PRESS RELEASE : Ukraine – The Catholic Church is trying to aid the people

Reinhard Backes, ACN International

Adapted by Robert Lalonde, ACN Canada

Koenigstein , 21 February, 2013 Mieczyslaw Mokrzycki, ArchbishopMontreal/Königstein – March Monday 2nd – 2015 – The Catholic Church in Ukraine is trying to aid the people regardless of their confession. The Archbishop of Lviv, Mieczyslaw Mokrzycki, drew attention to this during a visit to the international Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN). “We look after refugees, provide pastoral as well as material care for the families of soldiers, operate soup kitchens, and we are now also distributing food and medicines to other needy people,” said Archbishop Mokrzycki while looking in briefly after an ad limina visit to Rome.

“Pope Francis listened very carefully to us, the bishops from Ukraine, and he promised to speak out for peace in Ukraine to those in positions of political responsibility and to the international institutions. He also agreed to give us material assistance for our work on behalf of Ukraine,” the Archbishop of Lviv emphasised.

UKRAINE / NATIONAL 14/02434 Support of the Ukrainian Caritas for

The Catholic Church’s aid activities are directed to refugees from the conflict regions in the east of the country as well as to the needy in West Ukraine. The conflict has been made more acute by the critical economic situation in the country. Archbishop Mokrzycki said: “The Mayor of Lviv, for example, addresses himself directly to the Churches again and again, asking if we can help to accommodate such-and-such a number of refugees.

There is great solidarity; Christians of different confessions are coming closer together. Although the people do not have very much, they help one another.” In order to house the refugees, according to the Archbishop, makeshift shanties have now been erected in both East and West Ukraine. ACN supports the Church’s aid activities in numerous Ukrainian dioceses. In recent months, a sum of more than 182 300 dollars has been provided for this purpose.

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Journey with ACN – Tanzania

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JOURNEY WITH ACN is  our weekly newsletter regularly posted to our blog and designed to acquaint you with the needs of the Catholic Church around the world – and various projects we have helped to bring into being together with ACN benefactors.


This week:   Tanzania

Seminarians train for the priesthood 

In the Archdiocese of Tabora, in central western Tanzania, there are 35 seminarians waiting for your support, for without it they cannot continue their studies, or one day be ordained to the priesthood.

Tabora is one of five archdioceses in Tanzania established in 1953 by the White Fathers, who had been working in this area since 1878. It has 23 parishes and 51 priests – a number too low for Father Kibobera Makona, the priest responsible for the vocations apostolate in the diocese. “Of the more than 2 million people living in the archdiocese, some 450,000 are Catholics. Muslims are a majority in this region.

The reason there are so few parishes, is because there is a shortage of priests. In fact, many parishes have actually had to be closed down already for this reason. We have so much to do and we need priests,” he emphasizes. Not surprisingly, he rejoices all the more at every candidate who feels called to the priesthood and is admitted to train for it. The 35 major seminarians currently training here need our help, since the cost of living have risen in Tanzania and the archdiocese cannot afford the full cost of their training – which in Tanzania lasts a total of nine years.

ACN-20141014-14623

The candidates work in the archdiocese in their first year, followed by three years of philosophy, four years of theology and then a pastoral year, working in the parishes. Currently there are 13 seminarians in the philosophy years and 20 in the theology years, while two seminarians have completed their pastoral year and have now been ordained as deacons.

To make a donation to ACN for refugees

To make a donation by please call: (514) 932-0552 or toll free 1-(800) 585-6333
or click the image to make a secure on-line donation.

 

Aid to the Church in Need has promised a contribution of $17,160 dollars to cover the expenses and studies of these seminarians for an entire year! During this time it is expected that 14 young men will be ordained to the priesthood. “While the diocese is seeking ways to fund the training of these future priests, we appeal to your generosity to help us for the support and formation of these seminarians,” writes Archbishop Paul Rusoka. We are convinced that with your help, they will indeed succeed!

