All over Africa, catechists play a vital role. In rural regions especially, the parishes often cover vast areas, dotted with numerous small villages. The priest simply cannot be everywhere at once, and as a result, many of the villages have their own village catechist, who supports and accompanies the people in preparing for reception of the sacraments, prays with them, and helps them to grow in their faith.
Such is the case in the Diocese of Kandi in Benin, which covers an area of over 26,000 km2—larger than Belize—but which has only 14 parishes. A 15th parish is due to be established shortly.
The Church in this nation of West Africa faces many major challenges. For one thing, this country is, so to speak, the “cradle of voodoo,” which is still very widespread. For another, the Islamic terrorism that has already plagued other countries of West Africa is now beginning to spread ever further into Benin as well.
Within the Diocese of Kandi, some 72% of the population are Muslims, while a further 8% adhere to traditional African religions. Christians make up the remaining fifth of the population, but where people are not soundly instructed in the faith, there is always the lurking danger of syncretism—that is the mixture of Christian faith with elements of other religious traditions. In order to promote the solid teaching of the faith, the diocese has a catechetical centre in Gogounou, at which large groups of catechists are given training each year.
These catechists receive no payment in return for the service they provide in their communities, but instead do this work voluntarily and for the love of God alone. To help them in their work, the diocese would like to at least provide them with a suitable means of transport, so that they can travel as necessary on the rough and unmade roads of these rural areas. Mopeds and small motorcycles are ideal for this, but the local Church simply does not have the resources to pay for them.
And so Father Aurel Djidonou, the project coordinator for the diocese, has requested our help: “We are appealing to you for mopeds for these catechists, who are quite fearless and ready to give their lives for Christ. With these small motorcycles, they will travel over hill and dale, over rough roads and smooth, to bring the Good News to the people, to comfort and console troubled hearts, transport the sick to the hospitals, bring Holy Communion to the frail and sick, and much more. These vehicles are not just for fun but to serve all the people without distinction.”
We intend to give $60,000 towards the purchase of 15 mopeds for the catechists—one for each parish. Will you help us?