THE BO-BE-NKA’A PROJECT Updated Document By Juan Yzuel Tamandung Founder To Me September 2022

BO-BE-NkA’A (Children OF The Light) Updated Document by Juan Izuel Tamandung, Founder, to me  in September 2022


I, Theresia Taminang, a cooperator and one of the pioneer Beli of the Bobenka’a Process am happy to have received this document from Juan Yzuel Sanz Tamaundung; the very Founder of the Bobenka’a Project. I owe my gratitude to him and the Calasanzian Community at the time for their great efforts in putting up a marvelous project as the Bobenka’a Process.

As the Bible tells us, “Every good tree is known by its fruits.” There’s a burning flame from all angles of the world from those who had passed through the Bobenka’a Process, a testimony to prove that the Bobenka’a Process was built on a very firm foundation; it was a good tree planted, that had borne some good fruits already.

Looking around and finding no other thing that had touched their lives as the Bobenka’a Process has done, these pioneer Bobenka’a keep questioning and making efforts to see into the continuation of this process. They had gathered themselves in social media groups like Whatsapp and Facebook and recently a Bobenka’a Veteran group has been formed at Futru Parish; the founding ground of the Bobenka’a project. If this project didn’t affect their lives positively I doubt these moves. This is a testimony that they have continuously kept their lights shining since the day of their Basic Promise into the Bo Be Nka’a Process, and to show their appreciation they keep looking back, questioning, and trying to see whether the tree from which they had eaten and are still eating its sweet fruits is still bearing fruits.

As an individual, I had before now put up some articles about this project that had so influenced my life as a Christian. With the help of my notebook on Bobenka’a, I came up with the articles –

A recapitulation of The Bo Be Nka’a Process in Futru Parish

ABI Stage of the Bo-Be-NKA’A Process. A Review on the Awunka’a Stage

ABI Stage of the BO-BE-NKA’A Process. A Review on Stage 2: NGWE

All these as attempts to bring the Bobenka’a Spirit to light again, keep it burning, and preserve it.

I was so overwhelmed when after the Feast Day of St Joseph Calasanz in August this year, 2022, I received this document from the very hands of Juan Yzuel Sanz Tamaundung, the Founder of this project.

The document begins with a statement he made to the Veteran Bobenka’a on the day of the foundation of their Veteran Group. I’ve created the first post on this, putting the various sections in audio forms to enhance understanding as one reads and listens. There is another post with only the audio of the document. The link is below and the password to both posts is: 2022

This is a form of handing down the Bobenka’a document for use by anyone who now or in the future is or shall be inspired to form a Bobenka’a movement in his mission station, Parish, or diocesan. It is a clear, well-organized, and presented document.

Thanks a million to our friend, brother, and founder, Juan Yzuel Sanz Tamaundung, and the first Calasanzian Community of Futru Parish for this well, planned, organized, and presented Project, a wonderful gift to all youths of our time.

Remember, the password to both posts is: 2022

Bo Be Nka’a (Children OF The Light) Updated Document by Juan Izuel Tamandung Founder

Audio List of Bo Be Nka’a Updated Document By Juan Yzuel Tamandung Founder To Me September 2022


Bo Be Nka’a presentation

Bo Be Nka’a presentation

BO-BE-NKA’A PROJECT Updated Document

By Tamandung

My dear brothers and sisters, my dear Bo Be Nka’a,

This is historical day. Two months ago, in the very week in which my “nkeng” blossomed for the first time in my life, this group started to be called from all the corners of the World by some of you. Today, the feast day of St. Joseph Calasanz –what a providential coincidence!—we are called to get together physically in Futru-Nkwen, our “Alma mater”, to give to this group a cleared structure and, even, a legal status.

My heart is full of joy! As Psalm 133,1 says: “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is For brothers to dwell together in unity!”

Many of you have shared very precise points about organization. I don’t think I have much to say. We need a legal structure. But the heart of our group should remain our desire to grow together in Faith, Hope and Love under the inspiration of the Gospel.

On the other hand, I agree that we should become an NGO to be able to accomplish small projects among the population of our beloved Nkwen. Only that our group should not stay only in the “giving” side, but also in the “denouncing” end. Jesus, in the Gospel, does not appear only helping the destitute; He also denounces oppression, false religiousness, hypocrisy, violence, corruption… Our group should be able to address the terrible situation of our country, in the midst of this civil war. Most probably, we don’t share the same ideas as a group. Let dialogue and the search of solutions be developed in our midst. Let our financial help, also, reach those suffering most this extreme violence.

We are not alone. There are about other 200 Bo Be Nk’a who could participate in this initiative, or create similar groups, though none of them have had the strength of us, the pioneers. Think about how to engage their participation in the future. We count on “ndis” like Hyppolitus, Bernadette Kaba, Theresia, John Tantoh… who could be invited to join at least financially in the coming projects. Let us count on Fr. Domingo as well and the help of Fr. Emilio.

Let unity, honesty, fidelity, commitment, hope, generosity, faith, love and other evangelical virtues be the flag of our group from the very beginning.

And let us place ourselves under the patronage of Our Lady and St. Joseph Calasanz. May the Holy Spirit guide us and strengthen us as He did with them.

Mbona Nwie ne wo!


 by Juan Yzuel Sanz “Tamandung”


by Juan Yzuel Sanz “Tamandung”


What is Bo Be Nka’a?

Bo Be Nka’a means, in the Nkwen language of the North West Province of Cameroon, the “Children of the Light.” It is a symbolic name which expresses its connection to this New Testament image of the early Christians, all those Baptized in Christ. In the singular, Mo Nka’a means “child of the light”.

Who are these “Children of the Light”? We define Bo Be Nka’a as a pastoral project of a youth catechumenal process for Africa.

  1. A Project

A project is not exactly a “dream”. A dream remains still in the area of the utopias, desires and visions. A project is something more concrete, which has clear objectives, plans, blueprints, outlines. Bo Be Nka’a is already a concrete plan.

However, a project is something not totally finished, something which is still in the process of becoming.  Yes, we are still on the way of developing this dream, and we invite you to participate in this adventure with your own creative talents, your faith, your suggestions, your desire to serve young people.

It must never be totally finished.  We should keep in mind the human tendency and temptation to make an idol of methods and means, forgetting the Lord. Bo Be Nka’a has to be always improving. If we make the process too “perfect”, it shall grow sclerotic in no time and we shall start defending its truth, not “the Truth,” and burning the heretics as has happened before.

In some way, it is something that can never be totally finished, since true evangelization always requires inculturation, that is, the efforts to adapt the message of the Gospel to the various local and historical contexts, so that it may be Good News for those who listen to it. And since we are in permanent cultural change, our endeavours to find new languages to express it will never end. Inculturation is not an isolated action, an open-ended exercise of translation. Inculturation is a way of life, a permanent attitude of listening to reality, a skill for pastoral work.

But, though as a project it permits adaptations, it offers some clear and fundamental guidelines and directives which, if not respected, can make the final product a totally different thing, or can make the whole process to lose its effectiveness to transform our youth into real African Christians.

Therefore, from the very beginning, you are encouraged to use it wholeheartedly or to leave it. Playing with it, watering down its methods and contents, using a few ideas from here and there without the strong pastoral options that it implies will only lead to frustration and kill prematurely the possibility of somebody coming after you to develop it in your local situation. Since it is one project among many, not the only one, shop around and see if any other youth ministry tool satisfies you more. There are many flowers in the garden of the Church. A plant may grow in different soils but the production of Amixed species@ may have a problem:  hybrids are usually sterile.

  1. A pastoral project

Yes, its main objective is the evangelization of youth. We want to “shepherd” our young Africans into the fold of Jesus. Even though it implies inculturation into a social, political and historical reality, to mistake it for a purely educational tool would be sheer reductionism.

As a pastoral project, it involves a basic option for a model of the Church. Bo Be Nka’a believes in a Church which is the “community of the disciples”, which is incarnated in the World, which is open to dialogue with our local reality, which sheds its light and love in the midst of the sufferings and hopes of our people, which is “on the way” towards the Kingdom of God.

It implies, also, a particular style of ministry, where all persons involved are brothers and sisters in Christ, fellow pilgrims who help one another, in community, to receive, to believe in, and to announce the Gospel.

It implies the acceptance of an educational method which is personal, holistic, gradual and active.  The believer cannot be simply “indoctrinated”, but rather, must participate actively in the development of a response to the call of Jesus, “Follow me,” with all the dimensions of his or her personality.

It implies a concept of Spirituality as lifestyle, and not a mere collection of religious practices and devotions.

  1. A catechumenal process

We are not as interested now in the exact tradition of the Catechumenate in the Early Church as in its Aspirit@ or wisdom: the conviction that becoming a Christian is not an overnight change, but requires a long journey of transformation, conversion, and  “Christification”.

Though Bo Be Nka’a may look like other youth movements or programs, it is neither just another youth “movement,” with a different organization, leadership, rules and activities, nor a simple “programme” to season the otherwise barren landscape of our pastoral reality. It is a radical invitation to Christian discipleship. It calls for a total overhauling of our pastoral priorities. It cannot accomplish its aims if those in charge of initiating this process are not ready to go to the end challenging the way we do things.

As a Acatechumenate”, it is a process of initiation into a full and mature Christian life. It is a tool to help those who want to answer the Lord’s call to a committed life to be initiated and to grasp the wonders of the Christian heritage in our African context.

As a catechumenate, we must recognize that it will be dealing with children and youth who will normally come from a society where Christianity has already been integrated into the social fabric and accepted as another well-received “title”.  They may have already received most or all of the sacraments of initiation, but they will have learned and accepted the faith only in a doctrinal form, without the “heart”. Bo Be Nka’a calls for a holistic following of Jesus, not a simple acceptance of some articles of the Creed.

As a process, it follows clear and well-demarcated stages. Attempts to tamper with the developmental stages of this process will limit greatly its ability to produce “initiation” into a gradual growth in the whole person.

  1. For Youth

It is a process for youth and comprises the period of life from pre-adolescence (11-12 years old) to youth up to 25 years old more or less, with the possibility of develop adult communities in the future.

It tries to develop in the youth a way of life, a Christian lifestyle which shall continue leading him or her later into an adult Christian life.

We opt to start at an early moment in life because our experience and the long experience of so many Christian educators shows that, as St. Joseph Calasanz says, it is at teneris annis  At in the tender age@ when we can start to shape the faith of the future adult and do real Apreventive@ and foundational work.

It has universal elements which can be applied to youths in general, but it is especially designed for African youths.

This project is an answer to the concrete problems of our youth, in this moment, from a Gospel perspective. But we have to be aware that there are many types of youth in our African societies: rural and urban, poor and middle class, with means and without means, educated and illiterate, prosperous and jobless,  coming from Christian, Moslem or African religious backgrounds, students in a Catholic, lay or Government college,  stable in the parish, school year parishioners or holiday makers… Applying Bo Be Nka’a to serve every group shall require a very deep study of their situation, problems and needs, and the effort to adapt the materials and means proposed to suit these needs.

  1. For Africa

Real human growth in a person is related to the degree of acceptance of his or her cultural and historical roots. Bo Be Nka’a, as the African Church is asking, wants to root young people into their wonderful, God-given heritage.

Though it has been born in the concrete context of the Futru parish of the Nkwen tribe in the Bamenda Archdiocese of Anglophone Cameroon, it has been developed from the beginning with a vocation to be useful and universal enough to be applied in various African local churches. This shall require a strong effort to study and develop the appropriate adaptation of the Bo Be Nka’a materials and suggestions to each local reality.

BO-BE-NKA’A PROJECT Updated Document

The origins of Bo Be Nka’a

In 1986, Archbishop Paul Verdzekov of Bamenda, Cameroon, asked the Piarist fathers (also known as Calasanzian fathers) to come to his Archdiocese in order to help in the evangelization of children and youth. We arrived in Cameroon on 26 December, l987.

