ACN Project of the Week: Holiday programs in Ethiopia for children

14.12.2017 in ACN PROJECTS, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Ethiopia, Journey with ACN


Holiday catechetical program for the young

The parish of Saint Gabriel in Wolisso has around 1,000 parishioners. They are proud of the fact that their families have been Catholics for many generations. Around 700 Catholics live in the town of Wolisso and another 300 live in a village around 20 km away.

Father Kebede Deju is very happy to see the faithful so actively involved in Church life and in expressing their great love of God. More than anything, he is delighted at the 200 or so children who regularly come to church. But these very children are a particular cause for concern to him. Why? Because during the school holidays there is usually very little for them to do, often ending up spending their time hanging around in the streets.

He has come up with the idea of organizing a seven-day holiday program with the help of the local religious Sisters and seminarians, in order to give these children and young people a chance to engage in constructive and meaningful activities, which will at the same time help them to grow in their faith.

A vivid Christian community wants to take care of its children. 

Among other things, the program will include looking at some of the stories in the Bible, which will be followed with a Bible quiz. The children will have a chance to pray and sing together, to get to know Jesus better and learn more about the Church and her Sacraments, how to practice Christian charity towards one another, and much more. The program is intended to help them shape their lives after the pattern of their faith. Once completed, the children will be receive a Bible or another religious book and various devotional objects, such as rosaries or holy pictures, to take home as a gift.

In order to be able to make the program a success, the parish will need to borrow a loudspeaker sound system, and the children will also need materials for their various activities, they will also need help with board and lodging too. Father Kebede Deju has turned to ACN for help, on behalf of all the children and young people. He writes:

“We, the children and young people of the parish, are praying together with our priests for the success of this project. We Catholics here are only few in number and we want to be able to strengthen our people through this course, so that they can learn more about the Catholic Church, its teaching and its sacraments, and experience the Bible as a whole, so that they can grow in faith and genuinely live their faith. We are hoping and praying that you will be able to help us to proclaim the Gospel to the people in these rural regions and so achieve our goals.”

We are planning to help with a contribution of $7,300 for the fulfillment of the project.

If you would like to contribute to supporting a similar project funded by ACN, please click to donate!





ACN Project of the Week – Ethiopia

09.08.2017 in ACN Canada, ACN International, ACN PROJECTS, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Africa, Aid to refugees, Ethiopia, EVANGILIZATION, MOTORIZATION, Project of the Week



Bicycles for 30 catechists in Gambella


The apostolic vicariate of Gambella lies in the extreme west of Ethiopia, on the frontier with South Sudan. It is a remote and underdeveloped region where there is widespread poverty.


Therefore, there are recurrent and intermittent inter-tribal conflicts mainly between the more settled, farming tribes and the nomadic herders. The cattle eat the farmers’ crops, and the farmers are taking away the traditional grazing lands of the herders. In this conflict over scarce resources, there are frequent and violent clashes. Recently, there have also been clashes between the local population and refugees of the Nuer tribes from South Sudan.


According to the UNHCR, there are over 330,000 refugees from South Sudan in the area at present – almost as many people as the existing population of Gambella state. In early 2016 in particular, there was violent unrest here, with numerous deaths. The Catholic Church is working hard for peace and reconciliation. It is the only force in this region capable of combating the violence, hatred and rising anger in this volatile region of the world.

The people of Gambella thirst for the sacraments and especially to hear the Word of God for the first time.


Announcing the Good News in more villages!

There are many people in this corner of Ethiopia, a newly evangelized region, who have never heard the Good News of Jesus Christ. Many of them are open to the faith, well disposed to the activity of the Church and eager to receive baptism. However, the region is remote and the villages widely scattered. There are too few priests, and so the catechists play a vital role, both in preparing people for baptism and in promoting the process of peace and reconciliation.


On Sundays these catechists often have to travel many hours on foot to reach the villages where there is no priest to celebrate Holy Mass, in order to pray with them and instruct them in the Catholic Faith. In order to provide the catechists with more autonomy, ACN has promised 10, 875 dollars to equip some 30 of these catechists with one bicycle each, to help make more efficient use of their time and energies and help them to better carry out their vital and precious service.




