Bishop Jerome Feudjio consecrated in the US – Three Cardinal Archbishops consecrate first-ever African Bishop from Cameroon

NEWS 21 Apr 2021
Bishop Jerome Feudjio consecrated in the US – Three Cardinal Archbishops consecrate first-ever African Bishop from Cameroon

 

Three Cardinal Archbishops consecrate the first-ever African Bishop from Cameroon in the US: His Excellency Bishop Jerome Feudjio, on April 17, 2021

 

By Nchumbonga George Lekelefac, B. Phil. (Mexico), S.T.B. (Roma), JCL/MCL. (Ottawa), Doctorate Candidate, Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität, Münster, Germany

 

The entire world came to a complete standstill when the long awaited episcopal ordination and canonical possession of the very first African-born Bishop from Cameroon took place in the United States of America. His Excellency, the Most Reverend Jerome Feudjio was consecrated on Saturday, April 17, 2021 at St. Peter and Paul Cathedral, Virgin Island, in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saint Thomas in the Virgin Islands (Latin: Diœcesis Sancti Thomae in Insulis Virgineis). The Diocese of Saint Thomas is comprised of the islands of Saint Thomas, Saint Croix, Saint John, and Water Island in the U.S. Virgin Islands with a total population of 110,000 of which 30,000 are Catholic. The Bishops of Saint Thomas are members of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and also enjoy observer status with the Antilles Episcopal Conference. The Diocese of Saint Thomas was erected as the Territorial Prelature of the Virgin Islands on April 30, 1960 by Pope John XXIII who was Bishop of Rome and hence head of the Catholic Church and sovereign of the Vatican City State from 28 October 1958 to his death in 1963. Its name was changed and was elevated to a diocese on April 20, 1977 by Pope Paul VI who was head of the Catholic Church and sovereign of the Vatican City State from 21 June 1963 to his death in 1978. The Diocese of St. Thomas is the only suffragan see of the Archdiocese of Washington.  It is diocese which is governed from Charlotte Amalie on the island of Saint Thomas by the bishop of St. Thomas, His Excellency Bishop Jerome Feudjio, whose episcopal seat is the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul.

Bishop Feudjio: Cameroonian origin

His Excellency Bishop Jerome Feudjio is a native of Cameroon, Africa in the Diocese of Nkongsamba, Cameroon. Monsignor Feudjio was born September 30, 1955 in Fonakeukeu, Dschang, Cameroon. He is presently 65.

Before his appointment as Bishop-elect, Msgr. Feudjio was serving as the vicar general and chancellor of St. Thomas Diocese, and rector of Saints Peter and Paul Cathedral. The appointment was publicized in Washington, D.C. on March 2, 2021 by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States.

He graduated from St. Albert Catholic School in Dschang in 1967 and attended St. John College of the Christian Brothers of Quebec in Mbanga, Cameroon (1968-1972) and received a degree in Bookkeeping (1972). He was postulant for the religious order, the Congregation of the Fathers of the Sacred Heart (SCJ) in 1972 and attended Saint Apostles Seminary in Otelé, Cameroon of the ‘Missionnaires des Saints-Apôtres’ (1972-1975), and the Major Seminary of Nkolbison in Yaoundé, Cameroon (1975-1979).

In 1980, while he was at the Sacred Heart Novitiate, Monsignor Feudjio travelled to the United States and he met in Washington then-Father Seán O’Malley, O.F.M. Cap. who invited him to stay at San Francisco House, run by the Spanish Catholic Center of the Archdiocese of Washington. He attended Oblate College which was then part of the Washington Theological Consortium, where he completed his studies in Philosophy and Theology for the priesthood.

In 1987, he joined the Oblates of Mary Immaculate and made his temporary religious profession. He enrolled in the Administration of Justice Program at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, Illinois, where he completed his graduate program with an internship at a local transitional house that helped former inmates re-adjust to society.

His Excellency Bishop Jerome Feudjio

Following the appointment of Bishop O’Malley to the Diocese of Saint Thomas (1984-1992), Monsignor Feudjio was invited to work as a campus minister at Saints Peter and Paul School in 1988.

On 29 September 1990, at 34, he was ordained Priest of Saint Thomas, American Virgin Islands, USA by then Bishop Seán Patrick O’Malley, O.F.M. Cap., then Bishop of Saint Thomas, American Virgin Islands, USA by Pope Francis.

In 2002, he was named by Pope John Paul II a Chaplain of His Holiness, a recognition that carried the honorary title of Monsignor.

In 2004, Monsignor Feudjio returned to Southern Illinois University to pursue graduate studies in Rehabilitation Administration at the request of Bishop George V. Murry, S.J., who was bishop of Saint Thomas from 1999-2007.

Monsignor Feudjio’s assignments after ordination include: parochial vicar at Saints Peter and Paul Cathedral and Saint Anne Chapel (1990-1997); French and religion teacher (1992-1997) and assistant principal at Saints Peter and Paul School (1995-1997); diocesan finance officer (1996-2004); director of vocations (1996-2020); administrator (1997-2000) and rector (2000-2001) of Saints Peter and Paul Cathedral; vicar for clergy and religious (2001-present). Father Feudjio also served as chancellor for the Diocese of Saint Thomas (2002-2004); pastor of Holy Family Parish (2004-2008). He has been rector and vicar general of the Saints Peter and Paul Cathedral since 2008.

Bishop-elect Feudjio’s pastoral ministry also includes assignments such as diocesan consultor, member of the Board of Directors for Catholic Charities, member of Diocesan Finance Committee, moderator of the curia, and vicar for communications.

On March 2, 2021 Pope Francis appointed Rev. Msgr. Jerome Feudjio as Bishop of Saint Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands. The appointment was publicized in Washington, D.C. by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States.

