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Nyangusu – Sister Ruth Bwaru Joseph, of the Missionary Sisters of St. Peter Claver, SSPC, originally from Kenya, shares the testimony of faith received from her father, Joseph, a catechist for 25 years, and underlines the importance of this ministry for evangelization.
I was born into a large family of ten children. My father and mother are ardent Catholics. As a family, we prayed the Rosary and other prayers together every evening. I remember that as children, we spontaneously prayed and asked the Lord to make our dreams come true. Dad personally prepared each of us for the sacraments of Christian initiation. The example of our parents was a great example and encouragement for us; we saw them fulfill their duties with fidelity and love and patiently endures the setbacks and sufferings of life. I am convinced that I owe not only my faith, but also my religious vocation to the witness of life and to the prayers of my parents. As a teenager, I admired how zealously and how much dedication my father proclaimed the Word of God to our people. We lived in the parish of Nyangusu, but my father carried out his mission as a catechist in 30 different missionary stations very distant from each other.
Since the villages are spread over a vast territory and are many kilometers away from each other, our parish could not do without the ministry of catechists. The priests are not able to reach all the mission stations, not even on Sundays for the celebration of the Eucharist, and this is why they have to resort to catechists. It is the catechists who lead the Sunday prayers, which our people love so much, preside over the Liturgy of the Word, explain the Gospel and, if they are extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist, it is still the catechists who distribute Communion. They also impart catechesis to children and young people, guide formative meetings for catechumens and for those who are preparing to receive the Sacrament of Marriage and seek to encourage and strengthen in the faith all the members of the young Christian communities. When I was a young, I noticed that my father carried out his mission with true joy, dedication and passion. Today, as a nun, I admire even more his faith, his intense life of prayer, the spirit of sacrifice. Since he had no means of transportation, he walked from one village to another, like a true missionary, and he did it with joy, because he loved his vocation as a catechist. Almost all of our catechists, who carry out their service for free, have very large families and for this reason they have to work hard to ensure the support of their loved ones, to pay school fees for the children, etc. My father also worked hard to guarantee us a dignified existence. In reality, I cannot even imagine Christian life in the parishes of our diocese without the service of catechists. Most of our people live in villages, cultivating fields and grazing flocks. On Sundays, when the catechist arrives in the village, he helps the people to break away from the daily occupations that totally absorb their lives and accompanies them to the village church, where he can participate in the liturgy of the Word. My father does it every Sunday in a different village. Having a catechist father, with great joy I read the Apostolic Letter Antiquum ministerium, with which Pope Francis established the Ministry of the Catechist. “The entire history of evangelization over these two millennia” – writes the Holy Father – “shows with great evidence how effective the mission of catechists has been”. Now I am much more aware that the task of the catechist, which my father has been carrying out for 25 years , is a real ecclesial ministry. That is why I will pray more intensely for him and for all the catechists in my country and in other countries in the world. And I also invite everyone to pray that the laity may rediscover their mission in the Church and, responding to the call of the Spirit, have the courage to “go out to meet so many people who are waiting to know the beauty, goodness and truth of the Christian faith”.