We were invited several times to take major responsibilities in the field of youth ministry at the Archdiocesan and zonal levels. We resisted the idea of getting entangled, from the beginning, in a lot of pastoral responsibilities without having had the time to discover what our youth needed, what their problems are, how to use a language which may speak to their hearts and how to relate the Gospel message to their culture and reality. In order to find this out, we undertook a serious study of the pastoral situation and searched for solutions.

It was our perception that the local youth ministry, the Archdiocesan youth federation and the various youth movements were lacking a serious formation process.

In November 1990 Fr. Juan Yzuel created a small youth group, which we called at the beginning, to give it a name, the “Calasanz movement”. There were thirty-something boys and girls in the first years of secondary school. He started to meet with them every Sunday afternoon and to develop some activities and formative materials following his early experiences of youth ministry with Confirmation classes, Boy and Girl Scouts and the Junior Movement in Spain and his own groups at Transfiguration church in Brooklyn, New York.

In February 1992, this group went for a camping experience at Banja and had all the newly inaugurated tents and all their belongings burned to ashes by a bush fire. This was a turning point in the group because the tragedy of having lost everything gave a boost to their moral and enriched their common history of salvation. In the burning bush, they saw in a clearer way that their true treasure was their friendship, fellowship and faith. They went to reflect about their identity and changed the name of the group to Bo Be Nka’a, which in Nkwen language means “The Children of the Light”. Other names were offered by various members of the group, like “children of the Sun” or “children of the fire”, but they especially liked the former one because of its connection to New Testament theology, our baptismal liturgy, and its relation with Bilenge Ya Mwinda (The Youth of the Light), a Congolese youth process which has inspired us in many ways. On Easter Sunday of 1992, the first Bo Be Nka’a group made their Basic Promise and opened the road for the creation of new groups.

In 1993 a group of ndis was created, including Cyprian Ndifor,  Domingo Sáez, Theresia Taminang Hippolitus Zama, Bernadette Kaba, Sebastian Neba, Charles Ngu, John Tantoh and Dominica Ngangteh. Together with Juan Yzuel and the first Bo Be Nka’a group they gave structure to the process.

Shortly before the launching of new Awunka groups, the untimely death of the first ndi, Cyprian Ndifor, tortured to death on 15 December 1993 for a crime he had not committed, gave new insights and desires of commitment to the Bo Be Nka’a. Cyprian had worked as ndi with Juan Yzuel since 1992 and he left behind a beautiful collection of spiritual and moral insights and writings for African youths which inspired many people afterward. Some of these writings are presented here in the appendix 3. His beautiful testimony of a life dedicated to the Lord and to others had such a powerful impact among the youth of Nkwen that when the new groups were launched in January 1994, one month after his death, almost 200 adolescents signed up in the five Awunka groups.

The first systematic attempt to write the formation notes for these groups and the structures of this process was started by the Calasanzian community of Futru in 1994. They have also built the Emmaus Youth Spirituality Center at St. Joseph Calasanz Catholic Mission, Menteh-Nkwen, which provides now a physical Ahome@ to the Bo Be Nka’a and those who want to become involved in this process.


BO-BE-NKA’A PROJECT Updated Document




Bo Be Nka’a in a general framework of youth ministry

Bo Be Nka’a is a way of ministering to the needs of young people which must be part of a larger context of youth ministry. In order to understand the role of Bo Be Nka’a in the pastoral life of the parish or school in which it is followed, we need now to examine the reality we are trying to evangelize.

In this chapter we shall try to give a model of youth ministry which answers in a dynamic way our vocation to call young people to enter into the inner circle of a committed Christian life. To do this we shall critically examine the sociological reality of our youths and the ways in which we may become more effective in our service to them.

Without analyzing the whole reality of our youth ministry, Bo Be Nka’a may become a kind of panacea for all types of problems, or The alternative to our youth ministry desert. The problem of creating a process without reviewing our general understanding of youth work and ecclesiology is due to the fact that the Church is a widely varied social grouping and we cannot pretend that a particular system of evangelization and catechesis answers the complex reality of all people, with their individual personalities and accents.

We also need to avoid the problem that we see in many parishes, namely, a pastoral life totally centred around a particular movement or process. No pastoral solution can pretend to be the final answer. Therefore, if we want to impliment Bo Be Nka’a in an effective way, we need to be sure that the other alternatives exist.

Bo Be Nka'a Chart 1
Leaders &


BO-BE-NKA’A PROJECT Updated Document

A Sociology of our Youth: Levels of Commitment

Let us pay attention to Chart 1.

In this chart we have tried to explain the different levels of commitment of our youth. It could be applied to a general understanding of the sociology of our Christian communities, but we have included in a special way explanations which are more relevant to youths.

We can see there 9 different levels or concentric circles or ellipses in four different areas (A,B,C,D) which are demarcated by thicker division lines. Let us explain them more thoroughly.


This is the most external area. It comprises youths who are Muslims, members of traditional Religions, and adapts of religious movements which are not properly Christian.


These are the youth who belong to other Christian churches or movements.


These are the youth who received Baptism and, perhaps, the Eucharist and Confirmation when they were children. They are, sociologically, Catholic, but their level of commitment is practically nil. It also includes the marginalized, the youth who live on the fringes of society or are involved in crime and drugs. It includes also those who have entered into some type of atheism or who have been gained by the sects and yet consider themselves to be Catholic.


This group includes sacramentalized youth who have a greater level of commitment and some desire to belong to the Church. They come to attend religious services during the solemn feasts of the year (Easter, Christmas, Assumption Day..), what we may call in Cameroon ABig day Christians@.  Some of them are occasional Sunday Mass attenders. They are observers or spectators in the activities organized by the committed youth. This level includes the greatest majority of Catholic school pupils and students. They attend Mass during the school year, when it is mandatory as part of school activities, but have very little desire of participating in Church activities and the liturgy once they are on vacation or have graduated from school.


These are the youth who are faithful to the Law. They attend Sunday Mass. They participate in activities open to all young people like pilgrimages, recollection days, penitential services and Youth Day celebrations.


This group starts to have some area of service or some interest for formation and development of their spiritual life. They may be members of a choir. They participate in parish sport groups and cultural clubs. They look at other youths who are members of groups with sympathy. They participate occasionally in a meeting but cannot make up their minds to remain and become more committed to the discipline of the group.


They start to participate in a youth group with interest and the desire to remain and to grow inside it. They are faithful to the meetings. They participate in formation sessions like workshops and seminars.


They have been in the group for some time. They have followed the formalities of membership and have made some formal commitment to be a permanent member (promise, pledge, dedication…) They are reliable. They actively participate in all the activities. They serve the parish or Christian community in various areas, like liturgy, the parish council, children’s ministries, choirs,… They have an interest in formation and attend other opportunities that the parish offers them like Bible classes, workshops and seminars on a variety of subjects, etc. They may attend daily Mass occasionally. They participate in the Sacrament of Reconciliation voluntarily. Some may even look for spiritual direction.


The leaders are those committed youths who have been chosen by the rest of the group to be team heads, members of the executive committee, the Parish Youth Council,…

The Ministers are youths and adults who have been appointed by the Parish or School to minister to these youths but who are natural members of the group. This will include the youth ministers, catechists, animators, etc.

BO-BE-NKA’A PROJECT Updated Document

Models of Youth Ministry

Before we choose a particular model of ministry it is necessary to analyze the alternatives and to understand the implications of accepting one or another model. To do this we shall study the graphics in chart 2.

We cannot build a system of youth ministry without connecting it to the larger frame of the local Christian community, the parish and the diocese. What type of parish do we have? In what way are we evangelizing? How is our diocese developing Small Christian Communities, a system of human and Christian growth for adults, a ministerial net which enhances all the wonderful charisms the Holy Spirit lavishes upon the Church?

It is pointless to develop a serious youth ministry without reviewing the whole system of parish or school ministry. If we create an enlightened island of youth ministry without developing the whole Christian community we are condemning our youth to be unable to land into the community once they finish their process. Therefore, the analysis that applies to youth ministry could be applied to the whole ministry in the parish or diocese. Let everyone arrive at his or her own conclusions to find a more suitable global model of being the Church.

The “Achu-eating Place” ministry model

The most common model of youth ministry is the “achu-eating place” model. Achu is the typical food of the Nkwen and an “Achu Eating Place” clearly says that the only food served there is the achu, a dish composed of mashed cocoyams (colocassia) and a sauce made of palm oil, chalk, salt, pepper, and fish, cow skin or meat. In America it could be called the McDonald’s model. In Italy it would be a pizzeria model. In Spain we could call it an asador model. In every place it represents a single-dish restaurant.

In most of our parishes, we have a model of youth ministry where a single group or movement is offered as the youth group. After confirmation youths are offered this group which does everything youth are supposed to do: has a weekly meeting for formation and planning, has some prayer or liturgical activities, organizes sports and cultural events and does some charitable work.

This group offers the possibilities of action and growth to a small number of youths. Many others are not able to commit themselves to that extend. Others may have some difficulties in the area of human relationships (not liking a particular leader, for instance). Others leap into a higher degree of commitment without the previous stages of development and land into a situation for which they are not prepared.

Most of these groups or movements are characterized by a series of problems which seem endemic in all parts of the world. Among them we can point out:

<          Lack of adaptation of the movements, born mostly in Europe, to our African context. We may have a YCW (Young Christian Workers) group in a village where almost all the youth of the group are unemployed and where, on the other hand, the word worker reminds one of the local government workers, not of the labourers this group was created to evangelize.

<          Lack of formation of the leaders. There is no systematic training and supervision, not even a decent handbook to follow, in most of the groups.

<          A sociological model of reference which rather resembles the village, a political party or a social club than a Christian community. There are frequent power struggles. Many youth leaders, not knowing any better, overemphasize organization over life. Since the priests-sisters-lay adults normally do not participate in the group, many of these groups have leaders who remain forever seated in positions from which they get some status but to which they give little service.

<          Lack of continuity of members because there are no stages and further growth guaranteed.

<          The problem of having to permanently accommodate new members while the senior ones leave. This is due to many factors, among them the boredom suffered by older members after they have treated for the zillionth time the same topic (Sexual morality, for instance) to get the new ones acquainted with the minimum formation they are supposed to master to be in the group.

<          Another common problem is to find a particular movement which has been chosen as the parochial or diocesan option for youth ministry to the detriment of any other alternative. This is, normally, following the preference of the incumbent parish priest or the diocesan youth chaplain.

In both cases, the youth who remain outside the group have absolutely nothing to do in the parish or school since the whole life of the parish rotates around this group: the youth choir is the choir composed by members of the youth group; the recollection days are organized for the members of the youth group or, if they are open, other youths do not feel very attracted because they know that they are not at the same level as the rest of the participants.

The Cafeteria model

In this model of ministry, a variety of possibilities is offered to the youth. These activities-opportunities may include sporadic one-day activities, like an open vigil, a recollection before Holy Week or Christmas, a youth penitential service, a short excursion or pilgrimage, and also more stables groups like,  for instance, a youth choir, a prayer group, liturgical ministries, Bible classes, a cultural club, sports teams, communal services in the mission, participation or membership in charitable groups or activities, some committees like Justice and Peace, an open movement for youth or both youth and adults, a specific group like Young Christian Students, etc. There is also the alternative of entering a particular group which has stages and commitment and which is not open. Their members, usually more committed, become the Alight and the salt@ of the other groups, therefore creating in them a core of stable and well-formed youth who guarantee the progress of any activity and which invite the other youth to enter into ever deeper circles of commitment.