Most Reverend Bishop Jerome Feudjio wrote the following on his appointment as 6th Bishop of St Thomas: “To the people of God in the diocese of Saint Thomas, US Virgin Island, St. Croix, St. Thomas, St. John, and Water Island: Brothers and Sisters, …it is with a renewed zeal and dedication that I accept my nomination for this challenging mission which the Holy Father has placed before me, to gather and lead the People of God in the US Virgin Islands entrusted to my care and leadership….I pledge to fulfill this new responsibility with seriousness, compassion, and vision…Know that I accepted all your wishes of success for my ministry, and that I will hold them preciously in my heart as a reminder that I am not alone, and that together, with the Good Lord, great things happen.”What a profound and powerful note!

On 17 April 2021, he was consecrated Bishop of Saint Thomas, American Virgin Islands, USA at Saints Peter and Paul, Cathedral, St. Thomas, Diocese of Saint Thomas, American Virgin Islands. He has been a priest for 30 years and a bishop for 5 days.

His appointment is quite historic because he is the first-ever African-born Bishop from Cameroon to be appointed as Catholic Bishop in the United States of America.

The exceptionality of the episcopal ordination of Bishop Feudjio

The episcopal ordination of Bishop-elect Jerome was peculiar because all three consecrators of the episcopal ordination were Cardinal archbishops: the Principal Consecrator of his episcopal consecration was Wilton Daniel Cardinal Gregory, Archbishop of Washington, District of Columbia; while the Principal Co-Consecrators were Donald William Cardinal Wuerl, Archbishop Emeritus of Washington, District of Columbia and Seán Patrick Cardinal O’Malley, O.F.M. Cap., Archbishop of Boston, Massachusetts. It is not very common to watch an episcopal ordination where all three consecrators are cardinals – princes of the church – direct collaborators of the Holy Father. This is indeed historic event. In addition, the three consecrators are archbishops, even though Cardinal Wuerl is retired archbishop. This observation distinguished the episcopal consecration of the very first African Bishop in the US, from no other country than Cameroon.

According to Canon 1014 of the 1983 Code of Canon law: “Unless the Apostolic See has granted a dispensation, the principal bishop consecrator in an episcopal consecration is to be joined by at least two consecrating bishops; it is especially appropriate, however, that all the bishops present consecrate the elect together with the bishops mentioned.” Co-consecrating bishops who assist the principal ordained bishop are not essential for the validity of the episcopal ordination, but they are necessary for its liceity.

The presence of three princes of the Church – Cardinals as consecrators: Cardinal Gregory, Cardinal Marley, and Cardinal Wuerls, who are archbishop unarguably and unquestionably made the event exceptional.

However, unlike an episcopal ordination lacking a pontifical mandate, no penalty is expressed incurred if such bishops are absent. In particular situations, it may not be possible for three bishops to be present, in which case a dispensation from this requirement is to be requested from the Holy See. The traditional practice of assisting or co-consecrating bishops emphasizes the symbolic unity and the practical collegiality of the episcopate. The Eastern code of Canon law 746 refers simply to ordination by three bishops, rather than a consecrating bishop and two co-consecrators. (See: The Code of Canon Law: A Text and Commentary Hardcover – May 1, 1985 by James A. Coriden (Editor), Thomas J. Green (Editor), Donald E. Heintschel (Editor).

Consecrating bishop of an episcopal ordination

According to Can. 1012 of the Code of Canon Law, “The minister of sacred ordination is a consecrated bishop.” For purpose of canon 1012, 1013, 1014, episcopal consecration is synonymous with episcopal ordination. The consecrating bishop himself must be validly ordained. Tradition has never held that more than one validly ordained bishop is absolutely necessary for episcopal ordination. However, the practice prior to the Council of Nicea (325) and continuing into the present affirms that at least three bishops ordain a bishop (one principal consecrator with two designated co-consecrators). Symbolically, the collegiality of the episcopate is apparent; practically, the Church is undoubtedly assured of the validity of the ordination, as three bishops participate in an ordination which requires only one of them for validity. (See: The Code of Canon Law: A Text and Commentary Hardcover – May 1, 1985 by James A. Coriden (Editor), Thomas J. Green (Editor), Donald E. Heintschel (Editor).

Interestingly, Cardinal Gregory is the very first black American Cardinal to be appointed in the US, while Bishop Feudjio is the very first Black African-born from Cameroon to be appointed bishop in the US. Ever since Wilton Daniel Cardinal Gregory, Archbishop of Washington was named by Pope Francis as a Cardinal, on October 25, 2020, by Pope Francis and elevated by Pope Francis to the College of Cardinals in a November 28, 2020 Consistory in Rome, this is the very first episcopal consecration he has administered, and the surprising but providential fact is that his very first consecration is done to a very first African Bishop. What a coincidence.

Cameroon: Africa in Miniature and Synodal country

In Africa, Cameroon is often known as Africa in miniature because due to its diverse landscapes that represents the continent’s major climatic zones. Natural features such as white beaches, mountainous areas, tropical rainforests, savannah grasslands of varied terrain and wildlife, and sparse deserts can all be found in this Central African country, Cameroon, on the Gulf of Guinea.

Secondly, Cameroon is well-known as a Synodal country because John Paul II issued the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Africa on 14 September 1995, at Yaounde, Cameroon when he visited in 1995. It should be noted that his first visit was in 1985. In addition, Cameroon is the very first African country visited by Pope Benedict XVI on March 19, 2009 to issue the instrumentum laboris for the second special assembly of Bishops which took place in Rome in October 2009: the church in Africa, in service, reconciliation, justice and peace.

