, 25 January, 2020 / 3:39 AM
At a time when the Catholics across the globe are preparing for “the celebration, study and dissemination of the Word of God" on Sunday, January 26 as instituted through Pope Francis’ Apostolic Letter Motu proprio "Aperuit illis", the Kenyan Priest heading the national Pontifical Mission Societies (PMS) is calling for the revival of Sunday School and the reading of Bible stories to children, a practice that goes a long way in instilling the Bible reading culture among children.
“The interest in reading Bible stories is dying because Sunday School is dead. It was during Sunday School that beautiful Bible stories were read to children and this instilled in them a desire to read and share stories of the Bible,” said Kenya’s PMS Director, Fr. Bonaventure Luchidio in an interview with ACI Africa Friday, January 24.
Instead of isolating children for Sunday school teaching during which the kids get to listen to Bible stories, many parishes have continually insisted that all people attend mass, adults and children alike, Fr. Luchidio lamented.
Highlighting the role of parents and guardians in nurturing the Bible reading culture among children, the clergy of Kenya’s Kakamega Diocese expressed concern that some parents seem to have relegated the duties of forming their children in the ways of God.
“It wasn’t just the Sunday School teachers who read these Bible stories to children. This was also the role of parents. But these days, the parents have no time for their children,” he decried and added, “It is a terrible reality, a deep social problem. The way it is, parents themselves need proper catechism to instruct them how to bring up their children in the Church.”
In his considered view, Catholics are increasingly performing poorly in terms of reading and acting upon the word of God.
“In terms of prayer and meditation, we Catholics have always been very good. But we don’t show the same in reading, studying, witnessing and reflecting on the word of God,” Fr. Luchidio told ACI Africa during the January 24 interview and added, “If you wish to find the truth in what I am saying, ask any Catholic about random Bible verses or ask them where a particular Bible narrative is found in the Bible. Only 30 percent will give you the correct answer.”
Referencing Pope Francis’ institution of the third Sunday of Ordinary Time in the current Liturgical Year as a day “devoted to the celebration, study and dissemination of the Word of God,” Fr. Luchidio said it was time for families to “gather around the word of God and to learn to start and to end everything we do with the word of God.”
“I am not saying that we should start reading the Bible from Genesis all the way to the last book of the Bible. We have liturgical calendars. Let the calendars guide us in our families,” the Nairobi-based cleric ministering under the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops (KCCB) said, stressing the need for families to read the bible every day since “not every member of the family attends daily mass.”
In his Apostolic Letter, Pope Francis announced that January 26, the Sunday of the Word of God, would have the purpose of appreciating “the inexhaustible riches contained in that constant dialogue between the Lord and his people”.
“Devoting a specific Sunday of the liturgical year to the word of God can enable the Church to experience anew how the risen Lord opens up for us the treasury of his word and enables us to proclaim its unfathomable riches before the world,” Pope Francis stated in his letter published September 30, 2019.
Providing guidance on how the day should be celebrated, Pope Francis urged various communities to “find their own ways to mark this Sunday with a certain solemnity.”
The Holy Father noted, “It is important, however, that in the Eucharistic celebration the sacred text be enthroned, in order to focus the attention of the assembly on the normative value of God’s word.”
On Sunday, January 26, Pope Francis directed, “it would be particularly appropriate to highlight the proclamation of the word of the Lord and to emphasize in the homily the honour that it is due.”
It would be on this Sunday, the Pope suggested, that “Bishops could celebrate the Rite of Installation of Lectors or a similar commissioning of readers, in order to bring out the importance of the proclamation of God’s word in the liturgy.”
“Renewed efforts should be made to provide members of the faithful with the training needed to be genuine proclaimers of the word, as is already the practice in the case of acolytes or extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion,” the Pontiff directed.
Already dioceses in Africa have started implementing Pope Francis’ guidelines of the Sunday of the Word of God, with the Catholic Diocese of Livingstone in Zambia launching the diocesan year of the Word of God dubbed “Year of the Word of God: Read, Share, Celebrate and Live it.”
During the launch, Bishop Valentine Kalumba of Zambia’s Livingstone Diocese urged Priests, Religious Sisters and the laity to spend quality time on the Scriptures.
“We need to make a decision about the Word of God preached to us. Make a decision. Let not the Word of God come and it just passes through,” Bishop Kalumba has been quoted as saying.
Addressing priests, the Zambian Bishop said, “Maybe we don’t preach well. Preach the Word of God well. Prepare the Word of God. The people of God have the right to listen to a good homily. Let’s not be boring. Be on fire”.
Bishop Kalumba’s message to priests has also been reiterated by Fr. Luchidio in his January 24 interview with ACI Africa.
“Let’s fashion our homilies to ignite fire among the faithful. Let’s not make the preaching about ourselves. It is not a CV (curriculum vitae). And it shouldn’t also be a motivational speech,” the Kenyan priest said and added, “In the homily, let’s allow the Word of God to cut both ways and to prick the conscience of the society.”
Meanwhile, a colorful icon of the encounter with Jesus on the road to Emmaus was presented to the press at a Vatican news conference January 17 as the official logo of the for the worldwide celebration of the Sunday of the Word of God.
Archbishop Rino Fisichella, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization said the logo shows the “Resurrected Christ” holding in his left hand a scroll, which is “the sacred Scripture that found its fulfilment in his person.”
By Christ’s side are two disciples: Clopas and his wife, Mary. They both fix their gaze on Christ while Cleopas holds a stick to indicate “a pilgrimage”.
Mary is holding one hand upward and with her other hand seems to be touching the Lord, reaffirming that he has fulfilled the ancient promises and is the living Word that must be proclaimed to the world, the Catholic Universe reported. Holding the stick in one hand, Clopas’ free hand is pointing the road ahead, which all disciples are called to take in order to bring the Good News to everyone, Archbishop Fisichella has been quoted as saying.
There is a star overhead symbolizing evangelization and the “permanent light” that guides their journey and shows them the way, he added.
It is also important, Archbishop Fisichella said, to notice the feet of all three are depicted as being in motion, representing that the proclamation of the Risen Christ cannot be accomplished by “tired or lazy disciples” but only by those who are “dynamic” and ready to find new ways to speak so that sacred Scripture may become the living guide of the life of the Church and its people.
ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.
Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa