Bahir Dar, Ethiopia, Dec 7, 2016 / 12:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A distant part of Ethiopia last week celebrated the baptisms of 300 adult catechumens, youth, and infants. “Today when you receive this great Sacrament of Baptism you become sons and daughters of God, people of God and members of the Church; this brings great joy in heaven and great joy on earth for the entire Church,” Bishop Lesanu-Christos Matheos Semahun of the Bahir Dar-Dessie Ethiopian eparchy said in his Nov. 27 homily.
The newly baptized bore candles and lit them as a sign of Christ’s light, the Catholic News Agency for Africa reports. “We know what we trust in,” they sang to a congregation of their families, clergy, vowed religious, catechists, and lay faithful.
Most of the newly baptized are of the Gumuz people, an ethnic group which mainly practices local traditional religions. They live in the Benishangul-Gumuz Region, more than 100 miles southwest of Bahir Dar. The bishop recounted how Christianity came to the village of Banush: a local young man named Takel told Church authorities about the village and asked them to evangelize.
“The testimony of one young believer and the diligent efforts of the pastoral agents of the Catholic Church have brought 300 more children of God home,” he said. “However, there are still more of our brothers and sisters who have not yet received the Good News of the Lord, and with God’s Grace we shall continue to shine the light of Our Lord and spread the Good News.”
Bishop Lesanu-Christos and the newly baptized are part of the Ethiopian Catholic Church, an Eastern Church in communion with Rome which uses the Alexandrian rite. The Eparchy of Bahir Dar-Dessie, established Jan. 19, 2015, is less than two years old. “God is great, and God is a Father to all of us,” the bishop said in his homily. “We say the Our Father Prayer here and throughout the world and this proves that we are all children of one God who created everyone equally and with the same human dignity.”
The Catholic Church first reached the Gumuz people 15 years ago, thanks to the evangelism of three Comboni Sisters: Sr. Jamilety, Tilda, and Bertila. Before Bishop Lesanu-Christos, along with six priests, baptized the 300, he blessed and installed a cross and a bell on the future site of a church at the request of locals. Others placed a cross at the community cemetery to signify the new Christian community. In neighboring villages, there are more than 500 catechumens waiting for baptism.