The history of the Catholic Church in Nkwen is so unconnected that it may not be possible to follow a coherent sequence. But this is just an attempt to put together what has been obtained orally as a base for future writers on the subject. Consequently, some dates names and pictures depicting the activities of the Parish may not be accurately defined.
By the end of the 19th century, the idea of the Christian religion was still new in most parts of Cameroon. Traditional religion and the worship of idols was predominant. These areas were located in strategic places for the offering of sacrifices. Here in Nkwen, such places include: Atiela, Alongsi, Fejah, Alalung and Mungwang.
For the Christians to strengthen their spirituality, they built a little thatched hut which served as a church house was regularly used for prayers and doctrine classes. They attached great importance to the daily recitation of the rosary including other routine prayers. Although all of them were illiterates the teaching of prayers and doctrine were carried out without due recognition of this deficiency.
Origin of the Christian Faith in Nkwen
When the First World War ended, Nkwen people leaving in Fernando-Po now Equatorial Guinea returned home. Amongst them were baptised Christians like:
Peter Mbuh Marcus Muma
Mathius Alunda Justus Nkwenti
John Akuma Thomas Njemche
Victor Akunteh Mark Ngufada
Peter Tamukong Lucas Awasung
Joseph Munteh Peter Ngongbadang
These Christians planted the Christian faith in Nkwen. Doctrine classes were held in a small army hurt in the palace. As time went on, some prominent traditional leaders indoctrinated the Fon and pressurised him to halt the practice. According to them Christianity would suppress some traditional rites of the Fondom. They maintained that the Fon’s wives would be involved in acts of immorality since the church is a meeting place for both sexes. The Christians whose main objective was to teach the truth and uphold the teaching of the church also disagreed with such traditional rites as idolatry, juju dancing, polygamy and secret society. Since tradition could and can not still compromise with religion the Fon Azefor II transferred them to the present site Futru where a small hut in the name of a church was erected. On the wall of that new church, the Christian hung a calendar which carries the image of St Michael the Arch Angel. Consequently, the Nkwen new mission came under the patronage of St Michael ArchAngel.
Futru Mission under Shisong (NSO) 1919-1923
The opening of a prayer group in the present site gave the few Christians some hope and optimism. The teaching of doctrine was intensified, more pagans were converted and the need for a resident catechist became necessary.
When Rv. Father William Bintener was appointed parish priest of Shisong in 1921, the creation of an outstation was now within his competence. He appointed Pa Andreas Ngah as pioneer catechist of Bafreng as it was called. Futru was now recognised as an outstation of Shisong, the only parish in the whole of the grassland of the British Cameroon now called the North West Region. Pa Andreas Ngah worked hard with the collaboration of his Christians who now felt like sheep with a shepherd. In 1923, he took his first batch of 33 catechumens to Shisong for baptism as proof of his total commitment to the service of God. Some of them were:
Paul Moforza Ngeh Agnes
Andreas Asumbi Magdalene Ngumikara
Thomas Fongu Catherine Ngelah
Mary Lem Hippolitus Hiso
Frida Ngenche Pius Ndifor
Peter Forti Dominic Ngufor
Zacharias Ndifor Bertha Awo
Stephen Taniform Paul Moforza
Nicholas Tanke Thomas Tangwe
Joseph Tamasang William Aband
Batholomew Wara Barnabas Awambeng Sabi
Jacob Ngwabi Barnabas Ngangmi
The Christians were gradually getting aware of their duty as the observance of Easter and other feast of the Ecclesiastical year were given due respect and even more importance than it is today. For instance, the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament on Holy Thursday was done for 24 hours, that is, from Holy Thursday morning to Good Friday morning. The observance of the first Friday of the month for 9 consecutive months in order to obtain the full spiritual benefits attached to this practice. Christmas midnight mass actually took place at midnight and the celebration of Christmas festivities were done in the mission compound by all Christian families. The task was really tedious but the fulfilment of their Christian duty was obligatory.
