Lay workers not appreciated in Pakistani Catholic Church 

Catechists, for example, have the lowest salaries despite their hard work helping priests
Lay workers not appreciated in Pakistani Catholic Church 
Emmanuel Neno at his office of Catholic Bishops Commission for Catechetics in Lahore. (Photo by Kamran Chaudhry)  
Lay workers are the most neglected class in the church, says a Pakistani Catholic bishops' conference official.

Catechists, for example, have the lowest salaries, said Emmanuel Neno, Executive Secretary of the Catholic Bishops Commission for Catechetics in Pakistan.

In Lahore Archdiocese, a new catechist starts with a monthly salary of 2,000 rupees (US$19). The annual increment is only 100 rupees, not even enough to buy two loaves of bread.

And even this raise depends on the approval of superiors in the church, said Neno, 60, who holds a masters degree in Religion and Religious Education from Fordham University in New York.

"The situation of catechism teachers and catechetical staff is no different," he says.

But they were at the vanguard of church affairs and deserved more recognition.

Neno recently observed his 35 years of church service.

The translator and author of more than 40 books helped in completing the Urdu translation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

And all clergy in Pakistan are using his translated version of Roman Ritual.

For more than three decades, his books on catechism have been used to teach students from grade one to 10 in more than 500 Catholic schools.

He has also written an Urdu dictionary of Christian terminologies.

The first lay director of the Catechetical Centre in Karachi Archdiocese has won numerous international accolades, including a 1998 UCA News Award.

One of Neno’s biggest personal challenges is working without a staff.

"Everyday errands like visiting the post office or brushing the carpet interrupt my research, project writings and trainings," he said.

On a wider level, a proliferation of denominations was causing confusion among local Christians.

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In order to address their concerns, Neno started the first church-run Urdu page on Facebook where he teases his friends with a daily question.

About 10,000 people like his page.

"Young people want to know about realities of their faith," he said.

They had to face "tough questions" from other denominations and religions.

"Most priests use social media to share their personal and pastoral activities," he said.

"It does not help in faith promotion.

"The church should pay more attention to this technology as it has literally become the language of the laity."

Neno also stressed the need for teaching catechesis to the clergy.

"There is a huge communication gap when they step out of the seminary," Neno said.

Usually their vocabulary was highbrow and sophisticated due to studying philosophy and theology.

"But they have to deal with catechists, not theologians," Neno said.

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