“I am fighting to save lives, and I need your help!”
These are the desperate words that I received in a letter recently from Father Pamphile Tselele, CICM, one of our missionary priests in the Archdiocese of Yaoundé, Cameroon, Central Africa. He is the pastor of Our Lady of Loreto Parish there.
The story he tells about the dire situation in his parish territory (about 6 miles from downtown Yaoundé) makes one’s heart bleed. Here is how he puts it:
This population lives in a very bad condition.
It is composed of many young people. Unemployment is unusually high. None of my parishioners receives a salary at the end of the month. Everyone does little odd jobs in order to get paid a miserable one-day wage. Many do small farm work which is not enough to support their families. Those looking for daily work in the city center often come back home in the evening empty-handed.
The road to the urban center is so bad that taxis rarely agree to make the trip to or from Yaoundé. Even transport by motorcycle often ends in fatal accidents due to the mud or dust on these awful roads not maintained by the government. The people do not hope for anything from the government.
It is total despair.
Men and women are losing more and more of their taste for living because of extreme poverty. There is often no optimism and no hope about the future.
This despair affects even their faith. Many families have abandoned the faith of the Church. They turn to witchcraft practices and messianic movements. It is in the midst of this growing group of socially disadvantaged and financially desperate people that the Islamic fundamentalists like BOKO HARAM (the Islamic state in Central Africa) recruit followers by paying a small sum to the family as they indoctrinate their young and teenage children.
Many other young people, for survival, turn to prostitution, drug trafficking, banditry and armed robbery. So, the very first victims of this crisis are young people primarily.
Father Pamphile’s poignant plea for help is painfully compelling, painfully motivating.
But the amazing thing is what he wants to do about it: build new halls for multiple catechesis groups!
This may sound a bit odd as a practical solution to the desperate social situation. But perhaps not! He believes it is the core solution, the “starting point” as he puts it.
“If we do not do something, this generation will be sacrificed. The Church will miss its vocation to be the sacrament of salvation. This is why, as a priest, I am fighting to save lives, and I need your help!”
Many of our young people lose their Christian faith, are brainwashed and forced to join the Islamic sect Boko Haram. There are almost daily unreported suicide attacks by fighters of Boko Haram, creating a climate of total insecurity. Young people join these movements because of the despair caused by horrible living conditions and a serious lack of adult supervision.
To respond to this very serious social crisis two years ago at Our Lady of Loreto, we started a major catechetical program and we have 130 catechumens of a wide variety of ages this year. And next year we expect this outreach to continue to expand. But our capacity for meeting rooms is very limited and WE NEED HALLS!
Sometimes we are forced to put five or six different age groups of young people in the church, mixing everyone together in a rather small wooden room that is already in a dilapidated state that is not the most productive way to learn.
Here is what Father Pamphile has on the drawing board and needs our help to accomplish:
Our project involves rebuilding the wooden room to make it more useful and divide it into three or four different smaller rooms…and then renovating another old house on the parish grounds to transform it into multiple rooms that can accommodate 30 or 40 young people each. Ultimately we need to have six or seven rooms for our robust catechetical program.
Father Pamphile’s strategy is brilliant, and is at the heart of what our Church is really all about. The only viable long-term solution to the tragic situation of the people in his parish is a solid catechesis that focuses on the youth, the future of the church and of the country.
Yes, the crisis is at its heart social, financial, and governmental. Father Pamphile is acutely aware of that and is working among his people to do what they all can to address those issues of basic survival. But, in the long run, as Father Pamphile says,
“The real danger is when they are left to themselves and are sorely tempted to succumb to the pressures of those who want to prey on them. Spiritually, the Church desires to work especially with young people of all ages, in collaboration with families, first by an appropriate catechism which will enable the young to rediscover the fundamentals of the Christian faith, show them the place of God, the meaning of life, and above all to restore their confidence.”
What you can do to help
The total cost of the project to update, expand and renovate the halls for multi-level catechesis is $30,656. Father Pamphile has (amazingly) been able to raise $12,143 locally for this project. He is asking for help from our friends in the U.S. of $18,513. This is the focus of this special appeal at this time. Can you help?
Your generous and prayerful response to this appeal for help will be a concrete act of mercy during this Jubilee of Mercy year that Pope Francis announced on December 8, 2015. Thank you so much for prayerfully considering the practical and spiritual needs of your brothers and sisters in Cameroon.
United in faith, prayer and action,
Fr. Randy Gonzales, CICM
Director of Development
Will you help support Fr. Tselele’s mission in Cameroon by making a small
gift of $5?