By Robert Lalonde


ACN Feature Story – Helping women in Cape Verde, Africa

16.05.2019 in ACN Canada, Adapted by Julie Bourbeau and Amanda Griffin, By Robert Lalonde, Journey with ACN

Cape Verde Archipelago – Africa

Moving ahead for women who have nothing left


During a trip to the Cape Verde Archipelago in February 2019, Robert Lalonde, a regular Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) contributor, spoke with Sister Romualda Tavares, the provincial leader of the Daughters of the Holy Heart of Mary for Cape Verde, which also includes Guinea-Bissau in its territory. The Cape Verde Archipelago is a small island country located off the northwestern coast of Africa and is comprised of ten islands, nine of which are inhabited.


The country includes two dioceses, that of Santiago – the oldest in modern Africa – and that of Mindelo, which serves a population of 535,000 inhabitants, 90% of whom are Christians. Among its many congregations, that of the Daughters of the Holy Heart of Mary (DHHM), in addition to being the oldest Indigenous congregation, is, by far, the one with the greatest number of this country’s communities, with nine.

In addition to helping me appreciate the breathtaking beauty of Santiago Island, my visit with Sister Romualda gave me the opportunity to meet nearly all of the forty sisters who are part of six communities surrounding them on the island: Calcheta (2), Praia – the capital –, Santiago, Somada and Tarrafal . Aspirants, postulants and novices who will ensure the future of the congregation are added to these Sisters, all Cape Verdeans.

During our trip, Sister Romualda shared with me the worries she has for each one of them, while never losing sight of the gratitude she feels towards those who came before her: “I arrived as an aspirant in the Calecheta community in 1976, the first one founded by the DHHM in Cape Verde and was welcomed by Sister Regina, a pioneer who gave us everything. “

This visionary Sister knows that, to bear fruit, it is essential to feed its roots, but also the hope of a better world by giving our heart and soul. Keen on preserving the exemplary unity reigning among her communities, it is with the same enthusiasm that she told me about one and the other. And, while there are many urgent projects to complete, when the time came to favour one, she chose Terrafal, a small town located at the edge of the sea.

The Consequences

A few years ago, the DHHM were planning the construction of a building which would include a social centre and a residence for the Sisters. This centre, whose vocation is to provide daycare for children and to teach women various manual activities and also to get them out of an environment of domestic violence is partially in operation today.
However, while the community has the land, the project to build a residence could not be realized. Thus, the Sisters must live in the centre which is their place of work. This situation becomes problematic for several reasons, some being fundamental, since life in community isn’t lived according to the rules of the constitution by which they are governed.

“As busy as we are with professional or apostolic work that our founder advocated, we preserve, at all costs, strong times of prayer, testament to our strength, vitality and apostolic effectiveness.” This life of prayer is the source from which they draw their apostolic dynamism.
However, by permanently staying at their work location, not only do the Sisters not gain perspective regarding their daily apostolate, but they also do not have a vantage point to experience together the essence of their spirituality. Furthermore, the locales that serve as bedrooms are on the second floor. This represents a major inconvenience for the aging Sisters whose physical health is declining.


They must also adapt to a temporary chapel, since it is located in a small room that was supposed to serve as a space for one of the activities related to the center’s vocation. This situation is surely not conducive to quality contemplation.
Lastly, what can we make of the consequences experienced by the people targeted by the project? The rooms used by the Sisters take away from the space for the activities planned for the women. For example, these spaces should instead serve as sewing rooms or spaces for other manual work, or transition places when they are victims of domestic violence. This means that women, deprived of such a space, are currently living in a precarious situation, both physically and psychologically. Consequently, they are prevented from engaging in a wellness process.

In spite of difficulties, the Sisters continue to move ahead with their formidable task. They are the motor for so many changes happening for women who otherwise would feel totally lacking and unprotected. The Sisters of Tarrafal’s courage is anchored in putting into action the values of the Gospel. Thanks be to God!

The Memory of the Gift of Self-Sacrifice Day

12.03.2019 in ACN Canada, Africa, By Robert Lalonde
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On November 30, 2014, Pope Francis inaugurated the Year of Consecrated Life, which ended on February 2, 2016, date of the World Consecrated Life Day launched in 1997 by Pope John Paul II. The Canadian office of Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) then decided to write a book to honour 13 sisters scattered around the globe: God’s Initiative – Stories of Exceptional Sisters. This book echoes another one, in honour of priests, which was also published by ACN in 2008, with the title of Heroic Priests.1

This shows the admiration that ACN has towards consecrated persons. On February 3rd, in the parish of Christ-Roi de Passy in Senegal, an event took place to celebrate the work accomplished by all the consecrated people of the Kaolack diocese. Story by Robert Lalonde, special collaboration for ACN-Canada.  

A celebration of the encounter

Upon my arrival at the centre of the village where the festivities were about to begin, I knew right away that I was about to experience a special day: a celebration of the encounter. This special celebration, as suggested by Pope Francis in this year’s homily devoted to the World Day for Consecrated Life, embodies this “Encounter with the Lord who is the Source”.

The women and children dressed up in the African way sway to the rhythm of the tam-tams, while next to them, men strut, dressed in their traditional Serer costumes. Father Quentin Coly, the parish priest, accompanies them, dancing with such vitality that one would think he was a young seminarian. I see how close the parishioners are to the people who serve them and how grateful they are to them.