Futru under Njinikom 1926-1934
The creation of a Parish at Njinikom brought much relief to the Christians of Nkwen. The distance to Njinikom was greatly reduced and many more people could now travel to Njinikom for their Christians duties. Educational awareness was created and a few Nkwen Children were enrolled in School since Njinikom had the only primary school nearest to the people of this area.
Futru under Mankon 1935-1966
Mankon became a Parish on the 3rd of August 1935, with late Pa Martin Atang as the pioneer catechist. The creation of this parish brought joy and excitement to the Christian of Nkwen as they could now attend Sunday masses and first Friday devotions without staying nights away from their homes as it was the case with the preceding parishes. Catechumens had to stay in Abakwa town for at least a month in order to prepare themselves fully for the sacrament of baptism and first Holy Communion. It should be recalled that the duration of learning doctrine took three or more years because the Catechumens had to repeat the exams in the event of failure.
All marriages were contracted in Mankon and thereafter, there was jubilation and singing of “Agona” songs until they got home where feasting continued. This process continued until 1966 when Nkwen was blessed with the first Parish with seat in Bayelle.
Futru under Bayelle 1966-1987
In 1966, his Lordship Bishop Julius Peter created the first parish in Nkwen with the seat in Bayelle, the urban area of the village. Bayelle mission, “a leper colony” was a small church built for lepers which eventually served as a church for all the people resident in Bayelle, Mugheb, Sisia and Nta-mbru.
The parish covered the whole of Nkwen, Njah and Njimbee, a quarter in the Bafut Fondom administered as part of Mboung outstation. The Nkwen mission now called Futru mission became an outstation of the newly created parish of Bayelle, under the pioneer parish priest Rev. Father Otto De Wolf whose ill health caused his early departure back home. He was succeeded by Rev. Father Lucas Atang who introduced and implemented some of the resolutions of the 2nd Vatican council (Parish Councils, the celebration of the holy mass facing the congregation instead of backing them as it was the case before).
The participation of the Christians of Futru in the activities of Bayelle parish was more or less on equal basis. It would be recalled that one of the rectors of Bayelle parish Rev. Father George Cunningham of blessed memory humorously said “if it were within my powers, I will build my house on the mile 3 hill in order to administer the two missions Bayelle/Futru on an equal footing”. This statement was made to members of the Futru church committee during a visit to of the outstation.
Besides participating in the activities of the Bayelle parish, the Christians of Futru mission also had their own internal administrative set up with the church committee as its highest organ. This committee handled all matters concerning Futru mission including other missions in the rural Nkwen as well as implementing the resolutions of the Bayelle parish council. It coordinated the activities of the action and prayer groups operating in the mission. Amongst the action groups was the Catholic Women Associations (C.W.A.) which took a significant role in the organisation of women’s activities; cleaning the church, collection of fathers food and care of the needy with emphasis on the orphans and the handicapped.
As the years passed by and with the increase of the Christian population, there was now an acute need for a bigger church. The church committee made repeated request to the then Archbishop Paul Verdzekov, for a bigger church house. The Archbishop was always willing to grant this request but each time, he complained of lack of funds and inadequate priests. To meet up with this financial demand, the Christians organised fun raising activities through Bazaars and Levies. In collaboration with the then Parish priest of Bayelle Rev. Father Ronald Hishion, a number of appeals were made abroad and some yielded positive results. The first local donor Dr. John Ngu Foncha donated not only cash but also a huge quantity of material for the envisaged project.
