Poor Indonesian villager finds calling as a catechist

Suwandi became a catechist because his parents wanted him leave home and escape poverty. The parents could not send the young man to school, so they sent him to church.

It happens in many parts of Indonesia.

In Suwandi’s case, he became a catechist in Sukakarya in the province of Bengkulu under the Archdiocese of Palembang.

He was born in Central Java but was brought up by his parents in South Sumatra where they became migrant peasants.

Suwandi was able to study to be a catechist through the help of a Dutch Sacred Heart missionary priest who encouraged the young man to become a teacher.

He was sent to Malang in East Java province to study catechism. He graduated from Pastoral High School for Catechism and went to Bengkulu to be a catechist.

In Bengkulu, Suwandi learned to ride a motorcycle and crossed forests to visit communities.

He encountered many challenges as a catechist, but he said he was “fortunate” because “there are lots of friends who extended their helping hands and even offered me a night stop in their house.”

He said most of his “road side helpers” were like his parents — Javanese migrant peasants. Most inhabitants in Bengkulu’s remote areas are poor palm plantation workers.

Witnessing the situation of the people, Suwandi realized the being a catechist is a “religious vocation.”

To this day, even with his advance age, Suwandi continues to help his local parish church conduct catechism programs. - Mathias Hariyadi / Radio Veritas Asia