The episcopal consecration and canonical possession

The ceremony began at 10 am, at the Saints Peter and Paul Cathedral of St Thomas, in the U.S. Virgin Islands with the solemn procession of the following ministers of the liturgy: 1) Most Reverend Christophe Pierre, Apostolic Nuncio to the United States of America; 2)  Principal Consecrator, His Eminence Wilton Cardinal Gregory; 2) Metropolitan Archbishop of Washington; 3) Co-consecrators: His Eminence Sean Cardinal O’Malley, Metropolitan Archbishop of Boston and His Eminence Donald Cardinal Wuerl, Metropolitan Archbishop Emeritus of Washington; 4) Bishop-elect Jerome Feudjio; 5) Presentators of the Bishop-elect: Reverend Father Anthony Abraham, Pastor of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church; 6) Deacon of the Gospel: Reverend Deacon Denis Griffith; 7) Lectors: Lana Trotman who read the first reading, while Artra Watlington Francis read the second reading; 8) Master of Ceremony were: Fr. Charles Cortinovis, Fr. Daniele Rebeggiani, Fr. John Mark, Steve Olive, Timothy Olive; 9) Acolytes were: Seminarian Ronan Sarmiento, Seminarian Gregory Dougherty, John McDonald; 10) Altar servers were: Pierre Joseph, Gabrielle Boodram, Brandon Boodram.

The other bishops present were: Archbishop Roberto Gonzalez Nieves, Bishop Herbert A. Bevard, and Bishop Roy Campbell.

The entrance procession was so solemn with the famous entrance song: “O God, beyond all praising, We worship You today And sing the love amazing That songs cannot repay;…”

After the procession, the Bishop designate Feudjio took his seat on the first bench of the right side of the Cathedral.

Cardinal Gregory incensed the altar while the choir continued singing the entrance song. After incensing the altar, he began the mass in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. He then made some few statements like: “The church in St Thomas welcomes a new pastor…”. After the ‘I confess,’ the choir sang the Kyrie, and the Gloria in Excelsis Deo.

Liturgy of the Word

The first reading was remarkably read by Lana Trotman from the book of the Prophet Isaiah 61: 1-3: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, Because He did anoint me; To proclaim good news to the poor, Sent me to heal the broken of heart, To proclaim to captives…”.

Psalm 110: 1-4 was incredibly sung: “You are a priest forever in the line of Melchisedek.”

The second reading was outstandingly read by Artra Watlington Francis from the letter to the Hebrew 5: 1-10 followed: “For this reason, I remind you to stir into flame the gift of God that you have through the imposition of my hands. For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love and self-control…”

After the Alleluia, the Gospel acclamation was sung by Ho Lung.

After that, the Gospel was exceptionally proclaimed by Reverend Deacon Denis Griffith: Gospel according to John 21:15-19: “After Jesus had revealed himself with his disciples and eaten breakfast with them, he said to Simon, Simon, do you love me more than….”

Rite of Ordination: Presentation of the Bishop-elect

After the proclamation of the gospel, Reverend Father Anthony Abraham, Pastor of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church moved to the ambo accompanied by one of the Master of Ceremonies.

The Veni Creator Spiritus

Then the Veni Creator Spiritus was chanted by the choir. The entire congregation sang solemnly standing. After, the Veni Creator Spiritus, all took their seats and Reverend Father Anthony Abraham made the following request from Cardinal Gregory: “Your Eminence, the church of St. Thomas ask you to ordain this priest: Reverend Monsignor Jerome Feudjio to the responsibility of the episcopate.”

Reading of the Apostolic Letter by the Apostolic Nuncio to the US

After the solemn request by Fr. Lynch, Cardinal Gregory authoritatively asked: “Have you a mandate from the Apostolic See?” Reverend Father Anthony Abraham replied: “We have.” Then Cardinal Gregory solemnly and authoritatively instructed: “Then let it be read!”

According to Canon 1013 of the Code of Canon law: “No bishop is permitted to consecrate anyone a bishop unless it is first evident that there is a pontifical mandate.” This canon safeguards hierarchical communion. The ordinary minister of valid and licit episcopal ordination is a consecrated bishop who is certain that a pontifical mandate has been issued in favor of the bishop-designate. If a pontifical mandate is lacking for the one to be ordained, both the ordaining minister and the minister ordained incur a latae sententiae excommunication reserved to the Apostolic See (see. canon 1382).

The Apostolic Nuncio of the US, Most Reverend Christophe Pierre solemnly stepped forward to the Lectern, which is a stand where the readings, Gospel and the homily are read from. He then made the ceremony special in his friendly French way by addressing the following: “Your Eminence Cardinal Gregory, Your Eminence Cardinal O’Malley, Your Eminence Cardinal Wuerl, Your Excellency Bishop Bevard, Bishop-elect Feudjio, my brother Archbishops and Bishops here, Priests, deacons, consecrated religious and lay faithful of the family of God in this diocese of St. Thomas in this US Virgin Island, to all of you,” and he automatically switched to French by saying: “et je veux aussi saluer tous ce qui, du Cameroon, nous sont ici présent et nous regarde. J’espere que vous êtes tous présent,” pointing at them. The Cameroonians in the congregation immediately responded with “ululations”, from Latin “ululo” which  is a long, wavering, high-pitched vocal sound resembling a howl with a trilling quality, produced by emitting a high pitched loud voice accompanied with a rapid back and forth movement of the tongue and the uvula. This cultural “ululation” is a celebratory cheer sound when good news has been shared. It is an expression of joy, honor and happiness in Cameroon, and other parts of Africa.

Infact, Archbishop Christophe Pierre was the right man to read the Apostolic letter given his French origin and his jovial nature which made the ceremony totally lively with his language skills of French and English. Most Mexicans testified that Archbishop Christophe Pierre is the right man in the right place. It is important to mention that Archbishop Christophe Pierre was appointed Apostolic Nuncio to Haiti, on July 12, 1995, where he served until 1999. He has been the Apostolic Nuncio to Uganda (1999-2007) and then, the Apostolic Nuncio to Mexico (2007-2016). He was appointed as Apostolic Nuncio of the United States of America by His Holiness, Pope Francis on April 12, 2016. Archbishop Pierre speaks French, English, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese.

Archbishop Pierre then continued by saying that “my feeling is that there is nobody else than Cameroonians here” with such a friendly voice. There was more ululation from the Cameroonian present which interrupted him.

