Mass stipends for the priests teaching at the seminary in Ggaba
The tradition of making a Mass offering, or stipend, for the celebration of Holy Mass by a priest for a particular intention – for the soul of a departed person, for example – is an ancient one in the Church. The offering that is made by the individual believer to the priest for this purpose is in no sense a “payment“ for the Mass, however, but rather a gesture of love and gratitude for the priest who through the words of consecration once more makes present the Sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the altar. At the same time this gift is a form of material support for needy priests, who in many cases have no other source of income.
Those priests who teach in Catholic seminaries are particularly grateful for these Mass offerings, since in many countries they do not even earn enough to support themselves and, unlike priests teaching in the parishes, do not have the community of the Catholic faithful to support them either. In Uganda, for example, whereas a university professor at a secular university will earn approximately 1,500 dollars a month, a priest lecturing in a seminary will receive just 150 dollars – barely enough to cover the most basic essentials.
These priests, who are responsible for the formation of our future priests, have a heavy responsibility. Their work demands great care and a commitment that goes well beyond the mere conveying of knowledge. In addition to providing an academic formation they also have the duty to support and guide the seminarians in their human and spiritual formation. Hence, any secondary activity – such as helping out in a parish, where the faithful can help support them, in however modest a manner – is more often than not impossible. As a result, these priests engaged in the formation of the priests of the future are often heavily dependent on the Mass offerings received from abroad.
In Uganda the number of vocations continues to rise and many of the seminaries are bursting at the seams. At the St Mary’s National Seminary in Ggaba in the Archdiocese of Kampala, there are 16 priests engaged in teaching and ministering to the seminarians. We are helping them once again this year with Mass stipends – this time for a total of 19,200 Euros – which means that each priest will receive 1,200 Euros for the entire year.
Success Story: 22 bicycles for the parish of Saint Michael
The parish of the holy Archangel Saint Michael in Ruaha was founded in 1929. Almost all of the 35,000 or so people within the parish are Catholics. The great majority of the people here are small peasant farmers, while many also eke out a living as small local traders. There is a real lack of basic infrastructure here: water is in short supply and medical provision is minimal. The Catholic Church has established a bush clinic/hospital here and also a kindergarten, both of which are run mainly by Catholic religious sisters.
The parish has 11 outstations, some of them up to 15 miles (24 km) away, in addition to 37 smaller communities. Thus the Catholic faithful are scattered across a wide area. In order to be able to minister pastorally to all these people the parish priest has to rely on the support of his lay catechists. But they too have faced a real challenge in the past as they had no means of transport and could only travel with difficulty from one place to another. So their parish priest, Father Abdon J. Mkope, decided to appeal to ACN for help to buy 22 bicycles. His appeal did not go unheard and, thanks to the generosity of our benefactors, we were able to give him 2,000 Euros and so equip his catechists with the bicycles they needed. Now they can much more easily reach the faithful in the various scattered communities, praying with them, instructing them and preparing them for the reception of the sacraments.
Father Abdon has since written to ACN to thank all our benefactors for their generosity: “Thank you for your help! Now we are certain that our catechesis can be more effectively delivered and that those preparing for Baptism, First Holy Communion and Confirmation can be properly ministered to, even in the outstations, since we can more easily reach them and so carry out our pastoral work more effectively. We wish you all the best and may God always bless you!”
Success Story: 10,000 Child’s Bibles for East Timor
Father Werenfried van Straaten, the founder of ACN, had a heartfelt wish to provide Child‘s Bibles to children all over the world. For as he said “Children need something like a Child‘s Bible, so that the image of Christ can become a living one in their hearts”. At the same time, however, he knew that in most countries children were so poor that they could only dream of such a thing. Not only this, but in many languages there were no translations of anything like a child‘s Bible at that time. So he decided, with the help of our generous benefactors, to make a gift of just such a Child‘s Bible to children all over the world. The current version, entitled “God speaks to his Children” has now been published in more than 170 different languages – over 50 million copies in total.
