Training eight seminarians in the diocese of Mongu
Zambia – a landlocked country in southern Africa – is fortunate to enjoy a certain degree of stability, contrary to many other African countries. The country still faces numerous challenges, however, including poverty, poor infrastructure and a 12% alarmingly high rate of HIV/AIDS, resulting in numerous orphaned children.
One third of the population are Catholic and a little over half belong to various Protestant denominations or ecclesial communities. Almost 15% follow pagan animist religions. Until recently, Muslims have made up only a considerably small minority; but in recent years there has been increased activity and an increased spread of Islam.
One of the major problems now lies in the spread of fundamentalist sects, which tend to spring up with simplistic and populist messages. For example people – who are for the most part very poor – are often enticed with promises such as: “If you join us, you will be rewarded even in this world, and the more you pray the richer you will become.” Often even the Catholic faithful are lured away, and so the Church in Zambia is very much aware of the need to intensify its pastoral work, to keep the Catholic faithful from easily falling prey to false promises. Crucial to this strategy, is the presence of more Catholic priests.
In great need of priests
When, in the past, the Church in Zambia consisted mainly of foreign missionaries, they were able to call on material support from their home countries. But, today the Church has become more of a home-grown local church, led by native African priests. The young men who respond to the call of God and who are now training for the priesthood certainly do not look forward to a comfortable life here; instead, many of them will be serving in remote rural areas where there is no electricity or running water and where they are often long way away from their brother priests.
Currently, eight young men from the diocese of Mongu are training for the priesthood in a diocese west of the country covering a vast territory of around almost 90,000 km². It has 13 parishes, each as large in area as a diocese would be in other parts of the world. More priests are urgently needed because wherever the faithful are deprived of the regular support of a priest, the sects tend to have an easy time of it. Needless to say, the local Church is poor, and a solid and thorough priestly formation takes many years, and costs money.
ACN is happy to support the formation of these eight young seminarians and has promised a contribution on $11,600 for this academic year.
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