fbpx

ACN BENEFACTORS

 

ACN Information – Syria: love, prayers and solidarity in these difficult times

31.03.2020 in ACN BENEFACTORS, Syria

ACN Information – Syria

From Syria with love, prayers and solidarity

ACN project partner’s heart-felt coronavirus message

By John Pontifex, ACN United Kingdom
Adapted Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada
Published on the web March 31, 2020

 

Sister Annie Demerjian, an intrepid nun, who coordinates emergency relief in Syria, has responded to the coronavirus pandemic by sending a message of prayer and solidarity to friends and benefactors of Aid to the Church in Need.

 

In an audio message sent Friday, March 27, Sister Annie, a project partner of Aid to the Church in Need, tells the charity’s supporters: “do not panic” and “follow the instructions about healthcare.”

 

The Religious of Jesus and Mary Sister goes on to thank ACN benefactors for their near decade-long help providing food baskets and sanitary items, clothing and medicine for the most vulnerable in Aleppo and elsewhere in Syria, pledging to pray for benefactors in this time of emergency.

 

“We need to help one another”

 

“It is very painful what the world is passing through at this time,” says Sister Annie. “In this situation of the coronavirus, do not panic about the news. Follow the instructions about healthcare. Describing how she and her Sisters are praying the Rosary every day “for the world,” she said: “Our faith is not like pressing a magic button and expecting everything to be OK. The pain and suffering is there but we must also not forget the Resurrection is there every day.”

Drawing on her experiences in Aleppo, northern Syria: “We need to help those who are most in need. We need to help each other, lift each other’s spirits and things will pass.”

Sister Annie, who warns of the impact of the virus on a Syria still reeling from years of conflict, said: “In Aleppo, our groups of volunteers are continuing, visiting homes where it is safe to do so and taking great care. We are helping the old people, especially because so many of them have no other support, and in Damascus our Sisters are helping some old people, buying what they need so they will not have to go out. People have nothing to rely on. How will they survive?”

She goes on to report progress with a supermarket voucher program for 260 families, especially for elderly people dependant on them, and a rent-payment program for the most vulnerable.

Sister Annie adds: “To all our ACN benefactors, we say very sincerely: ‘Thank you for your enormous generosity. You have helped us for so many years and continue to do so.’

“May God continue to bless you and keep you and your families safe and well.”

 

All around the world, the members of the Catholic Church are actively comforting people most touched by this pandemic provoked by Covid-19.  In many countries Sisters are nurses, they manage the dispensaries, the homes for the elderly and other health related institutions.  Helping them through this crisis means supporting the presence of the Church for the weakest members of society. Aid to the Church in Need around the world will continue to support the Church in every way possible.

 

Thank you for continuing your support, in any way you find possible.

Covid-19 pandemic – Letter from the international president of ACN

23.03.2020 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN International, Thomas Heine-Geldern

Königstein, Germany,

Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) International Headquarters 

Le 18 mars 2020

 

Dear Friends,

On Ash Wednesday this year, as we were all preparing to begin the Lenten season, none of us could have imagined that this time of penance would become such a challenging one for us. In a very short space of time we have found that our earthly security and freedom have been shattered by a pandemic.

Never before has any of us experienced such an exceptional situation. Civic measures that until a few weeks ago would have seemed unthinkable to us, we are now accepting as justified and reasonable. But how well is our faith and our sense of security in God going to withstand such unexpectedly shattering developments?

It is only natural that our first and foremost concern should be for those known to us who have fallen victim to this virus; that we should be thinking of the elderly whom we are no longer permitted to visit, or the grandchildren whom the older ones among us can no longer take into our arms. And for many people, including many of you no doubt, there are now the financial worries as well.

Many of our suffering and persecuted brothers and sisters still have to manage without any of these technological aids.

Moreover, we are now finding that we can no longer take for granted the fact that we can attend Holy Mass and receive Holy Communion. This is already the plight of many of our brothers and sisters in the mission lands, or those living under dictatorships. They have to struggle to be able to participate in Holy Mass and the Sacraments. And perhaps we too now have a much clearer understanding of what it means to live as the domestic 

church with our children and pray together with them. That is what they already have to do in places where there are no churches. And we at least have the technology that enables us to follow the religious services via live streaming or other electronic means. In this way it is made easier for us to remain in contact not only with God but also with our friends and with the global community of the Catholic faithful. Many of our suffering and persecuted brothers and sisters still have to manage without any of these technological aids.