 

Journey with ACN – Russia

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JOURNEY WITH ACN is  our weekly newsletter regularly posted to our blog and designed to acquaint you with the needs of the Catholic Church around the world – and various projects we have helped to bring into being together with ACN benefactors.

This week:   Russia

Extension built for an addiction rehabilitation centre

 It all began with a few individual cases. One after another, young people with drug problems came to speak to Father Sergij Belkov in the confessional. The addiction was nothing new for a former police detective. But now, as an Orthodox priest, it was also clear to him that it was not, first and foremost, a medical or a sociological problem but above all, a sickness of the soul.

Most people very quickly come to realize that the path of drug abuse is a false one. It is like “living in the grave,” one person tells him; feeling “no longer human,” says another. Both descriptions reflect one and the same phenomenon. The way out of the vicious spiral of drug addiction has to begin with this recognition, and with the will for conversion.

Since 1996, Father Sergij has been running a drug addiction rehabilitation centre in Sapjornoje, around 65 miles (100 km) from Saint Petersburg, in the almost untouched natural environment of the Finnish-Karelian frontier. He takes each of these young men in, like the father taking in his prodigal son. Some of the members of his parish are also strongly supporting him in his work.

One woman who helps him describes how she is astonished time and again by the transformation that takes place in these young men, aged between 18 and 28.

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Learning to be part of a family

“In the first few days they are always aggressive and surly and do not even look you in the face. But very soon a real “transfiguration” takes place from within – with God’s help and through the love and family warmth that is radiated by Father Sergij, his matushka and all the helpers and residents of the centre.” Structurally, the centre is set-up like a normal, healthy family, with Father Sergij as the loving, but strict head of the family and his wife as mother and example. The more senior residents represent the older brothers and sisters, who help to train and educate the junior members.

A new member to the family is only introduced once per month so as not to upset the equilibrium. Life in the centre is marked by prayer and work, obedience and observance of the Orthodox Church fasts – and it is no coincidence that it is ordered very much along the lines of the monastic life.

Right from the start each person has his particular tasks. There is agricultural work (cattle, pig and poultry rearing and vegetable gardening) and building work too. There are opportunities to learn trades – as a carpenter / joiner, roofer, bricklayer… Initially they work with a master tradesman, and then over time, they work independently.

Dozens of young men have already found help in this centre holding a maximum of 18 residents at any one time where they can stay for up to a year, and in some cases even longer. On weekends, they take part in parish life and come to grips with questions of faith. They learn – often for the first time in their life – something of the basics of their faith, and at the same time they learn to take responsibility for their own lives. In this way, both physically and psychologically strengthened, they are able to return to their own families, and in many cases even establish families of their own.

Sapjornoje was the first such Orthodox centre of its kind in Russia. Its success rate of around 75% of former addicts permanently recovered has vindicated Father Sergij’s approach and brought widespread recognition and imitation throughout the country. At the same time, the centre in Sapjornoje continues to grow steadily.

The centre is intended to be self-supporting, and indeed it manages very successfully to be so. Nevertheless, again and again there is a need for major investments, which the centre cannot (yet) afford to fund.  Therefore, in past years, ACN has helped with the purchase of kitchen equipment and furniture, and helped with funds to build the extension and also for the establishment of a joinery workshop, a bathhouse and laundry facilities; a building to accommodate the training staff and helpers in the centre, and also for the renovation of a wooden church which had been partly destroyed by fire and was originally been built in the 1990s by the residents themselves, with their own hands and with great love and attention to detail.

Now Father Sergij is asking for our help, once again. This time, he needs help building the extension of the existing complex in Sapjornoje. The intention is to build a storeroom, a small clinic/ hospital wing, and also some cattle stalls, as well as carrying out repair work on the existing buildings.

