Many communities all over the world are suffering such debilitating poverty that the faithful are not able to support their priests financially. In these places, Mass stipends are often the only source of income for priests. In 2019, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) supported more than 40,000 priests all over the world through Mass stipends. In the times of the COVID-19 pandemic, this aid has become even more essential, as ACN has learned from letters of thanks received from its project partners.
India is one of the countries affected most severely by the pandemic. A high population density, often paired with inadequate health care, has accelerated the spread of the virus. This has only made the clerics on the subcontinent more appreciative. One such example is Brother Ignatius of the southeast province of Andhra Pradesh, Superior General of the Heralds of Good News, a Catholic mission society founded in 1984.
“During COVID 19, our priests are carrying out a lot of charitable work and feeding many migrant workers and going to villages and distributing food materials and all other essential things for the poor people who are suffering heavily after 5 months of lockdown. There are many families who have lost their jobs, they are left without wages. For these people, the help and the helping hand of our priests come to them like the help of the Good Samaritan. Your help to us, the Mass intentions to our priests, also comes to us like the Good Samaritan. The Good Lord who sees everything from above will bless you and recompense you in some other ways.”
Fr Amalan, one of 250 priests serving in the southern Indian diocese of Tuticorin who have received stipends, also wrote to express his thanks, “The people in this parish are very poor and they are daily wagers. Hence, I rarely get Mass stipends when I go for Mass. But over the last four months, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, people have neither gone to work nor have liturgical celebrations taken place. So I do not get Mass stipends from the people and I find it very difficult to meet my needs. In this situation, your Mass stipends were of great use for me to continue with my daily life. Once again I thank you for your generosity in helping our diocesan priests and I hope you will continue to do the same in the near future.”
Many letters of thanks have arrived from Africa as well, such as that of Brother Henry Saileri Mauawa of Malawi, who is a teacher at St. Kizito school. He is not able to work at the moment. “Schools in Malawi closed on 23 March 2020 due to the outbreak of the coronavirus. The closure of the school is a big blow since it has brought to an end the little support for us priests serving in the seminary. […] I am writing this letter in order to express my gratitude for your kindly and timely gesture towards assisting my mission as a priest through the provision of Mass stipends.”
Thomas Heine-Geldern, Executive President of ACN, would like to express his thanks to all who make this support possible. “I am so grateful to our benefactors, who – often in spite of their own suffering and their own hardships – are still holding out their hands to their fellow Christians. It is a beautiful gesture, one that helps to keep the faith alive.”