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Updated: April 30, 2000 05:00 PM GMT
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The mission diocese of Anuradhapura in north-central Sri Lanka is training local catechists after unsuccessful attempts to retain external recruits.

"We have had a lot of problems with getting catechists for this remote diocese. When they come from outside dioceses they leave us very soon, because they have to (return to) their own homes when marriageable time comes," Father Andrew Anthony, a spokesman for the program, told UCA News.

In light of this, Father Anthony said, the diocese decided to train local catechists. "Even when they get married they will be here and they will be able to serve our community," he explained.

The 40-day in-house training conducted by the Diocesan Pastoral Centre includes lectures and practical work in the fields of moral and dogmatic theology, Scripture, catechetics, music and social communications.

Two resident lecturers and many other visiting lecturers conduct the annual program which started in 1997.

This year, Father Gamini Fernando, the national social communications director; Father Merl Mendis, the national catechetics director; and Father A. Padidilian, director of the Oblate Preaching Centre; took part in the program.

Twenty-four participants received certificates April 1 for completing the program.

Addressing his diocese´s new catechists at the ceremony, Bishop Oswald Gomis of Anuradhapura said, "I am very happy that an expectation of Pope Leo XIII expressed in 1893 is being fulfilled today in our diocese."

Bishop Gomis quoted the late pope´s message at the opening of the Papal Seminary in Kandy, saying, "You sons of the Indies, be ministers of salvation unto your own." The bishop added, "We can say that this training program has done exactly that." The seminary was later shifted to Pune, India.

Bishop Gomis, who is also president of the Catholic Bishops´ Conference in Sri Lanka, appealed to the newly trained catechists not to forget the training that they had received and to dedicate themselves with sacrifice and generosity to their mission.


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