The region of Ústí in northern Bohemia is “a desert on the religious land map,” as some of the local church people put it. In fact, the Czech Republic as a whole is a profoundly atheistic country. But in the Ústí region, a mere 5% of the population even describe themselves as belonging to a Christian denomination of any kind. There are historical reasons for this. After the Second World War, the ethnic Germans who lived in the area were all expelled and replaced by people who settled there from various other regions, but who, under the prevailing communist rule, could not develop any new religious traditions. As a result, it wasn’t possible for faith to put down any roots.
The Salesian Fathers have been present in the region, more specifically in the city of Teplice, since 1990. They run three parishes in the city itself and four others in the surrounding villages, and they certainly have their hands full. The region struggles with many social and economic challenges: unemployment is high, as is crime, especially among young people, and the people here are generally poorer and less educated than in other parts of the country.
The Salesians have therefore established a centre to work with children and young people, above all with those from the most socially disadvantaged families. In addition to offering religious instruction, they also organise summer camps and faith-based weekend events. Furthermore, the centre also reaches out to adults, offering a variety of courses on the faith, seminars for married couples, ecumenical gatherings, and much more.
Moreover, the Salesians are active in the prison ministry and also visit the sick and elderly in the hospitals and seniors’ residences, with a special outreach to the Roma families.
The centre they run is known as the “living house” or “lively house.” Here, before the pandemic struck, they were able to reach around 1,500 children, 400 adolescents and 500 adults annually. 30 employees and 200 volunteers support the six priests in their work here.
However, the building they currently use is rented. In the long term, a house of their own would offer them greater security for future planning. So, the good news is that they have already acquired this house, but it will first have to be fully renovated. We are proposing to help with $45,000, because we already know how extremely important the work of the Salesian Fathers is in this difficult area and the wonderful fruit it bears. Will you help us?