ZAMBIA: Striving together to build the Church

Formation of marriage and family catechists in Zambia, priest with trained couples in Kabwe Diocese
Formation of marriage and family catechists in Zambia, priest with trained couples in Kabwe Diocese

Zambia’s Church is flourishing thanks to the zeal of catechists helping dedicated priests – both working together with challenges such as impassable roads in the rainy seasons and no electricity in remote parishes.

we act with a spirit of sacrifice and determination

Catholic charity, Aid to the Church in Need interviewed Tony Zender, head of ACN’s Zambia section about the issues facing the Church there. He said: “When we all strive together to build up the Church, when we act with a spirit of sacrifice and determination, we give a sign that it is we who wish to sustain our Church.” He added: “And then the Lord will grant graces to the Church that we would not otherwise have received. And incidentally, the same applies to Europe.”

The charity is supporting the catechist training centre’s two-year training courses in Mansa Diocese situated in the poorest region of the country. Mr Zender described the type of activities the catechists do while they “reside in small individual houses with their families.” He said: “In the two-year training, the men are prepared for their service as catechists while the women attend further education courses to equip them to work as educators in the future communities – both in the catechism and in the field of domestic economy, such as tailoring.”

Speaking of the aid provided by the charity, he said: “we now also support the catechists with bicycles so that they are mobile and can carry out their responsibilities better. “In the future we also want to carry out the renovation of the catechist training centre. We saw the gratitude of the centre’s rector and training staff.” He added: “In future we hope to not only support the next training course but also to help with the renovation work, because the buildings are in very poor condition.”

Now the Church needs the help of every one of the faithful

Highlighting the value of each lay person’s contribution to the Church, he said: “Now the Church needs the help of every one of the faithful.” Mr Zender outlined the daily help that the trained catechists are now providing to the faithful. He said: “The priests are often only present in the parishes for a few days per quarter, or sometimes for only a few days in the year, and the catechists perform very good evangelism work in the priests’ absence.” The catechists are serving as an inspiration for both the faithful as well as priests in Zambia. He added: “They care for the people, and together with their families they also serve as a role model… If, as a priest, one sees their determination to sacrifice themselves for the Church, it is also motivational for some of the priests.”

Like St Barnabas, the priests are leading by example in Zambia, Mr Zender said: “Something that impressed me again and again was the exemplary way in which some priests perform their service. “Sometimes they live in places where there is no electricity, where perhaps they have to draw running water from a tank, and where sometimes they have to live completely on their own.” The priests are serving as models of encouragement to the faithful in Zambia and elsewhere, he added: “To me they are setting an example, in the sense that they are facing up to their situation.”

The charity is continuing to provide help where the need is greatest in Zambia including in the construction of parochial buildings, provision of motor vehicles, catechist training and spiritual retreats.

Aid to the Church in Need – contact: [email protected] or call 020 8642 8668

Article first published in The Portal