On sick leave in his native Tirol from his mission in (anglophone) Cameroon my classmate, Fr Hermann Gufler mhm, recently returned to Cameroon for a final farewell. He sent this diary of his emotional ‘exit’. (Fons Eppink)
Part II Jubilee
Then on Saturday, 28th October was the day of my Golden Jubilee. I lack words to describe what happened on that day – but I have literally hundreds of photos and some videos which bring everything back to mind! Well, you have to leave it to the Africans to organise such feasts. People came from all over, especially the places I had been working previously. Sabongari came in full force – with a cow (! = 200.000 CFA) and other gifts! The big church was far too small. There were as many people outside as inside. They could use the three large canopies hired from the Town Council with the plastic chairs which had been set up between the church and the presbytery.
The Fon (paramount chief of Oku), the Bamketum, all Shufaays and most of the Faays were present dressed in their magnificent gowns and headgear. The CMA (the Catholic Men Association) in traditional attire performed the lectionary procession. (When our Christians from Sabongari saw this they straightaway decided that they must learn the song and the steps and movements of the procession!). Bishop George Nkuo of Kumbo was the main celebrant. Over thirty priests concelebrated! Elak parish choir animated the occasion, using for the first time the set of beautiful instruments they had bought (made in Japan!) – the envy of all the other choirs.
At the end of Mass, there were many speeches – from the Fon, the Mayor, the Parish Council President, the Bishop, etc. I particularly appreciated the speech by the Fon (paramount chief of Oku) during which he acknowledged my contribution to the reconciliation between the Fon/Kwifon and the Ngiri society, between the Fon and Bamketum and the Ntul clan (the original inhabitants of Oku), among other things.
During all these speeches I was sitting there not knowing where to hide myself. For me, this was the worst part of the jubilee – listening to all these “praises” and “achievements”. There was nothing I could do – “only suffer in silence”! After the final blessing, there were the obligatory snapshots outside the church. There was no end to it. Finally, all people moved to the front of the presbytery which had been lavishly decorated. There the reception continued with traditional dances, choral singing, donation of gifts and finally the cutting of a huge cake and the dressing of the jubilarian with a huge, beautiful native gown with “country cap”. Then there was “item eleven”. The different groups of people were told where they had to go to eat and drink. There was enough food and drink for all! I have seen so many of these occasions and every time I’m astonished: How do people manage? For me it’s like the miraculous multiplication of the loaves all over!
I have only mentioned the most important things of the jubilee celebration. It would take too much to go into detail. Thank God for the photos and videos. Looking at them now, all the memories come back! Nothing gets lost.