Central African Republic
Help for the training of 35 young Carmelite brothers
Since he was a little boy, Jean-Thierry Ebogo had just one dream: he wanted to become a priest, in order to be “like Jesus,” and nothing less. Sadly, his dream was not to be fulfilled, for this young Carmelite friar from Cameroon died January 5, 2006, at the young age of 24. But the holiness of his life and death were to sow the seeds of numerous new vocations.
In 2003 this young man entered the Carmelite monastery of Nkoabang where he engaged faithfully the “Little Way” of Saint Therese of Lisieux, the way of holiness through perfect childlike trust in God’s Mercy. To his religious name he added an additional title “of the Child Jesus and of the Passion.”
This passion soon afterward became a reality in his own life, but one short year after his entry into the order, a malignant tumour was discovered on his right knee. The leg had to be amputated and a course of chemotherapy was undertaken, but in vain. Jean-Thierry endured his sufferings with extraordinary courage and even with joy. On December 8,2005, the feast of the Immaculate Conception, he took his permanent vows early, with special permission. He died just a month later, his sanctity widely acclaimed. The cause for his beatification has already been introduced.
Before his death Jean-Thierry had promised to pray from heaven for a “shower of solid and holy religious and priestly vocations” for the Carmelites in Africa. This young Carmelite seems to have kept his word, for not only in his own country of Cameroon but also in the neighbouring Central African Republic there has been a real flourishing of vocations since right about then. Now, 35 young men are preparing, in the various stages of their formation, to take their permanent vows and for their ordination to the priesthood.
This wealth of vocations is a blessing, of course, but at the same time it represents a challenge for the Carmelite order, since the Central African Republic is one of the poorest countries in the world and has also been afflicted by violent unrest. As a result, the grounds of the Carmelite monastery in the capital Bangui have been turned into one of the largest refugee camps in the city. Thousands of refugees have sought shelter here – following the most recent unrest in October 2015, in fact, their numbers have once again grown to around 10,000 making it a challenge for the Carmelites to find the resources to pay for the training of these new vocations. These young men not only need to be fed, clothed and medically provided for, but they also need books, computers, writing material and many other things.
Italian Carmelite Father Federico Trinchero, who is responsible for the training of the young brothers in Bangui, writes: “For our young men, these refugees are a veritable training in the spirit of the Gospel.” And yet the needs are great, and the financial challenges considerable. Nonetheless, it is vital to ensure the best possible formation of these young African vocations, since it is in their hands that the future of the Church in their country will rest.