By Paul Malata and Ignatius Mvula
13 October, 2018 will go into the annals of the people of Tcharo, in the newly created Livingstonia Parish, when they welcomed Bishop Martin Anwel Mtumbuka of the Diocese of Karonga in the area.
This was the first time for a Catholic Bishop to visit the area, since the coming of the Catholic Church in Malawi, on an evangelization mission to the area, which is yet to embrace Catholicism. The Bishop and his entourage had to endure three hours of sailing on Lake Malawi to reach the otherwise, until then, forgotten area “the periphery”. This is also because the area is hard to reach.
The Bishop’s visit to Tcharo is in line with the motto of the Diocese of Karonga, “We shall go to them” which reflects the missionary nature of the Church; a Church that “goes out”. Like the first missionaries, Bishop Mtumbuka and the Diocesan team received a cordial welcome and well taken care of by well-wishers; non-Catholics.
Upon arrival, he was welcomed by traditional leaders and Catholic Christians and people of goodwill of Tcharo. During the visit, the Bishop engaged with traditional leaders including Sub Traditional Authority Chapinduka, Area Development Committee members, Catholic Christians and other groups on developmental and spiritual issues affecting the area.
The tour reached its climax on Sunday when Bishop Martin Mtumbuka led the Christians in Solemn Eucharistic celebration, which was also attended by followers of other denominations like Church of Central African Presbyterian and Emmanuel Church.
In his homily, Bishop Mtumbuka reminded the gathering that all people are called to love and witness to Jesus.
“Jesus was incarnated to save us. He died on the cross out of love. It is this love that we must take to others as well,” said Bishop Mtumbuka.
“Those who have received the faith are obliged by the same faith to share it with others. There is no Christianity without love and service,” added the Bishop.
Taking his turn, Fr. Steven Bulambo, the Parish Moderator thanked the Bishop for the gesture of love and commitment to serving the people of Tcharo.
“My Lord Bishop, on behalf of Christians of Livingstonia Parish and all people of goodwill within this jurisdiction. I thank you very much that you counted it worthy to come here to pray with us and experience the spiritual, social and economic life that we experience here at Tcharo. It is evidently clear that you have walked the talk ‘we shall go to them’, the motto of this diocese,” Said Fr. Bulambo.
“We hope that in your pastoral plans you will consider to come to Tcharo again and many other places in our parish. It is always a joy to see you within the frontiers of this parish, which has just being newly established,” he added.
The Bishop made a number of commitments in response to the issues raised. He assured the people of Tcharo that they are dear to the diocese, just like all other Christians and people of goodwill in this diocese. The pastoral and socio-economic interventions that the diocese engages in must reach all frontiers of this diocese amidst various challenges that each parish has.
On the pastoral front, the Bishop assured the community of Tcharo that the diocese will build a church there on a plot that the community has given to the diocese. The diocese will also, in liaison with Lusubiro, put up a community based childcare center.
The Bishop has since appointed Mr. Mwale, a Catholic school teacher, to be the caretaker of Sunday school affairs. Mr. Mwale will work together with the Catechetical Methodology Advisor of Livingstonia Parish. The Bishop also indicated that the place needs a full time catechist. The Bishop further instructed the Pastoral Commission to consider introducing the Likuni Phala (a feeding program tailored by the Sunday school apostolate) program immediately.
Regarding interventions championed by the Caritas Commission, the Bishop said the diocese will do everything within its mandate and capacity to help the people of Tcharo. For Instance, he asked the Caritas Secretary, Mr Mwawi Shaba present at the meeting, to design a way of selecting the youth of Tcharo to Catholic schools although they are non-Catholics. The Bishop also declared that Tcharo area should be prioritized in this year’s food relief project being implemented by the Development Desk.
To effectively respond to developmental issues, the Bishop advised the Caritas Commission to find ways of deploying a fuul time Development officer to be based in Tchalo. Furthermore, the diocese will open a Vocational Skills Training Center to equip school leavers with skills in trades such as carpentry, brick laying, Tailoring and home economics.
Bishop Mtumbuka was accompanied by several officers from the Curia, to have a holistic perspective of the place. Some of them were: Mr. Mwai Shawa, Diocesan Caritas Secretary; Franklin Msiska, Desk Officer for Development and Livelihood; Vitumbiko Ngwira, Deputy Director of Lusubiro Orphan Care Organization; Ignatius Mvula the Catechetical Material Production Coordinator and staff from Tuntufye FM Radio Station, Matthews Moyo and Paul Malata.
The function was attended by many people including Sub-Traditional Authority Chapinduka and many local traditional leaders, the ward councilor for the area, Catechists of Mlowe Zone and other well-wishers. The month of October is Missionary Month in the Catholic Church.