JOURNEY WITH ACN is our Friday newsletter which will be regularly posted to our blog. Our weekly newsletter was designed to provide us with an opportunity to acquaint you with the needs of the Catholic Church around the world – and with some of the projects we have been able to realize together with ACN benefactors.
This week: MOROCCO To Holy Mass by lift
Thanks to Aid to the Church in Need, the aged Carmelite nuns of Tangiers can attend the Eucharist again after many years.
By Oliver Maksan, ACN International
It is a quiet spot where the Carmelite Convent of the Holy Family and St Therese is situated in the northern Moroccan city of Tangiers. It is far from the bustle of the lively Mediterranean port. But now, for several weeks the contemplative sisters’ quiet was broken by the noise of building work. The reason: a lift was being installed in the building, which dates from the 1930s. Not a luxury but pure necessity. For no good reason, due to the whims of the architect, the house was built as a labyrinth of steps and stairs. For the sisters, aged in their seventies and sometimes with mobility problems, large parts of the building were simply inaccessible. “It was the case for years and we suffered greatly from it. Our dear Mother Superior, for example, was unable to take part in the Holy Mass and choral prayer for years. She is as happy as a child, now that she can once again visit the chapel on the first floor,” says Prioress Maria Virtudes, a young, infectiously cheerful Spanish woman. “In her prayers she takes before God the donors from Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) whose generosity made it possible. And we other sisters are also thankful that we can once again all join together for our communal prayers. Every day we pray for the benefactors, who we do not know but who the Lord sees and blesses in his Goodness.”
During the building works, the sisters experienced again the respect with which they are regarded by the Moroccan Muslims. They know it already from their neighbours. In the fasting month of Ramadan, for example, they bring in food for the sisters. “While the lift was being installed, the workers told us again and again how thankful they are to be allowed to work in the house of God, as they call it. They are all faithful Muslims. But perhaps for that reason they respect us sisters as women whose lives are entirely dedicated to God, like that of Maryam the Mother of Jesus. They know her from the Koran,” Sister Maria Virtudes continues. “They are respectful, hard-working and devout. We learn much from their example, such as their faith in prayer. It would often happen that they prayed during their short rest breaks. One could really see in them the joy of prayer and devotion to God. For us, their example is a gift that inspires us to be ever more faithful to our life of prayer in this Islamic country.” Seven sisters live in the convent which was founded in 1934. The majority are Spanish. In 2012 the small community was reinforced by three nuns from other convents. “They are very content and have settled down well. They are even learning a little Moroccan Arabic,” says Sister Maria Virtudes, who has lived for nearly five years in Morocco, a 99 percent Islamic country. “Our mission here is one of peace. We pray for peace in Morocco and Spain and for the spread of the Kingdom of God. The new sisters therefore see it as a true blessing to be able to live here. We hope and pray that the Lord will move other sisters to come and share with us our wonderful calling in North Africa.” But the sisters’ prayers are not only for Morocco but for oppressed Christians throughout the Arabic world. “The situation of our Christian brothers, for example in Egypt or Syria, is always present in our hearts and prayers. We take them all before Our Lady the Virgin Mary, the Queen of Peace. With our prayers we want to embrace them all in the love and communion of Jesus Christ.”