In the Indian diocese of Eluru, with its 1,150-plus Catholic villages, the lay catechists play a crucially important role. For it is simply impossible for the priests to be everywhere at once, so that it falls to the catechists much of the time to prepare people for the sacraments of Baptism, First Holy Communion, Confirmation and Matrimony. They also lead prayer services and liturgies of the Word, visit the faithful in their homes and pray with the families. However, there has been a notable increase in the influence of films and television on these families and with it a growth in the problems; hence the solid preparation for marriage and the counselling and accompaniment of families are becoming increasingly important. Once again, the catechists perform a precious service here.
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(Priests of the Sacred Heart of Jesus conduct a prayer service for the prishioners of Babonde and Gbunzunzu © Aid to the Church in Need)
The newly established parish of Gbunzunzu is situated in an area of goldmining, where many people try to make a living digging for gold. The mines make a handful of people very rich, but for all the rest they mean endless exploitation, poverty, ruined health and even an early death. The workers risk their lives working in appalling conditions, exposed to carcinogenic and radioactive materials and living crammed together in crowded huts, separated from their families and far from their home villages. Very often their traditional family structures are destroyed as a result.
The Catholic community “Mar a Dentro” (”Out into the deep”) runs a pastoral centre in the city of Belem in northern Brazil, where they hold prayer meetings, Eucharistic adoration, prepare young people for confirmation and young couples for the sacrament of matrimony. They also care for around 60 children and provide psychological support and counselling. But the members of this community do not merely confine themselves to the city. Faithful to the words of Jesus to Peter: “Duc in Altum”, “Put out into the deep” (Lk 5:4) - as the name of their community suggests - they have for nine years now also been ministering to the people living in the jungle on the riverside and the river islands in the Amazon region of northern Brazil. Villages that can only be reached by boat.
45 years ago Sister Maria Luisa Maduell left everything in order to follow Christ in the congregation of the Sisters of Jesus. A vocation that took her from Spain, deep into the Amazon region of eastern Peru in the apostolic vicariate of Yurimaguas, a region largely covered by rainforest. She believes that it was Providence that sent her to the indigenous Indians of the rainforest.
The Catholic parish of Minya is still young. It was only in 2012 that the local authorities finally granted a building permit for a church in a new suburb of the city. It is the only Catholic church for the town itself and for the surrounding area. The parish covers a wide area of around 1200 km2, with the result thsat there are many of the Catholic faithful who still live a long way from the church. This has been a major problem in the past, since public transport in Egypt is very expensive and the cost of an entire family regularly attending holy Mass is a heavy drain on the household budget. In any case, the transport system is not very good. So it is by no means unusual for parishes to have their own minibus, so that they can ferry the faithful to church and back. But the young parish of Minya could not afford to buy one, and so the parish priest turned to the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) for help. Without assistance it was almost impossible for many of the parishioners - especially the elderly, children, women and those with physical handicaps or health problems - to get to church, whether to attend Holy Mass, for catechetical sessions or for other reasons.