Among the many different languages in which this Child‘s Bible has been published is Tetum, one of the two official languages in East Timor which today is one of the most Catholic countries in the world, with a percentage of almost 98% Catholics. Here, in this small island nation, the Church is flourishing – and she is also very young, with over 60% of the population aged 25 or less. “On Sundays, in the towns and villages, you can see almost everyone on their way to church. Even on weekdays, when Mass is celebrated as early as 6 a.m. on account of the heat, entire classes of schoolchildren still attend. You can sense people‘s openness to God, especially among the children. After Holy Mass throngs of children come running up to the priest to kiss his hand and ask for a blessing”. So writes Father Martin Barta, the international spiritual assistant of ACN, who recently visited the country.
At the same time, however, this is a very poor country ranked 128th out of 187 on the U.N. Human Development Index with around 37% of its 1.2 million or so inhabitants living below the poverty threshold.
The Salesian Fathers, who run more than 50 primary schools in East Timor, had asked ACN for help to print 10,000 Child‘s Bibles in the Tetum language. Now the books have been delivered to the children – to their great joy! The Salesians and the children want to thank all our generous benefactors, who donated 7,575 Euros for this project. So now indeed “the image of Christ can become a living one in the children‘s hearts“.
Support for the training of 25 young religious Sisters
The first members of the congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Cross of Chavanod arrived in India in 1886. Today these religious Sisters are present in 16 different centres in six different dioceses. They teach in the schools and run residential homes for children from remote villages who would otherwise be unable to attend school. There are also active in catechesis and in health care; they look after handicapped children and are involved in development work among women from the poorest families. For example, they help widows and unmarried women to earn a living and support themselves independently.
The selfless witness given by these religious Sisters through their loving service of the poor is at the same time the best way of preparing the ground for new vocations. Currently the congregation has 25 young Sisters who are preparing to take their permanent vows.
Generally speaking, the young Sisters who joined the congregation are themselves from poor villages and belong to the ethnic minorities living in the region. Many of them have received no proper school education and consequently have a great deal of catching up to do, academically. At the same time they also need to acquire professional training and the necessary skills in order to be able to work competently and effectively as teachers, social workers, catechists, nurses etc. And in addition to this, of course, there is also their spiritual formation in the religious life. We have given 14,100 Euros to support the three-year training of these 25 young religious Sisters.
Help for the formation of 24 seminarians in Feira de Santana
The Archdiocese of Feira de Santana is situated in north-east Brazil, a region marked by widespread rural poverty. It is also prone to drought. Many people are leaving the land and moving into the big cities in the hope of a better life. But they are often disappointed, and many fall an easy prey to the sects. Hence it is vitally important for the Catholic Church to have as many soundly trained priests as possible, so that she can minister pastorally to her people.
Archbishop ItamarVian is naturally particularly concerned about priestly vocations, and consequently he is doing a great deal in his archdiocese to encourage young people to think about following the call of God. At the same time he is doing everything he possibly can to ensure the best possible training for the young men already studying for the priesthood in his diocesan seminary. He therefore attaches great importance to the ongoing formation of the seminary teaching staff, in whose hands the training of these future priests lies.
Unfortunately, given the general increase in prices, the cost of training the seminarians is also rising constantly. ACN has in fact been supporting this seminary for many years already and this year they will again need our help for the 24 young men who are currently training for the priesthood there. So once again the Archbishop is knocking on our door and appealing to the hearts of our kind benefactors. He thanks us for all our past help and writes “We are hoping we can always count on your friendship, support and solidarity“. We have no intention of disappointing him and so we have decided to help him once again this year, this time with a contribution of 9130 Euros.
Construction of the Saint John Paul II parish church in Reparto Bahia
This month Pope Francis will be travelling to the island of Cuba. He is the third successive Pope to travel to this Caribbean island, and this fact is seen by the Cuban bishops and faithful as a great gift of the Holy Spirit to the Church since every visit here by a Pope is a sign of hope that change is possible.
