The reprint of Fr Robert O’Neil’s Mission to the British Cameroons originally published in 1991 is a timely initiative coinciding with the celebration by the Mill Hill Missionaries in Cameroon of the centenary of the arrival of the first missionary pioneers in the country in 1922.
Complete with an additional chapter updating the content to the present day, this reprint also features a new cover photograph showing Mill Hill Missionaries surrounding newly ordained first Cameroonian priest, Father Aloysius Wankuy, and bishop Peter Rogan in 1948.
In the preface to the original edition the late archbishop Paul Verdzekov wrote:
The Christians of Cameroon will feel immensely grateful to Father Robert O’Neil for writing this book which narrates the story of the work of Saint Joseph’s Mill Hill Missionaries in that part of West Africa. It is indeed providential, and very opportune, that Father O’Neil’s book should come out during this year, 1991, when we are celebrating the First Centenary of the Evangelisation of Cameroon.
Seventy years ago, in 1921, Saint Joseph’s Missionary Society ofMill Hill accepted from the Holy See the task and responsibility for the evangelisation of the British Cameroons. That fact was recalled at Bamenda on the Second Sunday of Easter, 9th April 1972, during the Celebrations of the Golden Jubilee ofMill Hill Missionary work in Cameroon, in the following words:
It was indeed by an act of faith, in the first instance, that the Mill Hill Missionaries ever agreed to look after the Cameroons Mission. When in April 1921, the Sacred Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples approached Father Francis Henry, the Superior General of the Mill Hill Missionaries, asking him if he would be willing to send missionaries to the then British Cameroons, the Society was faced at that time with very serious problems of man-power shortage. Humanly speaking, Father Henry could have been justified in refusing to accept to staff and run the Cameroons Mission, for the Society already had tremendous responsibilities in many parts of the world.
The year before, in 1920, no fewer than seven young promising Mill Hill Fathers had died in East Africa, four of whom had been less than one year on the Mission. As a result of the Great War, the number of seminarians at Mill Hill had sunk to an all-time low, and the small number of yearly ordinations was scarcely sufficient to supply the needs of Uganda alone. Refusing to be scared by these apparently insurmountable difficulties, and with a firm faith in divine providence, Father Henry replied that the wishes of Rome were to be considered as commands for Mill Hill, and so he would send some of his men to the Cameroons. (Millhilliana, 24th Year, \o.2, 1972, pp 42—43)
The Prefecture Apostolic of Buea, British Cameroons, which was entrusted to the Mill Hill Missionaries at the beginning of the third decade of this century, grew up to become, in 1982, sixty years later, the Ecclesiastical Province of Bamenda. It is a remarkable development which stands as a lasting tribute to the selfless dedication of those Mill Hill Missionaries who worked in Cameroon. In the meantime, Saint Josephs Missionary Society of Mill Hill accepted new fields of evangelisation in the Garoua Ecclesiastical Province in the same country.
As the Catholics of the Bamenda Ecclesiastical Province gather at the Parish of Our Lady of the Angels, Bonjongo (founded by the German Pallotines in 1894) on Sunday, 1st December 1991, for their Provincial Celebration of the First Centenary of our Evangelisation, they will no doubt be filled with deep and abiding gratitude to the Mill Hill Missionaries who have been the instruments of God’s marvellous deeds in their part of Cameroon. They will also feel immensely grateful to Father O’Neil for putting into writing the story of Mill Hill s evangelising work in Cameroon, for the benefit and inspiration of present and future generations of Cameroon Christians.
+ Paul Verdzekov Archbishop of Bamenda