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Fr Prakash Menezes SVD celebrates an outdoor Mass in the Northern Territory (Divine Word Missionaries)

A formation program to enable Indigenous catechists from the Arrernte and Walpiri people of Central Australia to hand on the faith in their culture is underway in Alice Springs, with the local parish embracing the opportunity. Source: In the Word.

Speaking at the Mission: One heart, many voices (MOHMV) conference in Sydney in May, Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Alice Springs parish priest Fr Prakash Menezes SVD and parishioners, Dolores Furber and Paula Turner, explained through words and art, how the program is unfolding.

Fr Prakash said the idea of the catechist formation program is two-fold, with the program being strongly faith-based, but carried out in a way that allows for culture to thrive.

“We jumped at the idea of being part of it, and then we talked to the elders and the elders said, ‘Wow, fantastic, we need this’, because Central Australia is a vast area,” he said.

“Our parish covers about 600km of area from north to south and from east to west, we cover from the Queensland border to Western Australia. We have got about 16 Aboriginal communities spread across this area.

“The elders said, ‘This is good, we need people in the community to pass on faith and culture to our young ones and we need some formation’.”

 Fr Prakash said the word “catechist” was a foreign word for the Arrernte people.

“So, we started using the term ‘Faith Leaders’ and also encouraged the elders to come up with a word in their own language.”

After much discussion among the elders, the Arrernte term “tyerrtye akngerreparte” – an elder, a leader – was chosen.

Fr Prakash said the central aim of the program is to empower the next generation so that they can have a proper role in the Catholic Church and grow strong in both knowing and explaining their faith to others.

The formation content will include Bible, liturgy, Church history, sacraments, other courses set by the Diocese and Nungalinya College, as well as using resources from Catholic Mission and NATSICC.


Catechist formation program an exciting new chapter for Central Australia (In the Word)