I need one man
Rev. Mgr Ireneusz Skubis talks to Bishop Jan Ozga from the Diocese of Doumé-Abong’Mbang in Cameroon.
Rev Msg Ireneusz Skubis: – First, please tell us something about yourself.
Bishop Jan Ozga: – I have worked in Cameroon since 1988. Then I volunteered for the project: 100 missionaries as a living gift of the Polish Church for the universal Church, launched for John Paul II on the occasion of II Eucharistic Congress in 1987. I remember its motto well, ‘He loved them to the last’ (John 13:1). I worked at a Marian shrine for nine years and afterwards John Paul II asked me to serve as the bishop of the diocese of Doumé-Abong’Mbang, its territory being 37,000 sq km and embracing 21 missions, 40 priests, 40 religious sisters, 600 catechists; the diocese has 12 language groups with French as the basic one.
– As far as I know you found your diocese in a difficult situation, including its material situation. Have you succeeded to lead this administrative unit of the Church to normality?
– One of the three tasks, which the Holy See gave me, was to organise pastoral structures there, i.e. projects, plans that would direct annual efforts of Christians, communities and parishes in the diocese. Thank God, using the jubilee of 50 years of the diocese we organised the First Diocesan Synod (2000-2005), which was a great meditation on the words of St John, depicting Jesus Christ as the One that is the centre of our lives and the One that leads us to eternal life. Within five years we reflected on the themes: God reveals himself in the Word; God reveals himself in sacraments; Family; Mission and as the key theme – the Eucharist. These efforts let us revive religious life, which led to a bigger number of Christian communities and vocations – 25 seminarians. The second task was the matter of ecclesiastical discipline – to create formation structures for catechists, priests, pro-priestly formation. I have the joy to share with the Readers of ‘Niedziela’ the information that within 12 years I have ordained 20 Cameroonian priests out of whom 13 completed higher education in Rome, France and other places. And the third sphere, which was also my mission, was the economic matters of the diocese and we had to pay ca. one million diocesan debt. Today I finish paying the second part of the debt, still one more to pay, and I hope that with God’s help I will manage to overcome all difficulties.
– We remember that one of the problems of the diocese were school problems and children’s education. What’s the situation like today?
– One of the more difficult problems was 21 Catholic schools with their debts to be paid to the state and people, the alternative being to stop running the schools. Then I asked the Polish Bishops’ Conference and the Readers of ‘Niedziela’ for help. Thanks to this help I paid the debts and we still have the schools. Nowadays we have ca. 4,000 children and youth who begin their education every morning making the sign of the cross. May God bless all those who have contributed in any way to continue the evangelisation through school! Cardinal Jozef Tomko, then the Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples, always strongly emphasised that especially in the context of Islam, sects and traditional religions the existence of Catholic schools and Catholic formation were very important, and that’s why these schools have sense. Thanks to the Divine Providence and to you our schools were saved; they are functioning and are the joy of our hearts. We have a few schools that had the best possible results. I thank God and you for this help.
– What are the most alarming problems of the diocese of Doumé-Abong’Mbang these days? I think that we are still open to help Your Excellency in your difficult pastoral and evangelisation work…
– One of my biggest concerns is the formation of families. The world economy strikes families, wanting to destroy them in Africa, too. The family is an enemy of economy. We can see attacks against families from all sides on our continent. In fact, the visit of Benedict XVI showed this attack clearly. Therefore, I would like very much to create small centres where one can gather our best Christians to prepare them to be animators who will form families in their villages and parishes. This is my first and most important issue. Good families will give good vocations, which is my second task. So we need the formation of seminarians. We have 25 seminarians. The formation of one seminarian costs 2,000 euros. A seminarian receives 1,000 euros from Rome and his bishop looks for 1,000 euros for him. There are people who contribute to the costs of living of our seminarians. There are such people like Zygmunt who has supported one seminarian for several years, sending us 1,000 euros a year. This matter is very important to me. Another task is the formation of priests since seminary formation is not sufficient. You must go further. The next task is the formation of catechists. As I have said we have 600 catechists and their formation is very important to me.
The special sign I discern now is to construct a small missionary church. The Marian Fathers, who helped us in the missions in the years 1999-2001, built several nice chapels and said that the construction had changed completely the philosophy and faith of the people. People behave totally different in chapels, holy places. Thus my next appeal: if someone wanted to help us build such a chapel it would be very valuable. The adoption of heart is still very valid – 50 euros is enough to pay the tuition fee of a child and to cover its most important needs for a whole year. These are our main things we will try to realise. We also run a small mission paper whose editor is Fr Miroslaw Bujak. We send it to ca. 600 people. We need financial means for that as well. And the press and radio, which we cannot afford now, also constitute a great missionary work.
– If someone wanted to help your diocese after having read your words; if someone wanted to help the Polish bishop in Africa what should he/she do?
– You can transfer any sums to the bank account in Poland, which is given beneath. The money will be sent to Cameroon to support the indicated works.
– You have been a bishop of the African diocese for 12 years. What is the most encouraging thing and what is the saddest thing in your missionary pastoral ministry?
– I am happiest when we can see clearly that the Gospel message about the love of God and man is consciously experienced. I will give you an example. My friends sent one ton of milk to my diocese. We distributed it in our schools and the nuns gave each child a mug of milk twice a week. When one little boy received a mug of milk for the first time he drank half of the milk and he left the second half. The sister thought that the milk could have been burnt and asked him why he had not drunk his portion. He answered, ‘I have a little sister and brothers at home and I will take this milk home…’ This is something fantastic that touched this little man and causes that the message of Christ: love one another, i.e. share what you have, is realised in this little African heart.
And another story. Every year I make a pilgrimage. In one village a little boy came to me and said that some pilgrim had lost 1,000 Cameroonian franks and he would certainly cry that his money had been lost, and he asked me to give back the loss to its owner. And he might have interpreted this otherwise: he was lucky; his day was successful from its start because he found money and could buy shoes, sweets, whatever… We stopped and I said that I had 1,000 franks that someone might have lost since we had such a wonderful little brother… And a sad girl stood up, saying that she had lost money. I told her to thank this boy wholeheartedly. Since in his thinking he realised something different: instead of thinking that he was lucky because he had found money he thought the someone had bad luck to lose money. That makes you happy since you see that the truth of the Gospel begins growing. And the next example that happened during the visit of Benedict XVI to Africa. The television and papers reported about various events but they did not show such a picture: two grandmothers were sitting on a bench, just nailed planks, along the route of the Holy Father and praying the rosary. When asked what they were doing they answered that they prayed for the Holy Father that nothing bad would happen to him in Cameroon; that he would receive warn welcome here. This is extremely comforting to me. And what is sad? The manipulation over Africa. It is not us that decide about Africa but someone else decides how we should live in Africa. The examples were the attacks on the Holy Father. Responding to them the whole Cameroonian and African Bishops’ Conference and the African students in Rome went to the Holy Father to tell him that they did not agree with what was said about him, that they were with him. Moreover, the world does not want to see Africa standing but wants to have it on its knees. This makes me sad. My message to all is very simple: I need one man to help many… I wholeheartedly give you all my blessing: May the blessing of Almighty God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit rest on you and remain with you for ever. May it become for you the source of peace, joy, health and power…
The bank account to which you can transfer donations for the diocese of Doumé-Abong’Mbang in Cameroon:
Bank PEKAO S.A.XIII O/W-wa,
Bishop Jan Ozga, Diocese Doumé-Kamerun,
Sr. Halina Walczynska, ul. Broniewskiego 28/30 05-510 Konstancin-Jeziorna, tel. 0048 602-481-130