On 6 January 2023, the Solemnity of the Epiphany, the Mass of Ordination to the Diaconate of Deacon Conrad Forzeh and Deacon Frankline Nkopi, both of the Diocese of Kumba, Cameroon, was celebrated by Bishop Kevin Doran in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Sligo. The congregation included two priests of the Diocese of Kumba who represented Bishop Agapitus Nfon, Fathers Evaristus Nkede and Willibrord Sakwe. Both priests currently minister in the Diocese of Elphin.
During his Homily, Bishop Doran said, “Last week, when news broke of the death of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, I was reminded of an experience that I had around the time of his resignation in 2013. I was on sabbatical in South Africa at the time and, temporarily at least, my experience of the wider world was being filtered through an African lens. I remember thinking to myself: ‘Rome seems a very long way from here.’ It is helpful, at times, to be pushed out of our comfort zone. These days, as we follow our Synodal Pathway, we are being encouraged, in the words of Isaiah, to ‘enlarge the space of our tent’ (Is. 54).”
The Bishop of Elphin continued, “Cameroon is not as far away as South Africa. Indeed, because of our shared faith, it is no further than Rome. I am delighted that one of the fruits of our mission agreement with the Diocese of Kumba is that Conrad and Frankline have spent almost four years here in the Diocese of Elphin and in Saint Patrick’s College, Maynooth, as part of their formation for priesthood. It is worth remembering that, like the Magi, their original inspiration came in their own homeland, among their own people. They didn’t need to come to Ireland to find Jesus.”
Addressing the deacons directly, Bishop Doran said, “Conrad and Frankline, you have come a long way, in every sense of the word. When I first discussed with Bishop Agapitus the possibility of sending seminarians here, we agreed that it would be best to choose men who were already committed to the journey; and I don’t just mean the journey to Ireland, but the journey of discipleship. There is an old Irish saying that goes as follows: “To go to Rome, is much of trouble; little of profit. The king whom you seek here; unless you bring him with you, you will not find!” The same could be said of coming to Ireland. It wasn’t about finding a place to go; it was about widening the space of your tent. Staying at home might have been easier. Sometimes, however, it is only when you step away from your own place for a while that you come to understand it better, and to understand your own place in it.
“Your mission – and indeed the mission of every baptised person here today – is to “go make disciples”. As deacons, you will carry out that mission in a particular way through your service at the table of God’s Word, at the table of the Body and Blood of the Lord and at the table of Charity and Justice. Keep in mind that, while your diaconate is described as transitional – because you are destined for ordination to the priesthood – there is nothing transitional about the call to serve.”