Cameroon Mill Hill Missionary Centenary


Gratitude, Solemnity, Humility, Collaboration!

We often hear or sense sentiments of “gives me/us a reason to…” cry, mourn, strike, boycott, sing, dance, eat, drink, party, pray – celebrate!

But I said, “I have laboured in vain; I have spent my strength for nothing at all.  Yet what is due me is in the Lord’s hand, and my reward is with my God.” And now the Lord says— he who formed me in the womb to be his servant to bring Jacob back to him and gather Israel to himself, for I am  honoured in the eyes of the Lord and my God has been my strength— he says: “It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.”  Isaiah 49:4-6: 

The Centenary of Evangelization in Cameroon of MHM gives me/us a reason to celebrate, to Sing and dance as we do best with the following and more echoed and composed melodies for Mill Hill in Cameroon:

Celebrate with us,

 A 100 years of our mission in Cameroon to love and to serve – loving and serving:  Thank you dear fathers, Thank you dear brothers, Thank you dear sisters, Thank dear parents, Thank you associates, thank you our beloved catechists.

So many missionaries to Cameroon, in Cameroon, from Cameroon!

A cause for joy, a cause for gratitude oooh! 

Gratitude, humility, solemnity, collaboration.  Humble, noble accomplishments!

By their fruits you will know them – the missionaries in Cameroon.  Mill Hill Missionaries, here to love and to serve!  (Lord Jesus), You will make me, a challenge of your peace, a channel of your love, a channel of your grace. 

Celebrate with us….!

“The young man who washes his hands clean, can sit and eat with the elders.” (African Proverb).

The Extraordinary Month of Mission in 2019 saw Pope Francis reiterating Pope Benedict  XV’s 1919 Maximum Illud; that Missionary activities or Evangelisation and Colonization or patriotic sentiments are not and must not be synonymous, on the one hand, and that every baptized Christian is called to be a missionary. 

I chatted with Frs Peter Watson, Bill Tollan and John McCluskey, veterans who left a humble legacy in Cameroon from the 70s for the next 50 years, and the following are the sentiments that I captured and indeed reasons to celebrate.

Fr Bill Tollan expressed “Nostalgia for the people and the country; we made a great impact and left a legacy, but as Fr Frank Monaghan, mhm said: “The faith has taken root in spite of us”.  Our hearts go out to those suffering, poor and oppressed.”

For Fr Peter Watson, the outstanding names and memories are the 1989 Translation of the New Testament into Lamso and the History of Kumbo Parish as well as His Apostolate to Nurses, in Tatum Teachers Training College and in St Aloysius’ Minor Seminary, Kumbo.

Fr Bill Tollan sees standing out for him, the Kumba Convention in late 1970s where together with Fr Ignatius Sullivan and Bishop Peeters, they spearheaded a convention. In retrospect you may call it a “synod on synodality” for the local priests, religious and laity to gather and reflect on the Church every three to four years. 

For Fr John McCluskey, it is that echo of looking back with gratitude for our part in the Church’s  growth in Cameroon over the past 100 years, I feel honoured to have been part, in a modest way, of that story for 10 years. And as I reflect on that experience, I realise that I was privileged to have been part of a transition, both in the story of Mill Hill and of the Church in Cameroon, of which we were not perhaps fully aware at the time.  My appointment specifically to Bambui, to the staff of the newly founded Seminary there, meant that I was able to contribute to that transition, without realising that that was what we were doing…  What I find remarkable about that time is that there was no apparent distinction between diocesan priests and ourselves, between Society meetings and diocesan meetings…

These our trailblazers and pioneers expressed absolute concern vis-a-vis the sadness that a country with so many resources and potential has not been developed but seemingly disintegrating.The Seminary training. TheCorruption and injustice – a peace loving people not listened to but continuously underprivileged and exploited.  TheRetaining of a Mill Hill presence in each dioceseAnd theuse of vernacular and dialects in Liturgy. Kudos to our veterans who left humble, noble footprints as celebrated and echoed, a lamp lit and not put under the bed, in the Lord’s own words.

The current Centenary celebrations with the theme: I have come that they may have life and have it to the full is fleshed out in the four practical ways that the MHMs have transformed the lives of the local people down the years – education, buildings, health and social work; from primary evangelization (catechizing and administering indispensable sacraments), to development and social work, to justice and peace; and ingeniusly introducing football, credit unions…

May none shy away from seeing many “Elisha’s” in the picture attached of the young Cameroonian MHMs.  May none be too humble to see in the first and last MHMs to and from Cameroon the “Elijahs” of our times.

For no one takes this honour on himself but he receives it when called by God just as Aaron was…(Hebrews 5:)

And those he predestined he called, and those he called he justified, and those he justified he sanctifies (Romans 8:30)

But by the grace of God I am what I am.  And his grace to me was not in vain… (1 Corinthians 15:10)

What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? They are servants through whom you believed, as the Lord has assigned to each his role. I planted the seed and Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow… (1 Corinthians 3:6)

Faith of our fathers living still…we will be true to thee till death… 

Please God, we won’t come across or be labelled in the words of Sr Theo’s ‘On Black Catholic Spirituality’ as lazy, loud, irresponsible and lowering the standards of Christianity, Evangelization, Catholicism, or the mission of Christ. 

So help us God, and these His Holy Gospels, for we are lambs among wolves, nay, lambs and wolves.

Long live the Mill Hill Missionaries in Cameroon, in Africa and the world at large.

Emmanuel Mbeh MHM

Long live the legacy of Cardinal Vaughan – to alleviate suffering and to save souls.

Thank you dear fathers, thank you dear sisters, thank you dear brothers, thank you Associates, thank you our beloved Catechists! 

Emmanuel Mbeh MHM, November 2022

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