Catholic ministry for New Americans from Africa
Dr. Jules Wetchi, a parishioner of St. Joseph Cathedral in Burlington who emigrated from Democratic Republic of the Congo in 2013, is on the air with the African Variety Shows he created on Big Heavy World Radio (105.9). The purpose of the show, which airs Wednesdays at noon in French, is to inform African Vermonters about news and important health information, while also celebrating and creating space for African culture in Burlington by sharing African music.
Wetchi began the show in 2020, partially in response to the initial lack of effective communication within his Congolese community when Covid-19 hit. Wetchi’s medical degree as a cataract surgeon did not transfer when he arrived in the U.S. almost 10 years ago, so he became a medication technician at an assisted living community and went back to school. He graduated with a master’s in public health from the University of Vermont in 2019.
Wetchi’s public health expertise and desire to serve his community were the driving forces to create this unique African Variety Show. But his desire to help his community did not stop there.
Wetchi also began a Saturday morning show on Big Heavy World Radio, ou Samedi Matin, airing from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. “to help my brothers and sisters keep the faith,” he said. “It is a program that prepares them for the Eucharistic celebration on Sunday, as the Mass is in English and not everyone speaks English.”
Wetchi’s New American Catholic lay ministry prepares his community in advance by sharing the readings in French so that Mass goers are ready for Mass on Sunday. “It is a ministry that takes care of the spiritual life of our Catholic immigrant brothers and sisters and African newcomers to America, for some of whom English is the third, fourth or fifth language. This ministry helps many lost sheep who were losing their Catholic faith because of the language barrier.”
During his show, he plays African religious songs and Congolese liturgical songs to allow people to remember their countries of origin. The second part of the program is devoted to various public health information and local Burlington news, similar to the second half of his Wednesday variety show.
You can also find the video of both shows on YouTube for Channel 17 or Bigheavyworld.com.
Wetchi said, “It is a means of social communication that allows me to evangelize like Blessed Jacques Alberione,” founder of the Pauline Family including the Society of St. Paul who has been called the “marvelous apostle of evangelization.”
Wetchi’s dream is to begin a nonprofit that would give all New Americans in the Burlington area a chance to have programs like his.
Wetchi remains connected with his Democratic Republic of Congo community and tries to support certain poor parishes in that corner of the Republic. He lives with his wife, three young children and in-laws in Burlington.
—Originally published in the Summer 2022 issue of Vermont Catholic magazine.