It was March/April 1999 or thereabouts. Now Bishop Lysinge did not show up for lectures. We later learnt he was away in Yaounde. Within a very short time he went to Yaounde twice. When he finally showed up for lectures, out of curiosity one of us as if inspired by the Holy Spirit asked him if he had been made Bishop. Very unlike Mola Lysinge, as he was fondly called, packed his books and left the classroom. 24 hours later, the seminary chapel bell summoned us all at an irregular hour to the chapel. The only other time that bell had rung at such an hour was at the demise of Fr. Sylvester Suh Ngwa and an impromptu rector’s conference in the chapel to address some burning anger management issues that had arisen from a soccer game. As we gathered in the chapel, we wondered which priest had died or what infractions merited such an emergency. Lo and behold, then rector Rev Fr. John Ambe broke the news: Habemus episcopum – Francis Teke Lysinge for the newly erected diocese of Mamfe. The joy was spontaneous as we lifted Mola, high and in song and dance around the seminary campus, savored the moment.
A similar scenario seems to have enveloped Bishop’s house Buea, last week when the announcement came of the appointment of Rev Fr. Andrew Nkea, as coadjutor bishop with right of succession to the diocese of Mamfe. The lone picture on Facebook shows his brother priests of the diocese of Buea throwing him in the air and surely singing and praising God in thanksgiving.
We may take this for granted but with the recent events in the diocese of Makeni, Sierra Leone and diocese of Ahiarra, Nigeria we must celebrate this moment as a sign of maturity in the faith. At the announcement of Msgr. Henry Aruna, a southerner as the new Bishop of the diocese Makeni in the North, priests and Christians of the diocese locked the Cathedral in protest saying they were matured enough to have one of their own appointed as Bishop of the diocese. A similar thing occurred in the diocese of Ahiarra where the new Bishop Peter Okpaleke from the diocese of Awka is facing similar challenges.
If the people of Mamfe want to know the caliber of person they have been gifted with, it suffices to read through some of the comments on Facebook: “ A square peg in a square hole,” “The people’s bishop,” “The voice of the people is the voice of God” “ Bishop Andrew Great and Holy man,” “The right man in the right job, ’God’s chosen shepherd’”, “God has lifted you our father. You are blessed ohhhhhhhh,” “ Thank you Lord for Father Nkea. From grace to grace.” Very heart-warming to read one of the priests of the diocese of Mamfe write: God’s chosen and the right successor to Mola. We are very happy.”
“This is a clear testament to the words of Yahweh expressed in the prophet Jeremiah: I will give you shepherds after my own heart. “ (Jer. 3:15)
Born in the archdiocese of Bamenda, Bishop-elect Nkea grew up in the early years in the diocese of Kumbo, and has served as a priest for 21 years in the diocese of Buea and now this comes full circle with his appointment to serve in the diocese of Mamfe. Bishop Nkea is truly “metropolitan” or if you prefer “cosmopolitan.”
Two very proud people on this day are Bishop-elect’s alma mater: St Thomas Aquinas’ major seminary, Bambui and bishop emeritus, Pius Awa of the diocese of Buea.
In September 2013, the regional major seminary, Bambui will close the celebration of its fortieth anniversary. The election of Bishop elect Andrew Nkea is in deed an anniversary gift. It is worth remarking here that this seminary has become a breeding ground or better still a nursery for Bishops. This institution has produced nine bishops, four of whom were teachers and now five students counting. By any and every standard, this is a great feat, we rejoice and are glad.
Bishop emeritus Pius Awa is proudly nodding his head as two of his confidants have become Bishops within seven years. It is remarkable that within so short a time, Buea diocese has provided two bishops to the ecclesiastical province of Bamenda, Msgr. George Nkuo current Bishop of Kumbo and bishop-elect Msgr. Andrew Nkea for the diocese of Mamfe. In fact, four of the six bishops of the Bamenda ecclesiastical province are from Buea diocese. Archbishop Esua is an earlier pick followed by Bishop Lysinge. After all, Buea is the mother diocese of the province having given birth to Bamenda, Kumbo and Mamfe. In spite of its recent crises, Buea deserves a pat on the back.
Today, like seven years ago, we must be grateful to Bishop Pius Awa for his foresight, his vision and for the training he afforded Bishop George Nkuo and Bishop-elect Andrew Nkea. He recognized the potential in them and let them blossom. If the magnificent job, Bishop George Nkuo is doing in Kumbo is anything to go by and it sure is (suffices to talk to any of the priests of that diocese and you get the raving remarks), there is no gainsaying it that the diocese of Mamfe is truly blessed with the new bishop elect who is la crème de la crème.
Just as a friend remarked once that ordination to the priesthood is not a reward for being good in the seminary so too the appointment of a Bishop should not be misconstrued as a reward for a worthy priestly life. There are many good and hold priests and I dare say even better ones. No one takes this honor upon himself. Yet, grace builds on nature and to some extent one cannot help but echo the fact that possesses the sterling stuff Bishops are made of. And like somebody commented on Facebook, this is just the beginning of greater things to come. Next Cardinal? Next Pope? (To be continued)