Bernardo Suate and Paul Samasumo – Vatican City.
Manuel Kapattiwa, a Mozambican Catechist, recently narrated to Vatican News some of his views and experiences as a Catechist in Mozambique.
The Paul VI Catechetical Centre of Nampula
Trained at the Paul VI Catechetical Centre of Anchilo, in the Archdiocese of Nampula, Northern Mozambique, Manuel Kapattiwa was one of the first trainee catechists.
Established in 1969 by the then Archbishop of Nampula, Manuel Vieira Pinto, the Catechetical Centre, planned to benefit the Dioceses of Nampula, Lichinga and Pemba, was from the beginning intended for the formation of catechists and their families. The idea was for pastoral care incarnated among the local people and more directed towards greater active participation of the lay faithful in the Church’s life.
In an interview, Manuel Kapattiwa underwent the formation together with his wife. The catechetical course consisted of two years organised by the Centre. The programmes were tailor-made for those designated to be full-time Catechists in their respective dioceses or parishes.
The full-time Catechist
“The work of a full-time Catechist has always been to watch over and protect the faith of the flock and prepare catechumens, usually in an outstation of the parish where you were assigned. This is because it was, in fact, the parish that sent you to the far-flung outstation attached to the parish, and you became the link with the bigger parish community,” Manuel Kapattiwa explained.
During formation as Catechist, Kapattiwa recounted that his group comprised catechists from parishes of the Archdiocese of Nampula and those of neighbouring Dioceses of Pemba, Zambézia (Quelimane) and the Diocese of Lichinga. In all, there were 17 families of Catechists living and learning together. The bonds formed among the Catechists became life-long friendships.
According to Kapattiwa, during holidays from the Catechetical Centre, they returned to their parishes and dioceses as different teams. They would then be assigned around the dioceses to animate communities and fellow Catechists who had not yet undergone formation.
Catechists as translators of Biblical texts
“So, we went all over the dioceses and parishes helping other Catechists,” emphasised Kapattiwa. He added that, after the two-year course, he also worked in the Dioceses of Pemba, Quelimane and other dioceses, helping translate the Bible into the Macua language. One of the Anchilo Centre’s main activities was translating biblical texts and the preparation of Mozambique’s First National Pastoral Assembly that eventually took place in Beira in 1977.
Mozambique’s First National Pastoral Assembly
Catechist Kapattiwa recalls, with pride, the contributions of catechists at the First National Pastoral Assembly. It was really at that national assembly that the Mozambican Church resolutely started advocating for the formation of Small Christian Communities as a key pastoral option. To this day, various pastoral ministries put in place at that First National Pastoral Assembly of Beira, such as the ministry to the elderly, the sick, families, the youth and many others, continue to thrive in the Mozambican church.
Asked what the Church of Mozambique would look like without Catechists, Manuel Kapattiwa gave an unequivocal assessment, “The importance of the Catechist in the evangelisation ministry (of Mozambique) is immense because it is he (the catechist) who helps sustain the growth of the faith and the church on a daily basis,” he said.
And the Catechist’s role in the animation of various pastoral ministries?
One needs only look at the Diocese of Nampula, said Kappatiwa. It is not a mere coincidence that the Diocese has the most local priests and even religious, some of whom are the children of Catechists.
Difficulties and Challenges of the Catechist
When asked about the difficulties and challenges faced as a Catechist, Manuel Kapattiwa mentioned the difficult conditions under which catechists lived during the “time of Frelimo 1”, he said. This was when the ruling political party, Frelimo at independence, “introduced in our land (Marxist-Leninist) notions of the “non-existence of God,” said Kappatiwa. It was a most trying time as some Catechists were thrown in jail for witnessing to the existence of God.
Jail was just but one threat. There was always the pervasive cloud of living under a climate of fear, threats, torture, and for some, even the possibility of martyrdom. Some of the Catechists trained at the Paul VI Catechetical Centre in Anchilo could not take it and left their work as Catechists to pursue other professions and trades. “But thank God”, says Kappatiwa, “there were also courageous Catechists who, despite threats and much suffering, carried on with evangelisation regardless of the dangerous conditions. Now the situation has changed and improved remarkably because even those who did not accept God’s existence are now accepting it,” Kapattiwa confirmed.
Renewed attention for the ministry of Catechist
However, Manuel Kapattiwa thinks that lately, there are fewer meetings of Catechists, at least not as many as during the time of Archbishop Manuel Vieira Pinto. “And it is in the meetings where one learns more and gains the courage to face the problems of the Church, problems of society, political problems and so on,” underlines Kapattiwa. He called on ecclesial authorities to always highlight the role of the Catechist in the Church.
The Paul VI Catechetical Centre of Anchilo in Mozambique recently celebrated 50 years since it started running courses in 1970.