“Holy Spirit, come down—We are waiting!”
by Peter Newburn, with contribution from Anthony Feola
Last October 8-24, 2021 we held our seventh Renewal Ministries mission to Cameroon, Africa. Peter Newburn, Renewal Ministries’ Country Coordinator for Cameroon, led a team of three other missionaries from the United States; Fr. Walter Nolte, Anthony Feola, and Remy Takam. They collaborated with Father Jude Langeh from Cameroon, who organized all logistics on the ground and was an integral team member. Peter filled us in on the mission, saying that it was perhaps the most important and impactful mission so far!
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The purpose of our mission was to provide inspiration and renewal to priests in Cameroon, and the Lord exceeded all our expectations! As a group, we experienced an amazing anointing with grace and blessings flowing for our entire time together. We ministered to two different groups of clergy – finally professed Claretians in the country and priests from the northern part of Cameroon.
We began our first week by training a group of approximately fifty-five Claretian missionaries during their annual retreat. We were invited and hosted by Fr. Jude Thaddeus Langeh, CMF, the Major Superior of the Claretians, in order to facilitate the retreatants’ personal renewal in the Holy Spirit, promote reconciliation and unity amongst the presbyterate, and inspire greater openness to the work of the Holy Spirit in the Charismatic Renewal. We also introduced participants to the Unbound Ministry by leading them through the Five Keys of deliverance and healing prayer – Repentance and Faith, Forgiveness, Renunciation, Authority, and The Father’s Blessing – an experience which then became a model for the clergy in how to use the Five Keys to minister to the laity. As so aptly expressed by Archbishop Faustin Ambassa, Archdiocese of Garoua, “If we [as priests] are not ourselves using the Five Keys, are we not like the blind leading the blind?” Fr. Nolte also offered magisterial teaching from his own personal and pastoral experience of the Charismatic Renewal. He also presided and preached at the daily Masses, offering wisdom, inspiration, and reinforcement of the content.
Our second week involved travel to the north region of Cameroon, a 17-hour drive each way, to the Archdiocese of Garoua. We were assisted by Fr. Jude and three Claretian priests who had just experienced the first training with us. We again presented teaching on the Kerygma, the Charismatic Renewal in the Church, and presented the Five Keys of Unbound Ministry. We invited retreatants to be open to the Holy Spirit in their lives and ministries with each of these presentations. We had the opportunity to use the Five Keys to pray individually with about fifty priests who desired it. Most of them expressed that they felt a weight lifted and had a greater sense of peace, healing, and freedom. Many of them said that they were finally able to forgive someone who had deeply hurt them.
Here is a report from team member Anthony Feola
“The Holy Spirit moved powerfully in the hearts of these priests. At the end of our first retreat, I was asked to share my personal testimony about the power of the Holy Spirit in my life. The presence of God moved into our midst, and one priest, in particular, was deeply touched. As I uttered the phrase, ‘The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of unity,’ he burst into exuberant song, ‘Holy Spirit come down, we are waiting, we are waiting…’ Like rain from heaven, everyone joined as one voice glorifying God in Spirit and truth. Many things happened in that moment, including reports of physical healings. Even more beautiful – and what clearly set this apart as a genuine move of the Holy Spirit – was how the priests spontaneously began to repent, reconcile with one another, and forgive one another publicly. There was so much joy in that room!”
Relationship building was an important part of our time in Cameroon. Our team met with six different bishops in six different dioceses! In addition, I communicated by text with four bishops in four other dioceses in the Anglophone areas. During our conversations, I was able to tell the bishops more about Renewal Ministries. I shared our vision, methodology, the content we have to offer, and testimonies from this particular mission. As a result, the Bishops of Bafia and Ngoundere invited us to come next summer to facilitate their annual clergy retreat! We plan to coordinate with them to have the retreats scheduled back-to-back at the end of June 2022.
Two truly Special Claretian Celebrations
A unique experience among our experiences was the opportunity to accompany the Claretians for two extraordinary liturgies, which were accompanied by lots of exuberant singing and dancing. One liturgy was held in the newly opened, newly built church and rectory for the newly assigned Claretian fathers in a remote part of the Archdiocese of Garoua. The other was held in Yaoundé on the feast day of Saint Anthony Claret, the founder of the Claretians. We were warmly welcomed, and it was an honor to participate with them. Fr. Nolte had the great privilege of concelebrating both of these joyful Masses.
In addition to contacts made with bishops and priests, we had two separate conversations with the leader and vice-leader of the national advisory committee for the Catholic Charismatic Renewal. We strategized how to provide training and support for lay leaders in the Five Keys of Unbound and collaborate with their parish priests. We also connected with the Major Superiors of religious communities in the Bamenda province to assess interest in providing Unbound training. There is also potential for us to lead an annual retreat for the Franciscan or Teresian communities of religious sisters.
Fr. Jude Langeh was so grateful and appreciative of our team and all that was accomplished, as was Archbishop Faustin Ambassa from the Archdiocese of Garoua. We truly praise God for a highly successful mission and for the opportunities to proclaim the Gospel and promote renewal in Cameroon!