“…we can always lift up our hearts in prayer for one another…”

During this Lenten season we will have to follow Jesus Christ into the desert in a much more immediate way. In our fears and concerns we are experiencing more clearly what it means at times to feel abandoned even by God. But we can always lift up our hearts in prayer for one another. And we can find strength in the certainty that the bridge of love and faith between our benefactors, the staff and co-workers of ACN and our project partners all over the world remains as strong as ever and that our shared prayer will help us to overcome this global crisis. So it is that in the last few days especially we have received countless messages from our friends in Senegal, Burkina Faso, Brazil, Haiti and the Philippines assuring us of their prayers for all the benefactors of ACN.

“…we can find strength in the certainty that the bridge of love and faith between our benefactors, the staff and co-workers of ACN and our project partners all over the world remains as strong as ever…”

Our everyday life has changed dramatically. But let us take comfort in the old truism that reminds us that every crisis is also an opportunity. In this case it is an opportunity to use the extra time we suddenly have on our hands to grow inwardly, to come closer to God and at the same time to bring to him in our prayers all our near and dear ones – spouses, children, siblings and parents. And likewise of course all our brothers and sisters in the faith, both those around us and those in the wider world.

“Every crisis is also an opportunity”

We can do this in our prayer, whether private or shared, and we can do so by offering up all our trials and anxieties in the coming weeks for all those whom for the present we cannot directly help or those whose plight, whether through sickness or loneliness, is still harder than our own. Let us also think of those families whose life is made particularly hard by their cramped living conditions. And please let us not forget our brothers and sisters in those countries where Christians continue even now to be persecuted and discriminated against – they often have far more serious worries than this virus. Let us for example continue to support with our Mass Offerings all those priests in our partner countries who will celebrate Holy Mass for our intentions.

“Today I would like to urge you to help us further develop the three pillars of ACN‘s work, namely prayer, information and action”

Again and again over the past years it has been my privilege to thank you for your generosity and your help for our suffering brothers and sisters. Today I would like to urge you to help us further develop the three pillars of ACN‘s work, namely prayer, information and action, in creative fidelity to our founding mission, so that we can turn this crisis into an opportunity to bear witness to Jesus Christ.

It may be that the penitential season will last rather longer than the time envisaged in the calendar, but Easter will come nonetheless. Let us together use this time of trial in such a way that we may then experience still more profoundly the Mystery of the Resurrection.

 

This is my wish for each one of us.

I remain, united in prayer with you all,

Thomas Heine-Geldern

President, ACN International

ACN Project of the Week – 500 Bibles in Peru

18.03.2020 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN Canada, ACN PROJECTS

ACN Project of the Week – Peru

500 Bibles for a prison apostolate

By ACN Projects Department, ACN International

Adapted by ACN Canada

Published to the web March 18, 2020

 

As in many other parts of the world, in Latin America the prisons are hopelessly overcrowded and conditions are extremely hard.

For example, the prison in Callao, Peru, was designed for 1,500 prisoners but currently holds 5,600. For these prisoners the Catholic prison outreach is a real blessing. Twice a week, those who wish to participate come together for a joint Lectio Divina, while Holy Mass is celebrated every week for a congregation of up to 800 prisoners. And there are also Holy Masses for the major feasts of the Church year.

Bishop José Luis del Palacio Peréz-Medel has himself frequently visited the prison. When he travelled to Rome to meet Pope Francis in 2018, he brought with him a letter from the prisoners. The Pope answered the letter personally and encouraged them all, despite all past failures and weaknesses, to believe and trust in the help and Mercy of Christ.

 

The Holy Scriptures are indispensable

A vital and indispensable part of this outreach which helps those concerned to a better and deeper knowledge of God‘s love and mercy, is the reading of Holy Scripture.  But inmates and their families are too poor to afford a Bible. In 2017, thanks to the help of ACN, 500 Bibles were distributed among them. Now, thanks to the generosity of our benefactors, we are able to contribute $7,500 once again, so that another 500 copies of the sacred scriptures can be made available for the prison outreach program.

The Bibles are used for the sessions of Lectio Divina and for catechetical instruction of those preparing for baptism.

 

For all the inmates this has been a great joy and consolation and the bishop has written to us to say that his priests working in the prison ministry are also delighted.

Our heartfelt thanks to all who have helped!

 

Are you inspired by this project? To give and make another similar project a success – click above and select: Project of the Week.

