Central African Republic
Books for the formation of the young vocations in the Carmelite monastery in Bangui
Father Anastasio Roggero is a living legend. This 76-year-old priest from the Ligurian province of the Discalced Carmelites is not, strictly speaking, a missionary, since he does not work constantly in Africa. Nonetheless, his heart is very much in the Central African Republic and almost everybody knows him there. He is one of the pioneers of the Carmelite mission in the Central African Republic, founded 40 years ago, and he is also the founder of the Carmelite monastery in Bangui. He had dreamt of this for years, but it was only in 2006 that the dream became reality and, in addition to the four Carmelite mission stations already in the country, a Carmelite monastery was established in the capital.
In the centre of the monastery grounds, which are situated close to the airport, there is a hill. On the rock face on the side of this slope, the word “Carmel” is inscribed in 40-foot-high letters. You can read it from the aeroplane. When Father Anastasio comes to visit his confreres, you can hear the excited screams of innumerable children, shouting “Ciao” – the only Italian word they know. For them, he is simply “Father Ciao”. The adults too are joyful when he comes. And he himself is overjoyed to see “his” monastery flourishing. For in the meantime there have been many local vocations, so that by now there are 12 young men in the monastery already preparing to take their permanent vows. And more young men have also joined the content and are currently still undergoing training.
However, the Carmelite monastery in Bangui has not remained untouched by the war. Since December 2012 in fact, the grounds have been a refugee camp. “Just imagine around 10,000 people having a sort of picnic in your garden for months on end – several tons of rubbish have been the inevitable result, and the grass is already only a memory”, says Father Federico Trinchero, who was the Prior here when the refugees began to arrive in their thousands. And even though, in the meantime, babies have been born in the chapel and in the chapter room and everyday life has in many respects been turned upside down, yet the life of the monastery goes on.
Despite the war, there has been no shortage of vocations. So it was that at Easter 2014 a group of 10 young aspirants were accepted into the monastery. This is of course a joy and a blessing of God for the community, yet at the same time it is a challenge. For where are these young religious even to live in a monastery already overflowing with refugees?But they are not lacking in resourcefulness, and have simply set up a dormitory in the refectory. However, these young aspirants still need proper training. “We are not letting ourselves be discouraged”, writes Father Federico. “We are happy that we are able to be here and to serve the Church and the people in this country. And above all, we do not want the tragic events that are still continuing to shake the country to prevent our young brothers from undergoing their theological and philosophical formation as serenely and worthily as possible.” For these young religious, who are currently undergoing their training today are the ones who in future will help their people to live in peace.
Father Federico has asked ACN for help to increase the stock of books in the monastery library. We have promised him 6,500 Euros.
Emergency aid for the people in the diocese of Maiduguri who have fled from the attacks of Boko Haram
The diocese of Maiduguri, in the far northeast of Nigeria, covers a large proportion of the area that has suffered most from the violence of the Boko Haram terrorist group. Many people have lost everything they possessed, as well as their churches, schools and hospitals. Since the year 2009 no fewer than 80,000 people have had to flee their homes in the diocese. Many fled with nothing more than the clothes on their backs and had to leave everything else behind. After walking for days in the hills or the other places where they had sought safety, they are now sick, traumatised, exhausted and bereft of everything. Some have managed to find shelter with relatives, who now have to share their poverty and the already cramped conditions in their huts with numerous other family members.
The Church is almost alone in caring for these uprooted people. They need everything – water, food, shelter, blankets, mosquito nets, medical care and assistance are all urgently required. “We are helping without regard to creed. This is the spirit of living ecumenism”, says Bishop OliverDashe Doeme. ACN is helping him, with 45,000 Euros, to address the most pressing needs.
Success Story –how you have helped a priest with a car
Father Elie Namour certainly has his hands full. The 210 families of the Melkite Catholic parish of Our Lady of the Annunciation live scattered among the various quarters of the city of Jerusalem. And there are others too, whom he has to visit in the various towns of the Palestinian autonomous territories. The distances are immense, and the journeys take up a great deal of his time.
Nonetheless, in a region such as this, from which more and more Christians are emigrating, it is vital for the priests to be able to devote themselves intensively to ministering to their faithful.
Father Elie Namour had turned to ACN for help, because his old vehicle was spending more and more time in the repair shop, and the repairs themselves were not only swallowing up increasing sums of money, but at the same time losing him a great deal of time that he would otherwise have been able to devote to the work of pastoral care.
Thanks to you, our benefactors, we were able to help him to purchase a new car, with 16,000 Euros. Now he and his faithful want to say thank you!