To make a donation to ACN for refugees

To make a donation by please call: (514) 932-0552 or toll free 1-(800) 585-6333
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ACN staff have already been on the spot and seen for themselves the outstanding work done at this centre – and we are therefore proposing to contribute $70,000 to support the cost of the required work.

Journey with ACN – Liberia

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JOURNEY WITH ACN is  our weekly newsletter regularly posted to our blog and designed to acquaint you with the needs of the Catholic Church around the world – and various projects we have helped to bring into being together with ACN benefactors.

This week:   Liberia

An archdiocese says “Thank you!”

 Thanks to your generous support, ACN has been able to help for the ongoing work of 27 Catholic schools in the archdiocese of Monrovia, with the purchase of a car. There are officially 140,705 Catholics in the archdiocese. In Liberia generally, Christians make up some 40% of the total population (Catholics 6%, Protestants 34%). Another 40% of the population are still adherents of traditional, animist religions, while Muslims account for a sizable minority of around 20%. The area of this region is very extensive (25,000 km sq); the roads are untarred, and a robust vehicle is essential for travel. Archbishop Lewis Zeigler wrote to tell us that the two vehicles then in use by the diocese already had around 70,000 km under their belts and, given the increasingly high cost of repairs, were coming to the end of their useful service. Needless to say, such vehicles are essential to the smooth running of the 27 Catholic schools in the archdiocese. “We need to visit each school at least five times in order to be able to supervise them effectively,” the archbishop told us.

© Aid to the Church in Need - Transportation Project

© Aid to the Church in Need – Transportation Project

The new car is used not only for the visits of the school inspectors, however, but also for transporting school meals, books and other teaching materials and equipment for the schools –  altogether serving some 15,500 pupils, for the most part from very poor families. Liberia is today only slowly recovering from the massive economic collapse that followed the 14 years of civil war, from 1989 to 2003. At the same time the population has now been hit by the frightening spread of the Ebola virus, which has already infected over 6,500 people in the country and claimed more than 2,500 lives to date. Father Sumo Varfee Molubah, who is responsible for school education within the archdiocese, wrote to us in November 2014 saying, „The ongoing crisis and the rapid spread of the Ebola virus has brought many of our activities to a standstill. We thank God that the vehicle has reached us nonetheless.” Because of the crisis, the teaching in the schools has been temporarily suspended. So the car is currently being kept in a secure place until the schools can be reopened again. Father Sumo writes: “We are most grateful for your support.”

 

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or click the image to make a secure on-line donation.

Journey with ACN – Venezuela

 

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JOURNEY WITH ACN is  our weekly newsletter regularly posted to our blog and designed to acquaint you with the needs of the Catholic Church around the world – and various projects we have helped to bring into being together with ACN benefactors.

This week:   Venezuela

Child’s Bibles and Rosary booklets for children in Carúpano 

In Venezuela Christians make up 94.3% of the population, and Catholics 85.1%. However, relations between the Catholic Church and the Venezuelan government have not been easy in recent years. Under Hugo Chavez, there were many attacks on individual churchmen and on Church properties – including nationalization of the latter in some cases. Chávez – whose avowed role model was Fidel Castro – repeatedly accused the Church of manipulating the people and interfering in politics – a stance seen by Church observers as a reaction to the fact that  the Church was seen as sympathetic towards the opposition.

The so-called “Socialism of the 21st-century” proclaimed by Chávez initially functioned basically as a market economy, but soon became conspicuous for the dominant role of state owned companies. The successor to Chávez, Nicolas Maduro, is continuing with the same economic policy. Despite its massive oil wealth, Venezuela is still a poor country today, and the number of those in extreme poverty (i.e. earning less than $1.25 a day) actually increased last year by three quarters of a million people. One third of the economic output of the country comes from the state-run oil production, while in some coastal regions – such as the diocese of Carúpano – people also live in part by fishing and by tourism. This widespread poverty is likewise a challenge for the Catholic Church, which seeks to help the people, both materially and spiritually.

