“Whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.”
Help the Formation of Carmelite Novices in Cameroon and the Central African Republic
In 1971, the first four Carmelite Fathers left Italy for the Central African Republic. These courageous pioneers rolled up their sleeves and set off to work in one of the world’s poorest countries. Carmelite Father Nicolò Ellena stayed there until the age of 90. He died in 2019 at 96.
Today, eight Italian Carmelites work at the Order’s five mission stations, and the Order consists mostly of local men who have devoted their lives to peace in their country. They believe that faith can help to achieve that.
The friars in the Central African Republic work closely with their Carmelite brothers in neighboring Cameroon. There are currently 38 men in formation: 23 of them in the Central African Republic and 15 in Cameroon. They live together in the nearest Carmelite monastery and study both theology and philosophy in each country’s capital.
Their studies were interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, but the Order’s provincial delegate, Father Federico Trinchero, reports that it has not seriously impeded their formation. On the contrary, their spiritual and communal lives have only strengthened.
Then again, Carmelites in the region are used to emergency situations. In 2013, at the height of civil war, 10,000 refugees lived on the grounds of the Bangui Carmel. Under lockdown, the challenges are different. “It was only the silence that was somewhat unusual,” says Father Federico. Normally, the monastery is a place where thousands go in times of need. It functions as a spiritual and recreational center, with countless children running around.
Thankfully, COVID’s impact on Africa was smaller than initially feared, and the continent has almost recovered from the pandemic. In September, four young men joined the novitiate, and five others took their temporary vows; in October, the Order celebrated the priestly ordination of Brother Armand.
And in December, as part of their preparation for the Jubilee Year, two Carmelites were due to move to Bozoum, the Order’s oldest station in the Central African Republic, and take their vows. Sadly, the celebration was cancelled at the last minute. Security had worsened as a result of the parliamentary and presidential elections, and armed militants forced their way into town on the eve of the planned ceremonies. The two young men, Brother Jeannot and Brother Martial, instead took their vows among a small group of brothers in Bangui. It was a day of great joy and grace, despite the circumstances.
The formation of the Carmelites in Cameroon and the Central African Republic remains difficult for this reason and many others, including a lack of financial support. But Father Federico puts his trust in God and his teaching staff, who are responsible for the spiritual, intellectual, and personal formation of the people in their care.
ACN has offered $30,600 so that their work can continue smoothly.
Will you join us in supporting the formation of Carmelite novices in Cameroon and the Central African Republic?
We are sure they will remember you in their prayers.
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