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Catechists prepare Catholics for Christmas

By Liton Leo Das, Rajshahi

Rural catechists in northwestern Bangladesh are playing a vital role in helping local Christians to prepare for Christmas.

The predominantly indigenous Rajshahi diocese boasts more than 100 catechists who regularly battle extreme weather in their dawn to dusk efforts to preach the Gospel.

The mainly rural diocese has 54 priests who work in 15 parishes, two quasi-parishes and 22 sub-centers covering 512 villages and serving 50,000 Catholics.

Catechists are now working hard to prepare the forthcoming Christmas season.

“There are 50 families of new Catholic converts like mine who will celebrate their first Christmas this year. We are eager to embrace the new experience and catechists are helping,” said Utpol Kisku, a Santal Catholic from Nimroil village.

Most catechists work as schoolteachers in addition to their role as prayer leaders. Despite the importance of their role and the low pay, the catechists make few complaints.

“I love preaching the Good News among the people in remote areas,” said Amrosh Ekka, an indigenous Oraon catechist.

“It’s an honor to spiritually care for isolated Catholics whether in summer or the windy winter season. I enjoy the challenge,” he added.

Gopin Hasdak, an indigenous Santal catechist pointed out that bad weather and impassable roads are far from the only difficulties.

“Bearing witness to Christ exposes us to many challenges. There have been several incidents of abduction and torture of rural catechists,” he recounted.

Father Harun Hembrom, pastor of Rohonpur Catholic parish, said the catechists “help the Church to grow.”

“They often travel 30-40 kilometers defying the scorching sun, storms, rain and windy weather,” he said.

Diocesan Catechetical Commission secretary Father Lazarus Rozario added that his commission strives to assist catechists with training programs.

“Earlier this year we organized a four-month (Jan-April) special training session,” Father Rozario said.

“The catechists are now more dedicated their role as the representatives of priests,” he noted.

About 1,000 salaried and volunteer catechists play a major role in the catechetical ministry of the Church across Bangladesh
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