal. The way the Church thinks is not the way Christians do. If Christians were asked to choose an Auxiliary Bishop for Bamenda, I do not think my name would even have featured on a long list of possible choices. However, my prayer is for all of us to work together following the theme of our centenary “We are fellow workers with God” 1Cor.3:9.
When will you be consecrated bishop and have you chosen your motto?
According to Canon Law, the Episcopal Ordination has to take place within three months after the appointment. The latest date should therefore be April 24, 2017. After a recent meeting with the Archbishop, the Board of Consultants and the Laity Council, it was agreed that my Episcopal Consecration shall take place on Saturday, March 25, 2017, Solemnity of the Annunciation. I have chosen “Sanctifica eos in veritate”, which means, Consecrate them in the truth, John17:17, as my motto