ACN Feature story – Iraq: Batanya is back

18.03.2020 in ACN BENEFACTORS, Chaldean Catholic, Iraq

Iraq

Batnaya is back

Text by John Pontifex, ACN International
Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada
Posted on line March 18, 2020

Catholic charity to help rebuild flattened Christian village

A massive program has just received the go ahead to help revive a Christian village in Iraq, which was almost completely razed to the ground after being seized by Daesh (ISIS).

The plan for Batnaya devised by Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) will involve restoring the Chaldean Catholic village’s parish church of St Kyriakos, repair the nearby Chapel of the Immaculate Conception, the parish hall, library and parish house (presbytery), as well rebuild the flattened St Oraha’s Dominican Convent and the kindergarten, which the Sisters will run, caring for 125 children.

The plan is seen as crucial to the revival of a village, where, after more as two years of Islamist occupation, just one percent of its 997 Christian homes was still standing.

 

Announcing the plan for the most devastated of the 13 Daesh-occupied Christian towns and villages in the Nineveh Plains, ACN Middle East projects director Father Andrzej Halemba described the program as “a new and courageous step forward to secure the future of Batnaya. Even if the situation is not very clear, we see the importance of a sign of hope. ACN is determined to help the Christians to stay. Our task is to stand by the people who would like to come back.”

Rebuilding Batnaya is an immense task as the village was on the frontline of fighting between Daesh and coalition forces. After the Daesh occupation ended in October 2016, the village was abandoned as a ghost town. Batnaya was disputed territory between the federal government of Iraq and the Kurdish Regional Government. Widespread booby-trapping has delayed work which could only begin after a huge de-ordnance program had been completed. Restoration has been further hampered by the extensive tunnels dug under the village by captives of Daesh who went underground to escape bombardment.

More recently work got underway to repair houses, electricity, water and schools and last summer families finally started to return. Within eight months, 300 people have come back and church leaders now think hundreds more will return after years of displacement in neighbouring towns and villages.

 

The extremists had smashed altars, decapitated statues and daubed blasphemous anti-Christian messages on the walls. Work on the church and chapel will involve replacement of windows, doors and roof tiles, redecoration throughout and removal of Daesh graffiti such as “Slaves of the Cross, we will kill you all. This is Islamic territory. You do not belong here.”

For many Christians, returning has meant overcoming memories of Daesh daubing homes with ‘n’ for ‘Nazarene’ (Christian) and demands to pay jizya Islamic tax, convert to Islam or face execution by the sword. Resettlement of Batnaya is key for the recovery of the Christian presence in the Nineveh Plains.

ACN Success Story – A transportation project in Sierra Leone

11.03.2020 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN PROJECTS, MOTORIZATION, Sierra Leone, TRANSPORTATION

Success Story in Sierra Leone

 

A motorcycle to mobilize a priest!

 

In recent years, the West African country of Sierra Leone, has seen very few peace times.  A brutal civil war from 1991 to 2002 lay claim to thousands of human lives and left behind widespread devastation, the traces can still be seen to this day. The economy and the infrastructure are ruined. Over 70 percent of the country‘s 7 million people are living in poverty today.

 

The situation worsened with the onset of the terrible Ebola epidemic in 2014, followed by a series of natural disaster necessitating that the Church focus on the concrete day-to-day needs of the population over many years. Now, the focus is shifting again back to the psychological and spiritual rebuilding of a nation.

 

 

More frequent visits to the faithful

 

Father Paul Karim is one of the priests at the service of the Gospel. Since his ordination in February 2019 he has been working in the parish of Saint Charles Lwanga in the city of Bo, in the south of Sierra Leone. With a population of over 200,000 it is the second largest city in the country after the capital, Freetown.

 

The parish also includes a number of villages and smaller settlements in the surrounding area, some of them up to 24 km from the parish centre. Father Paul celebrates Holy Mass in these villages, visiting the sick and elderly and bringing them the sacraments, ministering to the schools and also taking part in parish gatherings.

 

Until recently there was only one vehicle in the entire parish! Meaning, the young Father Paul often had a hard time reaching some of the communities where he was needed. But, thanks to the generosity of our benefactors, we were able to give him $1,350 to buy a motorcycle. Now his work is much easier and the people of the parish are happy that he can get to see them more quickly and more frequently.

 

Our heartfelt thanks to all who helped!

Are you inspired by this project? To give and make another similar project a success – click above and select: Project of the Week.