Members of various religious communities arrive on the other side of the road; they start hopping up and down as soon as they get out of their vehicles. The Carmes Déchaux Brothers, with whom I live, the Filles du Christ-Roi, the Missionaries of Charity, the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, the Sisters of Providence and many others join us one by one.

When Mgr. Martin Tine arrives, people gather around their leader to form a festive procession which stretches over a distance of about 500 metres and leads us to a church where the bishop presides over a mass worthy of big occasions. In so doing, the parishioners celebrate according to the Serer tradition, to the great pleasure of the bishop riding in a cart pulled by a horse.  

Amazed at such enthusiasm, I zigzag through this parade like a child who doesn’t want to miss anything. I grab my multifunction camera, sometimes to capture striking images, sometimes to record the rhythms that fascinate the Westerner that I am.  

A plethora of charismas

While inside the church, the choir settles while waiting for the right moment to begin the opening chant, the faithful and consecrated people mingle in front of the church, exchanging hugs and handshakes. Meanwhile, a dozen priests gather around the bishop to continue the religious procession all the way to the altar.

The ceremony is interwoven with liturgical chants, all very touching, giving the word celebration its full meaning. It’s incredible how these songs have a way of carving out a space within us to reach the divine. It’s not naively that ACN supported a training project in liturgical chants for the youth of the Diocese of Kaolack last December.   


After the Eucharist, the facilitator will present a brief history of each of the communities which will help to better understand their charisma. These presentations are a reminder that this celebration of the encounter makes it possible to ask for, according to the Pope’s wishes, “the grace to rediscover the living Lord, in the believing people and to encounter the charisma received with this day’s grace.” Throughout these presentations, everyone has a radiant smile that demonstrates the pride of their belonging and the solemnity of this event.

This day, first and foremost placed under the sign of Thanksgiving, led Mgr. Martin to say, “How beautiful and right it is to thank the Lord for the great gift of the consecrated life which nourishes and enriches the Church through the multiplicity of charismas and the devotion of so many lives totally given to the Lord and the brothers.”

Later, he concluded his homily by speaking of this day as being one of “the memory of the gift of self” where each person becomes consecrated in his/her own way, in a concrete way: “Putting Jesus in the midst of his people means having a contemplative heart, able to discern how God walks in the streets of our cities, towns, villages and neighbourhoods. Putting Jesus in the midst of his people means taking charge and wanting to help our brothers and sisters to carry the cross.”

How could this solemn ceremony have ended differently than the way in which it began, that is by songs, dances and a typically Senegalese meal.

A celebration of encounter which never ends!

  1. To obtain one of these books, please contact Sédrick or Adelmira,
    at 1-800-585-6333 or at 514-932-0552, at extensions 227 and 222, respectively.

Christmas, it’s you

14.01.2019 in Africa, By Robert Lalonde

Robert Lalonde, regular contributor to the Canadian office of Aid to the Church in Need, is currently travelling in Africa. Before heading to Burkina Faso and then to the Ivory Coast, he spent Christmas and New Year’s in Senegal. This is the first of a series of three texts about the people who make up the local Catholic Churches in these West African countries. Note that all quotes about the Christmas holiday are from Pope Francis, taken and translated from the book L’esprit de Noël, éditions Michel Lafon, 2016.

Christmas, it’s you

On the night of December 22, 2018, Jean-Baptiste, a friend I met at the Institut de formation humaine intégrale de Montréal – a regular partner of Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) – welcomed me at the Dakar airport, in the capital of Senegal.

Over the next few days, this Brother from the Discalced Carmelite congregation passed down so much knowledge on his adopted country to me that one would think he is actually Senegalese. But, above all, he revealed to me the love he feels for his people whose hospitality is only matched by their kindness. I feel this profound love when he celebrates the morning mass on Christmas Eve.

That morning, in the Carmelite chapel of Kaolack, I hear the song of the stone curlews through the barred wrought iron windows. It’s as if these Senegalese birds are approaching to accompany Brother Marie-Pierre caressing his kora. This instrument, a cross between a harp and a guitar, invites God to penetrate our soul.

“Christmas is you, when you decide to be born again each day and let God into your soul.”

Then comes the moment to sing Il est né le divin enfant. My singing is out of tune, but my heart, filled with joy, joins the voices of the monks to worship God. We are one, we are together in His name.

The crucifix on the wall behind the altar reigns over the kingdom of the monks. The crèche is kneeling in front of the altar. Despite the absence of Jesus in this nativity scene, we doubt neither his presence nor his coming. Jean-Baptiste’s homily, recited softly, is proof. After having been invited to go in the peace of Christ, we exit, ready to face life’s torments.

“The Christmas tree is you, when you vigorously resist strong winds and the obstacles of life.”

Right away, I accompany Jean-Baptiste in his mission, that of preparing a choir of some twenty Serer* young adults for the evening mass. Once the keyboard, violin and guitar are in the trunk of the car, we cross the scrubland to head to the parish of Ndiaffate, where we will join the choristers.

Once there, and despite the disorientation, I feel at home. I am surrounded by the humanity and solidarity of the people. The harmony of the voices impresses me, the amount of energy overpowers me. The rhythm is so lively that I seem to see the garlands dance on the ceiling and the lights on the tree following the beat by shining above a motley crèche. Lighthearted, I watch the master craftsman, wearing his most beautiful smile. Jean-Baptiste loves music. For him, it is an occasion to glorify God. “Singing is praying twice”, as St. Augustin says.


“Christmas decorations are you, when your virtues are colours that adorn your life.”