Succes story – how you have helped for the publication of a book with daily Bible readings in Urdu
“The Bible Sisters” – that is the name many Christians in Pakistan have for the Sisters of Saint Paul. And the sisters are proud of this name! They not only run bookshops, but also go out into the parishes and villages and into the Catholic schools, where they distribute Bibles and other religious books. They devote themselves entirely to the Bible and media apostolate. Among other things they publish books and audiovisual teaching materials for catechesis.Unfortunately, many Muslims are extremely hostile to this work, and the danger is very real.In fact, in June 2005 the bookshop run by the Saint Paul’s Sisters in Karachi was raided by police when some newspapers claimed there were Christian videos which disparaged the life of the Prophet Mohammed. The police confiscated a number of films and CDs and arrested one of the sellers. The man was held for 24 hours, the sisters were intimidated and terrorised. On another occasion the bookshop, which has been there since 1948, had to be closed after a shooting incident just outside. In Lahore the bookshop run by the sisters was almost completely destroyed on 11 March 2008 by a devastating bomb blast outside a nearby police station – which also severely damaged the Cathedral of Lahore and several other Church buildings on the same site. Some 30 people were killed and almost 250 wounded. Sister Timothy Villaram recalled at the time how “One sister had just stooped down at that moment to pick something up off the floor. At the very same moment the glass from the shattered shop window flew through the room. Had she been standing up, her head would surely have been blown off.” The whole shop was destroyed, and the roof and ceiling fell in. The walls collapsed and even the foundation of the building was destroyed by the force of the explosion. Only the pictures of the saints were left undamaged. “That was what convinced our sisters once again that they are under the protection of our special patrons. We ask everyone to give thanks to the Lord for having shown his loving presence among us”, Sister Timothy wrote. On that occasion ACN helped to rebuild the bookshop.
The sisters are in no way discouraged by the experience. They continue their work as before. And so it is that, with the help of ACN, they have now published a series of books with the daily readings for each liturgical year, in Urdu the national language of Pakistan. Our benefactors gave €20,000 this project. “This was in response to the wish of our poor Christians, who wanted to know how they could meditate on and practise the Word of God”, writes Archbishop Sebastian Francis Shaw of Lahore. “The priests, catechists and parents are all happy to be able to use it for the Lectio Divina and will use it above all to instruct the young apostles in how to respect the word of God and pray with it”, he continues. Together with the sisters and all the Catholic faithful, the Archbishop sends his heartfelt thanks to all the benefactors of ACN for their generous help.
Help to extend the novice house of the Servants of the Lord and the Virgin of Matará
Throughout the world, over 702,500 religious sisters today live out their vocation, the ‘yes’ they have given to God. They have given up everything in order to follow the One who has called them. While in the Western world many convents have been forced to close, as the sisters age and no new vocations follow, in other parts of the world there is a growing number of young people willing to respond to God’s call. In Asia, Africa and some parts of Latin America many young girls and women are giving their lives to God. It seems as though the willingness to obey the voice of love and to say, with Mary, “I am the handmaid of the Lord”, is greater in those places where material wealth has not deafened people’s hearts to the call: “Follow Me”.
The young congregation of the Servants of the Lord and the Virgin of Matará can rejoice in a wealth of young vocations. Founded in 1989 in Argentina, the congregation already numbers more than 1000 sisters today, who exercise their apostolate in over 30 different countries on all five continents. The ever-growing number of new vocations receive their training in 26 different houses.
In Brazil too more and more young women are joining the congregation. It is of course good news that the formation house in São Paulo is simply bursting at the seams. Yet this also presents the congregation with a major challenge, because it involves the addition of an entire new wing to the building in order to be able to accommodate and train these young women. Needless to say, this costs money, and the congregation, whose sisters serve the poor and who themselves live a life of the greatest simplicity, do not have the funds to do so.
ACN has promised them 14,600 Euros, so that they can build and enlarge the formation house of this flourishing young congregation.
Success Story: how you are helping the youth apostolate in the diocese of Anatuya
The Church in Argentina, the homeland of Pope Francis, needs our help. The country is racked by political, economic and social crises, and large sections of the population are living in poverty.
This poverty drives many people into the arms of the sects, which lure many people with wealth and fair promises – especially those who are weak in their Catholic faith and not firmly rooted in its eternal truths. Such people can easily fall prey to their promises. This problem is a major challenge for the Catholic Church, and the Church here in Argentina is responding to the challenge, although she suffers an acute shortage of priests and has to cope with the additional difficulty of the vast distances within the individual dioceses.
Some 200 km from the provincial capital of Santiago del Estero, in the arid and infertile northwest of Argentina, lies the diocese of Añatuya, one of the poorest in the entire country. The average income here is just 300 pesos – or 40 Euros – a month, and unemployment is an alarming 65%. ACN has been supporting the work of the Church in the diocese for many years now. The population is only around 120,000, of whom some 85% are Catholics – but they are spread across a vast area of some 68,000 km². The region is infertile and the infrastructure is poor. Getting around is a real challenge, especially in the rainy season. The 33 priests of the diocese are happy if they can visit each parish at least once a month and celebrate Holy Mass there.
In these parishes, of course, there are also thousands of children and young people who need to be soundly instructed in their faith. With your help, every effort is being made to reach out to them, through activities in the parishes (such as Los Juríes, Huachana and Tucumán), the smaller communities and in the schools. Youth camps and ‘olympiads’ have been organised for them, at which basic Christian values are also explored and social problems addressed, such as alcohol and drugs. Their faith was also at the centre of a pilgrimage of 300 young people toMatará, for example, and a festival at the shrine of Huachana, a meeting at Pentecost in Quimilí and a special vocations retreat day for girls in Tintina.
