Mr. and Mrs. Nganfor

By Benedict Mayaki, SJ & Linda Bordoni

June 27 2022

A married couple from Cameroon, present at the 10th World Meeting of Families in Rome, represent both “family” and Diocesan “Coordinators of the Family Life Apostolate”. They bring their first-hand experience of synodality to the floor.

Nereus and Marcelline Nganfor are a married couple with children from the northwestern city of Bamenda in Cameroon.

Their Catholic faith is central to their family and community life, and their responsibility as Coordinators of the Family Life Apostolate in the Archdiocese of Bamenda has brought them to Rome to participate in the Xth World Meeting of Families, together with their Archbishop, Andrew Fuanya Nkea.

Speaking to Vatican Radio, Nereus and Marcelline expressed their joy for having had the privilege of being present in Rome because, Nereus said, “the talks are really enriching and relevant and we think the meeting is going to help us to reinforce the activities we have been doing in our archdiocese.”

Every day of the Meeting, they said, they have sent a summary back home that is received in structures that have been set up in the Archdiocese for each level of its pastoral plan for families, making sure the information reaches everyone.

Living synodality

“It’s really been a wonderful experience and we think it’s going to go a long way to reinforce what we are doing in our diocese,” Nereus and Marcelline agreed, highlighting the lively experience of the Synodal process in Cameroon in which they are deeply engaged.

Marcelline explained that since Pope Francis called for a two-year synodal process leading up to the 2023 Synod of Bishops on Synodality, in the Diocese of Bamenda they have experienced a lot of activity from meetings to information focusing on how to really “live a life of synodality.”

Amoris Laetitia

Nereus expressed his opinion that this World Meeting of Families is extremely contextual in this sense “because looking at Pope Francis exhortation Amoris Laetitia, there is this aspect of vocation and mission of the family.”

If that aspect is well implemented at the family level, he said, “it’s going to go a long way to increase family participation in the process of synodality.”

The Church belongs to all, including laity

One thing the synodal reflection has brought about, the Nganfors said, is that the Church is not just “an issue of the bishop or the priest.”

“I believe that this process of synodality is going to cause many people to participate in the life of the Church and to understand that the Church belongs to everybody, including the laity.”

Marcelline pointed out that their own family is already “living synodality” because all of its members know that  “coming together as a family is very important in our spiritual lives and for our Small Christian Community meetings, and that every other activity as a family is very important.”

“We believe that if families practice this, synodality would become a practical issue.”

Nereus warned against underestimating the importance of priests and religious in family life, of the need to seek their assistance where necessary and to find time to commune with them in all aspects of life.

The concept of ‘family’ is being attacked from all angles

When asked what are the major challenges he faces in his ministry, Nereus said, regarding marriage, Chapter 2 of Amoris Laetitia highlights a lot of challenges facing families today: “And those are the challenges we face. That’s why that document is very valid and very relevant to us.”

“We know that ‘marriage and family’ are being attacked from all angles, right down to their very definition.”

Also, reflecting on the sociopolitical crises the Archdiocese of Bamenda is subjected to because of the strife in Cameroon’s anglophone region, Nereus said “when you hear we are going through a crisis, it is the family going through that crisis,” which means there is a lot of work to be done in that area “to assist families, guide them, counsel them, and maybe look for ways to meet some of their needs” including material needs.

Looking ahead to their return to Cameroon after the World Meeting of Families, the Nganfors agree they go home enriched, and thanks to the formation and information received in Rome, they will be better prepared – as individuals, as a couple and as coordinators of the Family Life Apostolate – in the Archdiocese of Bamenda.

A treasure to be dug up

In conclusion, Nereus and Marcelline expressed their firm belief that the family is a powerful evangelizing unit that responds to an urgent and pressing need of the Church.

“It’s like a treasure to be dug up,” they said,  “a very vital instrument to evangelize and to bring the people of God to the Kingdom.”

“That the family be given the priority it deserves.”

Vatican News