On the way back, no motor vehicle. At times we see carts pulled by donkeys or horses, at other times we see herds of cows or goats, guided by Fulani people going in the same direction as us. It’s as if they will all be setting up camp in the Carmelite crèche. All of a sudden, I feel as though I am back in the time of Jesus. Momentarily feeling like an apostle delights me.

Jean-Baptiste frequently stops on the side of the road to greet passersby. He says “Salamalakoum”, they answer “Malakoumsalam”. Muslims, Christians, it doesn’t matter. In Senegal, everyone exists side by side, without hostility. A Muslim man even invited Jean-Baptiste for the next day. Jean-Baptiste declines, not without an explanation, and proposes to postpone the invitation. This simplicity and warmth fill my heart with hope.

“The bell that rings Christmas, it’s you, when you invite to gather and attempt to reunite.”

At supper, silence is in order. I am integrating the day’s experiences and feel the peace reigning and the joy flourishing in me. The four Brothers surrounding me look radiant. One of them, Marie-Pierre, who will be presiding over the evening mass, seems to be preparing his homily. I have no doubt when I see him embodying it in such a dynamic and inspiring way when the moment comes to deliver it to the 200 faithful in attendance.

“You are also a Christmas light, when you illuminate with your life the path of others with kindness, patience, joy and generosity.”

Once the church is full, Jean-Baptiste gives the choristers the signal as the celebrant enters, accompanied by two other Brothers. From the first notes, my heart is touched by the presence of the Holy Spirit. All these liturgical songs contain a comforting je-ne-sais-quoi. As if the invisible momentarily captured all the weight of the world. It was this way throughout the Eucharist. I leave in the peace of Christ, ready to welcome him again tomorrow in the crèche.

“The Christmas angels are you, when you sing to the world a message of peace, justice and love.”

*West African people. In number, they make up the third largest ethnic group of Senegal, after the Wolof and Fulani people.


ACN Interview: Uganda and the Hope for refugees from South Sudan

28.09.2018 in ACN International, ACN Interview, Africa, By Robert Lalonde, Uganda


Uganda, 2018
Christine du Coudray (project officer for Africa I at ACN) visiting the refugee camp in Bidibidi
(From left to the right:  Christine du Coudray, Mgr Tombe Trille (Bishop of El Obeid in Sudan)

ACN Interview

Uganda and the Hope for refugees from South Sudan

Christine du Coudray, the person responsible for the Africa Department at the Pontifical Charity, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), returned from a journey to Uganda a few weeks ago. While there she visited the Bidibidi and Imvepi camps located in the north-west of the country. There are 1.2 million refugees, coming for the most part from South Sudan, dispersed throughout the camps in this region covering the dioceses of Arua, Nebbi and Gulu. Moreover, there are also refugees to be found in the Kampala area, the capital located at the centre of the country. In an interview, Robert Lalonde gathers some initial impressions of her trip.



What made you decide to visit this region?

I was invited by three bishops: Msgr Eduardo Kussala, Bishop of Tombura Yambio and President of the Episcopal Conference, Msgr Roko Taban, the Apostolic Administrator of the diocese of Malakal  – both from South Sudan -, and Msgr Tombe Trille, Bishop of El Obeid in Sudan. They had come to see for the first time the situation of their compatriots who had fled to Uganda to escape the violence in South Sudan. I was also invited by the American foundation Sudan Relief Fund with which ACN is linked since we co-fund a number of projects. Msgr Sabino Odoki, the Bishop of Arua in Uganda, took us to get an overview of the situation in these camps. It was a highly enriching week and it left a strong impression.


How would you describe the situation there?

Since we are dealing with refugee camps, you would think that the prevailing mood was one of distress. But it’s important to know that these camps have been in existence since 2013. The residents have food, drinking water and medical care. They even have a plot of land that they can cultivate. All things considered, the living conditions are definitely better than in many African villages which do not receive any external aid. Even so the situation is difficult, which is why the refugees expect support from us. That’s what we came to assess their needs on the spot.

Formation courses for the people of South Sudan (Formation courses via Emmaus Center Katikamu for refugees from South Sudan in Bidibidi and Palorinya refugee camps (Uganda)): Bishop Eduardo Hiiboro Kussala (diocese of Tombura-Yambio in South Sudan) with a group of young South Sudanese refugees

What moment on the trip made the greatest impression?

We were all impressed by the welcome given to us by Msgr Odoki and by the leadership he has shown. Among other things, he has assigned two diocesan priests to carry out pastoral work in the camps. We were also highly impressed when we learned that the pieces of land on which the 9 camps of the dioceses in the north-west region have been constructed originally belonged to ordinary Ugandans who generously offered them to the refugees. This welcoming attitude shown by the brothers and sisters in the faith is also in Uganda’s interest since Uganda hopes that its neighbouring country will one day live in peace. Does this not demonstrate a great spirit of hospitality and provide a lesson that should be remembered?



In what way is the Catholic Church involved in the camps?

The presence of the bishops was a good opportunity for the Church to demonstrate its concern for all these people, who are not there by choice but who have been forced there by life’s vicissitudes. Even so, this period of enforced exile can be used marvelously as a time for training with a view to building the society of tomorrow. When these individuals return home, the re-construction of their country will be in their hands. The Church is already involved and may possibly become further involved by giving other training sessions.


Last year ACN sent $51,000 to the Emmaus community based near Kampala. This community has considerable expertise in different fields such as catechesis, pastoral care, social doctrine, the family apostolate and in providing emotional and sexual education to young people, which is so important in a country decimated by AIDS. Sixty-five young people have been trained in the camps.