ACN Project of the Week – Helping those in need in Lebanon

04.03.2020 in ACN BENEFACTORS, Lebanon

ACN Project of the Week – Lebanon 

 

Helping the poor seeking refuge in Zahleh

By ACN International Projects Department, adapted by ACN Canada
Published on the web March 4th, 2020

 

St John the Merciful was a 6th-7th century saint, noted for his generosity to the poor and suffering. Wherever he saw a need, he strove with all his resources to help. By the time he became patriarch of Alexandria he was feeding some 7,900 poor people every day. He died in 619 and is honoured today as a saint both by Catholic and by Orthodox Christians.

 

Saint John the Merciful Table is a program named after him and is run by the Melkite Catholic Church in the Lebanese town of Zahleh, close to the Syrian border. The centre has been up and running since December 2015. It is a place of welcome for all who cannot afford a hot meal every day – serving many Syrian refugees and a growing number of Lebanese citizens as well.

 

Every day, at least 1,000 people are given a hot meal here. About 800 or so people come to the centre themselves for nourishment, while another 200 who are in some way disabled, frail, elderly or sick, receive home visits from the centre’s volunteers bringing with them a hot meal and words of spiritual comfort and human warmth.

 

Nourishing both body and soul

The program was conceived with the idea of providing both food for the body and for the soul. An offering of spiritual and psychological support to those in need. This project represents an important contribution to a great effort to prevent the emigration of Christians from the region. Otherwise, many of these people will likely be forced to try and move abroad in order to feed themselves and their families.

Thanks to the generosity of our devoted benefactors, ACN is able to support this excellent project again this year, with a total of 1,320,000!

Are you inspired by this project? To give and make another similar project a success – click above and select: Project of the Week.

Project of the Week: Support for the youth apostolate in Pakistan

27.02.2020 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN International, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Family Apostolate, Pakistan, Pastoral aid, Youth Apostolate

Project of the Week:  Pakistan

A spiritual breath for a youth apostolate in Faisalabad

Published on line February 27, 2020

Roughly half of the 207 million people who make up the population of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan are under the age of  25, and one third of these are actually aged 14 or younger. Young Christians, living in a society that is 97% Muslim, face many more and much greater challenges than their Muslim counterparts. In fact, for many Christians it is almost impossible to advance professionally within society. And, the religious minorities such as the Christians find themselves in, the lowest strata of society, Most having to work as street sweepers, labourers, or domestic employees.

 

A Christian name can be enough to block one’s access to higher studies. Non-Muslims are in effect seen as second-class citizens, not full Pakistani citizens. They are even unfavourably portrayed in official school textbooks, and the many services performed by Christians on behalf of the country are passed over in silence. Islam is promoted in almost every area of the curriculum, most notably in the selection of essay topics. Christian pupils are often insulted and excluded, or else pressured to convert to Islam. For Christian girls it is even worse, since they are doubly discriminated against, because  of their gender. And young Christian girls face a very real danger of being abducted and forcibly married to their abductors – also meaning: being forcibly converted to Islam.

2020: Year of Youth!

 

In response to this situation, the Catholic Church in Pakistan is working very hard to encourage Christian youth to take pride in their faith and give confident and capable answers whenever they are confronted with prejudice and ignorance. Many Catholic children also attend one of the many Church-run Sunday schools, but the older teenagers also need guidance and support in living their faith. So it was that in November 2019 the Catholic Church in Pakistan announced a “Year of Youth” for this 2020 year, which will contain a range of different initiatives.

The Youth Commission of the diocese of Faisalabad is seeking support for its youth apostolate program. Its aim:  to strengthen young Catholic women and men in their faith and help them to stand firm – and find their rightful place in society. ACN is supporting this initiative with a contribution of $10,725.

 

Are you inspired by this project? To give and make another similar project a success – click above and select: Project of the Week.

ACN News – “2019 was a year of martyrs”

10.01.2020 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN Canada, ACN International, Thomas Heine-Geldern, Urgent need, Violence against Christians, World

ACN International

Initial assessment of the last year: “2019 was a year of martyrs”

by Maria Lozano & Jürgen Liminski, ACN International
Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin for ACN Canada
Published on the web, January 10, 2019

Thomas Heine-Geldern, president of the pontifical charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), gives an initial assessment of the last year for Christians around the world: “2019 was a year of martyrs, one of the bloodiest for Christians in history culminating in the attacks on three churches in Sri Lanka that cost more than 250 people their lives. We are also very concerned about the situation in China and India.”

On a positive note, “politicians and opinion leaders in Western Europe are talking about religious freedom much more frequently now.” As a particularly encouraging example, Heine-Geldern mentioned the video message recorded by the British heir apparent, Prince Charles, for Aid to the Church in Need at Christmas. In this video, Prince Charles refers to the growing suffering and persecution of Christians all over the world and calls for solidarity.

