BAHIR DAR, ETHIOPIA— Imagine one person lighting the way for 300 to join the Church, with 500 still excitedly awaiting baptism in neighboring communities.
That’s exactly what happened in one Ethiopian village today, where 300 new members were joyfully received into the Ethiopian Catholic Church.
“The testimony of one young believer and the diligent efforts of the pastoral agents of the Catholic Church have brought 300 more children of God home,” he said. “However, there are still more of our brothers and sisters who have not yet received the Good News of the Lord, and with God’s Grace we shall continue to shine the light of Our Lord and spread the Good News,” said Bishop Lesanu-Christos of Bahir Dar-Dessie, an eparchy of the Ethiopian Catholic Church.
The Ethiopian Catholic Church is an Eastern Church in communion with Rome which celebrates liturgy according to the Alexandrian Rite. Bishop Lesanu-Christos’ eparchy was established less than two years ago. The Gospel came to the region only fifteen years before that, when three Comboni sisters, Sr. Jamilety, Tilda, and Bertila, arrived.
In the village of Banush, said the Bishop, one young man, named Takel, asked Church authorities to evangelize. The Church’s pastoral staff in the area went to work amongst the Gumuz people there. The Gumuz are an ethnic group in the region of Benishangul-Gumuz, where traditional religions are practiced.
Takel’s faith and the Church’s efforts resulted in growth when the local Gumuz embraced the Gospel message and their newfound faith in Christ.
Evangelization has always been a priority in the Catholic Church.
Pope Paul VI, in a letter called “Evangelization in the modern world,” wrote: “We wish to confirm once more that the task of evangelizing all people constitutes the essential mission of the Church. It is a task and mission which the vast and profound changes of present day society make all the more urgent. Evangelizing is in fact the grace and vocation proper to the Church, her deepest identity. She exists in order to evangelize.”
Before the Rite, the Bishop blessed and planted a cross and bell on the future location of the area’s first church, as requested by locals. 500 more catechumens are awaiting reception into the Catholic Church in nearby villages.