He then remembered and mentioned the people in Fonakeukeu, and switched to French by saying “Tous le Cameroun est content aujourd’hui, n’est- pas ?, he asked the congregation, and they expressed their joy by shouting as is the Cameroon cultural way of expressing joy. He added: “Tous”, (smiling), and said “Pas seulement vous”. I could observe the joy of the Apostolic Nuncio, A French man by nationality who knew how to call the attention of his audience.

He then continued: “So, Your Excellency Bishop-elect Feudjio: I am truly pleased to be with you and the people of St Thomas as you are ordained to the fullness of the priesthood and begin your episcopal ministry here as Ordinary, having worked as closed collaborator with Cardinal O’Malley”. He then paused and turned to Cardinal O’Malley and said – “he is here by the way,” and there was a thunderous round of applause and ululation from Cameroonians expressing their in joy as usual, expressing their joy.

Cardinal Patrick O’Malley, O.F.M. Cap. was the second bishop of St. Thomas from 1985–1992, before he was appointed Bishop of Fall River and later Bishop of Palm Beach, Archbishop of Boston, and President of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors (elevated to Cardinal in 2006).

The Nuncio then asked the congregation: “Do you remember him”, pointing at the assembly. And added almost immediately: “of course,” smiling in such a gracious way which distinguishes the French people.

He then remembered Bishop Elliot Griffin Thomas (third bishop of St Thomas from 1993–1999), who is with God, and Bishop George Murry, S.J. (fourth bishop of St Thomas from 1999–2007), also with God, and most recently with Bishop Herbert Bevard (fifth bishop of St Thomas from 2008–2020), here present, pointing at him, and adding: “we thank him,” and the congregation responded with a thunderous applause and shouting which expressed their joy.

He then said that Msgr. Jerome has served nearly every key post in the diocese of St Thomas, including Vicar General and Rector of the Cathedral, having left his native Cameroon to serve as a missionary there. He then mentioned that Msgr. Jerome understands the critical need for renewed missionary and evangelical effort and said: “So, now, it’s in your hands, you understand that? All of you!”. He then remember Bishop Edward John Harper, C.Ss.R., first bishop of St. Thomas from 1977–1985.

The Nuncio then turned to Msgr. Jerome and encouraged him by saying that the Holy Father has now called him to imitate the heart of the redeemer, to take risk, and cited a citation from Pope Francis: “Woe to the shepherds who privatize their ministry. A shepherd after the heart of God does not protect his own comfort zone; he is not worried about protecting his good name; he will be slandered like Jesus. But rather, without fearing criticism, he is disposed to take risks in seeking to imitate his Lord. Blessed are you when they insult you, when they persecute you…”. He then commended Msgr. Feudjio to St Peter and Paul who preached the gospel to the ends of the earth.

Finally, he expressed his gratitude and that of the congregation to Herbert Bevard who guided the diocese faithfully from 2008 until he retired last year 2020.

The Nuncio then read the Apostolic letter from Pope Francis, given at Rome, at the Lateran, on March 2, 2021, in the eight year of his pontificate, which mentioned that owing to the resignation of the venerable brother Bishop Herbert Bevard, there was a need for a new bishop and read “And so beloved son, we have decided to address this office to you, given that you are outstanding in spiritual life, practical experience, sound faith, scholarship, charity and effective pastoral works.

Therefore, upon consultation with the Congregation of Bishops, Msgr. Feudjio was appointed you bishop of Thomas with the rights and obligations which accompanies it.

The letter instructed Msgr. Jerome “You must make the profession of faith and take the oath of fidelity towards us and our successor in this see.” The letter called on Msgr Feudjio to desire ardently in carry out the ministry to teach the faith.

The Apostolic Nuncio then handed the letter to Bishop Feudjio, who in turn showed the letter to the two co-consecrators, priests and the assembly. There was a continuous ululation and thunderous applause by the congregation. Bishop-elect Feudjio then went around the church to show the apostolic letter while the congregation continued their booming applause.

After showing the Apostolic letter by Pope Francis, Msgr. Feudjio then moved from the bench he was sitting to a chair at the middle of the church while Cardinal O’Malley began his homily.

Homily by Cardinal O’Malley

Cardinal O’Malley began the Homily by greeting the congregation as follows: “Good morning everyone, Bonjour a tous”, and there was a thunderous round of applause and ululation. He then asked the Nuncio to express to the Holy Father how grateful they are for the appointment of a new bishop of the Virgin Island.

He also thanked the Emeritus Bishop Herbert Bevard for his good work in the Virgin Island. He then expressed his happiness to be present to accompany Bishop Jerome in the life of the Church of St Thomas and noted that people around the world know the Virgin Island as a place for honey moon and further went on to say that for his 37 years as Bishop, his honey moon was in the Virgin Island.

In a narration, he recounted how the Head of the Italian Post Office was overwhelmed about the beauty of the Virgin Island at the 500 years of its discovery by Christopher Columbus to extend that he said to Cardinal O’Malley: “Eccellenza, you chose a nice place to be a bishop,” Cardinal O’Malley corrected: “The Pope sent me here. I did not send myself here,” and the Head of the Italian Post Office said: “Oh, The Pope is infallible,” and there was a thunderous round of applause and ululation. “That is the way we feel today,” he continued.

He noted that “Pope Francis has wisely chosen a faithful priest who has dedicated his entire ministry to the beautiful people of the Virgin Island.” There was a thunderous round of applause from the congregation with ululation and then went about to explain that in today’s world, the office of bishop was not well understood.

He then stated that “one of the most important things that the Catholic Church does is to make bishops, bishops who can link us with the apostles and with Christ himself and that allow us to be a Eucharistic people, and without the Eucharist, how sad, how empty the world would be.”