In this way, they will reach more villages and devote themselves still more intensively to the work of evangelization.


*  United Nations High Commission for Refugees 

ACN Project of the Week – Ethiopia

13.07.2017 in ACN PROJECTS, Ethiopia, Interreligious Dialogue, Spiritans


Supporting pastoral work in all its various aspects

The Borana people live in the far south of Ethiopia in a region bordering on Kenya. In many ways, the Catholic Church is in her infancy here, since Catholic missionaries only arrived in the region about 45 years ago.


The Holy Spirit Fathers (Spiritans) who work in this area have now established three parishes and several schools. The missionaries sank boreholes and made wells for the local Borana people encouraging some to settle nearby.


They are a nomadic people, and while some have recently become more permanently settled, many continue to live their traditional nomadic lifestyle, moving from place to place with their flocks of cattle in search of grazing lands. As this is a very arid region, access to water is a matter of life or death. The Borana occasionally come into conflict with members of other tribes when the water supply dwindles and grazing become scarce, or where one tribe drives its herds onto the territory of another. But the presence of the Catholic Church in the region has made for fewer conflicts. In the past, an unwritten law existed whereby the men had to show courage by fighting—If one’s opponent drew his weapon, then he too had to be ready to fight. Things have now changed to some extent, because the tribesmen who have embraced the values of Christianity, are now immediately ready to make peace instead.


The presence of the Church has also improved the lives of some women. In the Borana tradition, a girl never “marries” but “is married.” She is never asked for her consent to the marriage, in the past the dignity of a woman was not considered. If a girl should fall pregnant before the marriage, she would be sold off to an enemy tribe. But now, the Catholic Church is presenting the people with a different concept and understanding of marriage teaching that both man and woman have an equal dignity in the sight of God. There is also growing interest in education among the people. The Church is encouraging parents to realize that a school education is just as important for girls as for boys. The Holy Spirit Fathers have accordingly opened several schools in this region. Initially, the people did not trust them, but gradually they have come to understand that education can help to improve their lives and better understand their own rights and dignity. Moreover, they can deepen their understanding of their newfound faith by reading the Bible and other religious writings.

Able to visit faraway regions

There is great interest in Christianity among the people, and especially among the children and young people. The Holy Spirit Fathers want to intensify their work, especially with the young. Therefore, they organize meetings with young people from other tribes.


It is usually very rare for young people to have an opportunity to meet and talk with young people from other tribal groups in this remote and underdeveloped region. But Ethiopia has such a vast ethnic and cultural diversity with over 80 different ethnic groups rub shoulders and speaking as many languages. In many cases, often belonging to different religious groups as well. Therefore meeting others becomes a crucially important experience, particularly for young people who may have a tendency to wander away from their own isolated homes to travel into other areas, towns and cities, where they then may face major problems in coming to terms with what is to them, a completely alien environment.


It is also important for the adults to be carefully accompanied on their path of faith. Many of those who are baptized are already married according to traditional tribal customs. When they embrace Christianity, they are also helped to prepare for a Christian marriage in church, so that they can then live their lives in a fully Christian spirit. It is clearly seen that the number of the Catholic faithful who attend Holy Mass and receive Holy Communion increases considerably because of these marriage preparation programs. The priests also try as often as possible to visit and accompany the sick and the disabled, who cannot get to church, providing them the opportunity to receive Holy Communion and, where appropriate, the Anointing of the Sick.


The Holy Spirit Fathers are also working to improve the training of lay catechists who visit the people in their villages and help teach them the Faith. It is clearly important for them to have a sound understanding of the Holy Scriptures and Church teaching, to serve as guides for others and help them deepen their spiritual life.


We have promised $6,960 to reinforce and support their pastoral outreach of the Spiritans in this region.

Thank you for supporting us in this work!



