The commemoration of the 15th Anniversary of the Provincial Pastoral Plan (PPP)andits evaluation took place from the 16th to the 19th of December 2015 at Sacred Heart College, Mankon under the theme “New Wine in New Wineskins”. This very unique event saw the participation of over 300 Delegates coming in from the Dioceses of Buea, Mamfe, Kumbo and the Archdiocese of Bamenda (constituting the Ecclesiastical Province of Bamenda), representing Commissions, Pastoral Formation Teams, Pastoral Councils, Institutes of Consecrated Life, just to name a few.
Chaired by His GraceMgr. Cornelius Fontem ESUA, Archbishop of Bamenda, the occasion was also graced with the presence and active participation of the Bishops of Kumbo; Mgr. George NKUO, Buea; Mgr. Immanuel BUSHU, Mamfe; Mgr. Andrew NKEA, Bishop Emeritus of Mamfe; Mgr. Francis Teke LYSINGE, and Mgr. Agapitus NFON, Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Bamenda.
In presentations during the celebrations, emphasis was laid on the need for courage to undo the status quo whereby initiatives came from above (hierarchy); Bishops, priests, the religious and the catechists, as this is the old way of being Church. In the new way of being Church, initiatives are encouraged to come from below, as Leadership is service not power or authority. Hence the theme “New Wine in New Wineskins”.
Therefore, the vision of the PPP has the spirit of Vatican II and Ecclesia in Africa which see the Church as the People of God sharing in the triple function of Christ; the Prophetic, the Kingly and Priestly roles. The participation of the laity in the life of the Church most not be seen only in the light of Pray, Pay and Obey type, but should be they should be actively involved, and bear witness to the Gospel in ways that are uniquely theirs.
In realizing this vision, it is important for every Catholic Christian to belong and actively participate in the Small Christian Community (SCC) which begins with Faith Sharing (Gospel Sharing) Groups; a platform for formation of leaders who eventually emerge in the SCC. The SCC therefore constitutes a platform where commission members are identified and formed in the faith, and from here, they move to the next levels of the Pastoral Organigram; Mission Station, Parish, Deanery, and Archdiocesanthrough elections or by appointment.
Therefore the various Commissions act as a catalyst in the process of evangelization where every member is encouraged to use his or her God-given talents to glorify the lord and expand His Kingdom here on earth.
This 15th anniversary of the PPP was a time to evaluate the various ways, and how far the Province has gone with the implementation of the PPP, and a time to renew our commitment to this new way of being Church. It was realized that the PPP is gradually gaining roots in the Ecclesiastical Province of Bamenda as some positive results could be earmarked.Amongst them are;
- Increased love for the Word of God with many people owning, reading and praying with Bibles, thanks to Bible Sharing
- More involvement in the work of evangelization now, than before
- Respect for silence in the Sacred Liturgy, thanks to silent reflection during Gospel Sharing
- Many Christians now see the Church as theirs, and tend to take care of it.
- The PPP has raised awareness in Christians on issues of Justice and Peace and to the practice of charity in the SCC.
- The Pastoral Formation Teams are very strong, self-determined and committed.
All this was however realized with some constraints, some of which are;
- Inadequate understanding of the method of implementation (the LUMKO Method)
- Lack of commitment on the part of some who are expected to take the lead in the implantation of the PPP.
- Financial demands and constraints
- Inadequate formation at various levels
- Frequent transfer of some Pastoral Agents
In a Eucharistic Celebration marking the closing of the celebrations on Sunday the 19th of December 2015, Certificates of Recognition were awarded to some foundation members who were at the 7th Catholic Convention in 1999 where the Provincial Pastoral Plan was born. Amongst them were some members of Diocesan Pastoral Formation Teams, priests and lay faithful. However, the Bishops of the Ecclesiastical Province were also awarded certificates for their unrelenting efforts to champion the implementation of this important pastoral document in their respective Dioceses.
Some resolutions where also arrived at during this Anniversary:
- Active participation by every Catholic Christian in activities of the SCC in his or her neighbourhood
- Continuous sensitization of Christians on the PPP
- Formation and training of Pastoral Formation Teams at various levels of the Pastoral Organigram to follow up the continuous implementation of the PPP
- Organization of Leadership trainings at every level of the implementation of the PPP
- Look for concrete strategies to get young people involved
- Implementation of the PPP in all Catholic Institutions of Learning
- Active involvement of Priests, Men/Women Religious in the implementation of the PPP
- Every Ecclesiastical Circumscription shall draw up a calendar of activitiesfor every Pastoral Year
- Budgeting forimplementation of the PPP shall be given top priority in every financial budgeting
- Transparency and accountability shall characterize Financial Management and Reporting at all levels
In his final blessing during this Eucharistic Celebration, the Archbishop prayed God to continue to inspire each and every Catholic Christian to continue to make an effort to live the spirit of the PPP which is the only pastoral program of the Bamenda Province.