Cardinal O’Malley further narrated the importance of the Eucharist in the life of the Church and followers of Christ by mentioning that the Martyrs of Abitinae (or Abitinian Martyrs) were a group of 49 Christians found guilty, in 304, during the reign of the Emperor Diocletian, of having illegally celebrated Sunday worship at Abitinae, a town in the Roman province of Africa. The priest Saturninus was then interrogated and held firm even under torture. His example was followed by all the others, both men and women. They included his four children. One of the responses of the accused has been frequently quoted. Emeritus, who declared that the Christians had met in his house, was asked why he had violated the emperor’s command. He replied: Sine dominico non possumus” – we cannot live without this thing of the Lord (we cannot live without Sunday, meaning that they could not live without the Eucharist). He was referring to the celebration of the Holy Eucharist that the emperor had declared illegal, but in which they had chosen to participate even at the cost of being tortured and sentenced to death.”

Cardinal O’ Malley continued his very moving homily by saying that Jesus founded his church on the apostles, the first bishops. Many of them were simple fishermen, ill prepared. They became vessels of clay bearing treasures, carrying the good news of the gospel to the ends of the world by witness the gospel truth by gladly shading their blood as witness for the gospel. Jesus questions the apostles. Jesus chose apostles. The apostles were the first bishops but not the last. They were the beginning of the vocation of bishop in the church.

He then noted that Peter had a three year seminary formation leading up to his episcopal ordination at the last supper: it was an accelerated course, a sort of night school where Peter was working, fishing. With Peter helping Jesus the whole time, being prepared to be a bishop and added that he thinks Peter was an A student because he gave correct answers to the three exams of Jesus which can still be applicable today to anyone candidate who is to be ordained bishop.

He further added that Jesus was a great teacher but he did not think he liked correcting exams, so he kept it very short (some giggling: laughing lightly and repeatedly in an excited way could be heard from the congregation when he gave this example). He then went along to in an elaborate way to elucidate these three examination questions for any candidate to be ordained a bishop:

  • The first exam: “Who do the people say the son of man is? Who do you say that I am?

This is the first exam Jesus asked to his apostles. It is Peter who answered, “Thou are the Christ, the son of the living God,” ‘bingo’, he exclaimed and said it was the correct answer.”  

He then elaborated that the answer is faith in Jesus Christ, true God and true man, in a world of unbelief, the bishop needs to be a man of faith who can assure people, “we are not here by accident, we are here because of a loving God who created us, redeemed us and gave us a mission.” He then cited Pope Paul VI who once said, “More than teachers, the world needs witnesses.”

“When they were looking for a replacement for Judas, part of the job description was: to be a witness of the resurrection,” he stated and then addressed Msgr. Jerome directly: “Jerome, you are called to be a teacher of the faith and a witness that Jesus Christ is risen and walks among us. Jesus is not some guru from the distant past.” He is our contemporary and the bishops words and deeds must proclaim before the world that our redeemer lives and walks among us. In the past the church was often persecuted because of what we thought about Christ: virginity of Mary, infallibility if the pope, two natures.

Todays, so often, the attack of the church comes because of the churches teaching about the dignity of the human being, the centrality of life and the churches social gospel. “Of all of this truths, you must a herald, proclaiming the good news with clarity, with enthusiasm, and with joy”, he said.

He explained that when the first bishops ordained the first deacons, the reason they gave was that the bishops – apostles needed more time for prayer and for preaching. As a man of faith, he insisted, the bishop is called to be a man of prayer, to have a deep and intimate knowledge and friendship with Jesus Christ that can then be communicated by your authenticity with your preaching, your witness in sharing your own intimate faith life.

2) The second exam for the bishop: “Will you also abandon me?

Cardinal O’ Malley went on to explain that in a world where people have put their trust in science, in politics and in money, discipleship is always about putting our faith in Jesus and in his promises. In such a world, where many are rejecting Jesus’ promises, Peter gets an A plus: he says: “Lord to whom shall we go, thou hast the words of eternal life.”

Cardinal O’Malley explains that: Peter’s response is one of hope amidst many who have lost hope. In a world where there is so much despair, where many people are stepping away, abandoning Christ, leaving the church in despair, we need our bishops to be men of hope, leading people to a place where they can trust in the loving and powerful promises of our savior.” Like Peter, Cardinal O’Malley said that “we need the bishop to be a man to faith, and a man of hope, he concluded the second exam.”

3) The Final Exam: ‘Do you love me?’

Cardinal O’Malley explained that Jesus asked this question three times: “Do you love me?” Peter answered: “Jesus thou knowest all things, thou knowest” that I love thee,” and it is there that Peter refers his commission: “feed my sheep.”

He then directly addressed Msgr. Jerome in the following words: “Jerome, my brother, today, you are being commissioned, ordained, anointed to care for the Lord’s flock, feed my sheep. Jesus is asking you the same questions: Do you love me? Like Peter, you must be able to response the words of faith: Lord to whom shall we go? Thou have the words of eternal life, a response of hope. Lord you know that I love you, a response of Love. Are you also going to abandon me?”

He exhorted to Msgr. Feudjio that the invitation is to follow Jesus, up close in an unswerving discipleship all the rest of his days. “Ministry is all about love, about mercy, about laying down one’s life for the flock, he added.

He further addressed Bishop Jerome in the following words: “Today, in the presence of this faith community, Jerome will receive the same ordination and sharing in the apostles’ role.’ Jesus is calling you to follow Him and to be a shepherd after his own heart by this sacrament. Without the bishop, in the lineage of the apostles, there will be no priests, no possibility of Eucharist, no ordination. That is why the ordination of a bishop is something so key,” he firmly noted.

He then explained the importance of episcopal ordination: “It is the way that Christ’s loving plan continues to unfold in history. The ordination speaks about the meaning of the sacrament. The bishop represents Christ the divine bridegroom. That is why he has a ring. The bishop must have a strong love for God’s people.”

Moreover, he noted: “Bishop Jerome, you are to pray for all people, love your priests, your deacons, and seek out the sheep that have strayed. You will be an icon of the good shepherd represented in the Crozier. Today is a second call. You are called to a deeper conversion love and service.”