Six times a year there are also three-day meetings and workshops – held separately for boys and girls – to train up youth leaders in catechesis and Bible work. Theirs is a crucial role in spreading the faith, above all given the critical shortage of priests. Another two-day course for 80 youth group leaders also fulfils a similar function. And in Anatuya itself and in Monte Quemado there were large youth meetings.
All these activities and the exemplary organisation behind them naturally cost a lot of time, money, food, transport, teaching materials and the like – all of which has to be paid for. Thanks to the generosity of our benefactors, ACN was able to give 12,000 Euros towards this programme, and now all of them – from the bishop to the priests, down to the young participants – want to express their gratitude. For this is truly an investment in the future of the Church, here in the diocese. “It is incredible to see the young people gathering together, radiating such joy and youthful enthusiasm and wanting not only to share with others and get to know one another but also in so doing to be always aware that Christ is at the centre of everything”, reports one of the organisers. And Bishop Adolfo Uriona writes, “May God bless you and all your benefactors for all the good you have done for the Church in need around the world. I thank you for your solidarity.”
Construction of a church in Toljatti in memory of Saint John Paul II
In the south of Russia, on the River Volga, roughly 1000 km away from Moscow lies the city of Toljatti (also written Togliatti). It has a population of over 700,000 souls and is dominated by the automobile industry. Many people are drawn into this industrial city in search of employment.
The Catholic parish of Our Lady of Fatima was established in 1997. Soon afterwards a small wooden chapel was built, but this is now no longer sufficient for the needs of the growing community. The parish is flourishing and Holy Mass is celebrated every day. After Sunday Mass there are catechetical classes for children, young people and adults and several prayer groups, a Mass servers’ group and a choir. During Lent and Advent a charitable campaign is held, entitled “Share your heart” during which the faithful contribute food and other aid for the poor. Each year they manage to collect well over 200 kg of aid.
Currently the parish has around 150 members, but there are many more Catholics in the city, who are not in regular contact with the parish. There are also many foreigners (Koreans, Americans, French and others) who are present in the city in connection with the automobile industry. But the chapel that is currently used by the community is far too small, even for the people who regularly come to church.
In 2008 the city authorities promised the parish a plot of land. In 2012 the foundations were laid for the new church. It will be dedicated to Pope John Paul II, for whom Russia and good relations with our Russian Orthodox sister Church were so dear to his heart. The parish does indeed have very good contacts with the Orthodox Church and Orthodox Archbishop Sergei is also very pleased that a more substantial Catholic church is now being built in his city. ACN has supported the building work right from the beginning. We gave 50,000 Euros in 2012 and another 30,000 Euros in 2014. Now help is needed once again, so that the building can finally be completed. And so we have once again promised 50,000 Euros
Extension of a pastoral centre for the ministry to Roma children
One particular challenge facing the Catholic Church in Slovakia is the pastoral care of the Roma peoples.Two priests who are particularly involved in the care of the Roma people are Father Jozafat Jozef Brigan and Father Lorenz Reinhard Brecher, who between them care for 22 villages in the diocese of Roznava, where a majority of Roma families live. Most of them are unemployed and living in poverty. They usually have large families and all live together in a single room. Many do not even have electricity or running water. When the money runs out, they go hungry. FatherJozafat explains: “The parents are often so frustrated and helpless in the face of this situation that they neglect their children. Sadly, many fall prey to alcohol. As a result, the children suffer still more and often spend more time on the streets than at home.” On one occasion an 11-year-old boy even ran away from home and begged to be taken in to the children’s home, since he could no longer stand life at home. FatherJozafat continues: “Of course we are caring for this youngster, who has stayed on in the children’s home. He regularly visits his family, but he does not want to go back there. This case shows just how difficult are the family circumstances in which these children have to grow up.”
In 2005 work began on a pastoral centre for children and young people. Since then the Don Bosco Pastoral Centre has become a second home for many Roma children. By now around 200 children from the surrounding villages come here after school. They are split up into groups. Each day a different group comes. The children from the villages furthest away are collected from the school by the parish bus. Here they can play, do their homework, pray together, do sport, handicrafts and attend Holy Mass, and at the same time they are prepared for reception of the sacraments. FatherJozafat explains: “They are learning the Christian virtues, so that they themselves can later assume responsibility and be able to found a good family. They have a place where they can spend their free time and their weekends, where they can learn something new, develop their abilities and grow in the Faith. In this way we hope to be able to protect them from the harmful influences to which they are exposed on the streets and through boredom. We can see that many children and young people start very early to smoke and sniff glue, and by the age of 14, 15 or 16 many are already living together with a boyfriend or girlfriend. Owing to the living conditions at home, the children not only have little chance of developing as people but even of growing up healthy. We are trying to address this need in the families. The children who come to us get food, and also clothing and shoes.”
But by now the pastoral centre has become too small, because more and more children are coming here. Consequently, the centre needs to be extended. “We need a larger dining room, and rooms where the children can sleep when they stay overnight with us on various occasions (at weekends, summer camps, retreats, New Year’s Eve, etc).
We hope to be able to contribute 50,000 Euros for this extension work.