Thanks to the help of our benefactors, we were able to contribute 3,000 Euros to enable 40 diocesan and religious priests to attend an ongoing formation session in the diocese of Bouar. Given that the country is suffering such violence and extreme problems, it is especially important to support and strengthen the priests, since they are often the only ones who can really help their people not to lose hope.
The formation programme included such important pastoral issues as marriage preparation and how to deal with irregular marriage situations and, more generally, the appropriate formation for the Sacraments, adult baptisms and the role of catechists in the small and remote rural villages. At the same time the priests were able to reflect on their own vocation and the importance of the priesthood, while additionally receiving training in a range of practical matters, such as bookkeeping, general administration and record-keeping – all matters that are essential and obligatory in every parish and institution but for which many priests are often inadequately prepared when required to take over a ministry which demands such skills. The priests of the diocese all benefited greatly from these days of exchange and ongoing formation and wish to express their gratitude to all our generous benefactors who made this meeting possible.
Sadly, however, immediately after these beautiful and encouraging days, there was a terrible and tragic incident. 47-year-old Capuchin Father Toussaint Zoumalde, who had so recently given a talk on the priesthood and the vocation of the priest, was murdered on his way home from the meeting. This priest, who himself came originally from the diocese of Bouar, but was currently serving as Provincial Superior of his order in Chad, had been planning to spend the night in Ngaoundere, in Cameroon, on his way home, when he was stabbed to death by unknown assailants. He was a highly learned priest who had studied in Rome and himself been involved in the work of priestly formation. Friends and colleagues described him as a fine and multitalented individual with a profound soul and a great love of the Church and the priesthood in particular. A songwriter and poet, he had a wonderful manner with young people, to whom he brought the Gospel message, and he had previously been responsible for the Catholic radio station in Bouar.
In Chad, in addition to his many other activities, he was the head of a cultural museum of the Mboum ethnic group. In their obituary for him the Capuchin Fathers wrote: „In killing him on the night of 19 March, the cowardly hand of his murderer knew nothing of the beauty and elegance of Brother Toussaint, this priest who was so rich in the fine qualities of the Gospel and the beauty of the priestly order.“
So it was, that just a few days after meeting with their fellow priests in Bouar, at which Father Toussaint had given his confreres such inspiring and profound reflections on the priesthood, his mortal remains were carried to their burial by his brother priests, amid great mourning among all the people and the entire Church in the diocese. The words he had spoken at this meeting of the priests have thus become his lasting legacy.