So it was that, even before the historic visit by Pope John Paul II to Cuba in 1998, there had been some signs of a degree of openness towards the Catholic Church on the part of the Cuban state. Thus for example, more processions and other public religious events were being allowed and for the papal visit itself the regime even provided some logistical support for the Church. All of this amounted to a marked improvement in the situation of the Church in this country, which had been dominated for more than half a century by a Marxist regime.
Nonetheless, it was not surprisingly seen as something of a breakthrough when last year the Cuban President Raul Castro actually granted the Catholic Church a plot of land on which to build a new church in honour of Saint Pope John Paul II.
The location of the new church will be in Reparto Bahia, a suburb in the eastern part of the Cuban capital, Havana. For many years now, well over a hundred Catholic faithful have been meeting here on Sundays for Holy Mass. The place where they meet bears the somewhat imposing name of “Casa de Misión“ or “House of Mission“. However, in reality it is little more than a ramshackle shed.
The new church to be built here will also have a separate Chapel of Adoration in addition to the main church. There will be an open hall as well, providing space for various different events. ACN is supporting this project with a contribution of 45,000 Euros.
Help to repair the roof of a children‘s home run by religious Sisters in Kapshagay
The town of Kapshagay has a population of around 57,000 people and is a few hours’drive away from the capital Almaty. In 2001 an Italian priest established a sort of Catholic centre here. He built a church on the edge of the town and purchased a group of houses. A congregation of Sisters settled here and began to take in children from difficult family backgrounds. Gradually, a Catholic community became established around the centre and today the number of people from the town who attend Mass here on Sundays continues to grow.
The 60 or so children who are being cared for by the Sisters have been through some pretty tough times. In some cases the mother has died, or has simply upped and gone away with another man. In others the father is an alcoholic, or works miles away on a construction site, or has simply abandoned them. In many cases their parents also live on the streets and some of them are drug addicts. Seven-year-old Ola was raped by older boys from her neighbourhood before she came to the sisters. Her father was aware of this but ordered her to tell nobody about it. Rima and Ina, who are twins and also seven years old, told the Sisters, “Daddy chased mummy with an axe“. Little Ania lived on the streets before she came to the Sisters.
Here, for the first time in their lives, these children are able to experience love, security and an ordered way of life as they would in a normal family. They can play, study, pray together, and sometimes enjoy interesting excursions. Moreover, since the centre is close to a lake, they can also enjoy the beauty of nature right outside their door. This is a precious experience for these children, who until now had often known nothing but misery and chaos in their lives.
By now many of the former protégés of the Sisters have grown up and founded a family of their own. They are still in contact with the centre and with the parish community and often help out where they can. But now, one of the six houses in which the children live with the Sisters is in urgent need of a new roof. ACN is helping with 20,000 Euros.
Support for the life and ministry of eight Carmelite nuns in Sarajevo
There are eight Carmelite Sisters living in the convent in Stup, a suburb of the Bosnian capital Sarajevo, who live a life of contemplative prayer and poverty. The youngest of these nuns is 37 years old and the oldest is 75. Cardinal VinkoPuljic, the Archbishop of Sarajevo describes them as “a sign for Christians and for Muslims alike“.
Immediately after it was established, this Carmelite convent was largely destroyed during the war. It is situated close to the airport and the front line ran very close to it. At the time the Sisters had only just moved in and had not even unpacked their suitcases when they were forced to flee again.
In the year 2000, five years after the war ended, they were finally able to return to the convent, which had been rebuilt thanks to the help of ACN. The rebuilding of the convent was also in line with the express wishes of Pope John Paul II who saw the need, above all in this country so heavily scarred by the war, for a community of contemplative nuns to devote themselves entirely to prayer for peace and reconciliation.
This year we are contributing a total of 2,400 Euros in order to support all eight Sisters in their life and ministry.