What is the situation of young people in the camps?

These young people have gone through major traumas. Some saw their parents killed before their very eyes, others suffered severe facial burns… they are now asking themselves how they shall ever be able to forgive. The Emmaus community has set up a program to accompany them in the process of forgiving and invites young people to come and kneel before the Holy Sacrament to pray. The accounts of healing have multiplied, as though the Lord has intervened to soothe hearts and spirits.


Will other means be applied in future to help the refugees?

On the one hand, the bishops have committed themselves to returning in September to celebrate Holy Mass in the camps and, on the other, to ask their priests who speak the various Ugandan dialects to come and conduct an apostolate.


What is more, Msgr Odoki, the bishop of Arua, told us that he was part of a delegation that recently met Pope Francis. The delegation informed him about the situation in the diocese and mentioned the urgent need for the presence of religious sisters among the refugees. The Pope assured them that he would make a special appeal to convents, urging them to respond to this need.


Formation courses via Emmaus Center Katikamu for refugees from South Sudan in Bidibidi and Palorinya refugee camps (Uganda) (SRF) – Formation courses for the people of South Sudan: Group work


And what kind of support can be given by Aid to the Church in Need in the spirit of these commitments?

To foster the presence of Church personnel we envisage building a house with a number of rooms to accommodate priests for a certain time. With the help of other organizations, we could do the same for the nuns. Such a house could provide half a floor per congregation with a chapel and a communal dining room.


With regard to the training courses, we intend to continue vigorously with our work in this domain. It is clear that the desire for such training, combined with the atmosphere of peace, which prevails in the camps, is a factor, which favours this kind of involvement. The bishops were delighted with such a proposal from ACN. They know that, once trained, the leaders we address (catechists, the young people who study the Church’s social doctrine and those who go more deeply into the family apostolate) will share their knowledge and experience with other refugees. In this way, they will build the future together. One of them, Santos, also described his experience to us as having been “more than wonderful”. The more we provide these training conditions, the more the country will rise again. Isn’t that a glorious prospect of hope and for a future?



Feature Story: 50 years of renewal

15.03.2016 in ACN Canada, ACN SPECIAL SERIES, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Africa, By Robert Lalonde, DRC Congo, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Journey with ACN, Pastoral work, RDC CONGO

Democratic Republic of Congo

50 years of renewal

The rhythmic clapping of their hands, accompanied harmoniously by the deep sound of percussion, gently introduced the welcome song which was dedicated to me.  I felt a great joy fill me immediately, and a desire to follow in their footsteps.  This first contact with the Sisters of the Resurrection had convinced me of their power to renew life!

By Robert Lalonde, Artisan of Peace, with special collaboration from ACN Canada*

Adapted and translated by Amanda Bridget Griffin

The birth of the Congregation of the Daughters of the Resurrection is the result of Mother Hadewych’s (as she is called in her circle) long meditation. Mother Hadewych is the Sister from Belgium who inspired its founding.


Mother Hadewych, co-founder of the Daughters of the Resurrection in the DRC.




At that time, misery had surrounded the Saint Sepulcher convent in Walungu – Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) – following tragic events on the heels of independence and the Muléliste rebellion (1960-1964).  These events had created an extreme situation of poverty and a famine which extended out the length of the Walungu territory provoking a pressing desire in the heart of a religious Sister to respond to a passage in the Gospel:  “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:40)

Mother Hadewych suffered as she witnessed the scenes of great poverty – malnutrition in children within almost every family; women delivering babies in extreme and deplorable conditions; as well as illiteracy within the population.  From this Gospel verse flows  part of this prioress’ charism; “At the service of the poor,” and , “to serve and not to be served.”

The congregation was founded in Walungu in the Archdiocese of Bukavu, in 1966, thanks to material assistance provided by Father Werenfried, founder of Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).


The Golden Jubilee

Last November during my visit, the Mother Prioress, Sister Pétronelle Nkaza, recalled how the founders of her congregation believed that even without a diploma the workers recruited could, with their simplicity, give themselves to be of service to the Lord.  “They had deep faith that love for the other is not achieved solely through studies, but in a life given to the Lord, through the poverty of his children,”  she said on November 5th during the announcement of the Golden Jubilee of the Mirhi congregation, the Mother House, in the Archdiocese of Bukavu.


The Sisters of the Resurrection - 50 years of renewal!

The Sisters of the Resurrection – 50 years of renewal!

Mother Hadewych always said:  “help with development is needed for consecrated women in the incessant search of the wailing of their people.”  In her vision, these women “did not need a long formation, but good common-sense, solid arms, love and rootedness at the heart of their people, as well as a pragmatic knowledge-base.”  She imagined them in small teams, serving at posts faraway from parishes and becoming indispensable support to priests.

Long-term support

The work of Mother Hadewych was quickly appreciated as there are today 279 members, 50 of whom are from the Priory in Rwanda, and 229 from the Priory in Mirhi and divided as such:  199 professed 13 novices, and 17 postulants.  The Sisters of the Priory in Rwanda are autonomous.

”In Brazil,” explains Sister Pétronelle, to us, “the presence of our Sisters is quite efficient and also appreciated by the population and by the bishop.  They take care of children in particular, the elderly who have been abandoned, but they also kept watch of the promotion of women by teaching them knitting, sewing, and cooking so that they might better contribute to the family.”

