Support for Sisters in the poorest diocese of the country
For Father Werenfried van Straaten, the founder of the international Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), suffering and need were never an abstract problem. For him it was always about the individual, a person with a face and a name, a child of God.
It is very easy to dismiss any sense of personal involvement when it comes to a statistic, a mere number can mean very little to us. However, the fate of an individual person with a face and a name is not as easy to distance ourselves from, for it touches us inwardly; it is a direct appeal to us personally and to the heart.
On his many travels around the world, Father Werenfried encountered a great many people living in poverty and destitution, in whom he saw God himself as weeping. They had names – Anna, Pablo and John, Maria and Miguel. He had looked them in the eyes, and what he had seen was for him a cry for help. He asked himself – and all of us – the question: “How is it that we are so comfortably situated? These people live beneath the same sun and the same stars as we do. God also created them on the sixth day, to be kings of creation. Where then is their kingdom? This trampling of their human dignity is a mortal sin against nature, a crying injustice. In addition, we too will personally share in this injustice if we do not do everything in our power to banish it from the world – everything in our power!”
A human crisis
Very few people know there are regions in Argentina where people live in the direst poverty. One such region is a diocese with the long name of “San Roque de Presidencia Roque Sáenz Peña.” It is one of the poorest dioceses in the country and this, on paper, seemingly dry statistic is in reality a human crisis for those involved. Some of these people live in dirty, damp, unhealthy hovels or even under plastic sheeting. There are sick people barely being cared for, emaciated children, living off little more than a little flour moistened in water, gaunt-looking mothers…
The diocese covers a vast area of over 27,000 square miles (70,000 km²) in the north of the country, characterized mainly by savannah and dry forestland. It is home to the descendants of various indigenous tribes who in the past used to live as nomads. Many still live as hunter-gatherers. Now the large Agro industries, which are encroaching ever further on their traditional territories, are increasingly restricting their traditional lifestyle, grubbing up the forest and establishing vast soybean plantations. At the same time, the goats and cattle of settlers and small farmers are eating the forest bare.
Bringing home the truth
The Catholic Church is the only organization supporting these people. However, the distances are huge and there are only very few priests. Therefore, the support of the religious Sisters is vital. At present, there are 38 religious from various different congregations working in the diocese. They are supporting the people in many ways and bringing home to them the truth that they are indeed children of God. They visit the families in the villages, care for the sick and elderly, pray with the people and, while bringing them urgent and vital help, while at the same time managing to introduce a little light and laughter into their poverty-stricken homes.
We regularly help these sisters and this year once again we plan to support them in their modest lifestyle, for all the work that they do is offered entirely free of charge. We have promised a total of $24,800 to support their life and ministry – just $653 per Sister for an entire year. Thank you to our benefactors!