Thanksgiving Mass and Reception of Bishop Andrew
THANKSGIVING MASS AND RECEPTION OF BISHOP ANDREW NKEA AT THE CATHOLIC UNIVERSITY OF CAMEROON, CATUC, BAMENDA,
16TH NOVEMBER, 2013
Your Excellency Bishop Francis Lysinge, Bishop of Mamfe,
Members of the University Council,
The Vice Chancellor of CATUC,
Professors, Associate Professors, Lecturers and Instructors,
Invited Faculty of Sister Universities,
Rev. Fathers, Brothers and Sisters,
Executive Assistants and Support Staff of CATUC,
Dear Students of this beloved University,
My brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Today would have been one of the saddest days in my whole life, because I was imagining this Mass to be my last official act by which my relationship with CATUC will be severed once and for all. But on further meditation about this day, I realized that I was not being invited for a send off but for a thanksgiving Mass, because I was not going to depart from CATUC. My role had simply changed from Registrar to Member of the Board of Trustees, from Employee to Employer, from custodian to Proprietor, from earning a salary from the University to contributor of money to the university, from being supervised by the VC and his DVCs, to being their supervisor, and from Priest to Bishop, all still roles within our beloved Catholic University of Cameroon, CATUC, Bamenda. Looking at all these, we can only say that this is not man’s doing but God’s and we can join the Psalmist in Psalm 115:1 to say, “not to us Lord, not to us, But to your name, give the glory”.
This is what CATUC and all the friends and stakeholders of CATUC have gathered here today to do; to give “glory to God whose power working in us can do infinitely more than we can ever ask or imagine” (Eph.3:20); we have gathered here to “give thanks to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him”(Eph.1:3-4); We are giving thanks to God because we have come to experience the words written in the Letter to the Hebrews which say; “Every High priest is chosen from among men and appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. He can deal gently with the ignorant and wayward, since he himself is beset with weakness. Because of this he is bound to offer sacrifice for his own sins as well as for those of the people. No one takes this honour upon himself, but he is called by God as Aaron was”(Heb.5:1-4). You can now comfortably say, “This high priest, Andrew Nkea, is chosen from among us in CATUC and appointed to act on behalf of CATUC and men in relation to God”. You are witnesses to the fact that no one takes this honour upon himself. I was giving my report to the Vice Chancellor in the Management Meeting, conferring with the DVCA about the calendarium for 2013/2014; quarrelling with the Deans about Examinations that had not been set on time; sitting with all of you in the University dinning shed and eating foo-foo and eru for 300 frs per plate and 200 extra frs for meat; teaching my course on the human person; I was disciplining students who had cheated in exams, running to and from Buea and Bamenda Universities for vetting of exams and other meetings; I was studying the draft statutes of the shaky CATUC choir, having my usual morning meetings with my dedicated Executive Assistants and trying to prepare contract forms of staff for signature, when God came to CATUC and called me on the 10th of July 2013 to be a Bishop in the Catholic Church. As in a famous charismatic song, by the single stroke of the pen of Pope Francis’ signature, “Jehovah changed my story”. Yes! The Lord changed my story completely by raising me with all my imperfections to the dignity of the Bishopric. We are celebrating as CATUC family because in changing my story, the Lord has changed your story too. At her young and tender age of only 3 years, the name of CATUC is in the annals of the Church as the Pope’s attention has been drawn to this our humble compound and we can hear the words of Jesus to Zaccheus resounding to us in CATUC, “Today, salvation has come to this house”.
When I see our friends from the University of Buea who have travelled these long distances to be here, those from Bamenda University, BURST, National Polytechnic Bamenda, Higher Institute of Business Management and Technology (HIBMAT) Buea and other universities who have made such great sacrifices to be here, then I understand even better what the Minister of Higher Education meant when he said in a letter addressed to me on the 30th of August 2013 that “This appointment is indeed an honour to the entire higher education family in Cameroon”. When I look at my friends and members of my family, who are here for reasons of solidarity, I can only sing with the Psalmist “How good and how pleasant, brothers living in unity,… there the Lord gives his blessing, happiness forever”(Ps.133).
My dear friends in Christ, belonging to the University family has completely changed my world view as I have come to notice that the university is a world of its own. John Paul II in his Apostolic Constitution Ex Corde Ecclesiae, says that “By vocation, the Universitas Magistrorum et scholarium is dedicated to research, to teaching and to the education of students who freely associate with their teachers in a common love of knowledge. With every other university it shares that gaudium de veritate, so precious to St. Augustine, which is that joy of searching for, discovering and communicating truth in every field of knowledge”. The Holy Father goes on to say that “It is the honour and responsibility of a Catholic University to consecrate itself without reserve to the cause of truth. This is its way of serving at one and the same time both the dignity of man and the good of the Church, which has an ‘intimate conviction that truth is its real ally.. and that knowledge and reason are sure ministers to faith. Without in any way neglecting the acquisition of useful knowledge, a Catholic University is distinguished by its free search for the whole truth about nature, man and God”. This is the joy of belonging to the university community – the realization that you are swimming in the ocean of knowledge which you can never really acquire in its fullness. The university should make anyone humble, because you fellowship with professors in Natural and Biological Sciences, Wizards in Mathematics, Engineers, Doctors in Business, Gurus in the Humanities and Social Sciences, Doctors in the Queen’s language, Researchers in human anatomy and medicine, etc, and then you suddenly discover that you are only a doctor in Canon Law. How could knowledge be so wide, yet man is capable of knowing only so little? This discovery must make every scholar truly humble and make every student really inquisitive. This realization must make every honest scholar bow down to the source of all knowledge and Wisdom, who is God himself, and Scripture tells us that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom”(Ben Sir.1:14). The Book of Wisdom from which we just read the first reading of this Mass tells us that “Wisdom is the breath of the power of God, pure emanation of the glory of the Almighty; hence nothing impure can find a way into her. She is the reflection of the eternal light, untarnished mirror of God’s active power, image of his goodness”(Wis.7:25-26).