Of course, the fifty year of existence were also marked by tough challenges.  It suffices to recall the martyring of 6 Sisters in Busasamana, Rwanda, in the night of the 8th of January, 1988 and that of 3 more in Kasiska in DRC on August 24th of the same year.

Lake Kivu: a pure marvel in a region where the people suffer a multitude of conflicts and abuses created by the dishonest exploitation of natural resources. The Daughters of the Resurrection are ready to serve the population. (Photo: Robert Lalonde)

Lake Kivu: a pure marvel in a region where the people suffer a multitude of conflicts and abuses created by the dishonest exploitation of natural resources. The Daughters of the Resurrection are ready to serve the population. (Photo: Robert Lalonde)

Sister Petronella concluded all the same on a positive note by specifying that in those 50 years, “the Hand of God had endured.  The Priory of the Resurrection is growing through her members and her works.  It will begin its second fiftieth, certain that God’s Graces will continue to inspire works in favour of the smallest to whom the Resurrected Christ sends His Daughters and His Sons.”

 In conclusion, she wishes to sincerely thank all the benefactors and asking them to “hold the Priory of the Resurrection of Mirhi in their prayers during this Jubilee year so that they are showered all the more with Christ’s benedictions.


Since of the birth of this Priory, thanks to the generous donations of our benefactors, ACN is supporting various projects for these Religious Sisters dedicated to the poorest of the poor.  Last year, ACN gave $19,150 for the formation of 13 novices and 19 postulants, $156,000 for subsistence aid in favour of 211 Religious Sisters in DRC and $10,000 in support of their chaplain in various travels.

The majestic Nyiragongo volcano seen from Lake Kivu. (Robert Lalonde)

The majestic Nyiragongo volcano seen from Lake Kivu. (Robert Lalonde)





Holy Land – To pray where Jesus once prayed

28.08.2015 in By Oliver Maksan, By Robert Lalonde, CONSTRUCTION, Holy Land
Sister Agathe (left) together with Sister Marie-Agnes (the prioress) in Pater-Noster Carmelite Monastery in Jerusalem. ACN helped remodelling the entrance area to the monastery. PALESTINE / NATIONAL 14/00086 Renovation of main entrance floor at Pater Noster OCD Monastery, Jerusalem (PAL. 167/ ROACO II - 2014)

Sister Agathe (left) together with Sister Marie-Agnes (the prioress) in Pater-Noster Carmelite Monastery in Jerusalem

Holy Land

To pray where Jesus once prayed

Oliver Maksan, ACN International

Adapted by Robert Lalonde, ACN Canada

“Welcome to our new reception room,” Sister Agathe offers a warm greeting. The nun is the economist of the convent of the Carmelite Cloistered Sisters on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem.

Just recently, renovations were done on the once haphazardly arranged entrance area to the convent. Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) helped the sisters realise this project. A new reception room was also added, as was a covered access area. Everything is clean and bright. “The renovations help us to receive guests better while at the same time protecting our enclosure,” the young French woman said. “After all, we usually do not leave the convent. However, many people come to us. We are deeply grateful to the benefactors of Aid to the Church in Need that we are now able to receive them better. We can thank them best through our prayers.”

The Carmelite convent, which was erected on the Mount of Olives in the 19th century, is the oldest in the Holy Land. The convent is located on the premises of the Church of the Pater Noster. Numerous pilgrims visit the sanctuary every day to worship at the site where Jesus is thought to have taught his disciples the Lord’s Prayer. The walls are covered with elaborate panels featuring the text of the prayer in numerous languages. “Our Lord Jesus Christ prayed here on the Mount of Olives. This carries our prayers,” Sister Agathe explains. “We live according to the spirituality of the great St. Teresa. She valued contemplation of the Most Holy Humanity of Christ. Here in the Holy Land, but especially here in Jerusalem, it is easy to imagine it. Christ was happy here, but also suffered and ultimately died on the cross.”

Pray for the major concerns of the church and the pope

The convent is situated in the Arab and predominantly Muslim eastern part of Jerusalem. “Time and again, it moves me deeply to think about just how sacred Jerusalem is to the beliefs of so many. We can hear the muezzin’s call to prayer here, but also the sounds of the bar mitzvah celebrations of the Jews. How dearly we wish that justice and peace would reign.”



The nuns get along well with the Muslims in the neighbourhood. “In France, we nuns are looked at strangely when we go out into the streets in our habits. It is different here. We are respected. When a fellow nun from Lebanon died, Muslim neighbours even brought flowers,” Sister Agathe reports. However, despite the high walls surrounding the convent, the reality of the Holy Land, which is often defined by violence and hatred, has also left its mark on the nuns. “Time after time, tensions soar between the Israelis and Palestinians here in this area. Then, the stones start flying directly in front of our door. This of course affects us deeply. After all, we love Jerusalem and the Holy Land. Through our prayers, we want to serve peace in the Holy Land.”

However, the nuns not only pray for the Holy Land. “We are here at the very heart of the church. Therefore, we pray for the major concerns of the church and the pope.” The concerns of the pilgrims, however, are also not short-changed. “Visitors from all over the world leave small notes with their intentions in the grotto in which Christ prayed together with the apostles. We make note of these. Then, once a month, a priest celebrates a Mass for them,” Sister Agathe says.


