The Portuguese discovered Cameroon in the 16th century, but this country attracted European interest only at the end of the 19th century, when it became a German protectorate.
The first mission, the consecration of the country to Mary
In 1890, German missionaries known as the Pallotin Fathers were permitted to settle in Cameroon, at Monte-Febë. They started their mission by consecrating the whole country to Our Lady of the Apostles. This was a great success, and the practice of the rosary spread.
The First World War and the tenacity of the local catechists
The First World War was catastrophic: many churches were destroyed, the German missionaries deported to England. One catechist, Matthias Effien, with the help of 300 coworkers, kept a great number of communities alive. They would gather on Sunday to pray the Rosary and sing the Salve Regina. A strong recovery occurred with the arrival of new missionaries from various congregations.
Mary, the African Mother and the Mother of the Chief
In Africa, the mother in general is very much beloved. She is subjected to hard work, and her children reward her by a spontaneous and grateful love. In Cameroon, the mother of the chief has great influence over her son and had the privilege of being allowed to mingle with the male society and direct the other women in the tribe. She is called the « Mafo » in the Bamilike tribe. These cultural elements are like an old testament preparing Africans to welcome and love Mary.
Some milestones in the 20th century
In 1933, the Legion of Mary spread rapidly, with a crop of charitable and social works, and also neighborhood catechesis, all of which was performed with great missionary fervor, in honor of Mary.
In 1954, a special pilgrim statue of Our Lady of Fatima traveled from house to house and neighbors gathered to pray the rosary together. The spiritual fruits were numerous, and the first native bishop of Cameroon, Bishop Paolo Etoga, was appointed.
The independence and the reunification of the country fostered the development of native religious congregations.
In the spirituality of Our Lady of the Rosary, the Blue Army ("the golden chain" and "the golden star" for youth and teens) stimulated prayer and reception of the sacraments.
In 1995, it was in Yaounde that John Paul II gave the apostolic exhortation « Ecclesia in Africa. »
At Nsimalen, a phenomenon of apparitions is supported by the local clergy, pending the official judgment.
Marian shrines developed in this general context and their names are often witnesses to the origin of the first missionaries: Our Lady of Pontmain, Our Lady of Zion, Our Lady of Lourdes, Our Lady of Czestochowa.
Attilio GALLI, Madre della Chiesa dei Cinque continenti, Ed. Segno, Udine, 1997.