Journey with ACN – India

© Aid to the Church in Need

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:   India

Two village chapels

The parish of Unai was founded almost 55 years ago by Spanish Jesuits. It is situated within an area of the diocese of Baroda, found in the northwest of the country where there are many members belonging to ethnic minorities. The priests, Sisters and lay catechists work very hard to support their people. The parish includes 28 villages, 24 already have baptized people, and in the remaining four many more people are preparing for Baptism.

Despite the Church still being young here, the people have a strong faith and they play a very active part in the life of the parish.

 

The villages all have small chapels where people can gather to pray. However, most of them are already around 30 years old and built, as they are, of only the most basic materials – mud, cow dung and bamboo – they have become quite dilapidated over the course of time. There are cracks in the walls, and the monsoon rains come pouring through the roof, and the foundations are also weak. It is not surprising then that their parish priest turned to ACN for help to build new chapels in two of the villages.

Thanks to the prompt and generous response of our benefactors, we were able to help with a contribution of $21,000 dollars.

INDIA / BARODA 12/00058Construction of 2 village chapels at Kap

Now the two villages of Mahuva and Kapadian have been able to witness the consecration of two beautiful new chapels. Both villages celebrated with a big feast. One of the chapels is dedicated to Christ, the King of Kings, the other to Mary, Mother of the Redeemer. In each of the villages the day of the consecration was commemorated with great festivity, a solemn Holy Mass, processions, Eucharistic Adoration, the Holy Rosary and solemn hymns – and with a shared festive meal. All the people of the neighbouring villages were also invited.

INDIA / BARODA 12/00058Construction of 2 village chapels at Kap

 

Father Lazarus D’Souza writes: “It was an unforgettable occasion in the lives of the children and also for the more elderly members of the villages. It was the fulfillment of a long-cherished dream for them. God has been good to them. The people of the village praised God for his wonderful deeds – and they are also very grateful to ACN for your generous support.”

 


 

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.

 

Do you feel inspired by this story?  Would you like to support other such Construction projects for a Church in Need somewhere in the world?

Become an ACN benefactor: call us to make a donation or visit our new website and do it on our secure website.

 

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Journey with ACN – Tanzania

© Aid to the Church in Need

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

© Aid to the Church in Need

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.

ACN-20131125-02925

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

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 – Argentina

© Aid to the Church in Need

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:   Argentina

Support for 91 religious Sisters in Añatuya

Aid to the Church in Need has been helping the diocese of Añatuya for many years now. Covering an area the size of Ireland, this diocese has approximately 120,000 inhabitants, 85% of whom are Catholic. It is an extremely arid and unproductive region and the absence of infrastructure makes it difficult, if not, impossible, to get around quickly. As a result, for the 33 priests working in the dioceses, the help of the more than 100 religious Sisters and lay pastoral workers is of a priceless value.

Bishop Adolfo, the bishop of Añatuya, has written to ACN for support. His is one of the poorest dioceses in Argentina, where the average salary is just 300 pesos (around $75) a month – the Sisters and catechists do not earn much more than this. “They get less than $75 a month, and from this they must pay their board, lodging and transportation costs,” explains Bishop Adolfo. They also share in the same kind of living conditions as everyone else. “We have no electric power. When it rains, the roads are impassable and we cannot even transport medicines or food,” reads a letter from three Dominican Sisters, who run a parish some 60 km (38 miles) from Añatuya.

The priest can only visit once a month; the rest of the time, the Sisters are the ones available for the Catholic faithful. Those who do have work here consider themselves lucky – despite the meagre salary – for the unemployment rate in Añatuya is around 65%.

©Aid to the Church in Need

©Aid to the Church in Need

Many of the local people live in simple mud huts with roofs of branches and grass. The general lack of hygiene and good order leads to all kinds of ailments, including outbreaks of tuberculosis and gastro-intestinal disorders, as well as syphilis. Many children suffer from malnutrition, and there is a lack of doctors, therefore the people are all the more happy to have Sister Asunción, a trained nurse, present among them. This Dominican Sister works in a health centre and “does everything” as her fellow religious testify. “The patients come from miles away, since they have more confidence in her than in the doctors,” they tell us.

Water is a veritable blessing in Añatuya where it normally rains for only four months of the year and where the soil is full of saltpetre and contaminated with arsenic. The only water is supplied by a very salty river – appropriately named – Rio Salado (or “Salty River”). This river also poses a very real threat during the rainy season to all the surrounding villages, when the roads and entire villages are inundated. “We had 24 evacuees living in our convent for almost 3 weeks,” recalls Sister Loucia, the superior of her community of six “Jesús Verbo y Víctima”.  At the time, the Sisters were completely cut off from their surroundings and forced to suspend their pastoral work.  Nevertheless, they continued to visit everyone they could reach, and prayed with them – a help which was of “great consolation” for all the people concerned.

 

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 wants to help support the life and apostolate of the 91 religious sisters in the diocese, with a total of $51,000.