Contemplation dictates the life of the nuns. “Our day is strictly regimented. Times of shared prayer alternate with times in which each nun carries out her responsibilities.” This includes receiving guests, but also ornamental embroidery, the artistic drying of flowers, making marmalades and other delicacies, but also the work that must be done in the household. Sixteen nuns from all over the world live in the convent. “That is a good number. We primarily attract international candidates. However, we would like to have more nuns from the region,” the nun says. “We hope that the canonisation of our fellow nun Mariam Baouardy from Palestine, which took place in May, will draw renewed attention to us in the Holy Land.”

ACN gave 32 500 $ for the renovation of the main entrance floor at the Pater Noster OCD Monastery Jerusalem.


Ukraine – “You will not last long here without a calling”

27.08.2015 in ACN Feature, ACN PROJECTS, By Eva-Maria Kolmann, By Robert Lalonde, CONSTRUCTION, Ukraine
UKRAINE / KHARKIV-ZAPORIZHZHYA-LAT 09/00073 Renovation of the Church "sv. Yosyfa"in Dnipropetrovsk Ukraine, Kharkiv-Zaporizhzhya-LAT diocese 21.08.2009 Illegally expropriated church building  of the church of Saint Joseph in Dnepropetrowsk is finally returned to the Catholic Church after years l

Renovation of the Church “sv. Yosyfa”in Dnipropetrovsk


“You will not last long here without a calling”

Eva-Maria Kolmann, ACN International

Adapted by Robert Lalonde, ACN Canada

“Priests who do not have a calling will not last long here in the Ukraine,” Bronislaw Bernacki, Roman Catholic Bishop of Odessa-Simferopol, said in an interview with Aid to the Church in Need (ACN). “You have to be crazy about God to persevere here.”

Everything is at the very beginning; in many places there are no churches and a priest first has to find the faithful and do pioneer work. In one town, the church had been converted into a bus station during Communist times. It had been completely laid to waste and was damp. The Polish priest who had been assigned to the church tried to raise money while on retreat in Poland, but achieved very little. “He sat before me and cried like a child,” the bishop recollected.

Once belonged to the church, not given back to the church

In another parish, a number of derelict cellar rooms were restored to the church in 2002. Bishop Bernacki reported, “I was there when they were opened. They were full of fat rats.” The bishop receives a pension of 75$ because he once worked on a kolkhoz as a young man. “That is just enough for the gas I need to drive to the far corners of my diocese,” he said. “But I have never taken even a cent from any parish for gas. On the contrary, when I visit my priests, I try to bring them something.”

Ukraine, Odesa: Roman-Catholic Bishop Bronislaw Bernatsky elevating the Chalice during the Holy Mass at Odesa Cathedral.

Ukraine, Odesa: Roman-Catholic Bishop Bronislaw Bernatsky elevating the Chalice during the Holy Mass at Odesa Cathedral

A large problem for the Catholic church in Ukraine is that many of the buildings that were once church property have yet to be restored to it. If the buildings belong to the state, there is a chance that they will be returned. However, if they have in the meantime been sold to private persons, then the church has to buy them back from the new owners. During Soviet times, the Cathedral of Odessa was misused as a gymnasium. A false ceiling was installed inside. The building was restored to the church in 1991, but the surrounding buildings, which had also once belonged to the church, were not given back to the church. The few rooms that the church was able to recover do not offer nearly enough space. Even the priests are only living in temporary accommodations. One of them lives in the room of another priest who is currently undergoing medical treatment in Poland. Auxiliary Bishop Jacek Pyl, who usually works in Crimea but is now no longer able to return there, is living in the room of a priest who is currently studying in Rome. Up until recently, Bishop Bernacki himself was living in a steeple until Aid to the Church in Need helped him purchase a flat in a house that had once belonged to the church. The surrounding buildings also once belonged to the church; however, several of the new owners believe that the church is rich and are therefore demanding exorbitant prices while others want to keep their flats.

The Roman Catholic archdiocese of Kiev-Zhytomyr is also suffering badly from a lack of space. The priest of the Cathedral of Kiev is living in one of its steeples, while Archbishop Petro Herkulan Malchuk has to pass through the flat of a family of strangers whenever he wants to enter his small flat. Very few rooms are available to meet the needs of the archdiocese.

St. Joseph church’s consecration

The roof of the Cathderal in Odesa under repair. UKRAINE / ODESA-SIMFEROPOL-LAT 14/00147 Repair of the roof at the Cathedral in Odesa

The Roman Catholic parish church of St. Joseph in Dnepropetrovsk is an especially impressive case. The communists confiscated the church in 1949. The building received a new front and was declared a “Monument of Communism”. The interior was divided into two storeys, parts of which were used as Politburos. In 1998, the building was illegally sold to a company and has changed hands many times since. In July of 2007, Catholics praying peacefully in front of the former church were threatened and violently assaulted by security guards hired by the company. Even older women were beaten. Time and again, the faithful who gathered together day after day to kneel on the sidewalk and pray for the restoration of the church were threatened with violence. It was only in 2009, following a long and difficult legal battle, that ownership of the former church was returned to the Catholic church.

The Catholics worked hard and prepared the church for reconsecration with their own hands. Aid to the Church in Need also supported the restoration of the church. The consecration was attended by bishops, priests and faithful from all over the Ukraine. The celebration began with a procession of the Most Holy Sacrament through the surrounding streets, which still bear the name “Lenin Street”, “Marx Street” and “Konsomolskaja Street”.