As in a cafeteria, the clear advantage of this model is that everybody eats as more as he or she wants and the particular dish which is attractive at that moment of this person’s development. Those who want much spiritual life have it; those who are still merely interested in sports know too that the Christian community is there to help them if there is no other local institution able to fulfill these basic needs of youngsters.

This implies, of course, a great conversion in the way parish structures are perceived both by old Christians and most priests nowadays. What we have -buildings, schools, churches, centers, fields…- should be at the service of evangelization, not only sacramentalization. And that implies an ability to sustain the heavy -but joyful- sacrifice of having the missions and parishes full of youth most of the time. That is the way Jesus would do it, we believe, if He were among us in our particular situation. This may not be called immediately evangelization, but it is to use our means and equipment to put youth in contact with the Gospel and offer chances to be attracted to answer the call of the Lord to a more radical discipleship.

Bo Be Nka’a as an alternative inside a variety of possibilities.

Bo Be Nka’a can only work in this cafeteria setting because it will naturally produce many drop-outs due to its need to clarify the situation of those who will not really want to become very committed to the process and, yet, want something more than just Sunday Mass. A closed group can only be fair and effective if there are open groups from where to get candidates and where to send those who do not match the required commitment.

The Parish Youth Council

A well-developed youth ministry ends up in the creation of a Parish Youth Council (PYC), or similar structure, whose aim is to coordinate the various youth groups and activities so that all of them may have a chance to use the parish or school resources and to help one another to achieve its aims.

This is not the place to analyze how this council may work. Various dioceses are developing different models for this structure. What is important is that both youth and adults may work hand in hand for the evangelization of all the youth of the area.

In the following chapter, we shall discuss how to organize this type of multidimensional youth ministry.

BO-BE-NKA’A PROJECT Updated Document



The problems of Youth Ministry

One of the most frequent problems of youth ministers is not to have a clear understanding of the multiple dimensions of our service to youth. Many times we encounter groups in parishes and schools which are mainly prayer groups or formation groups, but hardly communities which develop the person as a human being and as a disciple of Jesus in all his or her aspects.

Another problem youth leaders encounter is the lack of clear knowledge about his/her work and the lack of resources to look for information and formation. We have to prepare a meeting, a recollection day, a formation talk for a Parish Youth Council or a vigil and we do not know what to do or where to look for help. Many a time the fathers in the parish are too busy to help the youths or they themselves do not feel that working with youth is their field and because of that, they do not have resources for youth ministry.

Bo Be Nka’a, as a holistic process, tries to develop a balanced approach that helps the person grow in all aspects. But, even though we shall see later how  Bo Be Nka’a tackles this integral formation of the person, it is important to talk now about our vision of a creative youth ministry and the attitudes we should develop as youth ministers, even if we do not follow Bo Be Nka’a.

Creativity: A full-time job

First of all, we have to realize that young Christian leaders and ministers are the most important resource for youth ministry. The more committed we are to do our work well, the more we will grow in our capacities to serve other youth. Our love for Jesus, who has called us to serve, should encourage in us the motivation, interest, research, prayer and study that will lead us to find resources for our work: when we read a newsletter or magazine article, we shall keep it for our next formation talk; when we find a poor person in our quarter, we shall remember the compound in order to return one day with our group for charitable service; when we hear about a formation meeting of another group in the parish, we shall attend it to get more ideas about how to do our work well; when we come across a beautiful piece of the Holy Scripture we shall write down the quotation in our notebook for future use. This ability to pay attention to reality is the basis of forming a person who is creative and full of possibilities for service and to tackle the challenges of youth ministry.

Specific formation for Youth Ministry

Finally, another problem is the lack of specific formation in Youth Ministry that many youth chaplains or coordinators do not have specific formation in youth ministry. An African diocese which will not send a priest to the seminary to train seven dozen seminarians if he has not stayed three years abroad to receive a Master’s Degree in Theology or Philosophy will have no problem appointing a priest with no specific higher training to be in charge of the formation of seven hundred thousand youths and children. Many African bishops have not understood yet the importance of this ministry and the fact that to perform it well one needs much more than generosity and goodwill. In fact, according to experience, charism, skills and creativity are needed in high doses and not even those tools guarantee an easy ride!

The Analogy of the Church/Group as a Body

Let us pay attention to this important text of the first Christian community :

“Many miracles and wonders were being done through the apostles, and everyone was filled with awe. All the believers continued together in close fellowship and shared their belongings with one another. They would sell their property and possessions, and distribute the money among all, according to what each one needed. Day after day they met as a group in the Temple, and they had their meals together in their homes, eating with glad and humble hearts, praising God, and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And every day the Lord added to their group those who were going to be saved.”  Acts 2:43-47

A group is like a person. In order to live a balanced and happy life it has some basic needs to meet: food, shelter, work, love, rest, learning, … It needs a skeleton, muscles, nerves, senses, skin boundaries,… We can read the former passage in this light: they prayed together, ate together, took care of one another, shared what they had, had time for fun and enjoyment, and invited others to join in.

Let us develop some body images to understand the basic needs of a Christian group-body. It needs:

BO-BE-NKA’A PROJECT Updated Document

  1. Jesus: the life (spirit)
  2. Organization: the skeleton.
  3. Commitment: the muscles.
  4. Prayer: the soul.
  5. Formation: the intelligence.
  6. Records: the memory.
  7. Love and interpersonal relations: the heart.
  8. Communication: the nerves.
  9. Charity and service: the hands and arms.
  10. Evangelization: the voice.
  11. Planning: the feet.
  12. Finances: the stomach.

Everything is important and, as St. Paul tells us in l Cor. l2: l2-31, every body function in the church/group has its work, a very necessary work. The various ministries inside our group must function well. You know surely of groups with good formation but no service; with a beautiful choir but no love and unity; with good organization but no prayer… And how many good groups have been damaged by financial ‘scandals’ because the treasurer was not straightforward! Too often we find groups which are only ‘dry bones’, as in the prophecy of Ezekiel:

I felt the powerful presence of the Lord, and his spirit took me and set me down in a valley where the ground was covered with bones. He led me all round the valley, and I could see that there were very many bones, and that they were very dry. He said to me, “Mortal man, can these bones come back to life?” I replied, “Sovereign Lord, only you can answer that!” He said, “Prophesy to the bones. Tell these dry bones to listen to the word of the Lord. Tell them that I, the Sovereign Lord, am saying to them: I am going to put breath into you and bring you back to life. I will give you sinews and muscles, and cover you with skin. I will put breath into you and bring you back to life. Then you will known that I am the Lord.” So I prophesied as I had been told. While I was speaking, I heard a rattling noise, and the bones began to join together. While I watched, the bones were covered with sinews and muscles, and then with skin. But there was no breath in the bodies.  God said to me, “Mortal man, prophesy to the wind. Tell the wind that the Sovereign Lord commands it to come from every direction, to breathe into these dead bodies, and to bring them back to life.” So I prophesied as I had been told. Breath entered the bodies, and they came to life and stood up. There were enough of them to form an army. Ezekiel 37: 1-14.

The Lord, indeed, is calling us from this valley of dry bones to become full of spirit, love, testimony, service and growth!

Let us now  study some ways to develop every one of these vital aspects of our groups.

Jesus Our Life

If our group is not centered in the Lord, if our motivation is other than giving him praise and following the Good News, then there is no life in us. We may be a sports club, a political party, a nice choir,… but not a Christian community. The center of our group cannot be the leader, the football we play, the beautiful uniform we wear, a television set that we watch. It must be Jesus, and in an increasing way, day after day.

The basic aim of our ministry is to lead youths to Christ. All activities and the following resources are means to this end. A body may have all the organs and limbs and yet be dead. We may be wonderful animators in many areas but if the life of Christ is not in us, we are dead, we can produce no fruits. (Jn 15: 1-10 and Jn 14:6)


Every group needs some organization. This is obvious, but in many African youth groups the organization takes the better part of the energies and tends to become the definition of the group, that is, “we are a group of youths led by an executive committee consisting of…”

Organization should always follow a clear concept of identity and goals and not the other way around. We see that often, after a desire to create a group is expressed, the first activity is to create a committee to lead it instead of drafting a set of goals which this group wants to achieve!

After relativizing the importance of organization per se as a life-creating instrument, we can add that a group needs:

 <          A Constitution which states the identity of the group,  its goals and the means to achieve them.

<          A clear definition of ministry roles inside the group: teams, committees, the animator or chaplain, etc.

<          Clear relation and coordination with other youth Movements such as the Youth Federation or Diocesan Youth Office, the parish or school, and the PYC.


As we grow in life, we pass significant milestones which indicate our development and our entrance into another stage of rights and responsibilities. These milestones are achieved through some rites of passage like, for instance, an examination at the end of a period of training and are expressed symbolically in legal or academic documents like a driver’s license, a National Identity Card or a diploma.

Even though a parish or youth group is not a school, it is nevertheless important to establish some initiation rites and some symbolical elements to foster the desire of achieving a higher stage and remain committed afterwards to its duties and possibilities. In every moment we shall be aware of the tendency to erroneously identify external signs with inner commitment, the permanent temptation to Phariseeism. The motivation for our commitment to a deeper life should always be Christ himself and not the achievement of status.

Which simple elements are at our disposal to improve the commitment of our members?

First and foremost, the personal relationship between the youth minister and every member of a group. We are not government officials checking the payment of taxes or teachers elevated to the rank of judges of knowledge. We are shepherds and, as such, our love for the flock shall greatly enhance their desire to belong and to do what is good for their own and the group’s development. That said, and the temptation of bureaucracy-as-evangelization avoided, we may talk about A paper work@ at the service of commitment.

All members should fill a registration form after at least one month of continuous attendance and have a membership card. A basic commitment to ordinary Christian duties (Sunday Mass attendance, etc.) must be shown before registration.

After at least one year of regular participation, all members should pass some type of commitment rite (a promise, pledge, dedication…). This rite, in order to be more powerful in its aim of fostering a sense of belonging to the group and a desire to be faithful to the promises which are made, may take some form of initiation rite, following African and Church traditions. There is plenty of room for creativity.

To foster this commitment the constitution may indicate the duties and rights of those already committed, like, for instance, that only they may be voted as leaders of a group.

A record of attendance at weekly meetings, work, service, choir singing,…  should be kept to ensure that the degree of commitment of every person is permanently evaluated and corrected if they starting to get lax in the fulfillment of obligations.


A group which does not pray together can hardly be expected to grow in Christian life, unless prayer life may be guaranteed by other groups to which the members belong. But, in general, we may say that some form or other of common prayer should be a standard discipline in any youth group. These prayer exercises or small liturgies may be done in a normal weekly meeting or, in a more dense way, once in a while around the liturgical seasons’ themes and the events of the life of the group and the various persons who compose it.

Prayer is an essential part of a regular weekly meeting. Opening prayer and final prayer. Let them not be hurried. Have one or the other a little more substantial, about 5 minutes, always including a small text from the Bible. Develop your group’s ‘system’ of prayer, following more or less the same routine, though with variations prepared by the person in charge for that day.

<          Vigils and recollection days give possibilities to the group and individuals to have longer periods of silence, liturgy and common prayer.

<          Monthly group Masses, well prepared, are important to celebrate community and to make the group grow around the Eucharist, centre of all Christian life.

<          Special novenas connected to the life of the group like, for instance, to prepare for elections, a youth campaign, a youth day, etc.

<          Penitential services (Very important! Youth hardly go to confession! ?)

<          Participation in spiritual activities organized by other groups (BCCs, Blue Army, Charismatics, Gen…)

Be creative while preparing your prayer moments.  You may use the Rosary, the Crown of the Twelve Stars, the Angelus, prayers to your group’s patron Saint,  prayers to the Holy Spirit, spontaneous prayers of thanksgiving and petition, the Bible ( Psalms, meditation texts, Gospels of the liturgical season…) Learn together already made prayers: RENEW,  prayer for Human Rights, St. Francis’ prayer, pidgin traditional prayers…  Use times of silence (an often forgotten prayer resource!), meditation and adoration. Change the places of prayer: before the Tabernacle, in front of an image of Jesus or Mary, in the meeting room with a candle, etc.


