By Martin Jumbam
The Chaplaincy of the Lay Apostolate of the Archdiocese of Douala has begun a series of formation sessions for leaders of ecclesial movements, groups and associations operating in the Archdiocese. Some months ago, the Archbishop of Douala, His Grace Samuel Kleda, commissioned his Vicar General, Monsignor Fidelis Mabegle, to make an inventory of all movements, groups and associations, in parishes throughout the Archdiocese, to determine which could truly be considered ecclesial, and which not. The Archbishop was clearly alarmed by the proliferation of such movements, groups and associations in the Archdiocese, some not even being able to clearly identify their spirituality or charism.
To help rein in such groups and separate the genuine from the not-so-genuine, the Archbishop created, for the first time in the Archdiocese of Douala, a chaplaincy entirely dedicated to the lay apostolate. At its head, he appointed Monsignor Richard Mbouta, the parish priest of Saint Monica Parish in Makepe, who also doubles as the Episcopal Vicar (Dean) for the Douala 4 Zone (Deanery).
To help speed up
the inventory of existing groups, movements and associations, the Vicar General
appointed a team of lay men and women, led by Mr. Irenée Kola who, with his
wife Aicha, runs the Archdiocesan Family Apostolate, to ensure that the leaders
of the various groups, movements and associations are properly formed so they will
clearly understand the spirituality of their groups. In turn, such leaders are
expected to actively form the members of their respective groups, movements, or
associations so they can fully understand the role expected of them in church and in civil society.
The formation sessions, which are scheduled to run through December 2013, hold every two months, the overall theme, from which sub-themes are developed, being “As Christ’s lay faithful, how can we live our faith together?”
The first session, entirely driven by Christ’s lay faithful, took place at Saint Monica parish in Makepe, the base of the group’s Chaplain, on Saturday, October 20, 2012. Emphasis was laid on “Christian spirituality within groups, movements and associations.” Martin Jumbam moderated the session while Professor Thomas Theophilus Nug, an expert in Ignatian Spirituality and lecturer at the University of Douala, gave what many considered a great keynote doctrine on what he called “Know your name of grace”, which many were hearing for the first time. It seemed inspired by what Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, today Pope Benedict XVI once called “the irruption of the Holy Spirit” in our lives, which always leads to “a deep, personal encounter with Christ.”
From the onset, participants were divided into groups and given time to reflect on a number of questions that included why they joined the group or movement they are in now; what the spirituality of their group is and what their first encounter with Christ was that changed their lives. Group discussions were intense and, among other things, they enabled participants, who came from various parishes and different groups and movements, to get acquainted with one another – one of the main reasons for the formation session.
When they later came together to share their group experiences, participants expressed delight at the opportunity given them to know one another and share experiences as group leaders and as Christians of the same Archdiocese.
Together, they strived to walk through “the door of faith” (Porta Fidei), which our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, recommends during this Year of Faith. Through an Apostolic Letter entitled Porta Fidei (The Door of Faith), the Pope invites us to pass through the door of faith to find Christ on the other side of the door, a door that is never closed to anyone. He recommends two ways of entering this door of faith; the first is by way of “content” and the second is by way of “action”. The “content” aspect involves our building our faith through studying, learning and meditating on the Word of God. A mastery of the Word of God leads us to understand our faith better, accept it and, more importantly still, “act” on it by sharing it with others.
That was basically what participants at the formation session did: they reflected on their faith, especially by meditating on the Word of God, before dispersing, promising to take what they had learnt from that session to others in their families, parishes and society at large. They were told that the vocation of ecclesial movements, groups and associations must be missionary, being closely tied to the universal mission of the Church, which is to proclaim the Gospel to all mankind.
The next formation session is billed for December 22, 2012 in a parish that is still to be determined, the idea being to make the rounds of the nine zones (deaneries) that make up the Archdiocese of Douala, taking the formation sessions to the people of God, where they are.