“Many of our Latin American benefactors are not wealthy, but they realise there are Christians whose situation is worse than theirs” says Regina Lynch, the executive president of Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) who has recently returned from an enlightening tour of ACN’s Latin American national offices, which included visits to Chile, Brazil, Colombia, and Mexico.

Chile, ACN’s first Latin American beneficiary dating back to 1962, grapples with political tensions, sexual abuse scandals, and a spate of arson attacks on churches since 2019. Nevertheless, despite their own struggles, the people of Chile continue to support ACN’s global initiatives. In Chile, ACN’s focus revolves around the formation of seminarians and laypersons and the reconstruction of fire-damaged churches and chapels.

 Eucharistic celebration at the Theological Major Seminary St Joseph in Manaus, Brazil

In Brazil, where ACN has been active since the 1960s, a surprising revelation emerges—the majority of ACN donors are financially disadvantaged individuals, some residing in slums, whose average contribution is around four euros. Their unwavering support echoes the parable of the widow’s mite. Alongside poverty, Brazil grapples with declining Catholicism, a growing presence of evangelical sects, and violence associated with the drug trade. However, Lynch found solace in witnessing the rise of new religious communities, driven by a missionary spirit, hailing from Brazil, Argentina, and even Nigeria. These communities work closely with impoverished populations, instilling hope through their faith.

Regina Lynch (Executive President of ACN International) during her visit at ACN Colombia August 2023.

Colombia, despite its share of violence and drug-related turmoil, boasts a high number of priestly vocations. Still, the Church faces the challenge of leading its people through these turbulent times, exacerbated by the legalization of abortion and euthanasia. The Church in Colombia also plays a significant role in supporting Venezuelan refugees, demonstrating solidarity with its neighbors.

The tour’s final destination was Mexico, a perilous place for priests, given the rampant organized crime, anticlericalism, and historical persecution. Several priests have fallen victim to violence in recent times. ACN actively supports a national dialogue for peace in Puebla, where Catholic bishops, religious groups, and laity come together to navigate the complexities of Mexican society. Additionally, ACN’s substantial efforts to aid migrants traveling through Mexico to the United States, who often face violence and danger from various quarters, are somewhat underappreciated by the state.

In essence, this tour of Latin American national offices reaffirms the remarkable resilience and dedication of ACN’s Latin American benefactors, who, despite their own hardships, continue to make a profound difference in the lives of Christians worldwide.