Unfortunately in the modern world, many universities are pushing God aside and enthroning secularism, modernism, post modernism, atheism and materialism, which all end up in nihilism, the philosophy of nothingness. Some universities focus on the empirical sciences, and push God aside because his existence cannot be proven in the scientific laboratory. These universities create an apparent incompatibility between faith and reason. Fides et Ratio – Faith and reason, is the motto of CATUC, and John Paul II in his Encyclical Letter Fides et Ratio says that “Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth”. John Henry Newman states that “ Faith is a process of the Reason, in which so much of the grounds of inference cannot be exhibited, so much lies in the character of the mind itself, in its general view of things, its estimate of the probable and the improbable, its anticipations derived from its own inbred wishes, that it will ever seem to the world irrational and despicable; – till that is the event confirms it.” This therefore means that there is little or no contradiction if our universities are great centers of intellectual activities and at the same time strong communities of faith. That is why as a university community we must ensure at all times that CATUC grows as a centre for academic excellence but at no point should it ever lose its Catholicity. Promote academic excellence by research and profound studies, but also maintain faith by constant prayers and meditation on the Scriptures. Again, Pope John Paul II tells us in Ex Corde Ecclesiae that “Catholic Universities are called to a continuous renewal, both as ‘Universities’ and as ‘Catholic’. For what is at stake is the very meaning of scientific and technological research, of social life and of culture, but on an even more profound level, what is at stake is the very meaning of the human person”(ECE.7). If we don’t strike a balance in the universities between faith and reason, the heart and the head, the human and the divine, the spiritual and unspiritual, then we may end up with intellectual giants who are emotional dwarfs, or worse still, produce citizens with some of the best academic degrees but who live permanently with the feeling of total meaninglessness of their lives, lacking awareness of a meaning worth living for, and being haunted by the experience of inner emptiness of themselves and are caught in what Viktor Frankl calls the “Existential Vacuum” (Man’s search for meaning, p.111). Our beloved university should at no time be one which empowers its members intellectually to work for the destruction of the human race, or even promote values that divide more than unite. Fairness, equality and justice shall be our guide for actions and we shall truly be an ideal community that forms both scholars and saints. Such an ideal university community is one that “is animated by the spirit of freedom and charity; it is characterized by mutual respect, sincere dialogue, and protection of the rights of individuals. It assists each of its members to achieve wholeness as human persons; in turn, everyone in the community helps in promoting unity, and each one, according to his or her role and capacity, contributes towards decisions which affect the community, and also towards maintaining and strengthening of distinctive Catholic character of the Institution”(ECE, no.21). This holds good for CATUC as for any other university, be it state or private.
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day of thanksgiving, I wish to express my sentiments of gratitude to all of you for the wonderful time we spent here in the university. Our interaction has left an indelible mark in my heart and I will forever miss you and all that we shared together in this centre of academics. Jesus Christ is the centre of our university life and I wish to commend all the staff and students who attend the Midday Mass daily to keep Jesus ever present in the community. Your brief stop for twenty minutes to pray daily is what continuously sanctifies this community and makes the community to grow in leaps and bounds. The Students of CATUC are simply a wonderful lot; they are a special breed and I see in them a new crop of Cameroonians who will inject a new spirit into our societies. It is through them that the world will taste and see that CATUC is good.
I ask all of you to pray for me in my new calling which obliges me to serve and not to be served. I am like Moses, called to lead God’s people but cannot talk because he is a stammerer; I am like Isaiah called to preach the word of God but he is a man of unclean lips; I am like Jeremiah called to prophesy, but he is only a child; I am like Peter, called to feed the lambs of Christ, but my weaknesses are many. Pray for me that my faith may not fail and that when I am strong, then I can strengthen my brothers and sisters in the Diocese of Mamfe and beyond.
I will always pray for all of you as each one of you has a special place in my heart. At the end of this homily, when I look at all of you, I invoke the words of St. Paul in the 2nd reading of today and say “I never stop thanking God for all the graces you have received through Jesus Christ. I thank him that you have been enriched in so many ways, especially in your teachers and preachers”. I pray that Jesus will keep you steady and without blame until the last day, so that together like one family, we may all gain entry into his heavenly kingdom, where Jesus lives and reigns with the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit, One God forever and ever. Amen.
Coadjutor Bishop of Mamfe