There are ten specified regions of Cameroon that are divided into 58 departments. The Kadey department, in the East region of Cameroon, is where the village of Gadji can be found. It is located virtually halfway between the cities of Bertoua (largest and capital city of the East region) and Batouri (the second largest city of the region): Gadji is roughly 30 miles from each. Gadji’s population is approximately 3,850, where the majority are young people under the age of eighteen.
Currently, there are five religious groups with a presence in the Gadji area.
The Seventh Day Adventist Church, the Roman Catholic Church, Islam, the Presbyterian Church, and traditional indigenous religion. In this rural environment, most people depend on subsistence farming for their livelihood.
About 55% of the children attend primary school, and only 50% continue to the secondary level. Enrollment is higher for the boys than the girls, and estimates indicate about 35% of the youth are illiterate. Many children do not complete their cycles of primary or secondary study because they are needed to help their families with agricultural or other work; the girls also often leave school because they are sent off to marry prematurely.
Despite the presence of a secondary school here, the young people of Gadji are not familiar with computers.
Access to computers and the Internet is only available in the bigger cities of the region. It is in this context that Missionhurst-CICM began to expand our work in this part of the diocese of Batouri.
The CICM priests of St. Martin parish of Batouri had been attending to Gadji and various other villages throughout the large diocese for some time. But the needs of this and several other surrounding communities commanded more attention and resources. So in October of 2012, Our Lady of Peace was born as a separate parish in the village of Gadji.
This new parish in the diocese of Batouri covers the eight villages of Bakombo, Bandongoe, Dalinguene, Sak Tikondi, Gadji, Mobe, Banyo, Fio. Each of these villages has a Basic Ecclesial Community (BEC), except in Gadji Center where there are three BECs. Our Lady of Peace in Gadji currently supports a total of eleven Ecclesial Communities, and the number of Catholic faithful is around 400.
Our two major areas of focus are Pastoral and Socio-educational.
Our pastoral challenges center on celebrating our faith through the regular offering of the sacraments, especially the Eucharist, and creating accessible human and spiritual support within the community. We are keenly aware of the importance of consistent prayer and of expanding our pastoral outreach for the renewal of faith and Christian life.
We continue to equip Our Lady of Peace parish with the necessary liturgical materials for the chapels where Mass is celebrated, and we strive to be present and visible for the faithful in their chapels and villages. We have established serious ongoing training in order to provide opportunities for conscious and dignified participation in the liturgy.
Above all, we want to welcome and strengthen connections within the Catholic community, which is in the minority among other religions and denominations in the region. Finally, we are working to provide consistent pastoral companionship with the youth of the parish: whose personal and spiritual growth will empower them in their own lives.
Our Socio-educational challenges primarily concern the youth of the parish.
Indeed, Gadji is a village deeply embedded in traditional customs, especially with respect to education. Because we live in a community where school enrollment is very low, we see the impact of illiteracy, and the lack of options resulting from the absence of formalized education or skills training for many of the people.
Education in reading, writing and basic computer skills is vital to the hope of a better future for our community. Rather than focusing on the individual gains to be made, we are involved in promoting the idea that quality education made available to our young people can serve the common good.
There is just one local junior high school here that offers computer classes. Ironically, the school does not have any computer equipment. Students attend lectures but never actually have access to a computer! In a world where computing is ubiquitous and an integral skill in the job market, we cannot ignore the importance of acquainting the youth with this modern tool.
Our young parishioners are anxious for a chance to participate fully in their education, but when it comes to computer skills they simply lack the requisite resources. That is why we have developed a parish computer center that will help enrich their understanding and training through basic familiarity, keyboarding, software and later, the Internet.
We are advocating and facilitating not just computer training, but all areas of education to our parish community wherever possible.
It is one way to help combat the prevailing illiteracy and obscurantism that so many impoverished communities like Gadji experience. Our Socio-educational goal then is to accompany and alleviate the further marginalization of the youth in this community.
The Church in Cameroon, as in the rest of the world, depends on the young pilgrims of faith who are being formed today. It is our responsibility to help build a solid foundation that they will need for full participation in their own lives and in the life of their faith community.
We thank the compassionate supporters of Missionhurst missionaries, who enable us to walk with and assist these young disciples and missioners of tomorrow.
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