In this context, Heine-Geldern again called upon multinational and international organizations – such as the European Union and the United Nations – to enable and protect religious freedom as a fundamental human right on all levels and in all countries. “More and more is being said about it, but still too little is being done. It is difficult to believe that in a country like France, attacks against Christian institutions far exceeded 230 in number past year. Also shocking were the events in Chile, where 40 churches have been desecrated and damaged since mid-October.”

 

 

Funeral of Fr Simeon Yampa and 5 faithful after the terrorist attack in the parish church of Dablo on 12 May 2019 (Good Shepherd Sunday)

Distress over Christmas executions

Looking towards Africa, the president of ACN expressed his deep concern for the situation of Christians in Nigeria, where Islamic terrorists of Boko Haram have been keeping the North and the area along the border to Cameroon in a state of fear. “On Christmas Eve, Kwarangulum, a village in the state of Borno that is inhabited by Christians, was attacked by jihadists. Seven people were shot dead, a young woman was kidnapped and the houses and the church were burned down. Only a day later, a faction of ISIS (Daesh) released a video that they claimed showed the execution of ten Christians and a Muslim in north-eastern Nigeria. We are deeply distressed by this. We are celebrating while others are in mourning and live in fear.”

According to Heine-Geldern, 2019 was also a disastrous year for Christians in Burkina Faso. He went on to describe how, little by little, Christians are being pushed out in some parts of the country. Schools and chapels have had to be closed. “Our sources have reported at least seven attacks on Catholic and Protestant communities that have led to the deaths of 34 Christians – among them two priests and two pastors. Our project partners talk about attempts to destabilize the country, foment religious conflict and stir up violence.”

 

A prayer vigil in Baghdeda, Iraq – 2019

“Many attacks on this community of Christians”

The situation of the Christians in the Middle East is always in his thoughts and prayers. In this context, Heine-Geldern quoted the words of the Archbishop of Erbil, Bashar Matti Warda, which drew attention to the dangers and situation of the Christians in Iraq: the invasion of the terrorist Islamic State was only “one of many attacks on this community of Christians.” The bishop had further said that the invasion had been preceded by a number of other attacks in the history “and with every attack, the number of Christians in Iraq – and Syria – is reduced dramatically.” According to the bishop, the escalating crisis in Lebanon exacerbates the situation of the Christians in the country and at the same time has as a side effect the creation of many obstacles for providing aid to Syria.

Nevertheless, Heine-Geldern looks back at the year with gratitude. “The beauty of our work is that, in addition to the cross and the suffering, we can also experience at first hand the deep devotion and love of a large number of people. Take Syria as an example. A country that de facto is still at war and is suffering from the repercussions of war. Over the past few years, we have visited the country several times and it is awe-inspiring how everyone – dedicated lay people, religious sisters, priests and bishops, supported by the generosity of our benefactors – is doing everything possible and impossible to alleviate the spiritual and material hardships of the people.”

ACN Project of the Week Democratic Republic of the Congo

09.01.2020 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN Canada, ACN International, ACN PROJECTS, Aid to the Church in Need Canada, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)

ACN Project of the Week

Democratic Republic of the Congo


Two-year’s of support for training for 10 catechists

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, as in almost every African country, catechists play a vital role in passing on the faith. Church life in the diocese of Lolo, in the north of the country, would practically grind to a halt were it not for the catechists living and working alongside the faithful in the villages and encouraging them to gather together for prayer and study of their faith.

Many of these parishes cover vast areas including numerous, often very difficult of access, villages. The handful of priests available have to cover long distances on foot, sometimes wading through waist-high streams, in order to reach the people in the villages. Hence it is impossible to them to visit as often as they would need to if they want to teach and guide the faithful. But the lay catechists are always on hand which says everything about how important they are!

Training over a two-year period

In the diocese of Lolo there is a catechetical centre where the lay catechists can receive solid training for this precious service they offer to diocesan life, and also regularly update and refresh their knowledge. The basic training for these catechists lasts two years. Since they generally already have a family, they can go with them. So the diocese also provides basic accommodation for the whole family.

While the fathers are studying, their children also attend school, the diocese covering the cost and providing teaching materials and school uniforms as well. And at the same time the mothers also follow a range of courses, for example in needlework, domestic science, reading and writing and also basic courses in Bible studies and morality.