It is not difficult to find a theme to talk about for a day or a month to the group, but it is not easy to produce a clear system of catechesis to help youth to grow into all the richness of the Gospel and the Church.

We will not exhaust here these themes, but will only give some hints about where to find sources of inspiration to prepare a solid formation for our youth. In the Anglophone Cameroons we suggest:

<          The Diocesan Catechism, the lives of the saints, prayer books,…

<          Textbooks from the schools on Religious Formation.

<          The  Handbook of Catholic Youth Formation, by Fr. Anthony Gatt.

<          Various materials from Cameroon Panorama, Onward, and other youth magazines and newsletters.

<          The Bible and Bible learning materials.

<          Special booklets on Family Life Education, AIDS, Justice and Peace,…

<          Letters of the Pope, the Bishops, Youth Movement Chaplains,…

<          Central Newsletter of the Federation of Catholic Youth.

<          The booklets produced after Diocesan youth camps, conventions, symposiums, …

<          The priests’ personal libraries and magazines.

<          Videos of significant films which may be used to discuss moral problems, examples of other persons’ lives…

<          Music from tapes and records with lyrics which convey a beautiful message to meditate upon.

 Record Keeping

Recording the special events, decisions and activities of the group is very important to create a sense of community and history. You can do the following things:

<          Keep the minutes of your meetings, executives,…

<          Start a ‘Parish youth Photo Album’. You may also take some slides of important events and, once in a while, to celebrate a feast or to show others what you are doing together, you may prepare a slide show with music and comments included and prepared by various members of the group in a cassette.

<          Write reports and articles about your activities and send them to various publishers.

<          Foster the use of exercise books in your group, so that various formation sessions, retreats, talks,… do not end up being forgotten.

<          Everything you do, write it down. Have a file for talks, letters, programs, etc.

<          Write the History of Salvation of your own group, as the Hebrews did, and use it for special moments.

BO-BE-NKA’A PROJECT Updated Document


Bo Be Nka'a
Bo be nka’a updated document

It is very important to foster our interpersonal relationships, the signs of our common love for one another. This so impressed people around the first Christian community so that many were drawn to the Lord by their testimony.

The following resources are meant to enhance interpersonal relationships among the members of your group and to foster true friendship in the Lord, solidarity, understanding and concern for one another. Special care and attention must be given to every person. On the other hand, there is a permanent danger that ‘loving Christian relations’ may be misinterpreted by some immature members of the group as a door to sexual relations. The youth leader or animator must zealously oversee this type of development and advise wisely the persons involved so that this danger may be avoided in time. Our whole ministry should foster true Christian marriages and families, and the way to that end starts now in a life of chastity, good formation, healthy friendly relations and the practice of family values. The youth chaplain should be well informed about any difficult situation.

<          Celebrate the important events in the life of your members.

<          Celebrate birthdays.

<          Play together some table games or group games when starting your meetings.

<          Promote solidarity and mutual help though a njangi (but watch out! If there is no honesty, this activity shall destroy the group. Handle with care!)

<          Visit the sick members in the hospital or when they are having family celebrations.

<          Through Faith-sharing, increase the interpersonal knowledge of all members.

<          Parties, dances and common meals only for the group.

<          Excursions, youth camps and days of recreation together.

<          Sports, table games, watching television or shows together.


 Communication inside the group and with the rest of the parish-school-diocese enhances our sense of common purpose, encourages us in our fidelity to the Lord through communal testimony, and gives us ideas to improve what we are doing. These are some of the possibilities at hand:

<          Reports of activities to the general group by committees or persons who have been given a special task.

<          Have a ‘group bulletin’ or board in the room where you meet to paste or post your papers, letters, pictures,…

<          Produce a group or parish youth newsletter (maybe once a month, in the context of the PYC).

<          Send reports to other groups, the Federation, other persons, magazines and newspapers.

<          Foster letter-writing when members are away. Read their answers in the group.

<          Have the members tell the stories of their vacations, visits to relatives, …

<          Always plan and evaluate together, discerning your activities as a group and making decisions after all people have expressed their own idea.


 A group which does not care for the poor and the needy is forgetting the fact that the Lord is present in those who suffer, and, as St. John says, “no one can love God whom he has not seen if he does not love his brother whom he has seen” (1 John 4:20)

What can we do, then, to show our love for others? Here are some suggestions:

<          Helping in various services in the parish, like sweeping the church, dusting the benches, cleaning the compound, cutting the grass,…

<          Visiting the poor of the parish or quarter to bring them some food, clothes, firewood,…

<          Visiting the sick, old and homebound to share with them some time, to perform some chores in their houses if they are unable to work, to pray with them…

<          Denouncing the situations of abuse, oppression, extreme poverty… that we encounter around.

<          Starting development project to look for systematic ways to end suffering and poverty.



 Without planning there is little or no growth and development! And good planning is half the work done. What can we do about it?

<          Write your annual plan. (Parish leadership courses will let you know more about how to set goals and targets)

<          Make a clear calendar of activities every month. You may follow the monthly planning sheet attached. Be in contact with your parish priests to avoid collision of activities with other groups.

<          Make a clear agenda for every activity or meeting.

<          Distribute well the responsibilities of every member.



The well-known dictum “God helps those who help themselves” is not to be found in the scriptures and, yet, many people quote it because it contains a wonderful insight. What can we do to become self-reliant and be able to finance our numerous activities and needs?

 <          Annual fee of 100 francs for the PYC and the group.

<          Cultural activities: dramas, singing, sketches,…

<          Opening of dishes, bazaars, rosettes,…

<          Dances (usually tea-time dances. All-night dances are dangerous in many moral aspects and must be held always with strong supervision).

<          Group farm (if taken seriously, it may produce more income than all the other activities and our farm gives us a chance to prove the quality of our commitment).

<          Production of handicrafts for sale.

<          Hiring ourselves as group for a job: cutting grass, weeding, moulding blocks, digging stumps,…

<          Taking contracts in parish construction projects.

<          Passing a secret bag at the end of your meetings.

<          Patrons and matrons of the group.

<          General donations of every individual during a group’s Aharvest thanksgiving collection@.


BO-BE-NKA’A PROJECT Updated Document


The Ecclesiology of Bo Be Nka’a:

The Church as the Community of Disciples

A Theological Model of the Church: The Community of Disciples

Many changes operate in the Church and in the World when there is a solid theoretical foundation that points to the road in a specific direction. Bo Be Nka’a, as a pastoral model, is based on a theology of the Church, or Ecclesiology, that takes as it’s most important image the community of the disciples of Jesus.

In Redemptor Hominis, the first Encyclical of John Paul II, the Pope described the Church as a “community of disciples” in which “we must see first and foremost Christ saying to each member of the community, “follow me.”[1]

In this chapter we are going to examine the ecclesiological dimensions of discipleship. To do that, we will analyze the works of Avery Dulles,[2] comparing them with other authors’ opinions.

Dulles applied to ecclesiology a term, “models,” which had already been successfully used in many other fields of study.   As he says in his book Models of the Church,

In selecting the therm Amodels@ rather than “aspects” of “dimensions”, I wish to indicate my conviction that the Church , like other theological realities, is a mystery. Mysteries are realities of which we cannot speak directly. If we wish to talk about them at all we must draw on analogies afforded by our experience of the world. These analogies provide models.  By attending to the analogies and utilizing them as models, we can directly grow in our understanding of the Church.[3]

Models helps us, therefore, to speak about “mysteries”. And the Church is a mystery. And so, the Second Vatican Council began the Constitution on the Church with a chapter entitled “The Mystery of the Church”.[4] The synod of 1985, which reviewed the implementation of the Council, kept this general definition of the Church.[5] The term “mystery” applied to the Church signifies many things. It implies that the Church is not fully intelligible to the finite mind of human persons because of its richness and foulness of meaning. Mysteries are better explored by images, symbols and metaphors than through clear-cut Aristotelian definitions. Images, for example, are the basis for some of the models. When an image, for example “the bride” or “the flock of Christ,” is employed reflectively and critically to deepen one’s theoretical understanding of a reality it becomes what is called today a “model”.  Other models are of a more abstract nature, like “institution”, or “community.” The analogy between models and reality will never be perfect because the Church, as a mystery of grace, has properties not paralleled by anything knowable outside the faith. Nevertheless, models are good working tools for theology and also for the individual Christian to explore his or her personal identity. As Dulles explains in a more recent book,

To participate effectively in the Church’s life, one needs a guiding vision. Such vision, I submit, should suggest a rationale for the Church’s existence; it should tally with one`s experience of association with fellow believers; it should indicate a set of values and priorities, and it should clarify the proper relationship between the Church and the contemporary world.[6]

Theology, in its attempt to reduce pluralism to a minimum, tries to find “paradigms” or dominant models. Dulles explains that a model rises to the status of a paradigm when it has proved successful in solving a great variety of problems and is expected to be an appropriate tool for unraveling anomalies as yet unsolved. New paradigms produce changes in the whole life of the Church, new language, new values and priorities. Let us study now the different paradigms which have been proposed in the past, evaluating them against the present situation of the Church and the world.

BO-BE-NKA’A PROJECT Updated Document

The Church as Institution

Robert Bellarmine defined the Church as a “perfect society”, with emphasis on visible rules, constitution, hierarchy and members. While institutional structures are necessary, Dulles describes as “institutionalism” a system where the institutional elements are treated as primary. According to Dulles, institutionalism is a deformation of the nature of the Church. It occurred in the late Middle Ages and in the Counter Reformation and culminated in the first schema of the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church prepared for the Vatican Council I, which reads,

We teach and declare: The Church has all the marks of a true Society. Christ did not leave this society undefined and without a set form. Rather, he himself gave it its existence, and his will determined the form of its existence and gave it its constitution. The Church is not part, nor member of any other society and is not mingled in any way with any other society. It is so perfect in itself that it is distinct from all human societies and stands far above them.[7]

A characteristic of this institutional model is the pyramidal conception of authority. This vision is clearly set forth in the Vatican I schema:

But the Church of Christ is not a community of equals in which all the faithful have the same rights,. It is a society of unequals, not only because among the faithful some are clerics and some are laymen, but particularly because there is in the Church the power from God whereby to some it is given to sanctify, teach, and govern, and to others not.[8]

According to this model, members are those who profess the approved doctrines, receive valid sacraments, and subject themselves to the duly appointed pastors. This theory tends to resist notions of “invisible membership”. All the tests of membership must be visible and seriously guaranteed because eternal life, as this model emphasizes, depends on belonging to the Church. It is necessary, therefore, to save souls of men and women by bringing them into the institution by engaging in a strong missionary effort.

This theory, as any other, has advantages and liabilities. Among its advantages Dulles points our that it provides stability and a sense of security to people, besides a strong sense of corporate identity and the just mentioned missionary thrust. However, it has a meager basis in Scripture and in early Church tradition. It also leads to unfortunate consequences, especially clericalism, juridicism, triumphalism, and the underdevelopment of the laity. In the field of Ministry, for example, Thomas O’Meara points out the problems of what he calls the “Jesuitization of ministry”:

In this ecclesiastical atmosphere the Christian of charism and ministry had no rights, no questions, no insight, no appeal. This transformation of the coordinator of ministries, the Bishop, into an ascetical religious superior is one further stage in the absorption and metamorphosis of the ministry into the office of authority. Here is the final stage of the episcopalization. On the one hand, the ministry terminated in the person of a single bishop, the bishop of Rome; on the other hand, the bishop ceased to be really a bishop– his charism and work is not realized in preaching, evangelizing and enabling but in administering and controlling.  Moreover, he became a religious superior of a post-Tridentine congregation of men who were his clergy.[9]

This model, finally, hinders theology, which becomes in its wake a tool to defend papal teachings, and it is also ecumenically sterile and out of phase with the demands of the times, which are, as we saw, more personalistic and democratic.

