One New Year’s Day in 2012, I met this exceptional man for the first time. I had come to Paris to follow the production of a book by Editions l’Harmattan. In the company of André Julien Mbem, at the time, Director of Collection in this Publishing House, and Émile Mosely Batamak, we went to 42 bis Rue de Grenelle where I had the chance to meet Father Denis Maugenest. Denis Maugenest. The welcome he gave us was very warm, especially when he learned that I came from Cameroon, a country he knew well from having stayed there for the establishment of the Catholic University of Central Africa. (U.C.A.C)
I remember that it was during this meeting that he came up with the idea of creating a Think Tank to reflect on the future of Africa, an idea which, one year later, would give birth to the Institut Afrique Monde (IAM) to which he made many sacrifices of time and energy. Since that time, our ties have grown closer over time to become almost fusional, punctuated by frequent exchanges by email and lunches at the Jesuit House at 42 bis Rue de Grenelle each time I visit Paris.
I will not forget to mention an impromptu visit he made to me one day in February 2017. Freshly out of the FOCH hospital, I was convalescing at my daughter’s home in Conflans-Ste-Honorine. One morning, my granddaughter burst into my room to announce a visit. Denis Maugenest, who had walked three kilometres on foot after leaving the RER to reach his destination.
“Bernard, you are showing a Parisian to the suburbs,” he said to me in a burst of laughter. He confessed to me on occasion that since he had returned from Abidjan, he had never left Paris for any suburb.
Seeing how anxious I was about my state of health, he comforted me with this excerpt from the book of the prophet Micah, which he liked to recall.
He said, “It has been made known to you, O man, what is good; and what the Lord requires of you, that you do righteousness, and love mercy, and walk humbly with your God.” These words helped me to keep a certain serenity to overcome these more than difficult moments and still help me today.
I am infinitely grateful to the Father.
I keep like a relic the email he sent me on July 28, 2019. I taste its contents every day as a duty of memory! May you share it with me!
May the Lord whom he served so well all his life find for him a special place in his kingdom!