The aim is to provide the future catechists with both a theoretical and a practical training in pastoral studies and proclaiming the Catholic faith. For Bishop Jean Bertin Nadonye Ndongo the training of his catechists is a project dear to his heart and he is quite sure that their improved formation has given a “new impetus“ to the diocese and been a “source of inspiration“ to them all. But the need for well-trained catechists is still acute, he says, and this is why he has asked our help for the training of 10 more catechists and their families. We have promised him $19,500.

ACN Feature Story: The Bethlehem Mission, Sao Paulo, Brazil

17.12.2019 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN Brazil, Brazil, by Rodrigo Arantes

Brazil

The Bethlehem Mission: Being family for those who have none.

by Rodrigo Arantes, ACN Brazil
Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada
Published on the web December 17, 2019

 

In the city of São Paulo there are over 25,000 homeless people. To borrow from a phrase used by the missionaries at the Bethlehem Mission: They are our “brothers and sisters of the streets.” The Bethlehem Mission (Misión Belén), an outreach program founded by Fr Gianpietro Carraro and Sister Cacilda da Silva Leste in 2005 has a charism of living out the very first Christmas Night; “becoming incarnate in the midst of the poor, so that God can reach them in a more profound manner.”

 

The members of the Bethlehem Mission originally began their work by actually living on the streets with the poor. But they soon realized that what was needed was to give these people shelter. So began their work of welcome, bringing men and women, children and the elderly in off the streets. In most cases, it also meant delivering them from a life marked by drugs, violence and abuse.

“The person who does not give to God, gives very little.”

These words of Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI are often on the lips of the missionaries of the Bethlehem Mission. Fr. Gianpietro tells us that it is like a wound to the heart when he hears people say that they are a social aid agency. “Of course, we do all we can to help these brothers and sisters of ours, but we are above all, a work of evangelization. Jesus healed, preached, blessed and lived among the people, just as we do at the Bethlehem Mission. Whenever someone comes to our shelters, it means that he has already been touched by God, because it is extremely difficult for anyone to get off the streets and off drugs for any other reason. Over these last 14 years 1,500 people have asked to be baptized.”

One of the people rescued by the Bethlehem Mission is Rafael de Jesús. His childhood suffering spiralled into a life of violence, drugs, robbery and spells in prison. He ended up in the centre of São Paulo at the point where he no longer wanted to live. He had been living on the streets for six years, a crack addict, eating out of garbage cans. His only prayer was that God would end his life; he wanted to fall asleep and never wake up again. “When I arrived at the Bethlehem Mission, nobody asked me about the bad things I’d done, but instead they embraced me, gave me the gift of a smile and offered me food, a hot bath and new clothes. I was still wearing the same clothes and hadn’t washed for at least two months. I knew that God was merciful, but I didn’t realize just how merciful. Because I had had many opportunities and had thrown them away, I was convinced that I was lost. I thought that God had withdrawn his hand from me and that I would die on the streets.” Today Rafael is an altar server and he is planning to get married. “I feel like a human being again,” he says.

It is mainly on account of this work of evangelization by the Bethlehem Mission among these marginalized people that ACN is happy to be part of its story.

 

Making a radical difference!

Every individual who is welcomed into the embrace of a mission refuge, is encouraged to go on a retreat and given a personal “spiritual diary”—a monthly leaflet with the Gospel of the day, a meditation on the Word and a space to write down how he is living this Gospel. At the same time, thanks to this diary, many people have been able to learn to read and write for the first time.

However, it was difficult to provide the necessary continuity of material. This is where ACN has come in to lend financial help and also provide copies of the youth catechism YOUCAT, which is given to every individual after a stay of six months.

“It is wonderful to realize that in the Church we are all one. We are on the streets while at the same time there is somebody, often a very ordinary person, far away, maybe someone who cannot even get out of the home, but nevertheless makes their own contribution. It is wonderful because this benefactor thereby becomes a real instrument of evangelization. If we did not have Bibles and catechetical materials, how would we go about our work?” asks Fr. Gianpietro, profoundly grateful for the generosity of ACN’s benefactors.

ACN is supporting “Misión Belén” with catechetical and other religious materials for the next four years—a promise it is able to make because it is backed by the generous donations of its benefactors. At Christmas time many people are looking for a way to help the neediest, and many would be happy to make a radical difference to the life of people living on the streets. This project is a great opportunity to do so, and your support can restore dignity to the lives of people who, like the Holy Family, have found so many doors closed in their faces, but now have the chance to experience the birth of the Divine Child in their hearts.