When life and death meet

Sister Marina Cécile Ntsandi, Daughter of Jesus on mission in Karna, Cameroon, shares with us her daily experience of living out our charism through the education of children, and the care and assistance to families in happy and unhappy moments.

Youth, tomorrow’s future

The week of the 6th-10th February in Cameroon is “Youth Week” in preparation for “Youth Day” on the 11th. We were in the middle of the joyful and lively training for the parade with the pupils from CE1 to CM2 in each school when, alas, we had an unpleasant surprise: we were told that the father of Mrs Mandamsa, our school colleague, had died.

« Lord, if you had been here … »

Overwhelmed by the mystery of death, we remained attentive and close to the family while awaiting the arrival of one of her sisters in service in Yaoundé, and those from the surrounding localities of Karna. As there is no mortuary in our dear village, we would have to bury him the next day.

To honour is also to console. That is why the educational staff of the private Catholic school of Karna, with Sr Marina as headmistress, went to console the bereaved family as they accompanied their  Papa David to his final resting place, and to support their colleague and friend Jacqueline.

One God, one faith, one baptism

Papa David, who died after a long illness, was Protestant, and his wife was Catholic. In this family, however, God remains the same. At the request of the family, the pastor would therefore preside over the celebration of the funeral, to honour Papa and his Christian community, which was gathering with him for the last time. Catholic faithful and Muslim friends were also present to support the widow. This day of sadness was a moment of ecumenism and witness of Faith. 

Stay awake, for we know neither the day nor the hour

In his exhortation, the Pastor invited us to prepare our paradise while we still have the breath of life. He exhorted us to go, each according to his religious profession, to his place of prayer and say “Thank you” to the Creator, instead of waiting and telling ourselves that we still have time. After this exhortation, came the time of the offerings, the universal prayer, and finally the testimonies of the representative of the family, followed by friends and the children.

In her speech, on behalf of all her brothers and sisters, Jacqueline thanked their father and asked for forgiveness for the love they did not know how to give him. Then came the departure for the place of burial. At the graveside, the Pastor read a last biblical passage and asked the congregation to recite the creed for the deceased before the coffin was lowered into the earth of our ancestors. The children had only their eyes left to mourn their father one last time, before bidding him farewell. We left the grave with bruised hearts and shared a glass of water before returning to our respective homes.

When sadness and joy cross each other

After the funeral, we returned to the preparations for the festival on the 11th of February. It was 2 pm when everything was finished. At 4 pm, the educational staff of EPC Karna Manga accompanied their students to the neighbouring village, Harr, for the activities of the cultural evening of the Youth Festival that would take place at the chiefdom.

On the next day, we held the general rehearsal of the parade with all the schools involved, followed by the preparations in selected places: the presbytery, the health centre, and the chiefdoms of Harr and Karna Manga. The students then returned to braid their hair for the girls, or get their hair cut for the boys as well as wash their uniforms so that they would be clean for the festival. This year’s theme was:

« Youth, moral, civic and entrepreneurial rearmament, a guarantee of discipline for the construction of a united and prosperous Cameroon. »

A day of celebration and joy

The long-awaited day had arrived. All the pupils were there, from the little ones in kindergarten to the older ones in secondary school, not forgetting the primary school children in between. Some authorities were also present: the traditional chiefs of the two villages, the representative of the sub-prefecture of the Mbe district, the heads of schools and teachers, political parties, associations and some elites from the town of N’Gaoundéré.

After singing the national anthem and listening attentively y to the Head of State’s address to the nation, the schools took turns singing the youth song. Associations and political parties also paraded. After the parade, there followed various performances by nursery and primary school pupils, high school students and the Red Cross first aid club. The awarding of prizes to the best performers, followed by a small meal, brought this beautiful Youth Festival to a close.

This full week allowed us to honour the Holy Humanity of Christ, by being close and united with all: the weak, the small and the great, in joy and in sorrow. To honour humanity means accompanying  in moments of joy as well as in moments of sadness.

Sr Marina Ntsandi dj

Karna, Cameroon

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