The Catholic sub-parish of Saint Joseph in Mathotho is an outstation of Nkhate parish. The village is situated in the south of Malawi in the diocese of Chikwawa, in a remote and underdeveloped area of the hill country. The people of Mathotho are materially poor, but strong in faith. Altogether, there are 900 Catholic families in the community.
The Catholics of Mathotho have always longed to have a small church of their own. For it is a long way to the parish centre in Nkhate – a walk of 12 or 13 miles (20 km) for those who wish to attend Sunday Mass. Needless to say, this is a challenge that only young and healthy adults can face; as for the less fit, the elderly, the expectant mothers, the children and the many others already wearied by the hard physical work they have to do simply in order to survive, the journey is simply too far.
So it was, as far back as 1970 in fact, that they built their first village chapel. Straw-thatched and built in mud. Given the poor materials, it had to be rebuilt every two or three years. In 1980 they built a brick chapel, but once again only with locally available materials and not very strongly constructed. By now there are big cracks in the walls and the water leaks in during the rainy season. Over time the damage has become still worse and for the past two years the building has been unusable. Besides, it has in any case become far too small for the growing Catholic community.
So now the liturgies and prayer meetings have to be held outside, beneath a tree. But it is a far from satisfactory solution, and in any case it is quite impossible to stand outside in the torrential rain during the rainy season. This vigorous and thriving Catholic community needs a proper church to worship in. But the people are saddened because they know they will never raise enough money from their own resources to build such a church. And so Father Samson Kayuni, the parish priest, has turned to ACN for support – both material and spiritual, in the form of our prayers. He writes, „When we get up on Sundays to go to Holy Mass, to sanctify our day, let us remember in our prayers these faithful Catholics who cannot do the same because they don‘t have a place of shelter where they can gather to pray.“
He is hoping that the construction of the new chapel will bring big changes. „We are confident that many souls will turn their lives back to God, through the presence of Jesus among them, and that there will also be social development, putting an end to immorality and poverty and bringing a sense of peaceful community. In short, the saving of souls is the ultimate meaning and goal of the existence of the Church in the world.“
The Catholic faithful will contribute their own labour and physical support for the construction of the church. And they will also supply all the sand required. ACN has promised a contribution of 11,900 Euros.