Ilung, NW Province, Cameroon
After experiencing the life of young people in many different countries and situations – in DR Congo where I grew up, during my years of training for the missionary priesthood in East Africa (Entesekera/Kenya and Kotido/Uganda) and now as a theology student on 'mission experience' in the Catholic Mission of Ilung in NW Cameroon – I am deeply convinced that youth apostolate is not an optional extra but an integral part of the Church's ministry at every level.
If the challenges that young people are facing today are not well addressed the Church is and will be affected since clearly the youth hold the future.
Here in Cameroon there is an increase in the number of young single parents, drug and alcohol abuse among young people is on the rise, with in addition the problem of early pregnancies, early marriages and illiteracy. There is a great need for accompaniment and integral formation of young people in all aspects of their lives.
To fulfill this aim we have set up five groups at Ilung Catholic Mission, which is run by the Mill Hill Missionaries. We have a Young Catholic Workers (YCW) group, the cadets of Mary, Mass servers, Young Catholic students (YCS) and a Vocations group. At local village level each group meets once a week followed by a monthly meeting at parish level. I participate in these meetings at local and parish level to discuss items relevant to each. We have four rallies yearly, when all these youth groups come together for 2-3 days of sharing and discussion with invited speakers. Socio-cultural and sporting activities are an essential ingredient of these rallies. All this culminates in twice yearly deanery rallies and a grand jamboree ar diocesan level once a year.
This youth ministry has taught me to be more patient in dealing with young people. They understand things differently and respond differently depending on each person's background. This ministry has also made me realise how helpless I really am and has helped me to deal with these feelings of helplessness. My presence among these youths is vital. More than seminars they need someone who shows deep concern and love for them.
One day I felt disappointed to learn that one of the students whom I was teaching French had dropped out from school. Feeling concerned I made a point of visiting him at home. Sadly, he told me that his father d returned from SW Cameroon where he worked to tell him that this year he would not be able to pay his school fees.
I could see tears welling up in his eyes as he told me but there was nothing ai could do in the line of financial assistance.
Hopefully God will continue to touch the hearts of parents and those in government to take the formation of young people to heart so that they will be able to realise their potential.
Patrick Lonkoy Bolengu, MEP student