Vocations thrive in the midst of violence

It was a touching moment when young Carmelite Christo professed his perpetual vows. His parents led him to the altar, just as the son is handed over to the bride during traditional African nuptials. In this case, the parents gave their son to the church. The joy of his confrères and the faithful was boundless. On the following day, he was ordained deacon in the Cathedral of Bouar while his confrère Odilon was ordained to the priesthood.

It is rare to hear good news coming from the Central African Republic. The crisis-ridden country is ranked last in the Human Development Index, with 80 percent of the country still in the hands of various armed groups even two years after the end of the civil war. Violence keeps breaking out, forcing thousands of people to flee. Here as well, the joy of the consecration of the two Carmelites was quickly overshadowed the next day: two men armed with machine guns invaded the grounds of the Carmel in Bouar-Yolé, taking the sentry prisoner. They threatened Father Marcello Bartolomei and Father Aurelio Gazzera, but the two priests were able to push the assailants out of the gate. The armed men raged and fired their weapons, but they were locked out.

Vocations are thriving in this country in which religious and mission stations repeatedly fall victim to assaults and attacks. In the Carmelite order, 27 young men are preparing to completely dedicate their lives to God. This takes courage. After all, the religious are often the ones who risk their own lives for peace and reconciliation. “My only weapon is prayer,” Italian-born Carmelite Father Aurelio Gazzera explained.

The pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need supports the training of prospective Carmelites in the Central African Republic and helps religious sisters and brothers all over the world. Father Martin Barta, the international Spiritual Assistant of the pastoral charity, explained: “Aid to the Church in Need supports people consecrated to God all over the world, people who are the hidden power of the mission, not only through the external charitable and pastoral works they perform but particularly through their prayers and devotion to God. Without these people, we would not be able to bear any lasting fruit. Because the secret to achieving truly lasting fruit in mission – even if the fruit is only supposed to be borne later, perhaps – is “abiding in Jesus”. Thus, the fruitfulness of the work of the church is dependent upon the union with HIM. Jesus promises us, ‘He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit.’”

According to Father Barta, the “World Day for Consecrated Life” reminds us that there are people who “abide in Jesus in a special way and who dedicate themselves to Him, to He who gives Himself to us unconditionally. In their bridal love for Christ, they are a sign to the world that the union with Him makes our lives successful, fruitful and truly joyous.”

In 2017 alone, Aid to the Church in Need has supported vocations in the Catholic church in various ways in every second diocese in the world, including just under 700,000 religious sisters. Every tenth priest received help from the benefactors of Aid to the Church in Need for more than 1.5 million projects.

Eva-Maria Kolmann – ACN International