Many people know early in life what they want to be. At the age of five, Jean-Thierry Ebogo from Cameroon was already sure that he wanted to be a priest. For him, being a priest was nothing less than “being Jesus.” When he joined the Carmelite Order in 2003 at the age of 21, it seemed as though his dreams were close to fulfillment. But Providence decided otherwise. After just a year, a malignant tumor was discovered in his right leg. Even amputation was not enough to check the spread of the disease. By the time he was brought to Italy for treatment in 2005, the cancer had already metastasized.
On December 8, 2005, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, Jean-Thierry 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 to 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 23. By then, his reputation for holiness had spread, and a vast throng of people came to his funeral. The beatification process for him was concluded at the diocesan level in 2014.
Before he died, however, 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 in the neighboring Central African Republic is today enjoying many priestly vocations.
In the Central African Republic, a desperately poor country which only makes the international headlines because of repeated violence and unrest, 27 young Carmelite novices are currently responding to the call of God and preparing for their permanent vows and ordination to the priesthood. They want to give their lives so that peace can at last become a reality in their country. But peace will only come about when God truly dwells in every human heart. In Cameroon, too, where Jean-Thierry Ebogo was born, there are another 12 young men currently undergoing formation.
“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 endeavoring 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 were the comments of Father Cyriaque Soumbou, a member of the formation team for these future priests and religious in the town of Bouar in Central African Republic.
Father Soumbou continued, “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 by the joy of living together in community and devoting oneself to the service of others. All these were things he had seen in the Italian missionaries who had brought the Carmelite Order to his country and 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.” That is how Father Cyriaque describes his own personal experience.
ACN is providing $27,500 for this academic year so that the 39 young Carmelite novices in Bangui, Bouar, and Yaoundé can continue their formation.
Will you give to support the formation of these Carmelite friars as they prepare to serve God in the Central African Republic and Cameroon?
We are sure they will remember you in their grateful prayers.
Aid to the Church in Need commits to invest your funds where they will have the greatest impact for the Church that we serve. Funds donated to Aid to the Church in Need’s projects will be used towards the greatest need in our programs to help keep the Faith alive.