Although we can recognize that the Church, as a human reality, needs a structure, the institutional elements should not be the most important ones. As Dulles says,

…the Church is not primarily institution.. The institutional elements in the Church must ultimately be justified by their capacity to express or strengthen the Church as a community of life, witness, and service, a community that reconciles and unites men in the grace of Christ.[10]

Nevertheless, in the minds of most people, Catholic and non-Catholic, the prevailing image of the Catholic Church is highly institutional. The Church is understood in terms of dogmas, laws, hierarchical agencies, … As Dulles points out again,

At the risk of caricature, one may say that many think of the Church as a huge, impersonal machine set over against its own members. The top officers are regarded as servants of the institution, bound by a rigid party line, and therefore inattentive to the impulses of the Holy Spirit and unresponsive to the legitimate religious concerns of the faithful. The hierarchy themselves, according to this view, are prisoners of the system they impose on others. Following the inbuilt logic of all large institutions, they do what makes for law and order in the Church rather than what Jesus himself would be likely to do.[11]

Vatican Council II was aware of the limitations of the institutional model, as is apparent from Lumen gentium, which treats the institutional and hierarchical aspects of the Church in its third chapter, preceded by two chapters proposing a variety of noninstitutional images. Let us study them, paying special attention the alternatives they offer to the institutional model we have just seen.

BO-BE-NKA’A PROJECT Updated Document

The Church as Mystical Communion

In modern sociology it has become commonplace to contrast two types of social relationship: a formally organized or structured society and an informal or interpersonal community. The notion of the Church as primarily an interpersonal community has appealed to many modern theologians, both Protestant and Catholic, since the middle of the nineteenth century. Johann A. Mohler is considered the originator of this conception which claims names like Sohm, Brunner, Bonhoeffer, Rademacher, Yves Congar, Hamer…[12]

The concept of the Church as a communion harmonizes with several biblical images: those of the “Body  of Christ” and the “People of God.” The former is biologically based while the later is more sociological. The idea of the Church as the Body of Christ is found in Paul. In Romans [13] and the first letter to the Corinthians [14] the main point is the mutual union, mutual concern and mutual dependence of the members of the local community upon one another. In Ephesians and Colossians, on the other hand, the accent is on the headship of Christ and on the subordination of the total church to him.

These passages were influential in the ecclesiology of St. Agustine and St. Thomas Aquinas, which viewed the Church as theological rather than institutional. After a period of strong institutionalism that, as indicated, culminated in the middle of the 19th. century, the theology of the church as mystical body began to be revived through such figures as Emile Mersch and Carl Pelz. In 1943, Pius XII published his famous encyclical Mystici Corporis in which he defined the church of Jesus as he Mystical Body of Christ and where he tried to harmonize this concept with the societal one. The Second Vatican Council, finally, used this model in the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium.[15]

However, the main ecclesiological outcome of Lumen Gentium is the image of the People of God.[16] In several texts of the New Testament[17]the Christian ekklesia is refered to as the new Israel or as the people of God of the New  Covenant. In the second chapter of Lumen Gentium, the new People of God is described as a Spirit-filled community, a fellowship of life, love, and truth. While this people is said to be equipped with those means which befit it as a visible and social unity, it is not exclusively identified with any given societal organization, even the Roman Catholic Church.

Both models are democratic, and stress immediate relationship of all believers to the Spirit as well as mutual service. The church, from this point of view, is not in the first instance an institution or a visible organized society. Rather it is a communion of men and women, primarily interior but also expressed by external bonds of creed, worship, and ecclesiastical fellowship. The primary bonds of union would be the interior graces and gifts of the Holy Spirit, which are deeper and more intimate than anything describable in moral or juridical terms. This would imply a doctrine of invisible membership of those who, although not belonging Alegally@ to the Church, are in fact part of this communion.

Among the advantages of these models Dulles enumerates their firm basis in Sacred Scripture and Tradition and the fact that they are ecumenically fruitful, as well as that they help to renew spirituality and foster loving communion. However, they also encourage a certain dualism between the visible and invisible church, and they tend to exalt and divinize the church and fail to give Christians a clear sense of their identity and mission. The image of the Body of Christ, on one side, does not sufficiently respect the personal freedom of the individual Christian. On the other side, many  Catholics and Christians in general find it difficult to regard themselves as God’s People. More often than not, political, social, cultural and even racial interests are stronger ties of communion than is religious faith. In the United States, for example, middle class Catholics from Irish or German backgrounds feel socially closer to middle class Lutherans than to poor Hispanic Catholics. In Africa, people tend to identify themselves with other people of the same tribe than with Catholics from a different tribe. That was the tremendous tragedy of the Rwandan war. In Latin America, Christian peasants feel a greater brotherhood with their marxist or pentecostal fellow workers than with their Catholic exploiters. The divisions in the Nicaraguan Church during the Sandinista regime can be traced back to this conflict of fidelities. [18] Finally, an excessive absolutization of close and warm interpersonal communion can also lead to frustration if not to apostacy, one of the biggest risks of people who are looking for small communities in order to fulfill their psychological needs of security and intimacy in our cool and depersonalizing urban environments.

The 1994 Special Assembly of The Synod of Bishops for Africa introduced a new image of the Church which we can place inside this model: the Church as the “Family of God”. In the final message we read,

The Synod has highlighted that you are the Family of God. It is for the Church-as-Family that the Father has taken the initiative in the creation of Adam. It is the Church-as-family which Christ, the new Adam and heir to the nations, founded by the gift of his body and blood. It is the Church-as-Family which manifests to the world the Spirit which the Son sent from the Father so that there should be communion among all. Jesus Christ, the only-begotten and beloved Son, has come to save every people and every individual human being. He has come to meet each person in the cultural path inherited form the ancestors. He travels with each person to throw light on his traditions and customs and to reveal to him that these are a prefiguration, distant but certain, of Him, the New Adam, the Elder of a multitude of brothers which we are.[19]

This image of the Church, which Pope John Paul II uses in his post-synodal apostolic exhortation Ecclesia in Africa, has Ephesians 2:19 as its biblical foundation. The Pope tells us,

The Synod Fathers acknowledged it as an expression of the Church’s nature particularl appropriate for Africa. For this image emphasizes care for others, solidarity, warmth in human relationships, acceptance, dialogue and trust. The new evangelization will thus aim at building up the Church as Family, avoiding all ethnocentrism and excessive particularism, trying instead to encourage reconciliataion and true communion between different ethnic groups, favouring solidarity and the sharing of personnel and resources among the  particular Churches, without undue ethnic considerations.[20]

While this image may greatly serve this purpose, it has the same problems as the other communion images mentioned above. It is rather controversial. Moreover, it is not a very ecumenical image of the Church, and it implies a participation in the seach for a definition of “family” in the turbulent waters of the new millenium and in the varied context of African cultures.

BO-BE-NKA’A PROJECT Updated Document

The Church as Sacrament

Bridging the gap between the institutional model and the mystical one is the ecclesiology of the Church as Sacrament, which tries to combine the internal and external aspects of the Church.

Anticipated by Cyprian, Augustine, Aquinas and Scheeben, this type of ecclesiology emerges in full clarity in our own century and has been developed by Henri de Lubac, Karl Rahner, Otto Semmelroth, Edward Schillebeeckx, Smulders, Yves Congar, Groot, Martelet, and many others.[21]

The Vatican Council declared that by virtue of its relationship to Christ, the Church “is in the nature of sacrament– a sign and instrument, that is, of communion with God and of unity among all men.”[22] This same concept appears in several other documents, especially in the Constitution on the Liturgy,[23] where the Council discerns a connection between the Church and the seven sacraments that express, in privileged ways, the sacramentality of the Church as a whole.  Dulles defines a sacrament as “a socially constituted or communal symbol of the presence of grace coming to fulfillment.”[24] Christ is the primordial sacrament. The Church is also a sign which must signify in a historically tangible form the redeeming grace of Christ.  Here “sacrament” is used in a broader sense than has been customary since Trent. This usage recaptures the more flexible usage of the Church’s first milennium.

The Church, as a sacramental, has an outer and inner aspect. Structure on the one hand, and faith, love and hope on the other, are necessary for the church to exist. The actualization of both aspects occurs, above all, in the Eucharist. As Rahner points out,

Essentially the Church is the historically continuing presence in the world of the incarnate Word of God. She is the historical tangibility of the salvific will of God as revealed in Christ. Therefore the Church is most tangibly and intensively as “event” where (through the words of consecration) Christ himself is present in his own congregation as the crucified and resurrected Saviour, the fount of salvation; where the Redemption makes itself felt in the congregation by becoming sacramentally visible; where the “new and Eternal Testament” which he founded on the cross is most palpably and actually present in the holy remembrance of its first institution.[25]

The bonds of the Church, according to this ecclesiology, are all the social, visible signs of the grace of Christ operative in believing Christians. The Church’s mission is, accordingly, to purify and intensify people’s response to the grace of Christ.

This ecclesiology relates to the other models and also establishes links between Ecclesiology and other theological fields. It emphasizes the duty of Church to be a clearer sign of Christ’s presence in the world. It also furnishes motives for strong loyalty to the Church while, at the dame time, allowing for honest criticism.

But, comparatively, this theory has little warrant in Scripture and early tradition. It is all excessively concerned with external aspects and leaves little place to diakonia (service) in the Church’s mission to the world.[26] Finally, it is not significant in the ecumenical dialogue because, as we shall see in the next model, Protestants tend to give more emphasis to the Word than to sacrament.

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The Church as Herald

This model makes the “word” primary and “sacrament” secondary. It is connected with the communion models though it underlines faith and proclamation more than interpersonal relations. It is kerygmatic, radically centered upon Jesus and on the Bible, in the words of Richard McBrien, who splendidly summarizes the ecclesiology.

This mission of the Church is one of proclamation of the Word of God to the whole world. The Church cannot hold itself responsible for the failure of men to accept it as God’s Word; It has only to proclaim it with integrity and persistence. All else is secondary. The Church is essentially a kerygmatic community which holds aloft, through the preached Word, the wonderful deeds of God in past history, particularly his mighty act in Jesus Christ. The community itself happens wherever the Word is proclaim and accepted in faith. The Church is event, a point of encounter with God.[27]

The chief proponent of the model was Karl Barth. Bultmann gave it an existential variant, stressing the importance of the Word of God as creator of the Church and underscoring the structural and historical connections of the Church. Ernst Fuchs and Gerhard Ebeling developed his ideas further. Hans Kung is the major Catholic proponent of this model. [28]

Faith is the primary bond of communion in this approach. And faith is seen as a response to the gospel, that is, to the proclamation of the Christ-event. The Church is regarded as complete in a single local congregation. No particular form of church government is considered essential to the existence of the Church. The tendency is to say that the Church exists wherever there is a community that believes in Christ. The unity with the rest of the churches consists in the fact that all are responding to one and the same gospel.

Among the advantages of this model we can note its excellent biblical foundation, clear sense of identity, and the specificity of the mission of the Church, as well as the fact that it leads to a kerygmatic, Christ-centered spirituality. As Dulles says, “all these points, well developed in the Protestant theology of the word, are valuable correctives to the Catholic tendency to focus on complacency, on celebration, on sacramentality.”[29]

However, the herald model has its own weaknesses: this theory is little incarnated. In the theology of proclamation it appears as though the Word had become not flesh but only word. Also, the institutional is played off against either the event or the community, and the personal is too divorced from its context.