Project of the Week – a sign of God in Ethiopia

21.12.2016 in ACN Canada, Aid to the Church in Need Canada, Ethiopia, Journey with ACN


A chapel in one of the remotest regions of the country


Addis Abeba Archdiocese, woman with tattooed cross, Benishangul-Gumuz region

The region of Benishangul-Gumuz lies in the far west of Ethiopia, on the border with Sudan, and is one of the poorest and most underdeveloped regions in the country. It has a population of almost 990,000, a little over one fifth of whom belong to the Gumuz ethnic group. Culturally, the Gumuz people are more closely related to the peoples of Sudan than to the other ethnic groups in Ethiopia. In the late 19th century and even into the first third of the 20th century many of the Gumuz fell victim to slave traders.

Most  Gumuz people have until now, or until only very recently, never come into contact with Christianity. Their traditional religion has many different gods, including a river god, an earth god, a sun god, a tree god, a god of a particular mountain and many other gods. In reality, however, these are not so much gods as spirits or forces. There is a widespread belief in witchcraft, and many superstition-based traditions are practiced, which cause great suffering. For example, pregnant Gumuz women are forced to leave their villages and give birth to their children alone in the woods, by a river or in the bush. They have to stay in this remote spot for at least three days, so if any complications occur, there is nobody to help them. But the people are convinced that the blood that flows in childbirth will bring a curse upon the family.

Catholic priests and religious who have recently come to this region have been welcomed with great joy by the people, who are happy to hear about the Good News of the Gospel. At the same time their daily lives have improved, because the missionaries have brought with them medical care and set up schools for their children, and because they are also helping to overcome not only their worst physical sufferings but also their fears of evil spirits and witchcraft and the various traditions that bring them such suffering.

Ethiopia, Addis Abeba Archdiocese 24 April – 05 May 2012
Gumuz tribe in Ohaba village, Benishangul Gumuz regionhe

The Comboni missionaries have been working in the region for twelve years now and have established two mission stations so far. They now have four very well-established Catholic communities, but none of them as yet has a chapel. So the Comboni Fathers have turned to ACN for help so that they can build a small chapel in one of the villages where they can celebrate Holy Mass, give religious instruction and conduct other prayers and liturgical ceremonies. Up to now, all these ceremonies have had to be done in the open air, exposed to all the elements, in scorching heat or torrential rainfall. A chapel would also strengthen the sense of community solidarity among the faithful and their sense of identification with the Church.

The community already has 120  baptized Catholics, plus another 85 catechists and 80 children. The local people have no money, needless to say, but are willing to contribute whatever they can in the form of locally available building materials, together with their own willing, if unskilled, labour. But more durable and permanent materials will also be needed, such as the steel for construction, and for this the Comboni missionaries have asked for help from ACN. The chapel will also need to be protected with an enclosure fence.


We are proposing to help with a contribution of $29,200.





Feature Story: Ethiopia – Why were we attacked?

04.03.2016 in ACN Canada, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Christina Jocelyn, Ethiopia, Feature Story, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Journey with ACN


Attacks on Church’s installations

Königstein/Montreal, March 4, 2016 – Almost two weeks after the events (February 18), a Bishop in Ethiopia has expressed his horror after the torching and looting of a Church compound by the very people being helped by priests and Sisters. What caused this rage at the Church facilities? Is the current shortage of food in some areas of Ethiopia at the cause? Right now, nobody knows for sure what motivated the assailants.

In a message sent to Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), Bishop Abraham Desta described how the parish of Gighessa – “one of the oldest and biggest parishes of the Vicariate of Meki” – was attacked by “the people for whom, and with whom, we work very closely.”

Bishop Desta, the Apostolic Vicar of Meki, described how villagers “including  young and old, women and children… started throwing stones and destroying Church properties” including the presbytery, diocesan pastoral centre, a small Ursuline convent and a clinic specializing in care for the handicapped and disabled.

Devastation inside the facilities hold by the Church.

Devastation inside the Church facilities.

More than 55 people from around the world attending a conference on early childhood  education at the pastoral centre were whisked to safety, but the Sisters stayed behind, refusing to leave patients at their clinic, until eventually they too fled the scene. Having set fire to the presbytery, the attackers made off with a year’s supply of food, as well as livestock including cows.

Bishop Desta added: “The Ursuline Sisters who run the clinic were left behind with the patients as they were not willing to leave the patients alone, but the people did not spare them.” Having demanded that all the clinic’s goods be handed over, the mob “began to destroy and to take away everything including the personal clothes in front of the Sisters.”

