By Br. Alfonce Kugwa
Catechists in Matebeleland received a special honour during the Archdiocese of Bulawayo’s commemoration of 140 years of Christianity held on 29 June 2019 at Our Lady of Fatima in Pumula South. Of special mention was Mrs. Anna Mugadza who received a special recognition from Pope Francis for her sterling contribution as a catechist in the Archdiocese of Bulawayo for 45 years and the late Mr. Alexander Regis Gwenelo.
Mr. Gwenelo’s role together with that of Mrs. Mugadza and many other catechists cannot be underestimated in the development of Christian faith in Matebeleland Province.
Archbishop Alex Thomas of Bulawayo said the role of catechists such as the late Mr. Gwenelo and Mrs. Mugadza was very important in the growth of faith in Matebeleland and the whole of Zimbabwe as their contribution influenced many people who encountered their presence.
“These people toiled on foot and sometimes on bicycles in a bid to spread the mission of Christ. Most of you remember the name “Mr. Gwenelo” who was very instrumental in shaping people’s faith through catechism in the Archdiocese. He worked hard for the archdiocese to be what it is today. There are many catechists whose work we cherish for supporting the mission of the Church and for their zeal to educate people about the values of the Gospel,” Archbishop Alex said.
Because of his authentic work as a catechist and his unwavering support for the mission, the Archdiocese of Bulawayo has awarded a special honour to the late Gwenelo by naming the new block at Emthonjeni Pastoral Centre after his name. Construction of Alexander Regis Gwenelo block started in 2008 and was completed this year.
Archbishop Alex presented a plaque bearing the late catechist’s name to Fr. Limukani Ndlovu, the priest in charge of the pastoral centre.
Mrs. Mugadza who was accompanied by her children, nieces and nephews expressed joy and gratitude as she received the plaque of honour from Archbishop Alex.
This public honour of catechists by Archbishop Alex was well received by many who applauded him for recognising local efforts in the establishment of the local Church and in the ministry of evangelization.
Fr. Limukani Ndlovu confirmed that Mr. Gwenelo was a humble man dedicated to his work.
“This man played a significant role in the Archdiocese as a lay person. He was involved in the formation of pastoral teams, Small Christian Communities, catechists, translations, church music and was also one of the trainers at the Pastoral Centre. He was dedicated to his work. He never demanded anything from the Church, he was a humble man who respected Church authorities,” stated Fr. Limukani.
Fr. Limukani said catechists were treated with high esteem in parishes and missions in the Archdiocese of Bulawayo and the local church was promoting voluntary catechists as compared to full time paid ones. He noted that the involvement of catechists as teachers of faith was a sign of empowerment of lay people in in the Church, hence it should be promoted. Fr. Limukani said Emthonjeni Pastoral Centre has annual programmes for catechists which help them to remain effective and focused in their ministry.
He said: “Catechists programs include, among other things, ongoing formation which take place every August, catechists’ annual retreats which take place in March or during Lent. This year in August they will have their Conference here. We are trying our best to affirm and support them with resources for their ministry.”
Catechists play an important role as they are commissioned by the Church “to hand down” its faith tradition. They are usually designated and trained people who introduce catechumens, candidates and young people to faith. In other words, catechist complement the work of the Church though carrying out pastoral duties in areas where priests and the religious are scarce.