He concluded his homily by praying in the following words: “May the grace of this ordination grant Msgr. Feudjio the heart of Jesus, who came not to be served but to serve, just as Jesus who layed down his life for his flock. Amen.”, and there was a thunderous round of applause and ululation from the extremely excited congregation, especially the Cameroonians present.

Episcopal Consecration Proper

After the homily, the promises of the bishop-elect followed. After that, there was an invitation to prayer by the principal consecrator.

After the prayer, the Bishop-elect prostrated himself on the floor in the middle of the lower sanctuary and the Litany of Saints was sung by Ronan Sarmiento, Seminarian for the Diocese of St. Thomas and Marie Pascale Duplan, Pastoral Associate.

Then at 11.32am, there was the imposition of hands by the consecrating bishop, Cardinal Gregory.

Then the principal ordaining Cardinal Gregory received the book of the gospels and placed it, open, upon the head of the Bishop-elect; two deacons, standing on the right and on the left of the Bishop-elect hold the book of the Gospels above his head until the end of the prayer of ordination.

Then came the prayer of ordination by Cardinal Gregory. Cardinal Gregory then anointed the head of the newly ordained Bishop with the sacred Chrism. The principal ordaining cardinal presents the book of the Gospels to the newly ordained Bishop.

At 11:41am, there was the placing the RING on the new bishop’s ring finger (right hand), the lacing the MITER on the head of the new Bishop and the presenting of the PASTORAL STAFF to Bishop Feudjio.

At 11:42am, Cardinal Gregory and Archbishop Pierre then invited newly ordained Bishop Feudjio to the “cathedra” (that is, the seat of a bishop in the principal church of a diocese known as the Cathedral from cathedra – episcopal seat). After setting aside his crosier, Bishop Feudjio rises and receives the fraternal Kiss of Peace from Cardinal Gregory and all other Cardinals and Bishops. The joy of the congregation was expressed in thunderous round of applause and ululation from the congregation. The mass then continued with Bishop Feudjio as the main celebrant of the mass.

The Liturgy of the Eucharist then followed, and then the Communion Rite.

After the communion rite, a Hymn of Thanksgiving in French was joyfully sung with the beating of African drums which accompanied its exceptional melody, while bishop Feudjio blessed the congregation. The hymn that was sung was: « Rendez grâce au Seigneur, car Il est bon (ter) Eternel est son amour. »

Remarks by the Emeritus Bishop Herbert Bevard

After communion, the Emeritus Bishop Bevard and Bishop Feudjio made some remarks. Bishop Bevard was highly delighted to make some remarks. He said: “As you know and I know, for many many years Msgr. Jerome has served the people of the diocese of St Thomas with distinction and honor. He never shrank from any duty, and during my term, and never refused a single aspect of his assignment. He always made me so proud to be the bishop here by his goodness and kindness, and by his devotion and faith in Almighty God. Remember him in your prayers that they will guide him as he fulfills his duties that he has sown to undertake this day. May Good richly bless you all, and thank you very much,” and there was a thunderous round of applause and ululation from the congregation.

Remarks by Bishop Jerome Feudjio

In his final remarks, Bishop Feudjio expressed frankly: “As you can tell, I am very very moved by this celebration.” He then thanked EWTN, the crew that is working behind for livestream production. He addressed

In his first letter to Timothy, St Paul writes: “I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has granted me the needed strength and made me able for this, because He considered me faithful and trustworthy, and appointing me into the ministry.”

He thanked those watching the ceremony through social media by saying the following statement which he quite loves to say: “the Lord is good, all the time, and all the time, the Lord is good”, the congregation repeated after him.

He then went on to express his profound gratitude to Pope Francis for the trust he placed in him by appointing him 6th bishop of St Thomas, in the Virgin Islands, USA. (there was a thunderous round of applause).

He then thanked the apostolic nuncio to the USA, His Grace Archbishop Christophe Pierre and humbly asked him to convey to His Holiness Pope Francis his gratitude and the excitement of the people of the Virgin Island and reassured him of their constant prayer for the Holy Father.

He eventually profoundly thanked Cardinal Gregory for his support and the people of the archdiocese of Washington. He specified: “When our Bishop Bevard had to undergo treatment, Cardinal Wilton stepped in and helped us a great deal.” He also expressed that it was Cardinal Gregory who appointed him Delegate, which showed the trust he placed in him. He thanked Cardinal Gregory from the bottom of his heart for his prayers and assistance.

With regards to Cardinal Wuerls, Bishop Feudjio noted that over the years, Cardinal Wuerls has assisted the diocese of St Thomas in a variety of ways, himself – bishop Feudjio and the retired bishop in so many ways. He thanked Cardinal Wuerls for making him feeling at home in the archdiocese of Washington. There was a continuous thunderous round of applause.

When it was the turn to thank Cardinal O’Malley, he turned to him and said: “His Eminence Sean Cardinal Patrick O’Malley, what can I say”, and there was an immediate thunderous round of applause from the congregation. Bishop Feudjio continued: “I do not intend to keep you so long here the whole day, my brothers and sisters, but there is so much to say about this mentor of mine, the Lord has placed you on my way since I first came to the US. You were and continuously told me to listen to the voice of the Lord and to do his will. Eli was the mentor of Samuel. You have been and continue to be Eli in my life as Samuel.”

Bishop Feudjio continued: “birthdays and ordination anniversary cards for over 30 years without missing one year – Thank you very much, he expressed (there was a thunderous round of applause).

Bishop Feudjio continued: “So thank you. I don’t know if you remember the day you picked me up from St Mathew Cathedral, where I was doing my after school drive. I had not received a driver’s license but I managed to get a student driver’s license, so I was learning, but he trusted me enough to ask me to drive him, and he was to my right”. As we took the curve on the 15th street shortly after St. Augustine Church towards the park, Fr. O’Malley suddenly, realizing that the car was going out of the way. Then Fr. O’Malley turned the steering to the right which eventually prevented them from having an accident. Bishop Feudjio then expressed that he will always remember that day with Cardinal O’Malley. “How could you trust this guy who never drove to drive you?”, (Bishop Feudjio asked in a funny way looking with gratitude into the eyes of Cardinal O’Malley.