Vatican II used this model sparingly, when it said that Christ

is present in his word, since it is he himself who speaks when the holy Scriptures are read in the Church. Lastly, he is present when the Church prays and sings, for he has promised “where two or three are gathered together in my name there am I in the midst of them” (Mt. 18.20). [30]

But the Council sees this presence among other ones, especially the sacramental presence in the Eucharist. On the other hand, the understanding in the Catholic Church of Magisterium is different from that of the Protestant tradition. An authentic teaching office plays a special role in the explanation and proclamation of the written word of God.[31]Finally, this model is too pessimistic and quietistic with regard to the possibility of human effort to establish a better human society and to the duty of Christians to take part in this common effort, as we shall see in the next model. We can say that, in general, Catholics have been rather indifferent or even hostile to this image. Only the Charismatic Renewal has paid primary attention to it.

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The Church as Servant

For centuries, the Church viewed the emergence of the modern world with suspicion and even open opposition. Not until Pope John XXIII and the Vatican Council II did it assert its goodness and the need of being at its service, fostering fraternity for all humankind.

The image of the Church that best harmonizes with this attitude is that of Servant. The Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World outlines this new understanding.[32] There, the Church is called to be an artisan of peace, a fighter against poverty, racism, and oppression. A similar servant ecclesiology underlines many official Church statements since 1966, most especially the General Conferences of Latin American Bishops at Medellín (1968), Puebla (1979), and Santo Domingo (1992).

This new secular thrust in ecclesiology was promoted by a number of twentieth-century theologians, especiall Teilhard de Chardin and Dietrich Bonhoefer. Since the early sixties, nearly all the ecclesiologies which have emerged into prominence have been representative of this new style of secular-dialogical theology. Among the protesant theologians we find names like Gibson Winter, Harvey Cox, and John A. T. Robinson. For Cox, for example, the Church is “the diakonos of the city, the servant who bonds himself to struggle for its wholeness and health.”[33]In the Catholic field we find theologians like Robert Adolfs, Eugene Bianchi, Richard McBrien and many liberation theologians.

For this model, the bonds of union are expressed in the communion that springs up among those who join in Christian service to the world. The mission of the Church is to be of help to all human beings, to keep alive the hope for the Kingdom of God and to offer guidance and prophetic criticism. Among its advantages we find that it makes the Church relevant to our time, offers its message to the world and makes it open to dialogue. Dulles considers this model as a healthy progress from supernaturalistic individualism, which deals with commitment only in terms of individuals, toward a more service oriented, committed church as a whole. This image “impressed upon Catholics their duty to assist in the solution of the great secular problem facing humanity in our time.”[34] On the other hand, we have to point out that this model has no direct biblical foundation. It is true that the term diakonia is one of the most important words applied to the Church in the New Testament.[35] But, as Dulles says, “the diakonia that goes on in the Church is generally if not always seen as the behavior of the Christians toward one another. It would be surprising to find in the Bible any statement that the Church as such is called upon to perform diakonia toward the world.”[36] Partly because of this poor theological underpinning, even though there is an indirect biblical foundation[37], this model, which had a good acceptance in the sixties, has been relegated to a “dimension”, one of the elements of the life of the Church, but not the only one or the most necessary. Overemphasizing service has some dangers. One of them consists in giving a too political character to the notion of the Kingdom of God. If the kerygmatic (herald) model runs the risk of being passive, this model can go astray by equating the Kingdom of God with social or political progress. Though no good theologian has done that, many politically interested people have manipulated this model by separating it from the preaching of Jesus as Lord. Kerygma and diakonia must go hand in hand.

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The Postconciliar Crisis

According to Dulles, Vatican II, by subordinating the institutional or hierarchical concept of the Church to others just mentioned, is partly responsible for the postconciliar crisis. Too many models are at work, different ecclesiologies which have not achieved the uniting character that the institutional model had but, rather, have made divisions wider and more painful. This situation must be healed. On the one had no significant structural changes have been made since Vatican II. The institutional model, though theoretically rejected, is still at work. On the other hand, no one of the other models is widely accepted in our days. We must find a model which could overcome the existing polarizations and serve to integrate and channel the ecclesial experience of comtemporary Catholics. This is not, of course, a panacea to solve the deep theological, structural and pastoral problems that the Church has and we should say that Dulles is, at this point, too optimistic. The Church does not change only by the introduction of new theories, no mater how sound they are, but, rather, through profound conversions which will not be achieved without struggle. Nevertheless, we should still believe in the power of right ideas and images to produce right praxis. Orthodoxy and orthopraxis should walk hand in hand. That is why the Community of Disciples is being proposed as the alternative model.

The Church as the Community of Disciples


Above all, a fundamental fact appears in the Gospels: Jesus formed around himself a group, a community of disciples. The word “disciple” appears 73 times in Matthew, 46 times in Mark, 37 in Luke and 70 in John. Most deeds and words of Jesus were done and said when the disciples were present. If we go back to the Gospels in the light of this understanding, applying the term Athe disciples@ to what we call Athe church@, it becomes obvious that the evangelists speak of the common life of the disciples with Jesus, they are quite conscious of the ecclesial significance of their statements. We know that the first Christian communities preserved  materials from which the evangelists later composed the Gospels. Therefore, we can conclude that if the Post-Easter communities selected the materials that they had about Jesus’ life in such a way that the final compositions strongly emphasizes the community of disciples that gathered around Jesus, it was done in that way precisely because in that community they saw the genuine model of what the Church ought to be.[38] As Dulles points out,

Some contemporary authors have great difficult in answering the question whether Jesus intended to found, and did found, a church. While admitting certain complexities in this question, I would contend that the difficulty is solved once one recognizes that Jesus did deliberately form and train a band of disciples, to whom he gave a share of his teaching and healing ministry. “Community of disciples” is precisely what Jesus undoubtedly did found, and once we recognize this fact we can apply to our life in the Church many of the Gospel passages dealing with discipleship.[39]

Jesus himself was the disciple of the Father. As he said, according to John, “Truly, truly I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing; for whatever he does the son does likewise. For the Father loves the Son, and shows him all that he himself is doing.”[40] And, according to Matthew, “All things have been delivered to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”[41]

Though in the post-Easter community the Lord is absent, this discipleship remains. Christ is still the Master, the only Master, as there is only one Father. His relationship with the new disciples continues now through the apostles, through other disciples. They speak in his name. As Jesus had said, “Whoever hears you hears me.”[42] And also, “As the Father has sent me, I send you.”[43] Thus, Paul could write to his Corinthian converts: “Be imitators of me as I am of Christ.” [44] The disciples, however, did not take the place of Jesus and become, for example the heads of other Rabbinical schools. As Dulles points out,

The function of the apostles was simply to enable others to enter into an immediate relationship with Jesus in the Holy Spirit. When his ministers speak the message of the Kingdom of God or worship his name, Jesus makes himself mysteriously present in their speech and actions, so that others may find him in word and sacraments. Thus the Church becomes, after Ascension, the place where authentic discipleship to Jesus himself remains possible.[45]

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A virtue of this model is its resonance with the contemporary Christians’ experience. Due to the end of Christendom, that is the situation that originated in the middle Ages when Church and Society were one, today’s believer can identify rather easily with the early church as a company of witnesses engaged in a difficult mission. He or she feels like responding in a free manner to a personal call, a call to a lifelong process of growth and conversion, a call to struggle and witness amid the increasing difficulties of the post-Christendom society.

Many of the current problems in sacramental theology, ministry and other fields can be solved by the help of this conception of the Church. Talking about ministry, for example, Dulles says:

By viewing ministry as discipleship, we can avoid making too sharp a distinction between the minister and those ministered to. Discipleship is the common factor uniting all Christians with one another, for no one of them is anything but a follower and a learner in relation to Jesus Christ. As disciples, all must help, using their own talents for the benefit of the rest. All are ministers, and all are ministered to. The concept of discipleship undercuts the illusion that some in the Church are lords and masters. Even popes and bishops have to take seriously the admonition of Jesus that no one in the Church is to be called, in an absolute sense, teacher, father, or master.[46]


We saw that the Church is mystery and, as such, irreducible to any single concept or model. Even though the discipleship model cannot be used to take the place of all the others, none of their best features is excluded from it, as we are going to see.

Discipleship without institution is impossible, for discipleship itself is an institution. Some institutional features like Church order, leadership, organized liturgy, and sacraments are necessary if Christian discipleship is going to be maintained in its purity and vigor in a hostile world. However, discipleship keeps the institutional elements of the Church constantly in the service of a lived relationship with Jesus as Lord. Even the dogmas of the Church cease to appear as tests of institutional loyalty. Rather, as Dulles points out, “they are he means whereby the Church as a whole finds it possible to give utterance to its common faith.”[47] participating in the life of the Church, we make our own the vision by which the community lives, but we are also impelled to go beyond what the first disciples heard expressly from the lips of Jesus in an ongoing process of discovery, growing out of the Tradition and the never-ending inspiration of the Spirit.

Discipleship brings to the Communion model the demands of membership. The Church is not a club of like-minded individuals, but a venture in which all depend on the community and are obliged to make contributions to the community and its work. Neither does it suggest a political or ethnic or even confessional group. The community of disciples cannot ultimately consist of separated or antithetical groups. Ecumenism will therefore aim to restore the communion of all disciples within a universal fellowship in the way of the gospel.

The idea of discipleship, rightly understood, has also a sacramental dimension. The Church as a whole, as community of disciples, deserves to be called, in the theological sense, a sacrament. Authentically sent by Christ, the disciples make him present anew in the world as they live under the direction of his Spirit.

The servant model can also be retrieved. According to the Gospels, the call to discipleship has serious social responsibilities attached. The disciples are sent to feed, to clothe, to heal, to liberate, to denounce oppressors, and to reconcile enemies. But this discipleship cannot be imposed on others or be made the law of an entire society, using the Gospel as some Arab countries use the Koran, nor may one equate a concrete political model with the Kingdom of God. Full acceptance of the social implications of Christianity will always require personal conversion and faith, the entrance into discipleship.

Finally, all disciples are called to herald to others the Good News of our Lord Jesus Christ. Evangelization ceases to be seen as the task of a small elite of professionals. As we read in the II Vatican Council, “every disciple of Christ has the obligation of spreading the faith to the best of his abilities.”[48] Or, in the words of Paul VI,

Those who sincerely accept the Good News, through the power of this acceptance and of shared faith, therefore gather together in Jesus’ name in order to seek together the Kingdom, build it up and live it. They make up a community which is in its turn evangelizing. The command to the Twelve to go out and proclaim the Good News is also valid for all Christians, though in a different way. It is precisely for this reason that Peter calls Christians Aa people set apart to sing the praises of God@ (1 Pt. 2:9), those marvelous things that each one was able to hear in his own language (Cf. Acts 2:11). Moreover, the Good News of the Kingdom which is coming and which has begun is meant for all people of all time. Those who have received the Good News and who have been gathered by it into the community of salvation can and must communicate it and spread it. [49]

Bo Be Nka’a and the “Community of Disciples” Model of the Church

After this long explanation, we want to state that Bo Be Nka’a is meant to foster this model of the Church. By doing so, it fulfills the call of the Universal and African Churches to create Dioceses and parishes which are Acommunities of communities@. It prepares young Christians, through a step-by-step process, to become full human beings, full Christian disciples, able to live in community and to work hand in hand for the developement of the Kingdom of God.

How is Bo Be Nka’s going to do this?

In the next chapters we shall see its model of catechesis and pastoral approach.


Some Pastoral and Pedagogical Assumptions

of the Bo Be Nka’a Process

A Holistic Catechesis

Bo Be Nka’a  is based on a catechetical model, that is, a pastoral-pedagogical approach, which is holistic and attempts to help the person to grow in all the dimensions of his or her personality. As such, this holistic model combines anthropological, doctrinal, liturgical, spiritual, moral, and ministerial aspects.

