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Catholic Charity Pledges Support for Parishioners Trekking for Miles to Church in Malawi

St Micheal Parish in Malawi's Catholic Diocese of Chikwawa/ Credit: Courtesy Photo

Christians from St. Joseph’s outstation of Nkhate Parish in Malawi’s Catholic Diocese of Chikwawa have been trekking for up to 20 kilometers to attend Sunday Mass in the Parish.

This way, Holy Mass has been left for young and energetic people while the sick and elderly stay away on Sundays, Catholic charity organization, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) International has reported.

The Chapel at St. Joseph’s outstation is a dilapidated structure, according to a Monday, June 14 report by ACN, in which the organization also announced plans to support the construction of a better place of worship for the Catholic residents of outstation.

The leadership of ACN reports that the village of Mathotho in which the outstation is located is situated in the South of Malawi in a remote and underdeveloped area of the country.

“The people of Mathotho are materially poor, but strong in faith. Altogether, there are 900 Catholic families in the community,” the ACN report indicates.

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According to the report, the Catholics of Mathotho have always longed to have a church structure of their own. The 13-mile (20 kilometers) walk is a long way to the Parish centre in Nkhate for those who wish to attend Sunday Mass, ACN has reported.

“Needless to say, this is a challenge that only young and healthy adults can face; as for the less fit, the elderly, the expectant mothers, the children and the many others already wearied by the hard physical work they have to do simply in order to survive, the journey is simply too far,” the charity organization reports.

To realize a dream of having a place of worship of their own as a community of Catholics, the people at St. Joseph’s outstation in Nkhate Parish built their first village chapel in 1970.

The chapel, according to the Pontifical charity organization that reaches out to the church in hardship places, is straw-thatched and built in mud.

Given the poor materials, it had to be rebuilt every two or three years, ACN reports, adding that in 1980 the people built a brick chapel. This too was constructed with locally available materials and was therefore not very strong.

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The leadership of the charity organization reports on the dilapidated state of the Chapel, saying, “By now there are big cracks in the walls and the water leaks in during the rainy season.”

The report adds that over time, the damage has become worse and for the past two years, the building has been unusable. Additionally, the building has become far too small for the growing Catholic community, the organization notes.

For the poor state of the church building, the liturgies and prayer meetings have to be held outside, beneath a tree, a situation that the leadership of ACN says “is a far from satisfactory solution.”

“In any case it is quite impossible to stand outside in the torrential rain during the rainy season,” ACN says, and adds, “This vigorous and thriving Catholic community needs a proper church to worship in.”

ACN reports that the people have not been able to raise enough money from their own resources to build a decent place of worship.

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Fr. Samson Kayuni, the Parish Priest, has turned to ACN for material and spiritual support to construct a church at St. Joseph’s outstation.

Fr. Kayuni writes, “When we get up on Sundays to go to Holy Mass, to sanctify our day, let us remember in our prayers these faithful Catholics who cannot do the same because they don’t have a place of shelter where they can gather to pray.”

The Priest expresses confidence that the construction of the new Chapel will bring big changes, saying, “We are confident that many souls will turn their lives back to God, through the presence of Jesus among them, and that there will also be social development, putting an end to immorality and poverty and bringing a sense of peaceful community.”

In the Monday, June 14 report, the leadership of the pontifical charity organization promises a financial contribution towards the construction of a place of prayer at the outstation.

According to the ACN report, the Catholic faithful at the outstation will contribute their own labour and physical support for the construction of the church. The people will also supply all the sand required for the building.

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