 

Father Werenfried van Straaten, founder of Aid to the Church in Need (ACN)

Father Werenfried van Straaten – also known as ‘The Bacon Priest’ – January 17, 1913 – January 31, 2003 © Aid to the Church in Need

“Someone must begin: Let it be us!”

Good news often gets drowned out by the tide of shock-horror stories. And yet the seed of peace and reconciliation is burgeoning in many places around the world. Father Werenfried van Straaten, the founder of the international Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), dedicated the whole of his life to the service of reconciliation. He died on 31 January twelve years ago.

By Eva-Maria Kolmann, ACN International – Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada

It often begins with a gesture of help. Father Werenfried van Straaten, founder of Aid to the Church in Need, followed the principle: “Someone must begin: Let it be us!” When Pope John Paul II asked him in 1991, after his long life as a bridge-builder, to now seek the means of creating a dialogue with the Russian Orthodox Church, he couldn’t wait to get going. After all, this Church had had to start practically from scratch after decades of persecution. The figures speak from themselves: of the approximately 60,000 houses of worship in which the Holy Liturgy had been celebrated prior to the October Revolution in Russia, only 100 were left twenty years later. In the first two years after the October Revolution alone 15,000 Orthodox priests had been killed. More than 300 bishops had been executed or had died in prison. When he was almost 80 years old, he said that to give support to the Orthodox sister Church after the collapse of the communist regime not only with fine words was the “last and greatest joy of my life.”

“Ecumenism is the work of the Holy Spirit”

The “ecumenism of the martyrs,” the common confession of faith by the Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant Christians in the labour camps and prisons of the Soviet Union, was now to become transformed after the political turnaround into an “ecumenism of solidarity.”.Help in training new priests, the “chapel boats” which acted as floating churches visiting villages which had no houses of worship on the shores of the rivers Volga and Don, joint media initiatives intended to break down prejudices and to inform the faithful about the respective other Church and support in pastoral care for prisoners and drug addicts have all borne rich fruit, as has the support given to the first Orthodox hospice for terminally ill children. Numerous friendships and initiatives have emerged from these actions. The help given was not only one-sided since in Russia, where Catholic Christians are only a small minority, open-minded Orthodox clerics can be valuable helpers for the Catholic communities. Successive Popes have expressed the wish that this commitment be continued. Often mutual mistrust is based on ignorance and prejudices, and so it is important to get to know one another better and thus be able to come closer together.

“Ecumenism is the work of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit does not have hands or feet and so we Christians must become his hands and feet in the world.” With these words the young Protestant pastor Vladimir Tatarnikov from Belarus encapsulated what more and more Catholics, Protestants and Orthodox Christians feel: that reconciliation is not just a theory, but something concrete. That it consists of words which are consciously spoken, of deeds which create facts, of steps which people take to come closer to one another. And that, in the final analysis, it is a gift of God.

In many countries there now exist successful ecumenical initiatives. For example, in Lutsk in the north-west of Ukraine an ecumenical benefit event is held every year. For this joint celebration, Catholics, Orthodox and Protestants prepare a programme of Christmas carols, plays and dances.  The proceeds go to orphans. The programme is broadcast on state television. The fact that the Churches join together to help poor children also sets a good example to people who generally have nothing to do with the Christian faith.

“Not only a choice, but a duty” is how Cardinal Kurt Koch, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, describes the commitment to ecumenism. In many countries the collaboration between the different denominations and religions is, however, also a bitter necessity, since wherever hatred rules it can save lives if the representatives of the religious communities join together to advocate reconciliation and peace. In the spiral of violence into which the Central African Republic was drawn further and further in 2013/2014 it was the combined voices of Catholic, Protestant and Muslim religious leaders which could be heard opposing the law of vengeance and supporting reconciliation and reason. It is thanks to the joint intervention of representatives of the Churches and religions that it was possible to prevent massacres in many places; for example in Bozoum, a town in the north west of the country where the Italian Carmelite father Aurelio Gazzera joined with a Protestant pastor and an imam in January 2014 to conduct intensive peace negotiations and achieve the withdrawal of the Séléka rebels when it was feared there would be a massacre with hundreds of dead.

Always trusted in the power of God

 In view of the spreading persecution of Christians, collaboration is becoming more necessary than ever. Pope Francis said in December 2013 in an interview with the Italian newspaper “La Stampa” that, in view of the persecution of Christians, ecumenism was for him a “matter of priority” since in many countries Christians are being killed because they wear a crucifix or own a Bible. And before they are killed, they are not asked whether they are Anglicans, Catholics, Lutherans or Orthodox believers. The blood is mixed.” It was the wish of Jesus that all should be one. Father Werenfried, the founder of Aid to the Church in Need, who died twelve years ago on 31 January, always trusted in the power of God which opens the hearts of people to one another. The desire to build bridges and bring about reconciliation was the great mission in his life. Taking the first step in this direction was the major feature of Aid to the Church in Need  from the very beginning.

 

 

Journey with ACN – Venezuela

 

© Aid to the Church in Need

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.