This catechesis is active and participative. The catechumen cannot be considered an empty recipient of indoctrination, but an individual who must answer personaly the call of the Lord, “Follow me”. On the other hand, and this cannot be overstressed, if we create a system where youth must remain in the same group for years, without the fresh novelties of new members, then we better be sure that the interest in the process is going to be maintained along the road, or we shall have a serious crisis of participation. In a closed group we should expect deep crises of relationship, but they are crises which may produce growth, maturity, and mutual self-knowledge. However, this youth interaction may be so strong and produce such deep wounds that, were, if not for the desire to keep growing that the process guarantees, the group could split apart over the years. This interest in being in the group, which in Bo Be Nka’a cannot be based on the normal desire of adolescents of meeting new people, must be based on the quality of the formation and the fact that the process is profoundly interesting, active and participative.

This catechesis is also liberating in all aspects of the word. It is supposed to effect changes not only in the individual’s private life but, through his or her actions and testimony of the values of the Kingdom, in the whole of society and the various groups and systems in which the Mo Nka’a participates. An evangelization which addresses only the realm of Apersonal@ sins or slaveries and does not confront systemic or societal Evil is not the product of fidelity to Jesus of Nazareth.

Stages of Development

In Bo Be Nka’a, as in any human development or catechumenal process, there are some well-defined stages. These stages imply the impossibility of mixing new candidates with those who have already achieved some degree of response to their personal call as disciples. They also imply a great commitment on the part of the pastoral workers to continue the process, once initiated, so that those already on the road may be offered ever greater challenges and opportunities along the road.

We shall talk about these stages in the next chapter, explaining them in detail and outlining the ideas undergirding them.

Community life

The members of Bo Be Nka’a are called upon to enter into a community of fellow disciples, not a simple club or interest group. Formation is provided over the years to ensure a greater ability to cope with the stresses, challenges and opportunities that living in a small Christian community entail in each one of us. This community life is expressed in many ways. Weekly meetings, stronger experiences of common life, organized action and formation… are means to achieve this growth in common love and fellowship, and not ends in themselves. Therefore, our stress shall be in this allegiance to the principle of brotherly and sisterly love from which stems our desire to be together, to participate in common activities, to encourage one another on the shared road.


Bo Be Nka’a implies a serious effort to pay attention to the realities and aspects of the local culture. The materials and ideas we shall propose in this book and subsequent ones are to be adapted and improved through the reflection of the local belis (communities of ndis). While it is important to maintain a unity in the rhythm and methodology of the process, it is nevertheless important to be open to the challenges of freedom so that the message of the Gospel, filtered and presented through this method of Bo Be Nka’a, may become ever more meaningful to each local group of youths.

BO-BE-NKA’A PROJECT Updated Document

Rites of Initiation

The Early Christian communities created powerful rites of initiation which were organized into the catechumenate, and which marked the passage of a convert from belonging to the “World” to becoming a “Child of the Light”, a “New Creation”, a “Redeemed person”, a member of the Church. The Traditional African societies were also in possession of powerful rites which marked the passage of a boy or girl from childhood to man or womanhood.

We should not underestimate the power of these rites to Acreate@ the reality that they celebrate and express. The power of words and gestures in liturgy is really awesome.

Bo Be Nka’a uses this anthropological and Christian conviction to develop rites of initiation that emphasize the message of the formation sessions and create a culture in themselves, the “Bo Be Nka’a culture”, where youths are invited to keep entering deeper and deeper into the inner circles of Christian life and spirituality.

These rites will be simple and safe but, at the same time, exciting and colourful experiences. For example, in the “Ngwe” stage, it will involve the experience of living in the wilderness, making one’s own hut, and staying alone, during the night, in the forest. This, coupled with life in community, meaningful prayer exercises, and liturgy, can become a wonderful experience of “being part of”, of “belonging”, of “becoming a member”, of “being accepted as worthy of” a particular stage, with its duties, rights and responsibilities.

Since Christian sacraments are the “initiation rites” into the community, the rites of initiation of Bo Be Nka’a are supposed to help the Mo Nka’a to “repossess” the earlier experiences of the sacraments, to make him or her more aware of their awesome implications.

Gradual introduction to the Bible, the Doctrine of the Church, various disciplines of personal growth, and Ministries

Throughout the stages of Bo Be Nka’a, every youth is exposed to the ample riches and traditions of the Church. He or she is introduced to the use and love of the Bible and to various disciplines, such as taking notes, journaling, life revision, spiritual direction, leadership skills, etc.

The Church of the future will be one in which the lay faithful will take a greater active part in the ministerial life of the Church than is the case today. In this same line, Bo Be Nka’a tries to prepare young people to, gradually, undertake the commitment of serving the community in accordance with their own charisms and skills. This commitment is made explicit and allowed to grow along the road through a series of specific services which will hopefully culminate in a personal and community search for a concrete ministry of the Christian in adult life.


We call spirit a particular African-Christian symbol around which a unit of formation is presented.

For example, to talk about the attitude or virtues of perseverance and fidelity, we have taken the symbol of alung from the Nkwen culture. Alung is a small leguminous tree in the grassy hills of the Northwest of Cameroon which, when burned, resists and survives fire. In the local culture this small tree represents “the person who resists the fire of temptation, human contempt or adversity”. We use it to symbolize fidelity, one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit.

By “symbolizing” an abstract idea like fidelity into a tree, we achieve various goals. The spirit gives us a cultural basis, previously existing or newly created, which incarnates the message to be assimilated. The spirit materializes, sacramentalizes a set of Gospel messages or Christian and African values and remains afterwards as a cultural and pastoral memory for the person and the group. It also creates a group or process inner culture which only the initiates can understand and, therefore, it produces a strong bond of fellowship among the members of the group. It also provides us with a quick way of reminding ourselves of all the values we stand for as Christians. An easy memorization of all the spirits provides us with a wonderful tool to be used for examination of conscience, planning, future decisions in life, etc.

The Six steps of every spirit

Based on our own adaptation of the traditional method of formation and decision making in Catholic Action groups, the contents of each spirit are presented, developed and assimilated through these six steps:

  1. To SEE (analysis of reality, presentation of the theme and the symbol of the spirit);
  2. to HEAR (listening attentively to God’s Word);
  3. to LEARN (being in contact with the life-testimony of a person who committed him or herself to live the implications of this spirit to the full, a martyr or witness of this spirit);
  4. to JUDGE (analysis of attitudes and aspects of our lives to be changed in accordance with the new light we are receiving by studying this spirit; an invitation to conversion of heart);
  5. to ACT (concrete planning at the group and personal levels of a significant action in line with the desire for conversion);
  6. and to CELEBRATE (a liturgical and celebrative action which ends this spirit and where everyone appropriates the symbol of the spirit as a token of their inner change)

BO-BE-NKA’A PROJECT Updated Document


The Stages of Bo Be Nka’a

Stages of development in a child’s life in traditional Nkwen

The people of Nkwen, the tribe where Bo Be Nka’a was first conceived and developed, has a saying which tells us of the way a child becomes a man. It goes like this, “To become a man, a child needs first a cutlass, then a gun or spear, and, later, a house where he may bring in a wife and start a family”.

This saying has a great wisdom in it. In fact, it explains the various stages of a youth’s life on the road to maturity and adulthood. To become a man –or a woman, for that matter–, a youth must learn the practical lessons of agriculture and hunting which will enable him to eat and to make a living in this particular environment; only then can he think about creating his family and be responsible for others. This idea inspired us to create a pedagogical way in which the whole of the  African  experience could be comprehended with the Spiritualities of Bo Be Nka’a process.

The great axes of traditional African life

In all African cultures, and in old traditional societies like the ones in the Bible, we find similar elements of education and development.

Traditional societies, both in Africa and in the Bible’s world, rotated around four basic axes or universes: the farm-cattle; the hunting-fishing activities and disciplines; the reality of war; and the house-family realm. All initiation rites were deeply in contact with these vital centers. We may talk of separate, parallel universes of conceptualization and points of view:

<          The universe of the farmer and the shepherd

<          The universe of the hunter and the fisherman

<          The universe of the warrior

<          The universe of the house-builder and house-maker (including the marriage-family worlds).

Traditional universes as realms of Formation and Spirituality

In each one of these universes exists a great variety of cultural and spiritual elements which are genuinely African and genuinely Biblical. The whole life of the People of God spun around these four universes.  Jesus himself made  good use of these realms to present his message in parables. The Gospels contain many references to the worlds of agriculture (e.g. the good seed which bears much fruit), shepherding (e.g. the good shepherd, the lost sheep), fishing (e.g. the net which catches all sorts of fish), war (e.g. the king who is advised to make peace with another king who comes with a stronger army), the house (e.g. the house built on sand, the owner who protects it against a burglar), and the family (e.g. father-children parables).

By taking these universes as a master plan to present formation and to organise the developmental journey, Bo Be Nka’a offers a very wide range of possibilities for inculturation to any parish or diocese wanting to start this process. Adaptation to local realities is thus open while preserving a guiding blueprint.

In each one of these main stages, the Mo Nka’a relives the experiences of the ancestors both in the Faith (the people of Israel) and the Blood (the local tribe, with its own wisdom, insights and traditions).

Traditions and modern, urban society of African youths

A word may be needed, at this point, to talk about youth in urban African settings.

Even though urban youths in today´s sprawling African cities may find these universes and their imageries a little “backward”, universal human experience tells us of the need of every person and society to go back to their roots in order to consolidate their own identity, values and projects.

Our own pedagogical experience tells us that a catechesis strongly inculturated can only do good in the long run, even though it may be received with some skepticism by those who pride themselves in being “modern”.

A truly African spirituality and catechesis, if well thought out and laid out, shall be of great help in an urban setting to provide otherwise rootless youths with an internal world full of wisdom and references to daily life.


Bo Be Nka’a Document by Juan Izuel Founder


Meaning  in Nkwen
Apprentice, aspirant, candidate.
Compound, house
The bag or the basket. Cutlass, hoe and shepherd’s staff Bow, arrow and fishing net. Spear and shield.  
House and compound.
The world of the disciple, the apprentice.
The world of farmers and shepherds.
The world of hunters and fishermen.
The world of warriors and defenders.
The world of builders.
Five steps (Self, Group, Jesus, Life, Bo Be Nka’a) Basic review of Christian life.
Ten Spirits
which follow the
Fruits of the Spirit.
Ten Spirits which follow the Cardinal Virtues  and the Gifts of the Spirit.
Nine Spirits
which follow the Beatitudes.
Nine Spirits which follow the Works of Mercy. and introduce to Ministries.
Initiation Sacraments.
Group life.
Basic Promise.
Engwe initation.
Nsang initiation.
Nekong initiation.
Abi Initiation.
Adolescents I
Adolescents II
Youth I
Youth II
2 years
1 – 2 years
1 – 2 years
1 – 2 years
1 – 2 years


In the following pages, we shall see a more developed explanation of the whole process, with its various objectives, contents and actitivities.


Leadership and Structures in Bo Be Nka’a

Understanding of Christian leadership

The permanent temptation of the Church throughout History has been to imitate the models of leadership of other social groups and institutions existing in the same environment.

The model of leadership for any Christian community is Jesus himself. He calls us to service in the Church not as the rulers of the World do, but as servants (Cf. Luke 22: 24-27)

In Bo Be Nka’a, the leadership structure shall remain as simple as possible. The animator or ndi shall model his or her style of leadership according to the Lord’s. He or she will try always to be a good shepherd, a humble teacher, a big brother or sister. There will be a gradual training of the Bo Be Nka’a to be able to serve the Christian community as leaders. Throughout the process we shall experience different activities to allow the members vote their representatives and to foster the exercise of representation by as many people as possible.

