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.
(Some of the catechists standing behind their new bikes in the in the Indian diocese of Eluru © Aid to the Church in Need)
The diocese is very poor, however, lying as it does in a region of the south-eastern coastal state of Andhra Pradesh that is frequently at the mercy of natural disasters. Most of the people in this area are ordinary manual workers, dependent on the large landowners for their livelihood. Hence, the amount they can give to the Church is also very little. The catechists themselves receive only a minimal remuneration. But the diocese wanted at least to be able to equip 275 of these catechists with bicycles, so that they could more easily reach the villages where they serve. Thanks to the generosity of our benefactors, we were able to contribute $20,000 for this purpose. By now the catechists have all received their bicycles, and Father Tatapudi Emmanuel, the diocesan bursar, has written to thank us. He writes: "I thank you with all my heart for your generous help for the diocese of Eluru. The catechists are very happy to have these bicycles for their pastoral service. Recently we held a two-day meeting for all the catechists, and at the end of the meeting all the catechists expressed their great joy at having these bicycles. Their pastoral work will certainly be improved as a result. Together with my fellow priests, I thank you for all the help you are giving to enable us to proclaim the Gospel message to the people, and I assure you of my prayers. May Mary, Joseph and the Child Jesus richly bless you!"
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