UKRAINE / KHARKIV-ZAPORIZHZHYA-LAT 09/00073 Renovation of the Church "sv. Yosyfa"in Dnipropetrovsk Ukraine, Kharkiv-Zaporizhzhya-LAT diocese 29.08.2009 Illegally expropriated church building  of the church of Saint Joseph in Dnepropetrowsk is finally returned to the Catholic Church after years l

More and more people are coming to the churches. However, everyone agrees on the importance of having a proper church to give the people confidence and encourage them to attend Mass. When services are held in private flats, as has been and continues to be necessary in many places due to a lack of church buildings, many people stay away for fear that this may be a sect.

Aid to the Church in Need has helped build or renovate churches and catechetical centres in many places. The church representatives have all said that they regularly pray for all of the benefactors and celebrate Holy Mass for them. “Without their help, we would not have been able to achieve all that we have by now,” Greek Catholic Curial Bishop Bohdan Dzyurakh said. In the Greek Catholic parish of Ihor Tabaka in Lubotyn near Kharkiv, which received 38 000 $ in aid this year for a new parish church, the families even take turns praying the rosary for all of our benefactors for one week at a time.

Last year alone, Aid to the Church in Need contributed 7,74 millions dollars in aid to the Ukraine.


PRESS RELEASE: Israël- Palestine – « An insult to peace »

24.08.2015 in By Robert Lalonde, Israel, Jerusalem, Palestine, Press Release
Palestine, Cremisan Valley 03.08.2012 Wall section which shall to be extended and runs through the land of the Christians of Beit Jala

Palestine, Cremisan Valley

Israël- Palestine

« An insult to peace »

Clare Creegan, ACN International

Adapted by Robert Lalonde, ACN Canada

Montreal/Königstein/Surrey, 24th August 2015 – The Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem has strongly condemned the decision to resume the construction of the West Bank Barrier, calling it “an insult to peace.”

 On Monday 17th August, bulldozers arrived to restart the building of the barrier through the Cremisan ​​Valley near Bethlehem – despite the Supreme Court having rejected a planned route through the area in April 2015, after a nine-year legal battle.

Israeli authorities began work on the West Bank Barrier, which separates parts of the Palestinian Territories from Israel, in 2002 following a spate of suicide bombings by militant groups. According to a statement by the Latin Patriarchate sent to Aid to the Church in Need: “Israeli bulldozers arrived unannounced on private property in Beir Ona, near the Cremisan Valley, to resume the construction of the separation wall. The people of the area have noted with surprise and pain that their 50, centuries-old olive trees have been uprooted.”

A cruel blow to the hopes raised

Israel, June 2014 Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal portrait. Photo taken in the Latin Patriarchate in Jerusalem.

Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal

His Beatitude Fouad Twal called on the Israeli authorities to wait for the outcome of a petition submitted by the families of the Valley to the Supreme Court a few days ago. The statement from the Latin Patriarchate expressed the Patriarch’s “sadness and frustration of those oppressed” by the building of the barrier and condemned the “injustice done to them”.

The security wall’s route has been opposed by local Christian leaders who have stated that its route deviates from the Green Line – the boundary between the State of Israel and the Palestinian territories according to the 1949 armistice agreements.

The chair of the Department for International Affairs of the episcopal conference of England and Wales, Bishop Declan Lang, also lent his voice in support of Patriarch Twal condemning the Israeli authority’s actions. He said: “The action of the IDF [Israel Defence Forces] in bulldozing olive trees to prepare for the construction of the separation barrier is a cruel blow to the hopes raised by the recent Supreme Court ruling. I urge the Israeli authorities to stop construction and reconsider urgently their approach to the people of the Cremisan Valley which has caused such grave injustice.”

Bishop Lang added his thoughts were with those “facing this unjust and difficult situation and who are seeking peace in the midst of this conflict. »

Ukraine – “The people are seeking God”

13.08.2015 in By Eva-Maria Kolmann, By Robert Lalonde, Pastoral work, Ukraine
Ukraine, Lubotyn, June 2015       Fr. Ihor Tabaka talking to bishop Vasyliy TUCHAPETS in the small chapel the parish uses until the new parish church will be constructed. UKRAINE / KHARKIV-UCR 14/00010 Construction of a church in Lyubotyn (3. Help)

Ukraine, Lubotyn, June 2015
Fr. Ihor Tabaka talking to bishop Vasyliy TUCHAPETS in the small chapel the parish uses until the new parish church will be constructed.


“The people are seeking God”

Eva-Maria Kolmann, ACN International

Adapted by Robert Lalonde, ACN Canada

When the massive statue of Lenin in Kharkiv was to be demolished, it was feared that it would topple over and its weight would break through the ground, beneath which ran the underground railway. But when the statue was broken up into many pieces, the truth was revealed: it was hollow inside, as hollow as the promises of communism. The place where the monument used to stand is now covered by tarpaulins on which an icon of the Mother of God is depicted.

Nevertheless, Lubomyr Cardinal Husar, the 82-year-old former head of the Greek-Catholic Church, complains that many people are still influenced by the Soviet period. “The older people began their lives in the Soviet era, and it is not easy to bring them to a different way of thinking. The Soviet mentality is still present in politics and economic life,” he told a delegation from Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) which recently visited Eastern Ukraine.

The first contact

It is therefore necessary, he said, to thoroughly study the Soviet period in order to use it as the basis “to make clear to the young people what they should not do. But one must also ask the question whether we have the right model before us, because Western Europe is also no ideal model. One must be very careful. There is much that is good, but also a moral liberalism.”

It is a challenge to find the true path from the past into the future. Many people in Ukraine feel an inner emptiness. They are in search of God. Bishops, priests and members of religious orders unanimously report that the longing for God is becoming ever greater and that the people seek true catechism and pastoral care.