He then continued: “That Green Dodge. It was an old car. We repaired it so many times. And you turned that car to me. And before I moved, I turned the car to that gentleman sitting there which became a taxi”, pointing at the man. He later articulated that the car was of great assistance to the man to provide for his family. That was where the car ended. That ‘Green Dodge’ car was of great service and assistance not only to him but to the man and his family.

He then went on to narrate his first experience in a restaurant with Fr. O’Malley: “I remember the first time you took me to the restaurant. I had never gone to a restaurant. You just said – come and I just followed. It was a Pizzeria. You made me get my first pizza, and made me go to the first Roger restaurants. I was not the first or the last that you took care of from the third world countries. You managed to make a community life among us. Thank you.”

Bishop Feudjio thanked late Bishop Elliot Griffin Thomas (bishop of St. Thomas from 1993-1999) whose love and dedication taught them how to be a compassionate pastor, pastor of souls.

To the late bishop George Murry, Bishop Feudjio prayed that God will extend his mercy upon him and welcome him to paradise, and he added that “we owe him a depth of gratitude. He gave all for the diocese. He really put me to work. Under him, I was appointed Msgr. under Pope John Paul II.”

With regards to his successor Emeritus Bishop Bevard, he noted: “Since your appointment, Bishop Bevard, you entrusted me with so many responsibilities that helped me to be the person that I am. You will always be remembered. May God continue to bless you as you enjoy your retirement.” He thanked Bishop Bevard for his assistance.

Addressing the Governor of the Virgin Island, Bishop Feudjio expressed in the following words: “thank you for your leadership here. I remember the day you were here for the inaugural mass as you were about to lead the people of virgin island. Your time has been a very difficult time but somehow you have navigated over these difficult times with the unquestionable support of the Lieutenant governor and others.”

He also thanked the Assistant Lieutenant Governor of the Virgin Islands and for the wonderful health care department by articulating: “All those who came here went through the covid test. Not only my guests, but also all the visitors into the virgin Island. Thank you Governor”, he articulated.

Bishop Feudjio went on to express the following profound words: “Yes, I pledge my support and the continuous support of the catholic community in ways pleasing to God. All those who welcomed their doors to welcome me in this Island. God knows you. If I begin to list, I will not end. With you I have been able to accomplish what alone and without divine providence I would not be able to accomplish. Our Lord Jesus has been faithful. God is good, all the time, and all the time, God is good. As we look ahead, let us continue to pray in fidelity and love. My family is represented here. When I left Cameroon, with my training in accounting, you expected me to be an accountant, but I decided to count the souls of the Lord and to take care of the souls of the Lord. I know you have given up because you have discovered that I have chosen the best path.”

From left to right:
Archbishop Roberto Gonzalez Nieves, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Cardinal Wilton Gregory, Bishop Jerome Feudjio, Cardinal Sean O’Malley, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, Nuncio, Bishop Herbert A. Bevard, Bishop Roy Campbell.

With regards to those not present who were watching the event through social media, Bishop Feudjio said: “As for you watching from Cameroon, France, everywhere in the world, and for those in St. Croix, water island, island of St. John. So thank you for your love and for your patience with me. The entire ceremony has been a vivid profession of my faith and my episcopal duty to teach preach, to sanctify. Many people are working behind the scene, and because of them, the listing is a long listing. I pray that God continues to bless you as you continue.”

Bishop Feudjio ended his long but totally interesting remark by saying: “May God bless you and see you very very soon.”

Concluding Rites

Then came the concluding rites which consisted in the solemn blessing and dismissal. It would be of primordial and utmost capital importance to know the coat of arms and the motto of Bishop Feudjio.

Episcopal Coat of Arms of Bishop Feudjio

The Episcopal coat of arms is “initially used to mark documents, ecclesiastical heraldry evolved as a system for identifying people and dioceses. It is most formalized within the Catholic Church, where most bishops, including the Pope, have a personal coat of arms”. Here is a detailed explanation of the coat of arms of Bishop Feudjio:

Characteristics of the coat of arms of Bishop Feudjio

The coat of arms of Bishop Feudjio has the following elements: “Arms Impaled. Dexter, Arms of the Diocese of Saint Thomas of the Virgin Islands (Dioecesis Sancti Thomae in Insulis Virgineis). Azure, semé of Mullets Argent, a Sword pointed to the chief over all two Keys in saltire Or, all behind bordure wavy of the second. Sinister, Personal Arms of Bishop Jerome Feudjio. Tierced per fesse, in chief Vert the letter “M” fleury Azure and Argent, in fesse Gules Lion sejant Or, in base Or the “Tree of Peace” of Cameroon Vert.”

Explanation of the coat of arms of Bishop Feudjio

The dexter impalement (on the viewer’s left) displays the arms of the Diocese of Saint Thomas of the Virgin Islands, which is comprised of the islands of Saint Thomas, Saint Croix, Saint John, and Water Island in the U.S. Virgin Islands. The blue field and the silver (white) wavy border around the dexter side of the shield, symbolize the Caribbean Sea where the Virgin Islands are geographically located. The thirteen five-pointed silver (white) stars represent the original thirteen colonies of the United States, of which the Virgin Islands are an unincorporated and organized territory. The diocese of Saint Thomas was established in 1977 and is within the ecclesiastical province of Washington, D.C.

The crossed gold keys are an attribute of Saint Peter and represent the keys of the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 16:19); the gold sword, an attribute of Saint Paul, is a reminder of his martyrdom. Peter and Paul are the patron saints of the cathedral in Charlotte Amalie, located on the island of Saint Thomas, which is the seat or cathedra of the bishop of the diocese.