© Aid to the Church in Need

© Aid to the Church in Need

The Diocese of Carúpano, which was formally established only in the year 2000 by Pope John-Paul II, has a high percentage of children. Consequently, Bishop Jaime José Villarroel attaches particular importance to the education of children in the Faith, and he is delighted that this aspect has developed so strongly within his diocese. Here in Carúpano the Church has already worked with the publications of ACN, which have helped her to enrich her catechetical work by presenting the life of Jesus and Mary and the basic prayers and principles of the Catholic Faith in an accessible and child friendly manner. Now the bishop is asking for additional copies – 10,000 copies each of the ACN Child’s Bible ($13,000), the children’s Catechism ($17,600) and the Rosary booklet ($4,880), along with 200 poster sets – to be distributed in the 22 parishes and five vicariates of his diocese. These publications will also be used for the diocesan youth days. With your help it will soon be possible for every child in Carúpano to have a copy of the Child’s Bible.

To make a donation to ACN for refugees

To make a donation by please call: (514) 932-0552 or toll free 1-(800) 585-6333
or click the image to make a secure on-line donation.

 

 

Please contact us to make a donation in support of this project, or similar projects, that are making a difference for the people of the poor and persecuted Church around the world, like these children.

Journey with ACN – Philippines

ASIA – Philippines

Rebuilding after Typhoon Haiyan

“Haiyan” – or in the Philippines, “Yolanda” – are beautiful sounding names for what was in fact one of the greatest natural disasters of recent times.

 

Just over a year ago this Typhoon unleashed its full fury on the coast of the Philippines, sweeping over 6,000 people to their deaths in its wake and devastating everything in its path. Even the Filipinos, who are generally accustomed to such natural disasters, had never experienced a cyclone of this destructive force before. Almost nothing could withstand the Typhoon, which swept across the islands, initially generating wind speeds in excess of 200 miles an hour.

According to UN figures more than 11 million people were affected by the storm, and many of them were rendered homeless. Thousands have lost all they possessed – including even the tools they need to work their fields, the boats they depended on for fishing, the livestock by which they earned their living, the factories where they worked, their tractors, motor vehicles, bicycles, etc. Thousands more lost family members and friends – yet not their faith and their hope.

Since then the people have been struggling to get back on their feet and rebuild their ruined homes and churches. One of the many devastated buildings was the church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception in the diocese of Borongang, on Guiuan, a small island in the Eastern Philippines — which was the first to be struck by Typhoon Haiyan.

© Aid to the Church in Need

© Aid to the Church in Need

Waves of 16 to 20 feet (5-6 m) were recorded here. Of the once wonderfully beautiful church that had stood there since the 1760s there is now nothing left but ruins. With one gust, the Typhoon tore off the roof and smashed in the walls of the church. At the same time the interior furnishings were destroyed. There is no possibility of rebuilding this beautiful church now, and so Bishop Lope C Robredillo has decided to build a new church in an architectural style similar to the original one.

To make a donation to ACN for refugees

To make a donation by please call: (514) 932-0552 or toll free 1-(800) 585-6333
or click the image to make a secure on-line donation.

ACN is offering to contribute $209,000 CAN towards the cost of building this new church in Guiuan. Not only will this be a sign of solidarity with the deeply religious people who have lost everything, but at the same time it will encourage them to remain in their home region and not move to Manila, as so many others have done – where for most of them only a life of misery and destitution awaits.

 

Journey with ACN – Iraq

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JOURNEY WITH ACN is  our weekly newsletter regularly posted to our blog and designed to acquaint you with the needs of the Catholic Church around the world – and various projects we have helped to bring into being together with ACN benefactors.

This week :   Iraq


“Nobody is angry at God”

The humanitarian situation of the Christian refugees in Iraq has improved – but the lack of future prospects is getting the people down

By Oliver Maksan, ACN International, 
Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada

 

“Thank you, thank you, thank you!” Suheila, an old Christian woman from Mosul was effusively expressing her gratitude as she met a delegation from Aid to the Church in Need (ACN). “May God make things easy for you in your lives.”

