Blessing of the new chapel at the Mill Hill Formation House Bamenda.
The elegantly constructed round chapel at the Mill Hill Formation House in Bamenda designed by Bro Huub Welters mhm is filled to capacity with invited guests – among them the architect, contractor and some technicians – as well as students when Archbishop Cornelius Fontem Esua makes his solemn entrance preceded by a host of priest-concelebrants. The student choir intones a joyful hymn and after a short prayer of blessing the archbishop moves around chapel in a ritual of blessing. This will be a day to be remembered!
Speaking from the heart, in his homily, archbishop Esua recalls the celebration in 2016 of the 150 years jubilee of the Mill Hill missionaries world-wide and of 95 years of groundbreaking missionary work in anglophone Cameroon. He expresses his appreciation for all that has been accomplished with the help of God's grace in the span of nearly a century in this part of the country.
'When I meet the other bishops of francophone Cameroon I stand tall and hold my head high', he confides, ' not least because of the cordial relationship between the Mill Hill missionaries and the local diocesan clergy. In other dioceses the situation is often quite different'.
He goes on to highlight Mill Hill's charism of loving service in situations of greatest need. It is a real blessing that this charism is now being handed on to young people of the very Church which the Mill Hill missionaries were instrumental in founding.
'I was just a young bishop in the 1980s when the idea of accepting candidates for Mill Hill from the local Church was being mooted. We welcomed this proposed new initiative and I am grateful to God – he points at the large group of young Cameroonian Mill Hill students present in the chapel -that it is bearing abundant fruit. The Mill Hill charism is now enlivening the hearts of young men here. They are our contribution to the mission of the universal Church, and – with a smile – we hope to profit from this ourselves too!'
A second ritual follows before the offertory. Archbishop Esua places the relic of Uganda Martyr, St Karoli Lwanga, specially offered for this chapel by the Papal Nuncio, in its designated case in the centre of the altar table.
Now this is a chapel with a truly African pedigree!
At the end of the Eucharist there is a brief moment of adoration after which the Blessed Sacrament is solemnly deposited in the new tabernacle.
The chapel is now ready for regular use!
Now General Superior, Fr Michael Corcoran mhm, is invited to speak. In the course of his address he has this memorable phrase referring to the period of searching and discernment of the future of Mill Hill Society in the 1980's when numbers were dwindling:
'When you are down to almost nothing, you can be sure that God is up to something!'
The missionary involvement of the current international batch of Mill Hill missionaries in Cameroon can be seen as a fruit of that discernment: 'Mission is alive. These young men have truly smelt the odour of the sheep even before Pope Francis used that image!'
Fons Eppink mhm