Mass Offerings for 40 priests
The people of Sierra Leone have traversed a great deal of suffering recently. The consequences of a bloodying civil war which raged from 1991 to 2002 are still evident. The horror claimed innumerable human lives and devastated large portions of the country’s infrastructure in its wake.
The country’s economy was totally annihilated with over 70% of the country’s 7 million or so inhabitants left in poverty today.
The 2014 Ebola epidemic and a string of grave natural disasters only further exacerbated the situation. And now, in 2020, the coronavirus pandemic has also erupted, making life all the more difficult for people given the dire poverty already plaguing country.
The Crucial Role of the Catholic Church
The Catholic Church, as she always does in such grave situations, has stood by the people. For over a hundred years the Church has been supporting the faithful in the country, not solely pastorally, but in very practical ways: providing basic medical care, feeding the hungry, providing development aid and accompanying families in all their many needs.
The Catholic Church is greatly respected by the people for its many works of charity, and for the fact that it helps all the people, regardless of their religion or ethnicity. The Church is particularly active in the field of education. Until very recently, Catholic schools were the only educational centres existing in Sierra Leone, and this despite the fact that 78% of the population is Muslim.
At the same time, however, the Church cannot neglect her primary mission of proclaiming the Gospel, administering the sacraments and bringing souls to God. Needless to say, the many activities she is involved in have to be paid for somehow. And since the local church is extremely poor, there is an urgent need for financial support from abroad.
Father Emmanuel is one of the priests in Sierra Leone who have received these Mass Offerings. He writes”: Every day, during the crisis, I had to go out after Morning Prayer, working with the fishermen to earn my daily bread. My church is close to the beach. I am so grateful for the Mass stipends you have sent us. May the Lord continue to bless you abundantly!”
Mass Offerings for the Archdiocese of Freetown
This is the situation in the archdiocese of Freetown, the national capital. Here, 40 priests are helping the people with all their spiritual and material needs. Many are working in parishes where there is neither electricity nor running water, no vehicles and no other means of communication. The archdiocese itself is very poor and cannot help its priests with all the funding they actually need. The coronavirus has only made things worse, for now that all public Masses have been suspended, even the little support that came in on the collection plate has also dried up. And so, to compensate to some extent, ACN International has agreed to help the 40 priests of the archdiocese with Mass Offerings, for a total of $24, 882—or just about $624 for each priest for the entire year. The priests will celebrate these Holy Masses for the intentions of the benefactors who have made these offerings.
The Mass offering, or stipend, as it is also known, is a gift freely given by the faithful as a gesture of gratitude and love and material support for the priest, who in return offers the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass for the intentions of the benefactor—for the soul of a departed relative, for example, or for a sick person, or for a private intention known to the benefactor alone. As the Canon Law of the Catholic Church makes absolutely clear, the offering is in no sense a payment for the celebration of the Mass, but, represents a vital contribution to the support of our priests, who in any case more often than not use them not just for themselves but also for the wider needs of their people.