By Walter Wilson Nana
CameroonPostline.com -- The pioneer black Bishop of Buea Diocese, Mgr. Pius Suh Awa, who died February 9, was buried Monday, February 24, inside the Regina Pacis Cathedral in Small Soppo, Buea, Southwest Region.
The Bishop Emeritus of the Diocese of Buea died at the Doctor Muna Memorial Clinic in Bonanjo, Douala, after suffering cardio- respiratory failure. In his homily, Bishop Andrew Fuanya Nkea of Mamfe Diocese, one of the four Bishops ordained priests by the deceased, described Mgr. Awa as a great pillar of the Catholic faith in Cameroon and the world.
The Bishop said Mgr. Awa was one of the father founders of the Church in the Ecclesiastical Province of Bamenda, the first indigenous Bishop of Buea Diocese, after Bishops Rogan and Jules Peeters. “Mgr. Awa impacted the lives of many people in the world as a Bishop for 34 years. He exerted a lot of influence on many people in this world,” Bishop Nkea said.
According to Nkea, Bishop Awa lived as a link in the chain of the spiritual heritage of God’s children in the Church and has left a legacy that will never end, following his actions, which include ordaining priests, some of whom are now Bishops. Mgr. Nkea saw in Mgr. Awa a bishop who knew he was a bishop and knew how to be a bishop; exercising without reserve the threefold offices of teaching, sanctifying and governing within his Diocese.
“Mgr. Awa had a grip of his Diocese and was present everywhere, even when he was absent, making spiritual and infrastructural gains for the Diocese of Buea,” Bishop Nkea said. Nkea, who served as a priest and chancellor to Mgr. Awa for more than two decades explained that the deceased ran his Diocese according to his conviction as a pastor, the spirit of Christ, the teaching of the Magisterium and not on popular wishes.
He cited an example when Mgr. Awa refused the people of Mamfe Town from building a new Church in 1997 because he (Mgr. Awa) knew that he had asked for a Diocese that was coming in 1999 and would need a cathedral church. “But at that time, he could not tell the people the reason for his refusal. He would rather get a bad name than break the pontifical seal,” Nkea said.
The Prelate will bring to the fore one of the legacies of Mgr. Awa, which is the manner in which he solved the Maranatha Crises of 2003 in Buea Diocese with love and not the law, granting unconditional forgiveness to all those who offended his person, priests, religious, dedicated and loyal members of Christ’s lay faithful of the Church in Buea Diocese during those trying moments.
A flurry of tributes to the fallen prelate flowed nationwide and the rest of the world.
The Bishop of Buea Mgr. Immanuel Bushu thanked and praised God for Mgr. Awa for all that he did to the Church and humanity. The Vice President of the National Episcopal Conference of Cameroon, Mgr. George Nkuo, Bishop of Kumbo Diocese said Awa solicited the good training of his priests, reason why four Bishops in Cameroon are priests he (Mgr. Awa) ordained.
These include; Archbishop Cornelius Fontem Esua of the Archdiocese of Bamenda, Mgr. George Nkuo, Mgr. Andrew Nkea and Bishop Emeritus of Mamfe, Mgr. Francis Teke Lysinge, then priest from Buea Diocese who was appointed Bishop of Mamfe, a diocese carved out by Mgr. Awa from his Buea Diocese. Archbishop Emeritus of Calabar, Nigeria, saw in Mgr. Awa a lovable friend and a kind person, adding that Mgr. Awa did so much for God.
Rev. Fr. Franklin Fomukong, President of the Association of Diocesan Priests, ADP, Buea Diocese, expressed the happiness and gratitude of the Diocese of Buea for all who came to support Buea Diocese and the biological family of Mgr. Awa. The President of the Buea Diocesan Council for the Laity, Mrs. Rosaline Nganku Menga, said Awa was a great pastor, a man of strength in character and wit, with an unbeatable memory and full of good humour.
Mgr. Awa was born on May 4 1930. He began his primary education at St. Joseph’s Primary School in Mankon on August 16 1938, and did standard his five and six in Njinikom between 1943 and 194444. In 1948, he enrolled in St. Peter’s Teacher Training College Bambui and 1952, changed option and got admitted into the Minor Seminary in St. Joseph’s College, Sasse, Buea. From there, he proceeded to the Major Seminary in Enugu, Nigeria, and subsequently to Rome, Italy between 1955 and 1958.
December 20, 1961, he will be ordained priest in Rome by Gregorio Pietro Cardinal Agagianian and his priestly ministry will move on to May 30 1971, when he was designated Co-adjutor Bishop of Buea, taking over from Bishop Jules Peeters of the Mill Hill Missionary. Mgr. Awa’s active Episcopal ministry will last from 1971 – 2007, when he retired and was replaced by Mgr. Immanuel Bushu, then Bishop of Yagoua. From 2007 to his death, Mgr Awa was Bishop Emeritus of Buea.
His Eminence Christian Cardinal Tumi, chief celebrant of the funeral mass for Mgr. Awa was joined by more than 10 Archbishops and Bishops from Cameroon and Nigeria, over fifty priests, the Governor of the Southwest Region, Bernard Okalia Bilai, and more than 5,000 Christians.
First published in The Post print edition 01508