The elderly woman lives in the Sports Club Center in Ankawa, where more than 200 Christian families from Qaraqosh have sought refuge in mobile homes bought for them by Aid to the Church in Need. “This is really a big improvement. I’m grateful for it. But in general, of course, this is no life. We’ve lost everything. The worst thing is that we don’t know when or whether we will be able to return to our homeland.”

The woman has been fleeing since June. She ran for her life twice with thousands of other Christians when the Islamic terrorist militia ISIS overran Mosul in early June. “First we went to Qaraqosh. But when ISIS advanced there in August, we had to flee again. Now we have been here in Ankawa for four months. But none of us is angry at God. Fortunately we are all still alive.”

Major progress, and yet…

Irak-2Unforgettable images from August, when tens of thousands of Christians fleeing ISIS flooded the towns of Kurdistan have stayed with us.  Christians were panic-stricken and seen fleeing into the August heat. Given a lack of suitable accommodations, they often slept on the ground under the open sky, even in Ankawa, the Christian district of Erbil. The people lay on the pavement and under bushes – thankfully, much has happened since then. “I can see major progress since my last visit in August,” said Johannes Heereman, ACN’s president. In mid-December he visited Iraqi Kurdistan, where the majority of the roughly 120,000 Christians have found refuge. “It’s a great leap forward. The people are much better housed now. Many have found work and can therefore help support themselves. This is important because the assistance only secures a subsistence minimum. Even so the situation makes you despair of course because there are no prospects. There’s still no way of knowing when the places occupied by ISIS will be liberated.”

Irak-4In the meantime the local Church has not been twiddling its thumbs. “When the people arrived here they were totally traumatized,” reported Father Daniel, a young priest working in the Chaldean Mar Elia refugee camp in Ankawa where more than 800 Christians are living under 62 tents. “It wasn’t easy for the people to cope with the fact that they suddenly had nothing and had to live in tents. After all, previously they had been used to having their own houses. They also mistrusted one another. The children in particular were suffering in the situation. They saw their mothers crying and their fathers yelling. Then we began to structure their everyday routines to give the children something different to think about.” Games as well as dancing and singing competitions put a little joy back into their lives. “Today,” Father Daniel said, the children are a lot calmer. And the adults, who were completely apathetic at the beginning, are now also trying to get a grip on their lives again. Many have jobs in restaurants or on building sites in Erbil.”

In fact the camp gives a good impression. There’s no garbage lying around. The laundry is hanging tidily on washing lines strung between the tents. Even so, Father Daniel knows full well things can’t go on like this indefinitely. “Sure, we can improve the camp facilities by installing electricity and washrooms. That’s important and necessary. But the crucial thing is that the people be able to think beyond the present day again.”

Father Douglas Bazi, who manages the Mar Elia Camp, agrees. “The people won’t go along with it forever. Many want to leave Iraq. The desired destinations are Australia, America or Europe. They’ve lost all faith in a future here in Iraq. We can’t force the people to stay, and neither do we want to. Others in turn want to stay. Some of them want to return to their houses on the Nineveh Plain after it has been liberated. Others want to set up a new life here in Kurdistan. But it’s really important that we don’t lose the next generation. The crucial thing is, therefore, to enable the children to go to school again.”

It was a big leap forward when, in mid-December in Ankawa, the first school for Christian refugee children was opened. Seven other schools which have been funded by Aid to the Church in Need spread throughout Iraqi Kurdistan will follow.

More than 7,000 children will be able to attend school regularly again as of January 2015. Archbishop Bashar Matti Warda, Chaldean spiritual leader of Erbil is grateful. “This is an important contribution towards giving our refugees new perspectives. We want to thank all benefactors for their generosity.”

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