The New Church
It was not long after that ernest request that a dispatch of over seven thousand cement blocks by the bishop was deposited on the area of the would be church site. The arrival of Br. Anthony Pufler the architect, soon followed and the project of the new church building commenced to the excitement of not only the Christians but of all the people in Nkwen. The building which has a capacity of about one thousand (1000) worshipers offered employment to both Nkwen/Bambui technicians. It took under a year to realise the project and the first mass was celebrated in it on Christmas day 1980 by Rev Fr Joseph Boekema who had just taken over from Rev Fr Ronald Hishion as rector of Bayelle parish. From there on the Parish was administered by Rev Fr Joseph Boekema until 26th December 1987. With the arrival of three Calasanzian Fathers: Fr Juan Yzuel, Angel Valenzuela and Fernando Negro. On the 7th of February 1989 the new parish (Futru) was actually inaugurated by His Grace Archbishop Paul Verdzekov of blessed memory. In his homily during the inauguration mass, the Archbishop said, Futru Parish would become “a community of communities”. Taking part in the inauguration were; the Superior General of the calazanzian Fathers from Rome, Father Jose Maria Barcells, the Provincial Superior Fr. Cicilo La Grose of the province of Aragon Spain and a host of other Rev. Fathers, brothers, and Sisters of the Calasanzian family. This occasion also saw the appointment of the pioneer parish priest a 28 years old Rev. Fr. Juan Yzuel who happened to be the youngest priest in the community under the superior of Rev. Father Angel Valenzual. The only survival of the founders of the mission Mama Frida Ngenche 98 years old at the time was personally present at this occasion and expressed her joy for having lived to see that day. Of course, she was decorated. For 8 years that is 1988-1996. Fr. Juan set up a development road map for the parish which is being encouragingly implemented by his successors.
On the 14th of April 1989, the first autonomous parish council was formed with Mr. Victor Ngangmi as its pioneer president. This council has its own duties to work in collaboration with the parish priest in administrative matters on advisory basis as well as overseeing the activities of all the action and prayer groups operating in the parish. To implement the words of the Archbishop “a community of communities” the parish was carved into 28group called “Basic Christian Communities (BCC) now Small Christian Communities (SCC) and the first one functioned at Ntelah on the 10th of March 1989.
Subsequently, servants were appointed from all other communities and trained on the effective running of the BCCs. These groups held their meeting in chosen houses within the community every Friday at 5pm and the retraining of servants takes place every four months. The priest in the community takes turns in visiting the BCC to ensure and advice them on their proper functioning.
SOME IMPORTANT DATES
AUGUST 2011: solemn profession of Brs. Elias, Dieudonné and Jason in Futru
SEPTEMBER 2011: Reverend Fr. Gerald Obasi Sch.P. took over from Fr. Emilio Calcena as the New St Michael's Parish Priest.
22ND -25TH JUNE 2012: Canonical visit of the Auxiliary Bishop, His Lordship Agapitus FON in St Michael's Parish
AUGUST 2012: Solemn Profession of Brs. Divine, and Hippolyte in Futru
DECEMBER 2012: St Michael's Parish hosted the celebration of the Silver Jubilee of the presence of the Piarist Fathers in Cameroon
DECEMBER 2012: Diaconate ordination of Rev. Divine, Hippolyte and Paulinus in Futru
MARCH 2013: due to the active and the fruitful participation of the youths of our parish during the World Youth Day 2013 In Ndop, St Michael's Parish was appointed to be the next parish to host it the following year.
NOVEMBER 2013: the Statue of St Michael the Archangel, patron saint of the parish was officially erected in the Parish premises.
11TH -13TH APRIL 2014: All the youths of the Archdiocese gathered in St Michael's Parish for the celebration of the world youth Day.
15th February 2015, celebration of the Silver Jubilee of our Parish. Main celebrant for the Holy Mass was His Grace Archbishop Cornelius Fontem Esua. Also on this day the launching of the Parish Hall Project was done.
5th August 2015, Blessing of the Parish Hall Project Foundation stone.
30th August 2015, Fr Hippolyte Tanfen Wirnkar took over as the new Parish Priest
Ocobter-November 2015, Pastoral visit of the Parish Priest Fr Hippolyte Tanfen to mission stations.
12th-16th November 2015, pastoral visit of the Archbishop His Grace Cornelius Fontem Esua to Futru parish.
31st December 2015, End of year parochial thanksgiving mass and all night vigil