By Nchumbonga George Lekelefac, B. Phil. (Mexico), S.T.B. (Roma), JCL/MCL.(Ottawa), Doctorate Candidate, WestfälischeWilhelms-Universität, Münster, Germany
Reverend Father Manfred Ejong Nokwe: National Director of the Pontifical Mission Society of Cameroon died at 56 in Yaounde. Msgr Jervis Kebei Kewi, Secretary General of the Cameroon National Bishops Conference informed yesterday Monday, May 3 in the following words: “It is with a very heavy heart and deep sadness that we announce to you the death of Reverend Father Manfred Ejong, priest of the Diocese of Mamfe and National Director of the Pontifical Mission Societies, today Monday 3rd May 2021 at 8.15 p.m., in Yaounde, after a brief illness.Let us pray for his peaceful repose.The burial programme shall be announced later by the appropriate authority.”
A dedicated soul
Father Manfred EjongNokwewas born on July 27, 1964 in Muakwe-Bangem, in the South West Province of Cameroon.
After his primary and secondary studies, he studied philosophy and theology at St. Thomas Aquinas Major Seminary in Bambui.
He was ordained a priest on March 30, 2005 for the Diocese of Mamfe by Bishop Francis Teke Lysinge, then Bishop of Mamfe diocese. Infact, I attended his ordination in Mamfe. It was the very first time I participated at a priestly ordination at Mamfe.
Into the arena
After ordination he was appointed parish priest in Mbetta and Fotabong respectively.
Later, he was appointed as the administrator of St. Joseph Cathedral in Mamfe, and diocesan chaplain of the French-speaking community of Mamfe, of the Catholic Men Association, of the Apostleship of the family.
Since 2008 he has been diocesan director of the Pontifical Mission Society.
Since 2014, he served as administrator of the St. John Paul II Major Seminary in BachuoNtai.
Two years later, on March 24, 2016, Cardinal Fernando Filoni, then Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, appointed rev. Fr. Manfred EjongNokwe, of the diocesan clergy ofMamfeDiocese as National Director of the Pontifical Mission Societies (PMS) in Cameroon for five years (2016-2021), replacing Rev. Gaspard MengataNka of the clergy of the archdiocese of Yaoundé who was appointed Director of PMS from 2006 to 2011 by Cardinal CrescenzioSepe, then Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples on March 14, 2006. Rev. Gaspard was confirmedfor a second five-year period, that is, from 2011 – 2016 by Archbishop Fernando Filoni, then Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, on June 13, 2011.
On April 17, 2021, the final communiqué of the 46th General Assembly of the Bishops of Cameroon, signed by Secretary General, Msgr. Jervis KebeiKewi stated that Fr. Manfred EjongNokwe was “re-appointed”National Director of the Pontifical Mission Societies (PMS) in Cameroon.
Reverend Father Manfred’s worth
For the past five years, Fr. Manfred distinguished himself as an erudite and illustrious Director of the Pontifical Mission Societies of Cameroon. He also celebrated Mass in some parishes in Yaounde. He was known to be a selfless pastor of souls in all the parishes he worked in Mamfe Diocese and in Yaoundé. He struggled daily to be an alter Christus (another Christ) and dedicated his life totally to preaching the Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ as a missionary and ambassador of Christ despite the fact that he was the Director of the PMS.In addition, he was perfectly bilingual and that impressively facilitated his ministry in every nook and cranny of Cameroon.
The last time I met Fr. Manfred facemadfacem (face to face) was in October 2020 in Yaoundé on my research trip from Germany to Cameroon to research on the life of Prof. Bernard Fonlon. I met Fr. Manfred together with Fr. Etienne Kumbah and the parish priest of Bota Parish, Reverend Fr. Mesue enjoying a mouth-watering plate of Achusoup at the well-known Manuba Restaurant which belongs to Mrs. Vivian AlemanjiAgbor, my cousin.Infact, it was my cousin who hinted me that Fr. Etienne Kumbahwas around with Fr. Manfred. I went immediately to greet them. When I saw Fr. Manfred, I drew closer to him and greeted him. He could remember me very well since we first met in Mamfe in 2005 to the extent that he invited me to his home at the National Episcopal Conference. Fr. Manfred had such a good memory that he hardly forgot the names of people he met.
Later in the evening, on October 26, 2020, I received this message from Fr. Manfred which read: “We are back home at the Episcopal Conference. Tomorrow afternoon can be ok. I have marriage doctrine classes at 5pm. I will travel to Batouri on Wednesday morning.”I promised to visit him the following day on October 27, 2020.
Unfortunately, I could not make it due to an unforeseen circumstance that presented. So, I sent him a message to inform of my inability to make it for the appointment. This was his reply: “Good evening my brother. Your coming to Cameroon is for business. Surely some other time will do. Tomorrow morning I leave for Batouri.”
From the above conversation, I unquestionably and unarguably testify that Fr. Manfred was a dedicated and extremely humble and friendly priest with such a distinguished soft tone whenever he was talking. He was so lively and extremely entertaining to his parishioners who loved him very much and considered him an authentic pastor of souls. Infact, I was not surprised when he was appointed as Director of PMS by the Vatican. He had a unique broad smile which exposed his immaculate cum unsulliedwhite-shiny teeth that transmitted and radiated joy and happiness with those he met.
As if that was not enough, coincidentally, Mr. Ngoumba Leonard, renowned, erudite and highly respectable Cameroonian Programme Associate at Africa Energy and Extractives Global practice at the World Bank group, in George Washington University Washington DC, certified yesterday that he got to know Fr. Manfred in Yaoundé as a member of the Exsan Association and affirmed in writing that Fr. Manfred “was a very down to earth man, with soft speech,”thereby agreeing to what I described Fr. Manfred as totally outgoing, humble, jovial and a man with great humour.
Dedicated Director of the Pontifical Mission Societies and missionary advocate
The “Pontifical Mission Societies consist of the Society for the Propagation ofthe Faith, the Holy Childhood Association, the Society of St. Peter Apostleand the Missionary Union of Priests and Religious. The Pontifical MissionSocieties have, as their primary purpose, the promotion of a universalmissionary spirit — a spirit of prayer and sacrifice — among all baptizedCatholics.”Fr. Manfred dedicated his ministry in the promotion of a universal missionary spirit — a spirit of prayer and sacrifice — among all baptized Catholics wherever he found himself to serve, even before he was appointed National Director of the Pontifical societies in Cameroon. The Diocese of Mamfe where he incardinated known as a missionary diocese par excellence in Cameroon prepared him and gave him the necessary qualities of an erudite missionary and subsequently an illustrious National Director of PMS.
The “first three Societies, in carrying out that goal, invite baptized Catholics toexpress their missionary commitment by offering their prayers, personalsacrifices and financial support for the work of the Church in the Missions.T he Missionary Union of Priests and Religious works to deepen missionawareness among priests, men and women Religious, catechists, and educatorsso that they are fully prepared to take on the mission formation ofthe faithful. These four Societies each received the title ‘pontifical’ in 1922to indicate their status as official instruments of the Holy Father and of theUniversal Roman Catholic Church.” Fr. Manfred dedicated his entire life and worked to deepen missionawareness among priests, men and women Religious, catechists, and educators in Cameroon, which gave them the opportunity to be fully prepared to take on the mission formation ofthe faithful in Cameroon and beyond.