A simple Organigram

We give here a simple list of words and their meanings so that the reader may have a clear idea of how Bo Be Nka’a is organized at a parish or school level.


Ndi means, in Nkwen language, “a big brother or a big sister”, and also “an elder”. The Ndi is the animator of a group. In a group there may be more than one ndi. He or she is appointed by the Beli, not elected by the members of the group. It stands among them as a pastoral worker, a catechist, a youth minister, an initiator into the mysteries of Christian life.


Beli means in Nkwen language “the group of the elders, or big brothers/sisters.” In Bo Be Nka’a we call beli the group or community of ndis. At the level of the parish or school where a Bo Be Nka’a process is working, Beli is the highest decision making body.


Atie Beli means “the head of the beli”, that is, the person responsible of the community of ndis. It is the representative and servant of the Bo Be Nka’a process in that parish.


Nkwese means “servant” in Nkwen. It is the representative of a team of Bo Be Nka’a. These representatives are elected by the youths and form together the Be Nkwese.


Be Nkwese means “the servants”, and it is the group of representatives of the various teams which form a Bo Be Nka’a group. This group or Be Nkwese form, together with the Ndi, the leaders of the group. Their system of election and other items shall be introduced later on in the process.

Qualities of a good Ndi

Any parish priest or school principal who wants to start Bo Be Nka’a in their institution needs to send some candidates to be trained as ndis to the Diocesan Bo Be Nka’a team. This process of selection of candidates is very delicate and should be done with great care.

It cannot be overemphasized that the present and future of a parish or school Bo Be Nka’a process depends in a great measure on the selection of the candidates who will start it. What are the qualities a good ndi must have if we want to succeed?

Of course, we may create such a wonderful picture, full of expectations, that it may never come true and may discourage us from ever hoping to find this individual in our community. yet, it is very important to dream about this ideal leader, because his or her responsibility is going to be enormous. We should be extremely careful at the beginning, because if from the start we place in a position of service a person who does not know him/herself and commits serious mistakes, the project of Bo Be Nka’a in that parish, school or community will sink at once, for the present and the future.

<          Not a “new arrival”. A good Christian. He or she shows commitment to the basics. Active in his or her local church for some time.

<          A long standing member of a Christian youth group.

<          Able to enter into authentic human relationships.

<          Humble and ready to learn from others. Not domineering

<          Friendly and kind towards others.

<          Ability for leadership. Accepted by other youths.

<          Respectful of traditions, and, yet, critical and open to changes.

<          Neat, prompt, orderly.

<          He or she has a personal project of life and is working hard to fulfil it. He or she is active in his/her life. If possible, with some type of permanent employment.

<          Serious in his/her commitment to chastity.

<          Stable in the community (If you only rely on students or unemployed youth, you may end up without animators when at one point many of them move out in search of a different school or employment). It is very good to count on some young married people, who have decided to stay in our parish.

<          Sufficient schooling (minimum Primary School) Good reading skills.


Training for Ndis

We cannot explain here the system of training for the future Ndis, but it should include basic introduction to the following fields:

<          Human development aimed at fostering in these candidates a good grasp of their inner selves.

<          Personal spirituality.

<          The Bible and the History of the Church.

<          Group dynamics and educational games.

<          Developmental psychology.

<          Leadership skills.

<          African Anthropology and Inculturation.

<          Social awareness of Justice and Peace issues.

<          Educational skills.

<          Planning and evaluation skills.

<          Use of media resources and new technologies.

<          Bo Be Nka’a and the Bo Be Nka’a handbook.

<          Christian understanding of sexuality, marriage, and family.


A final word

As I have said from the beginning, this is a process open to the improvements, suggestions, and new developments of many brothers and sisters.

I wrote this presentation in 1996 after the first six years of Bo Be Nka’a ministry. I hope that it may help those helping the youth and shed some light and encouragement. At the beginning of 2020, encouraged by some former members with whom we have just started a virtual community, I have taken some time to put together all those ideas with the hope that they may still be helpful to somebody.

Thanks for your kind patience to be able to arrive at this last page. May the Lord bless you and give you wisdom, generosity, and commitment. It is not easy to serve young people but is it very rewarding.

Pray for all those young men and women totally out of reach, that the Church may be a clear and attractive witness of the Way, the Truth, and the Life, our Lord Jesus Christ.

Juan Yzuel Sanz “Tamandung”



BO-BE-NKA’A PROJECT Updated Document

Bo-Be-Nka’a Document by Juan Izuel Founder

[1]John Paul II, Redeemer of Man, 21.

[2]Father Avery Dulles, S. J., born in the U.S., was a highly appreciated systematic theologian.  Among his many books are: The Dimensions of the Church: A Postconciliar Reflection (Westminster, Md: Newman Press, 1967); The Survival of Dogma (Garden City, N.Y: Doubleday, 1971); The Resilient Church (Garden City, N.Y: Doubleday, 1977); and , most especially, Models of the Church (Garden City, N.Y: Doubleday, 1974); A Church to Believe In: Discipleship and the Dynamics of freedom (New York: Crossroad, 1982); and Models of Revelation (Garden City, N.Y: Doubleday, 1983).

[3]Avery Dulles, Models of the Church, Image Books (Garden City, New York: Doubleday, 1978), pp. 13,14. (All references are from this edition)

[4]This general conception of mystery as applied to the Church was set forth by Paul VI in his opening address at the second session of the Council. He declared. “The Church is a mystery. It is a reality imbued with the hidden presence of God. It lies, therefore, within the very nature of the Church to be always open to new and ever greater exploration.” (Quoted in H. Kung, Y. Congar, and D. O=Hanlon, eds., Council Speeches of Vatican II  (Glen Rock, N.Y.: Paulist, 1964), p.26.

[5]As John Paul II said in the final mass of the Synod, what the Synod had done, above all, was to throw a fuller light on “the nature of the Church so far as it is a mystery and communion of koinonia.” See Sean O’Riordan, “The Synod of Bishops, 1985,” in The Furrow (March, 1986), p. 155.

[6]Dulles, A Church to Believe In, p. 1.

[7]J. Neuner and H. Roos, The Teaching of the Catholic Church (Staten Island, N.Y. Alba House, 1967), No,361, pp. 213-14. This theory, though not promulgated at that council, was practically endorsed by subsequent popes–Leo XIII, Pius XI, Pius XII–and many early twentieth century theologians.

[8]Ibid., p. 369.

[9]Thomas O’Meara, Theology of Ministry (Ramsey, N. J: Paulist, 1983), p. 122.

[10]Dulles, Models of the Church, p. 50.

[11]Dulles, A Church to Believe In, p. 3.

[12]See, for example: Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Communion of Saints (New York, Harper & Row, 1963), p. 123, Yves Congar, Lay People in the Church ( Westminster, Md.: Newman, 1965), pp. 28-58, J. Hammer, The Church is a Communion (New York: Sheed & Ward, 1964), p. 93.

[13]See Rom 12.

[14]See 1 Cor. 12.

[15]See Austin Flannery. ed., Vatican Council II: The Conciliar and Post Conciliar Documents (Boston, Mass.: St. Paul Editions, 1975), Art. 7, pp. 354-56.

[16]Ibid. Arts. 9-17, pp. 395-369.

[17]Cfr., Rom 9:23-26, Heb 8:10, James 1:1,  1 Pt 2:9, etc.

[18]There are several articles on this subject. See, for example, Edward Sheehan, “The Battle for Nicaragua,” Commonweal (May 9, 1986) pp. 264-268.

[19]Message of the Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for Africa, no. 24

[20]John Paul II, Ecclesia in Africa, No. 63.

[21]See, for example: Karl Rahner, “Membership of the Church”, in Theological Investigations, Vol. 2 (Baltimore: Helicon, 1963), pp. 1-88; Edward Schillebeeckx, “The Church, Sacrament of the Risen Christ,” in Christ the Sacrament of the Encounter with God (New York: Sheed & Ward, 1963), pp. 47-89; J. Groot, “The Church as Sacrament of the World,” Concilium, Vol. 31 (New York: Paulist Press, 1968), pp. 51-66.

[22]Lumen Gentium, Art. 1. Flannery, Vatican Council II, p. 350.

[23]See Sacrosanctum Concilium, Arts. 10, 41. Ibid., pp. 6, 14.

[24]Dulles, Models of the Church, p. 71.

[25]Karl Rahner, “The Church and the Sacraments,” Inquiries (New York: Herder and Herder, 1964), p. 317.

[26]Gustavo Gutiérrez calls the Church a “Sacrament of History” (See A Theology of Liberation (Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books, 1973), p. 255-78). By  so doing he understands the mission of the Church as being a historical agent on the side of the poor and oppressed. This idea will be further developed in the model “Servant,” with which, I believe, Gutierrez is more connected.

[27]Richard P. McBrien, Church: the Continuing Quest (New York: Newman, 1970), p. 11.

[28]See, for example: Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics I (Edimburg: T. and T. Clark, 1936), pp. 298-300; Rudolph Bultmann, Theology of the New Testament, Vol. I ( New York: Scribner’s 1951), pp. 306-14: Gerhard Ebeling, The nature of Faith  (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1961), pp. 146-147; Hans Kung, The Church (New York: Sheed & Ward, 1968); pp. 79-104.

[29]Dulles, Models of the Church, p. 90.

[30]Sacrosanctum Concilium, Art. 7. Flanery, Vatican Council II, p. 5

[31]See Unitatis Redintegratio, art. 21. Flanery, Vatican Council II, pp. 468-69.

[32]See Gaudium et Spes, Arts. 44, 59, and 62. Flanery, Vatican Council II, pp. 946-47, 963-64, 966-68.

[33]Harvey Cox, The Secular City (New York: Macmillan, 1965), p. 138.

[34]Dulles, The Resilient Church, p. 12.

[35]Cf. J. M. Beyer, “Diskoneô, etc.” in Gerhard Kittel, ed., Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Vol. 2 (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1964), pp. 81-93.

[36]Dulles, Models of the Church, p. 105.

[37]Cfr., for example, the “Servant’s songs” in Isaiah 42: 6-7, 61:1 ff. Jesus applied them to himself in Luke 4:16-19. Luke presents Jesus calling to love and to serve the outcasts, the marginalized,… Many authors, however, doubt that the Jesus’ discourses and actions at the Last Supper in the Gospel of John, which deal also with service, can be interpreted as meaning that the disciples have to be at the service of the world. Love and service inside the community will enlighten the world, kingdom of darkness which cannot understand Jesus’ message.

[38]Christian discipleship was different from the Rabbinical and Greek idea and praxis of discipleship. Discipleship, in the Gospel, implies not only the acceptance of doctrine and the entrace into fellowship with those who pursue truth, but the acceptance of Jesus as Lord, a feature unparalleled in the other “schools”. To avoid being identified with this other understanding of discipleship, the pos-Easter communities dropped this name, but preserved it to explain its concept of the Church. Terms like “brothers, believers, followers, Christians,” etc. replaced the word disciples, though meaning the same thing. For a complete account of this subject which we cannot study at length here, see the article “Mathetes” in Kittle’s Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Vol. III, pp. 415-61.

[39]Dulles, A Church to Believe In, p. 8.

[40]Jn. 5:19-20.

[41]Mt. 11:27.

[42]Lk. 10:13.

[43]Jn. 20:21.

[44] 1 Cor 11:1

[45]Dulles,  A Church to Believe In, p. 9

[46]Ibid., p. 12.

[47]Ibid. p. 15.

[48]Lumen Gentium, art. 17. Flannery, Vatican Council II, p. 368.

[49]Pope Paul VI,  Evangelii Nuntiandi (Washington D:C: Publications office, United States Catholic Conference, 1975), no. 13.


Bo Be Nka’a Document by Juan Izuel Founder

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