Within one week, 50 contemplative monasteries and convents all over the world accepted the invitation of the pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) to pray, not only for all those affected by the virus during the COVID-19 pandemic, but also for ACN’s project partners, benefactors and employees. Among these are Carmelite sisters, Benedictine sisters, Dominican sisters, Poor Clares as well as five communities of monks from over 30 countries.
“We want to let loose a prayer storm. According to our founding charisma, one of the mainstays of our work at ACN is prayer. We always have faith in the prayers of all of our project partners, but in these extraordinary times, we also would like to find comfort and support in the “praying heart” of the Church – the contemplative orders,” Thomas Heine Geldern, Executive President of ACN International, explained.
“We are receiving many messages expressing fear and concerns for the future – both from benefactors who are experiencing sickness and loss in their families or are suffering economic worries, and from many of our 140 project countries. Some of these messages are sent by priests who have not been able to earn their livelihoods for three weeks, others by religious sisters who do not even have enough money to buy soap or hygiene products because these are expensive luxury items in their countries… We firmly believe that prayer will be the first to bring forth fruits of mercy. Prayer forms the basis for the aid and support that we would like and are required to provide.”
All participating monasteries and convents are long-standing project partners of ACN and are themselves currently experiencing difficult situations. The religious sisters and brothers live in countries in which Christians are suffering from discrimination or violence, such as Nigeria, Chad, Morocco, Sri Lanka or Burkina Faso, or in which the coronavirus pandemic has made the prevailing economic difficulties only more acute, such as Ecuador, Venezuela or Ukraine.
The majority of the contemplative communities sent messages of solidarity and fellowship together with their prayer pledges. One such message was sent by the Poor Clares in Indonesia, “We promise that we will include your request for prayers in the special prayers for our project partners. We know that many of the benefactors are older and living alone. We are therefore saying a special prayer for all benefactors. May God keep them and be with them!”
The Carmelite monks from Buea in Cameroon wrote: “Of course we will pray together with you for the end of this terrible pandemic and for the return of the people to God. It will be very difficult to get this pandemic under control in Africa. But we will not lose courage, because Christ is our hope. We believe in Him who said, ‘In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.’”
Some of the messages from the monastic communities also expressed their individual concerns. For most of them, COVID-19 is one threat among many, as the Carmelite sisters from Morondava in Madagascar explained: “In these times of global trial, we never stop asking the Lord to help His people, as He once did for His people in the desert. Our thoughts are with all benefactors who are sick and require assistance, as well as with all those who are affected by COVID-19. Our country is also plagued by this pandemic. There are strict curfews in place. Many people are now afraid that the terrorist militias will take advantage of the situation and carry out raids. The coronavirus terrorises us, but we also pray that the thieves will not contribute even more to the death toll.”
To ensure that priests and religious living in countries in need are able to continue to provide pastoral and charitable support to the people entrusted to their care, even during the coronavirus pandemic, Aid to the Church in Need has set up a special fund and is asking for donations.