Three young people from an Opus Dei center in Youndé were getting a work site ready so they could help with the needs of the inhabitants of Bayangam, a town of 13,000 inhabitants in western Cameroon, when they were killed in an accident.
The tragedy occurred on Sunday, March 5, near the village of Konyambeta, in the vicinity of the town of Bafia. As they were returning to the town for work, their minibus crashed and three of the 13 occupants died while eight others were admitted to hospital. Among them were several Spaniards: Fr. Alfonso Hontañón, a priest from Gijón, and Alfonso Cabrera, from Cordova, the director of the Opus Dei center that was providing this volunteer service.
The father of several of the young people involved in the accident was traveling in a car behind the minibus and saw everything that happened. He organized the transportation of the boys to the hospital. Most were discharged in the following days, some with broken legs, wrists, or shoulders.
Pain and consolation
Aleteia was able to speak with Fr. Alfonso Romero, an Opus Dei priest from Seville who works in Cameroon and who is experiencing these days with immense sorrow but also with the consolation and peace that comes from knowing that the tragedy was also in God’s plans:
We understand very clearly that God is the Lord of History and of the life of each person. All three were spiritually prepared. All those who were on that minibus were members of Opus Dei or participated regularly in Opus Dei’s means of formation. They all pray regularly. God is very present and what we ask everyone to do is to continue to pray for the deceased and to pray for all the injured and their families. We thank God for having been able to share so many moments with Arnaud, Pierre, and Eric, and we thank God also for having saved the rest of those who were in the minibus.
This is the image that was spread by Whatsapp to ask for prayers:
Remembering the deceased
Fr. Alfonso fondly remembers the deceased. Eric Bella (30) died on the spot. “He had started working at the Azobe school only six months ago and was well-liked among the children and the parents. He had many skills: he played several instruments, he could read Braille…”
Arnaud (27) was an associate of Opus Dei, an agricultural engineer. He died on arrival at the hospital. “He was a young man with a big heart, in love with his profession. Now he was working in rabbit husbandry, and he loved to explain to everyone how it worked. He was very apostolic, he gave catechesis in his parish, and it was easy to befriend him.”
The third deceased is Pierre Ngassa, a student in the last year of high school, who died in Yaounde where an ambulance had taken him due to the seriousness of his injuries. “Pierre was full of joy: he came to the center a lot and you would always find him smiling and making jokes. He liked to lend a hand. You could count on him,” recalls the priest.
Prayers and love from all over the world
A WhatsApp message began to circulate from Cameroon to the rest of the world. It was forwarded tens of thousands of times. It told of the tragic news and asked for prayers. That support has been felt in Yaounde:
“Many people are praying. We’ve received messages from all over the world. It’s very gratifying to see the love of the people. The families, as is normal, are having a very hard time. We try to accompany them in these delicate moments,” says Fr. Alfonso.
Support from the bishop and other priests
The response of the Bishop of Bafia and other priests has also amazed Fr. Alfons.
“On Sunday, I called the Bishop of Bafia to tell him that I was there and to let him know what had happened. He wasn’t in town, but I was very surprised, and I thanked him later, because he sent priests to accompany us. The chancellor of the diocese was there for a while on Sunday afternoon and came back on Monday. He was there all morning, he had food prepared in the bishopric for the kids… The truth is that I was very moved (and I am moved now) seeing how they cared and were there for whatever we needed.”