From Fr Patrick Santianez, sx
To be a Christian is a vocation, a calling from God that needs to be answered. This Easter Season 40 young men and women of “Mary, Queen of the Apostles Parish”, Mongo Bendugu, Sierra Leone, West Africa answered the invitation of God. For this reason after months of meticulous preparation they will be welcomed as new members of the church through the sacrament of baptism. They will be called faithful children of God. In these months of preparation they were taught that our Christian faith is something to be studied (Pinag-aaralan); to be celebrated (Pinagdidiriwang) and to be lived out (Isinasabuhay) in the church and in the society.
Every week the catechumens attend Catechesis class. They study the doctrine of our church and her teachings. The faith of the Catholic Church has a content that we need to know, explain and profess. It is in the catechesis class that a catechumen can know and love Jesus and the church. Being in the context of a Muslim dominated area Catechumens asked questions related to Jesus in the New Testament and the Jesus in the Holy Qur’an of the Muslim. At the end of the catechesis they discovered that Jesus is not only one of the Prophets but He is God and our Savior and our church is the way to Salvation.
Aside from the weekly Catechesis class, they are required to be present in the daily Mass specially the Sunday Eucharistic celebration because our Christian faith is something to be celebrated as a community. Though they can’t receive communion in this moment, they participate in the Liturgy of the Word. Through the readings and the Gospel they are nourished and their encounter with Jesus in the Holy Eucharist is complete. This season of lent we follow the Rite of Preparation for Baptism: the Election (it is on the first Sunday of Lent when we officially enrolled the Catehumens for baptism); and the Scrutinies ( are prayers for the new elect, the candidates for baptism, that they will be free from sin and the devil, and to give them strength in Christ).
Our Christian faith is something to be lived out and professed in the church and in the community. During this season of Lent, the priests in the parish and some elders in the church made some inquiries about the catechumens to check if they lived out the Christian faith in their daily life. Through this practice some members of the church become a care-taker, observer and responsible companion to the catechumens.
Aside from this doctrinal relationship with the catechumens the visitation of the priests or (and) the catechist to their families gives a chance for their Muslim parents to be listened to and evangelized as well. Since most of the catechumens are youth we ask for the permission and blessing of the parents to be Christians. Most of the parents are open and grateful for the works the Catholic mission is doing in the area and also in the life of their children. However only few parents made some hesitation to the decision of their children that led for their children not to be baptized for this year.
This Holy week will be a week of prayer and meditation for this 40 candidates for baptism. So as member of the one church join us in prayer that this young men and women will be free from doubt and strong against temptation as they finally embrace the life of Jesus Christ and may they remain with Jesus and with the Catholic church always.