The sinister impalement (on the viewer’s right) displays the personal arms of Bishop Jerome Feudjio. The field carries the colors of the flag of Cameroon: green, red, and gold. Bishop Feudjio was born in Fonakeukeu, Dschang, Cameroon. It is here where his life in the Church began with his Baptism, first reception of the Eucharist, and Confirmation. In Cameroon he began his education at Catholic institutions of learning and his seminary training. The placement of the “flag” of Cameroon next to the arms of the diocese of Saint Thomas speaks of the beginning of Bishop Feudjio’s life in sacramental ministry to the Church. He was ordained a priest for the diocese of Saint Thomas in 1990 by then Bishop Sean O’Malley, OFM, Cap., at the cathedral of Saint Peter and Paul. In a unique heraldic twist, one could see the two distinct arms as one in the ecclesiastical life of Bishop Feudjio.

In the chief green field, is the blue and silver (white) letter “M,” an emblem for the Blessed Mother. The letter has “fleury” or “fleur-delis” (quite literally, “flower of lily”) shaped edges. The fleur-de-lis is also a symbol of Mary under her title of the Immaculate Conception. Blue and silver (white) are traditional colors of the Blessed Mother, symbolizing truth and sincerity, faithfulness, and purity. This style of the letter “M” carries at its heart a cross, symbolizing the Cross of Redemption of her Son. In the flag of Cameroon, green represents the rich and fertile soil of the country and the hope that it brings. The combination with the Marian “M” speaks of the beginning of the spiritual life of Bishop Feudjio. In addition, it is a tender reminder of his time in Washington, D.C., when he was invited by then Father Sean O’Malley, whose Irish heritage is also recalled in the green field, to stay at San Francisco House of the Archdiocese of Washington. Jerome also attended the College of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, which was then part of the Washington Theological Consortium, and completed his studies in Philosophy and Theology for the priesthood.

The fesse or center field of red speaks of the dignity of Saint Jerome, the patron saint of Bishop Feudjio. Saint Jerome (4th Century) is often depicted in the red robes and galero of a cardinal. Though this office did not exist during his lifetime, the color is used to denote his dignity among the early scholars of the Church. The lion sejant, here in gold, is seated on its haunches with forepaws on the ground. According to legend, while giving a lecture to his students in Bethlehem, a lion came to Saint Jerome, limping. Everyone fled except for the saint, who welcomed the lion and removed a thorn from his paw. The lion remained with Jerome until his death. The symbol of the lion is one of the oldest designations for courage, and the color gold speaks of generosity.

The base field of gold, which represents religious freedom and peace in Cameroon, carries the emblem of the “Tree of Peace” of Cameroon. This emblem is of particular importance to Bishop Feudjio and is very close to his heart.

Behind the arms is placed a gold cross pattée, symbolic of the rank of a bishop; the stem of the cross is wood, symbolizing the staff of a shepherd. Over the whole achievement is the green hat or galero of a bishop with a total of twelve tassels pendent, six on each side. For his motto, Bishop Feudjio chose, ‘Vivit in me Christus,’ taken from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Galatians (2:20), in which the Bishop expresses the essence of his life as a Christian and as a priest in service to the Body of Christ: “Yet I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me.” (Episcopal Ordination Booklet, Most Reverend Jerome Feudjio, April 17, 2021, page 10-10).

It should be informed that the personal arms of Bishop Jerome Feudjio were devised and drawn by Geraldine M. Rohling, PhD, MAEd, Washington, D.C., in March 2021.

Episcopal Motto of Bishop Feudjio

For his motto, Bishop Feudjio chose, “Vivit in me Christus,” taken from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Galatians (2:20), in which the Bishop expresses the essence of his life as a Christian and as a priest in service to the Body of Christ: “Yet I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me.”

Mass of thanksgiving for the episcopal consecration of Bishop Feudjio

Last Sunday, April 18 at 9am, there was a Mass of Thanksgiving at the cathedral; 2) Next Saturday, April 24 at 10am, there will be a Mass of Thanksgiving at St. Croix at the Catholic Church of St. Patrick; 3) On Sunday, May 2 at 9am, there will be a mass of Thanksgiving at St. John at the Catholic Church of Mount Carmel. Please, kindly  note that live streaming of all the events will be available at www.cathedralvi.org and will be broadcasted locally on EWTN, Channel 7.  Please, for congratulatory messages to Monsignor Feudjio, kindly contact the Catholic Chancery at 340-774-3166 or email vichancery@gmail.com.

Conclusion

Elise-Rossi wrote this magnificent piece to Bishop-elect Feudjio on April 8, 2021: “Father highly loved and cherished, True example of a good Priest, So devoted in his service to God, For in his 31 years in God’s service ,he still looks like a Priest of Yesterday, Very strong and healthy, leading God’s people tirelessly in the Virgin Islands USA. Only through hard-work did he earn the title of a Monsignor, now even through earn-less, tireless and more zeal for God has he not only been appointed to higher heights but made history, The first African born to be made Bishop in the United States of America. The sixth Bishop of St Thomas VI. I pray therefore; that God who brought you this far, will bless you with more Wisdom, good health, long-life and happiness to continue leading his people; May countless souls return to Christ in your ministry. With much love from one of your Cameroonian daughters.”

It is unarguable and unquestionable that Bishop Feudjio has been a genuine ambassador of Christ and his native country Cameroon. I salute him and congratulate him on his consecration and canonical possession as 6th Bishop of the diocese of St. Thomas, in the Virgin Islands, USA. This justifies why the ceremony was so pregnant with joy.

My humble prayer is that the Lord will bless him with long life, good health, constant joy and happiness in his selfless service as Bishop, successor of the apostles and that he may realized all his dreams and projects as 6th Bishop in the Diocese of St. Thomas, suffragan see of the Archdiocese of Washington. Amen, for the Lord is good, all the time, and all the time, the Lord is good.

 

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