Auxiliary Bishop Jan Sobila with Catholic family in Zaporizhzhya after Sunday Mass, June 2015. Used as Illustration for the Internet Project UKRAINE / KHARKIV-ZAPORIZHZHYA-LAT 14/00138 PrID: 1403366

Auxiliary Bishop Jan Sobila with Catholic family in Zaporizhzhya after Sunday Mass, June 2015.

Often, the first contact with the Church is made through practical love of neighbour. The poverty in the country, which was already great, has been made more severe by the crisis in the East; more and more people are dependent on soup kitchens, clothing banks or other forms of practical assistance. Added to these are the families that have fled from the districts affected by fighting. With help from ACN, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Kharkiv-Zaporizhia, Stanislav Szyrokoradiuk, has set up a social centre offering a variety of assistance such as clothing banks, outpatient care, advice centres, and pastoral care.

His Auxiliary Bishop, Jan Sobilo, is also particularly concerned for those on the margins of society, the drug and alcohol addicts. He can feel that it is not enough to help these people with a piece of bread, a bowl of soup and a bit of clothing; they need pastoral and spiritual support to break out of their addiction. “So many of these young people came to our soup kitchens, but too many of them are ruined,” the Bishop says. If they can escape from drugs and find their way to God, wonderful things can happen. Thus, Bishop Sobilo has been able to consecrate a former drug addict as a priest. Today he is responsible for the youth ministry in the diocese.

Ukraine, June 2015 Christian summer camp for 245 young people of the Archeparchy of Kyiv (summer of 2015) Group of children with Fr. Petro Zhuk, rector of the seminary of of the greek-catholic seminary of Knyazhychi/Kyiv, where the summer camp takes place. UKRAINE / KYIV-UCR 15/00204 Christian summer camp for 245 young people of the Archeparchy of Kyiv in the summer of 2015

Ukraine, June 2015
Christian summer camp for 245 young people of the Archeparchy of Kyiv (summer of 2015)

Most important point in the diocese

Today’s Auxiliary Bishop, who comes from Poland, originally only wanted to help in Ukraine for one year as a young priest. But now it has become nearly a quarter of a century. When he arrived in Zaporizhia, he had nothing other than the address of an elderly Catholic lady who had written to the then bishop asking him to send a Roman Catholic priest. When Jan Sobilo knocked on her door, she was disappointed that he had brought no money to immediately start building a church. But she gave him the address of a Catholic family, which received him in friendship and gave him accommodation for a whole year although they themselves only had a small apartment.

That same evening, the family called other faithful together and the first Holy Mass was celebrated. Jan Sobilo, who could not imagine at that time that he would ever become the Bishop there, built a chapel and also started to build up the congregation, practically from nothing. Later, when he was able to build a co-cathedral, he donated the little chapel to the Greek-Catholic parish, which had no church in the town at that time. Now, two of the sons of the family that had given accommodation to today’s Auxiliary Bishop have become priests.

Jan Sobilo describes the Carmelite convent as the “heart” and the “most important point in the diocese”. The mostly young sisters even get up at night to pray when anyone calls on them needing help in prayer. “Their prayers are a great support for the priests, for the sick and for many people. The success of the pastoral work of our diocese also depends on their prayers.”

In the last year, ACN has supported projects in Ukraine to a value of over 7.4 million dollars.


Press Release – Iraq : A lasting Crisis

03.08.2015 in Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, By Robert Lalonde, Iraq, Persecution of Christians



One year after the attack by Islamic State

August 6th will mark the first anniversary of the Islamic State (IS) attack on Northern Iraq.  After 2,000 years of Christianity, the population of Mosul was uprooted, pillaged and humiliated because of its faith.  “We need national, regional and international, solidarity to put an end to this illogical conflict, to these killings and to this exodus and to put everything in order within the context of a peaceful dialogue. We need action, and the taking of a clear and firm position in order to condemn what is happening,” had declared His Beatitude Louis Raphael Sako.

Less than a week after the catastrophe, ACN acted by sending a delegation of three of its personnel, to evaluate the situation in which the Iraqi Christian people found themselves.  This visit allowed the team to elaborate on a list of projects estimated at 7.1 million dollars for projects to help “Save a Generation.” This amount represents 58.3% of the 12.1 million dollars granted by the all the benefactors who contributed to this particular cause.

Photo-Marie-ClaudeLast year, the National Director of Aid to the Church in Need Canada, Marie-Claude Lalonde, declared at a  Québec City press conference: “We are facing humanitarian crisis which risks being a lasting one.  It is imperative that we take all the necessary measures not only to support, but also to accompany our brothers and sisters living in this terrible situation.”

Though our benefactors proved greatly generous following this call to action, we must admit that the director was not mistaken in her foresight that this crisis would be a lasting one.  This is why beginning next Monday – August 3rd – interested parties can follow ACN on facebook.com/AidChurch or on twitter.com/acn_canada1 to view and share information about the lengthy crisis including pictures, info graphics and videos.  ACN hopes to receive additional help for Iraqi refugees who are still greatly in need of the help.

The culminating point of this media activity will conclude with a prayer which will available on ACN’s site – www.acn-aed.ca.org along with a text which will include testimonials of Dominican Sisters who have held to their faith and their true mission, despite the outpouring of blood, the suffering and the tragedies they lived on that August 6th in 2014 and the months that were to follow.

Below – Sister Diane’s story where she describes the flight of Christians: