Every 21st November has become a memorable day for me and for all who knew Fr. Cosmas Ondari MHM in person. Today the 21st November, I remember with deep love and tears, Fr. Cosmas who showed his deepest love for the people of St Martin of Tours Kembong Parish, by sacrificing his life. This day has imprinted an indelible mark on my heart because it taught me the lesson I will use for my entire life as a Mill Hill Missionary: loving service even to the point of death. It is exactly two years today since Father Cosmas gave up his life for the love of the people he was sent to serve.
His last words to me, a few minutes before his death, while we were at table for lunch are still very fresh to me and always will be: “I have no other future. I wanted to become a priest and of course that was my future and I have met it. It is you (Guylain Agbasoa) who should fight for your future. But I know you will be a priest, a good priest and missionary. You will come back here and continue with this work!” These words will resound in my heart and for with these words, Fr. Cosmas lives on.
As I was requesting for my admission to the St. Joseph’s Missionaries Society, Fr. John Kirwan, MHM asked me a question: Did I know what I was requesting for? He used these words in Lingala: “Oyebi eloko ozali kutuna?” literally “Do you know what you are requesting for?” I was not able to give an answer but as my journey went on with the Mill Hill Missionaries, especially during my missionary experience programme in Kembong Parish in Cameroon, I came to know the weight of the above question. This made me reflect on it, especially during the turmoil of the death of Father Cosmas. I got an answer to the question asked by Fr. John Kirwan MHM when I carried the body of Fr. Cosmas in the pool of his blood after being shot dead by the gendarmes (Cameroonian Forces).
The day Father Cosmas made his Perpetual Oath, as a Mill Hill Missionary, dedicating himself for life to the work of the mission, he was given a red sash. This Red Sash was a sign of love and service to which he was called. At the same time, this Red Sash was a sign of his readiness to lay down his life in the service and for the sake of the Gospel.
I remember when the ‘cross’ reached us in Kembong on the 1st October 2017. We could have escaped the ‘cross’ by running but Fr. Cosmas chose to endure and suffer with the people, giving his life in the process. This for me was a practical living of the Red Sash. In a way, this Red Sash was energizing him and even those who are still there. He could have left Kembong due to the crisis but he endured the ‘cross’. I believe that the Red Sash was reminding him of the day he said ‘Yes’ to his final missionary commitment. He chose to work with the Lord as a missionary. I believe that was the real motivation over the difficult moments he faced in Kembong. This is the beauty of the life we have chosen, which is at the very heart of our spirituality. Actually this makes a real impact to all of us called to loving service.
There is no ideology in this journey we have chosen. I have a conviction that the life of a missionary is always characterized by joys and pains and most of all uncertainty. During the dark moment in Kembong, I believe, Father Cosmas was mostly helped and assured by this Red Sash, a sign of love and service he accepted. The Red Sash must have been such a great energy for endurance and perseverance in his time at Kembong in Cameroon.
As I speak of the Red Sash and the love and service that it carries, I remember all our brave Mill Hill Missionaries in Cameroon, those who are enduring the harshness of the cross.
May he continue to enjoy the eternal bliss!
Agbasoa Guylain mhm