Br. Alfonce Kugwa – Harare, Zimbabwe
Of special mention was Mrs Anna Mugadza, who received special recognition from Pope Francis for her 45 years sterling contribution as a Catechist in the Archdiocese of Bulawayo. Mr Alexander Regis Gwenelo was honoured posthumously. A new block at Emthonjeni Pastoral Centre has since been named after him.
New building named after a much loved Catechist
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 significant in the growth of faith in Matebeleland and the whole of Zimbabwe. Their contribution and sacrifices 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 the Catechism in the Archdiocese. He worked hard for the Archdiocese to be what it is today. There are many other 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 also 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.
Well deserved honours
Mrs Mugadza, who was accompanied by her children, nieces and nephews expressed joy and gratitude as she received the plaque of recognition 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 evangelisation.
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 layperson. He was involved in the formation of pastoral teams, Small Christian Communities, training of other 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.
People hold Catechists in high esteem
Fr. Limukani said Catechists were treated with great respect in parishes and missions of the Archdiocese and the local Church was now simultaneously 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 the empowerment of laypeople in the Church. It should, therefore, be promoted. Fr. Limukani said Emthonjeni Pastoral Centre has annual programmes for Catechists which help them remain active and focused in their ministry.
Archdiocese prioritises ongoing formation for Catechists
Fr. Limukani said, “Catechists programmes (in the Archdiocese) include, among other things, the ongoing formation which takes place every August. There is also the Catechists’ annual retreat which takes place in March or during the period of Lent. This year in August, the Catechists will have their Conference. We are trying our best to affirm and support them with resources for their ministry.”
Catechists play an essential role in the life of the Church as they are commissioned “to hand down” its faith tradition. They are usually designated and trained people who introduce Catechumens, candidates and young people to the Catholic faith. In other words, the Catechist complements the work of the Church though carrying out pastoral duties in areas where priests and the religious are scarce.