July 20, 2014, Bishop Sosthène Léopold Bayemi Matjei, the Ordinary of the Diocese of Obala, established in Minkama a new parish under the title of St. John Paul II and entrusted it into the care of the Congregation of Marian Fathers. The new parish was formerly a part of the vast parish of the Holy Mother of God in Obala. For over two years, our Congregation has been involved in pastoral work in the Minkama area. Every Saturday and Sunday priests and seminarians from Ngoya–Yaoundé (the location of our Marian seminary for Africa) commuted to Minkama. On Saturdays clerics met with the youth and children groups, and on Sundays priests celebrated the Eucharist.
Father Christopher Pazio, MIC, became the pastor of the newly established St. John Paul II parish, while Fr. Cyril Augustine Bounoungou, MIC, who received his priestly ordination on June 28, 2014, was named his vicar. Father Cyril is the second Cameroonian ordained in our Congregation. During the first month of our ministry, we commuted to the parish from Ngoya, but in September, we took up residence in a house provided by the retired commissioner of police, who usually lives in the capital city of Yaoundé.
The first three months in the new parish were a time of intensive work, because we had to organize parish structures, as well as hold elections for the parish council and various committees stipulated by the statutes of the Obala Diocese. It was necessary to plaster and paint the walls at least inside the chapel, which became our provisional parish church; to lay a concrete floor, to install doors and the tabernacle; to improve the electrical system, and to furnish the sacristy so that we could keep the liturgical vestments there. During this time, Fr. Cyril and I visited all the settlements and villages within the parish area and met with members of various movements and the Catholic Action groups.
The solemn inauguration of the newly established parish was combined with its Patronal feast on the liturgical commemoration of St. John Paul II, which has been moved for pastoral reasons to Sunday, October 26, 2014. The ceremony brought together the faithful from all settlements and villages. The parish council invited to the event “the elite” – parish natives who now hold various important positions in the state administration. Among them were: Mrs. Miriam Etoga, the honorary Polish consul in Cameroon, the minister of sport, a delegate to the Cameroon parliament, and representatives of state administration from Obala.
Celebrations opened Saturday evening with Holy Mass presided over by Fr. Cyril; it was followed by the all-night prayer vigil. Sunday Mass was presided over by Fr. Christopher Pazio, MIC. After the president of the parish greeted the faithful and guests, the installation of the relic of St. John Paul II took place. The Minkama parish received the relic from Cardinal Stanislaus Dziwisz, through the mediation of Fr. John Rokosz, MIC, and Br. Andrew Mączyński, MIC. The installation of the relic was preceded by an introduction delivered by Fr. Gregory Myłek, MIC, who explained what the relics are and why we honor them. He also read Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz’s letter, certifying the authenticity of the relic, which is a drop of St. John Paul II’s blood. Accompanied by the joyful singing of the faithful, the relic was brought into the church and set down by the image of St. John Paul II. Father Paul Rawski MIC, Superior House of Formation in Ngoya and Prefect of seminarians, delivered a homily, in which he spoke about the parish patron – St. John Paul II and the charism of our Congregation, which communicates a special character to our ministry among the faithful of the Minkama parish. After the general petitions, we blessed the new tabernacle made out of sapeli wood. At the close of Mass, the faithful had an opportunity to pay homage by kissing the relic of St. John Paul II. The event was concluded with a communal meal organized by the parish council and the Catholic Action groups.
The Minkama parish celebrations became a major opportunity to spread devotion to St. John Paul II, and to promote our Congregation. In their Sunday and Monday evening news, the Cameroon TV station Canal 2 Internationalpresented a comprehensive report about our celebrations.
We entered the time of intense pastoral work of integrating the newly formed parish and providing special pastoral care to the region’s youth and children who are jeopardized by drugs, prostitution, and other crimes. As we build the parish structures (a religious house, church, meeting halls), Bishop of Obala wishes that we consider creating a technical school for the youth, where they could develop their manual skills and prepare themselves better for the life ahead.
To carry out this new work entrusted to the Marians in Cameroon, we need above all the great spiritual support of our friends and benefactors. We also need their financial assistance based on their ability for the construction of the new mission. We gratefully remember in our daily prayers every kind gesture of support.
Fr. Christopher Pazio, MIC