Posted on May 21, 2019 By Fada Herbert in Human Interest
On Sunday 4th May 2019, his Lordship Andrew Nkea inaugurated the Our Lady of Fatima shrine at Mboka,
in the Diocese of Mamfe. Below is a report of the historic event as recounted for Cameroon panorama by
Fr Herbert Niba
Anyone who travelled along the Kumba-Mamfe highway between 8am and 3pm on Sunday 4th May 2019, must have witnessed an extraordinary sight. To any attentive traveller, Mboka is nothing other than one of the small villages between Manyemen and Nguti, a Bassosi settlement found at the heart of the dense equatorial forest linking Kupe Maneguba division and Manyu division. But history records that it's small size often hides it's potential. 80 years ago, some hunters from Nfaitock area found Mboka rich in reserves for hunting, and so settled in the hinterland at Oteke, and only relocated to the current settlement, with the construction of the new Kumba-Mamfe road. This new road network makes visible only over 30houses of Mboka, making the village more or less similar to its counterparts like Betock, Edango, Efripabi, Ekenge all found along Manyemen-Nguti highway. Like Bethlehem, the least of King David's cities, which rose to prominence because of the birth of Saviour (Micah 5:1), Mboka too has been been christianed "The City of God, with the official inauguration of the Our Lady of Fatima shrine.
The Solemn Holy Mass to launch this occasion started at 10.45am, just enough time to enable the punctual pilgrims to make prayerful walk about the spiritually charged environment, and also await a mixed delegation of the Catholic Men's Association from Yaounde, who arrived in song, preceded by a convoy accompanying the Senior Divisional Officer of Kupe Maneguba, Mr Augustine Teanchu. Concelebrating with the Bishop of Mamfe was emeritus Bishop Francis Lysinge, Bishop Barthelemy Yaouda, bishop of Yagoua, and some 35 priests from in and out of Mamfe Diocese. The assembly was a roll call of Catholic faithful from the books and crannies of Mamfe Diocese, identifiable by the attires of their respective apostolic groups, religious men and women, local civil and traditional authorities, and inhabitants and elites of Nguti sub-division as a whole, both Catholic and non-Catholic.
The dedication of a Church, is one of the most solemn rites in the Catholic Liturgy. The variety of locations which made up the shrine, and which all had to be inaugurated that day, added more spiritual grandeur to the event. The ceremony started on the esplanade of the principal chapel, with the cutting of the ribbon. After the presentation of the keys by the architect, and an introductory prayer, Mgr Nkea pushed open the doors with a triple tap of his Pastoral staff, and led the procession in with a jubilant chorus of: "Yes, we will enter your house with happiness" (Cameroon Hymnal, 22). The assembly quickly overfilled the seats of oval-shaped Chapel, with a crowd digitally following the ceremony from outside.
In his homily, Mgr Nkea made a commentary on the appellation "Our Lady of Fatima Shrine, Mboka". He spelt out that the construction of a shrine, which is a holy place chosen and consecrated for prayer, is the prerogative of a Diocesan Bishop. Beginning with the link between the 6 apparitions of Our Lady to the 3 shepherd children at Fatima from 13th May to 13th October 1917, to the attempted assassination of Pope John Paul II on 13th May 1981, (which was foretold by Our Lady), Mgr Nkea explained why May and October have become Marian months to Catholics. He said just as our Lady interceded at Fatima in 1917, at the heart of the first World War, so too will she intervene for Cameroon through the prayers that will be made in this shrine, a place where all generations will call her Blessed" (Lk:1.48).
He acknowledged the donations from Rome and other (mostly) local benefactors. What had started over 6yrs back, at the suggestion by Mr Johnson Okie, National President of CMA, and an indigene) for the construction of a Catholic Church in a predominantly Protestant Mboka, had over time been transformed by God into the idea of a Diocesan shrine he had initially planned to construct at Lekie, in Fontem deanery. The Bishop ended his 42mins homily, by proclaiming a bi-annual Diocesan Pilgrimage to that shrine to take place every 13th May and 13th Oct, and challenged Mboka Christians not to be left behind, when pilgrims from far and wide shall come to partake in the miracles the Lord shall work there.
After the homily, 2 seminarians sang the Litany of the Saints to invoke the intercession of heaven. Next, Mgr Nkea anointed thinvoke altar and the walls of the church with holy chrism, as the assembly invoked the Holy Spirit by singing "Veni Creator Spiritu". Mgr Yaouda then incensed the altar and the walls, before the candles, linens and decorations were placed to adorn the altar as at every Mass.
Apart from the alms and sacred gifts brought at the offertory, the National office of the Catholic Men's Association donated a human size statue of St Joseph and the infant Jesus, which was unveiled blessed and installed on the sanctuary. After Holy Communion Tabernacle was blessed and the sacred species reserved in a moment of silent adoration.
At this point, Mgr Nkea gave a vote of thanks to the priests of Nguti Deanery, the civil and traditional authority, Mboka villagers, the choir and all others of the organising committee who had made that historic day a success. Holy Mass gave way by 2pm for an exit procession with the statue of Our Lady of Fatima, that had just been blessed and crowned.
This procession took place along the 2 principal boulevards of the shrine. From the principal chapel, the celebrants and assembly moved on leftwards while chanting Marian hymns and waving white handkerchiefs, untill the Bishop blessed the grotto of our Lady of Fatima and installed the corresponding statue. From then, the procession went right to accompany the Bishops as they took the Blessed Sacrament from the principal chapel and processed to the chapel of Perpetual Adoration amidst Eucharistic hymns. Once again, Mgr Yaouda blessed the Tabernacle, while Mgr Nkea installed the Blessed Sacrament. It was after these two processions, that the final blessing and commemorative photographs were taken. The historic event ended with lunch, that was visibly in ample supply.
In addition to the the grotto of our Lady of Fatima and the Chapel of Perpetual Adoration, the Shrine also disposes of a hostel and 14 human size images of the Way of the Cross, that climax at a Calvary representation. Souvenirs as well as books and sacramentals are also obtainable from a gift shop at the right of the principal chapel.
At the end of the ceremony pilgrims from afar took up their seats in their respective buses and cars to take their respective destinations. They were escorted by a convoy of the uniform officers who all the while had kept guard at the peripheries to ensure a hitch-free celebration. As the pilgrims left, one message could be read from their faces: utter satisfaction for having witnessed something beautiful done by God at Mboka, and the deep resolve to go and tell others to "Come and See" (Jn1.39) and be blessed.
By Fr. Herbert Niba
I used to think the Stations of the Cross were a devotion for lent only; but reading the lives of the saints totally changed my mind. In "The Way of the Cross in the footsteps of St John Paul II", discover how everyday life events can be an invitation to follow Christ more closely and love him more dearly. It's a rich spiritual meal served with touching stories. It will be released soon!!