History of the Diocese
Catholicism was brought to the Mamfe area in 1912. Under the direction of Bishop Heinrich Veiter, first Bishop of Cameroon, the German Pallotine Father Hoegn visited the Mamfe region in view of establishing a Mission. On January 22, 1912 Father Hoegn celebrated the first Mass at Apatha Hill in Ossing. On that faithful day the first Parish in Mamfe was established and consecrated to the “Holy Name of Jesus”. From that humble beginning at Apatha Hill to the thriving, diverse Catholic community which exists today, the story of Evangelization in Mamfe is one of struggle, hope and faith. The Pallotine Priests were followed by the Sacred Heart and later on by the Mill Hill Fathers, and they all worked had to lay a good foundation for the growth of the Catholic faith in Mamfe.
Sadly, these early missionaries faced daunting challenges, including the First World War; the difficult terrain and climate; and a resistant indigenous population. The locals were standoffish and arrogant. As a result, in 1926 the Mill Hill Fathers had to pull out and close down the Ossing mission, and Father William Scully, then Parish Priest of Ossing, remarked that “nothing less than a miracle of grace will awaken them”. Between 1927 and 1933, there were no resident Priests in the Mamfe area. During this period the whole Mamfe area was under Basseng Parish which was located far off in the Bakossi land. Priests trekked from Basseng to administer to the Christian population in Mamfe. In the absence of Priests, much of the pastoral work of preparing Catechumens for baptism and first Holy Communion was done by Catechists and men of good will like school teachers. Devout Catechists like Ferdinand Ako, Joseph Takor, Andrew Epah, and Stanislaus Nkeng volunteered as catechists and kept alive the catechumenates established by the German Missionaries.
Despite these early obstacles, the Catholic faith flourished. In 1933, under the direction of Bishop Peter Rogan, Father Anthony van del Vlugt, opened a Mission at Okoyong. After the opening of Okoyong in 1933, things changed drastically. The Ejagham side became Catholic inclined. By this time also the Catholic Faith had spread considerably to the Upper-Banyang area, and the Bangwa, and Mbo areas. Historic parishes abound today including, the Holy Name of Jesus created in 1912 in Ossing, the Saints Peter and Paul Parish Okoyong created in 1933, the St Therese of the Child Jesus, Mbetta created in 1936, and the St. Joseph Parish, Mamfe Town created in 1956.
During the 1960s, the Mill Hill Fathers intensified their pastoral work, and opened many catholic schools in the area. Between 1965 and 1999, the Catholic faith continued to flourish in the Mamfe area, with the coming of more religious communities, including the Sisters of Saint Francis to Mbetta; the Focolare Movement to the Bangwa land; and the Brothers of St. John of God to Nguti.
In April 1999 when Bishop Francis Lysinge was consecrated as First Bishop of the newly created Diocese of Mamfe, he immediately assumed the responsibility of building a diocesan structure from scratch. Since its creation, the story of the Diocese of Mamfe, as with the past, has been one of ambition, hope and faith. Being a rural diocese, there are very limited tarred roads within the diocese. The rugged earth roads are virtually impassable during the raining season.
Despite these obstacles the Church in Mamfe has grown. At the time of its creation the Diocese of Mamfe had 34,000 baptized Catholics distributed over 6 parishes and served by 8 priests. Today the Diocese of Mamfe is home to 82,000 Catholics. The 29 Catholic schools educate 4,742 children. The Diocese has 43 Priests, 42 Seminarians, 4 Deaneries, 25 Parishes, 9 Religious Congregations, 2 hospitals, and 5 health centers. Queen of the Holy Rosary Secondary School Okoyong, the Nation’s first Catholic girls’ secondary schools was opened in 1956. The Diocese is also home of Seat of Wisdom College, Fontem, one of the top academically excellent secondary schools in Cameroon, and also home to the Mary Health of Africa General Hospital, Fontem, one of the best hospitals in the nation. The benefits of most of the social services provided by the diocese are extended to both Catholic and non-Catholic communities, making the Diocese of Mamfe, a major development partner in the region.
In November 2012, the Diocese celebrated 100 years of Catholic Evangelization in the Mamfe area. The Centenary Celebration was evidence that the “Miracle of Grace” spoken by Father Scully in 1926, has indeed taken place in Mamfe.
Increasingly, the diocesan community is finding ways of relaying the foundations of Faith so as to make the Diocese of Mamfe more and more beautiful for God. Like the Apostles obeyed in faith to cast their nets deeper, the Christians of Mamfe are increasing evangelization outreach and deepening their faith through family life education; Small Christian Communities programs; pastoral visitation; making Parishes places of Eucharistic adoration; making Catholic schools attractive and true places of evangelization; and fostering and upholding the vocation, dignity and formation of catechists.
C: ECONOMIC SITUATION
The predominant occupation of the population is agriculture and largely small-holder based and subsistence oriented. The cultivate food crops like cassava, maize, cocoyams, yams, potatoes, vegetables, plantains etc. They mostly consume what they cultivate and sell some to cater for other needs. The people also do fishing from the Cross River and River Manyu. However, these are not in marketable quantities, but for local family consumption.
The most important cash crops are cocoa, Robusta coffee, and oil palm. These are grown and marketed through small family holdings and village cooperatives.
The headquarters of the Civil Divisions of Manyu and Lebialem and the sub-divisional headquarter of Nguti have small pockets of civil servants who work for the government and earn a salary. However, the economic crisis rocking the country since the 1990s does not favour their pay package, and so many of them also embark on subsistent farming to make ends meet.
This situation greatly affects the financial strength of the diocese of Mamfe as the Sunday collections, diocesan and Pontifical collections are always