Central African Republic and Cameroon
Help for the formation of 39 young Carmelites
Some people already know, quite early on in their lives who they want to be.
At the age of five, young Jean-Thierry Ebogo from Cameroon was already sure that he wanted to be a priest. To him, being a priest was nothing less than “being Jesus.” So, when he joined the Carmelite Order in 2003 at the age of 21, it seemed as though his dreams were close to being fulfilled!
But Providence had other plans. After just a year, a malignant tumour was discovered on his right leg. He was told that even amputation was not enough to stop the spread of the disease. By the time he got to Italy for treatment in 2005, the cancer had already metastasized.
On 8 December 2005, the feast of the Immaculate Conception, he was granted special permission to take his permanent vows in his hospital room. His only worry was whether he would still have time to be ordained into the priesthood. He bore the severe pain with a smile, offering it up for priestly and religious vocations. “I only want to be healed in order to become a priest,” he said. But his life‘s dream was not to be fulfilled, for he died soon afterwards, at the age of just 23. By then, his reputation of holiness had already spread, and a vast number of people came to his funeral. His beatification process was concluded at the diocesan level in 2014.
Persevering and courageous youth
Before he died, young Jean Thierry Ebogo had promised to gift Africa with a veritable “rain” of priestly vocations. It seems that he has kept his word, for the Order of the Discalced Carmelites in Cameroon and above all in the neighbouring Central African Republic is blossoming with numerous priestly vocations today.
In the desperately poor Central African Republic (a country that only makes the international headlines because of repeated violence and unrest), 27 young Carmelite novices are now responding to the call of God and preparing to take their permanent vows as well as for ordination into the priesthood. These men want to give their lives so that peace becomes a reality in their country. In Cameroon as well, where Jean-Thierry Ebogo was born, there are another 12 young men undergoing formation.
In the Central African town of Bouar, Father Cyriaque Soumbou, a member of the formation team for future priests and religious, says: “It is a joy to see these young men who, in the midst of all the adversities in daily life and despite all the challenges, are endeavouring to give meaning and purpose to their own lives by allowing themselves to be led by the Holy Spirit in seeking to discern the will of God. These young seminarians are like precious pearls to me, they are a reason for thanksgiving, because they are the future of the Theresian Carmel.” He himself had been drawn, even as a child, by the solitude and prayer of the Carmelites, but at the same time also by the joy of living together in community and the devotion of oneself to the service of others. All these things he had seen in the Italian missionaries who had brought the Carmelite Order to his country and who are still working there to this day. “I am quite certain that this inner joy is not the fruit of human effort, but that it is Jesus who unites us,” he says. “How gentle is the hand of the Lord who wishes to accompany me. The teaching of Saint Teresa of Avila is always clear: what counts in the religious life is humility. We must never trust in our own strength but only in the grace of God.” This is also how Father Cyriaque describes his own personal experience.
ACN is providing 35 478 dollars for this academic year, to help these 39 young Carmelite novices in Bangui, Bouar and Yaoundé continue with their important formation.