In February of this year a delegation from the Diocese was due to travel to Bamenda to meet members of the community and visit various projects that we as a Diocese have been supporting in the fields of Education, Health Faith and Social Welfare.
Unfortunately, because of tension between the Government and the Anglophone area, of which Bamenda is a part, the trip had to be cancelled having regard to the advice of the Foreign Office not to travel unless considered essential. At the present time school teachers and the legal profession are on strike and all schools are closed. Naturally the cancellation was a huge disappointment to all of the delegation particularly those going to Bamenda for the first time. We pray that a peaceful solution to the situation can be reached in the near future enabling a new visit to be arranged.
In early March we were thrilled to learn that Father Michael Bibi, with whom the Portsmouth Bamenda Committee has worked closely for many years, was to be ordained Auxiliary Bishop of Bamenda on March 25th 2017. In consultation with Bishop's House in Bamenda I decided, as Chair of the Portsmouth Bamenda Committee, to accept the invitation to attend the ordination.
Below is a summary of my visit.
Having left home in the early hours of March 22nd for Heathrow, and after an uneventful flight, I arrived at Douala that evening to be met by Pius, the diocesan driver. We immediately set out for Bamenda. Normally we would spend the night in Douala but because the next day was to be a Ghost Day (this is a day when all shops, businesses and any other activities are shut down as a form of protest against the Government) Archbishop Cornelius thought it more prudent for me to travel through the night. I arrived at 2.00 am to be warmly greeted by Fathers Michael and Cletus eventually getting to bed at 3.00 am.
After a good rest it was fascinating to see the preparations being made for the ordination ceremony which was to be held in the open air, provision being made for approx. 10,000 people.
The great day arrived fresh and cool after the rains of the night before and after a ceremony lasting from 9 am to 2 pm and in the presence of a cardinal, some 20 bishops and archbishops, over 200 hundred priest and the same number of nuns, the Prime Minister, the Governor, traditional chiefs and many other organizations, not to mention the 10,000 plus people attending, Father Michael was ordained Auxiliary Bishop Michael Miabesue Bibi of Bamenda.
Father Michael's ordination was celebrated with the greatest enthusiasm particularly because he is a son of Bamenda where he was born ,raised and educated and where he has been ministering in the Diocese for the past 10 years. I could not help becoming aware of the love and affection for Bishop Michael with all the paraphernalia produced to commemorate the occasion, ranging from Tee shirts, dresses, shirts adorned with pictures of Bishop Michael along with pens ,biographies and shopping bags. I tried to envisage people in Portsmouth walking around with pictures of Bishop Philip on their tee shirts but failed (just not our style).
During the course of the many speeches both Archbishop Cornelius and Bishop Michael went out of their to acknowledge the close ties between our two dioceses and to thank Portsmouth for all their help and support over the past 40 years.
On Sunday the 26th Bishop Michael celebrated his first mass as Bishop in the Cathedral, this Mass only lasted just under 3 hours!!
In the course of my visit I have been meeting lots of old friends who all regret we have not been able to come as a delegation because of the current situation. For the moment the schools remain closed with the teachers and lawyers on strike.
During my brief stay I managed to go to Bamessing to see the work on phase one of the new Health Centre which is almost completed .The next step will be to furnish the centre with beds, furniture, medical equipment and everything else that is needed for the Centre to function. I also managed to visit visit St Paul's Secondary School, Nkwem regarding the provision of a water supply and another water project at St Blaise Hospital, Mankon. I also took the opportunity to meet up with members of the Bamenda Portsmouth Committee to discuss various issues.
All too soon it was time to go. On March 28th I left Bamenda for the 6 hour journey to Douala and the night back to Heathrow via Paris eventually arriving home tired but grateful that I had had the opportunity and privilege to attend the ordination of a great friend to me and the Diocese.