LIVING THE JOY OF THE GOSPEL: WORKS OF EVANGELIZATION WITH CHILDREN
Created on Wednesday, 10 December 2014 09:11
10 December 2014 – (By Sr. Anastasia Gathoni and Fr. Markus Körber – Tali Mission) – The Joy of the Gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus (Evangelii Gaudium, 1). This is the perspective proposed to us by Pope Francis. It is also the “inspirational theme” of the XVIII Chapter entitled Joy of the Gospel, lived as disciples and proclaimed according to our Comboni charism. In the letter of presentation to the questionnaire prepared by the General Administration to facilitate our reflection is stated that the theme of joy may help us to review our mission, to whom it is addressed and what Gospel it proclaims: is it a word of hope for all, especially for humanity “on the outskirts”?
In this article I want to focus on our work of evangelization with children in Tali Parish, especially girls. In an environment of pastoralists they are usually busy at home with fetching water, preparing the food, looking after their younger brothers and sisters etc. They often have little time to care for their education. In the parish, instead, they find a second home where they meet their age mates or even join the group of “Crusaders”. The Crusaders are linked to the Pontifical Society of the Missionary Childhood or Holy Childhood. This is a society that is under the patronage of the Holy Father for the evangelization of the world. It concentrates its efforts on teaching the Catholic faith to children and operates worldwide through bishops, clergy, religious and laity. Jesus says: “Let the children come to me; do not prevent them for the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these” (Mk 10, 14).
In their regular triennial Plenary Assembly from 16th-26th July 2014 under the theme New Evangelization through True Conversion and Witnessing to Christian Faith the Association of Member Episcopal Conferences in Eastern Africa (AMECEA) stated that children and youth are a gift to and hope of the Church and society. Indeed children and youth form the greatest percentage of the population in Africa. We urge parents and all those who are responsible for our children to teach them the ways of God”.
In Tali Parish – where we Comboni Missionaries work together with four Franciscan Elisabethan Sisters – the group of Crusaders is very active. Its motto is: “To be friends with Jesus and to make friends for Jesus“. The children are helped to realize that Jesus is their friend. Sister Anastasia from Kenya is in charge of them. She is assisted by a catechist who has been animating them since the arrival of the missionaries in Tali in 2007. The children meet twice per week: Saturday and Sunday. They always arrive with enthusiasm and joy. They are eager and ready to learn new things and to imitate Jesus, their Friend, in small ways as per their capacity.
On arrival, they first have games like football, sack race, rope skipping, running among others. This goes on for 45 minutes to one hour and gives a joyful participation in the meeting afterwards. When games are over, a song to welcome everyone in the meeting is started by one of them. An opening prayer is said followed by the reading of the Gospel of the day after. Then the children share what they themselves have understood from the reading. An input on the same is given. This is followed by practicing and learning the liturgical dances for the Mass on Sunday. Once the practice is over, roll call is carried out. This helps to verify the frequency of each particular child and if absence is there, there is a concern from all, why he/she is absent. Concluding Prayer is done and the children go home happy, ready to participate actively in the Mass the day after.
On Sunday, there are new formative lessons, songs, prayers, short plays among other activities. In the month of October, we prayed the Rosary in the homes of the children. The families were happy to be visited by the whole group together with the animators reciting the Rosary.
We encourage all to continue with the work of evangelization among the children. A good background determines the future church. Maybe even our own religious vocation was born in such an environment. Let’s support the children to grow in knowledge and love of God!