Pope Francis’s December Intention for Evangelisation: – Catechists
Let us pray for the catechists,
summoned to announce the Word of God:
may they be its witnesses,
with courage and creativity
and in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Sister Victoire’s congregation (Missionary Sisters of Our Lady of Africa) is by no means the only group of Sisters who minister as catechists, but we celebrate their contribution to the Church this month. Most catechists are not Sisters, Brothers or Priests but laymen and women. I first got involved as a teenager, preparing country children for their first sacraments, and have been involved in other ways over the years.
This is a ministry that suits many young people, such as those in the lower photograph who were attending the World Youth Days in Krakow five years ago. As Ignatius’ articles here and here show, there are different ways of sharing the faith.
So let’s pray for Catechists, especially those teaching the faith to enquirers and children, people hearing the Word for the first time. May they be true witnesses, with courage and creativity and in the power of the Holy Spirit.
A Ugandan ‘thank you’ to Pope Francis for creating the catechist ministry by Lazar Arasu from National Catholic Reporter, June 30. A taste of the article follows; the whole piece can be found at this link.
Moses Kiggwa is a dedicated catechist in Kamuli parish within Jinja Diocese, which is about 70 miles east of our capital of Kampala. Besides training as a primary teacher, he also trained himself as a catechist.
“I find joy in being a catechist more than anything else,” Moses told me recently. He eventually gave up his teaching career to be a full-time evangelizer. He noted with pride that he has helped to found several sub-parishes in the remote areas of his parish, along the Nile River.
Now in his late 50s, he is still committed to educating people to faith. Riding his bicycle for several years in his evangelization efforts has created serious health problems, but he is only happy that he has sustained the faith of several hundreds of people.
Surely there are lessons for the rest of the Church from the long-standing ministry of catechists in countries like Uganda?
In order to give the superiors a little encouragement in the way of making a missionary of me, I at last was able to acquire a second hand motor-bike and sidecar (plus of course a debt!) and was given charge of five villages (don’t imagine “village”, think of forests, banana gardens, cotton fields + very scattered huts). I did the sick calls for a month + two safaris. Bedding and everything packed off to a mud house in the woods seven miles away and then I nearly died of fatigue. Quite frankly exhausted. Hut to hut visiting over fields, rocks, ruts …. For hours and hours each day. Little sleep at night because of rats and spiders …. How I learnt to admire the real missionaries! Those who do this always.
It’s 1934, and Fr Arthur Hughes, recently arrived in Uganda, is trying to get away from being a desk jockey; he was the bishop’s secretary. Different times! The missionaries had vast areas to cover and the motor bike was a reasonably efficient and cheap means of getting about; he had used one extensively in England earlier. Not very many years before this, a push bike was considered something of a luxury for a missionary. Arthur is writing to his sister Winifred in London; we have kept his punctuation.
Nowadays there are many Ugandan priests, serving God and their people, but from before Fr Hughes’s time to the present day, the Church has been held together through the work of lay catechists. Tomorrow we will be visiting them in Uganda, and finding more about this long-established ministry which has at last been formally recognised by Pope Francis.
Spiders look bigger in the dark with only a hurricane lamp to see by.