“Sad to say no one went to help the Sisters, but by God’s grace they managed to reach Shashamane, the nearest parish, along with the patients and spent that night in the parish.” The patients are currently being cared for in Shashamane.  “They have lost everything, except the precious gift of life that is being given freely by God almighty. “And sad to say all this [was] done by the people of the locality whom [the Sisters] were serving, whom they know very well – if not all [then] at least a good number of them.”

Commenting after the incident, which took place on February 18, Bishop Desta said those attending the early childhood conference had escaped without harm. “The Lord was so good that he made all the arrangements to take the participants away from the place in short time safe and sound. “But… soon after the group left the miscreants came back again and put fire to the priest’s residence… [and] the Toyota pickup car and destroyed all the other  buildings… “Moreover they carried away all that belong to the centre – the furniture, including  more than 250 beds, mattresses, over 700 blankets,  bed sheets, bed covers, four to five fridges and deep freezers, washing machines, televisions, generators, copier machines, computers even the doors and windows of the house.” They left “the place completely damaged and barren. Even in the kitchen they have left nothing.”


Maintenance and painting work for Gighessa Socio-Pastoral Training Centre



Many questions: and no answers… 

The attackers seized more than 12,000kg (26,455 pounds) of food including wheat, rice, and pasta which was the center’s supply for the whole year. Cows and chickens, which were kept on a small holding attached to the parish, were also taken. The only building in the compound that was not attacked was the school. Bishop Desta added: “And today there is a question in our hearts and minds. Why Lord? Why like this?  I hope that in due time the Lord will give us an answer.”

But the bishop went on to describe how God had shown that he was with them throughout the attacks. “The Blessed Sacrament was left behind as the Priests and the Sisters were not able to go to the church…” “But to our surprise two young Catholic girls from Gighessa pretended to be among [the attackers and] went on the next day and took the Blessed Sacrament and [brought] it to the Shashamane parish.” “Through all these incidents, the Lord is reminding us that he is with us until the end of time.”

Article : John Newton, ACN Intl
Adaptation : Amanda Griffin, ACN Canada, with the kind support of Christina Jocelyn



ACN News – ACN helps with $692,650 dollars for famine stricken Ethiopia

05.01.2016 in ACN International, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, By Eva-Maria Kolmann, Emergency Aid, Ethiopia, Uncategorized
Ethiopia, 24 April - 05 May 2012 Children in Bonga parish, Apostolic Vicariate of Gambella Project trip of Fr. Andrzej Halemba, Christian Klyma and Eva-Maria Kolmann

Ethiopia,  May 2012
Children in Bonga parish


Over 10.2 million threatened by famine


Aid to the Church in Need grants 692,650 CAN  in emergency aid


In an interview with ACN, the deputy secretary general of the Ethiopian Catholic Bishops’ Conference, Father Haile Gabriel Meleku, urgently warned about the consequences of the prevailing drought. A total of 10.2 million people are now suffering from famine, about two million more than just a month ago. However, he said that it is to be feared that the actual number is much higher and that those affected desperately need help before there are fatalities. He also said that the government was trying to distribute food from its own warehouses. However, the situation “could not be gotten under control without outside help.”

According to Father Meleku, the drought will kill off the cattle, large numbers of people will leave their villages to find food in other, less affected areas, and, on the search for grazing land for their cattle, nomads will move into areas in which conflict could arise with the resident population. Another consequence will be that more children will no longer be able to attend school.

ETHIOPIA / GAMBELLA 09/00006 Construction of Niko Catholic Chapel at Niko (dedicated to St. Dominic Savio), Akwaya Jowk Sacred Heart Parish

Construction of Niko Catholic Chapel at Niko 

Father Meleku explained it is “important that the people stay in their villages and that help reaches them there.” He said that the Catholic Church in Ethiopia has worked out an emergency assistance plan. The possibility of  reaching those in need more quickly has been made easier since well organized structures have been put into place, although not all areas are equally affected by drought and hunger, “the catastrophe can be felt everywhere.”

He then said that the situation has also influenced the life of the Church. Many parishioners were no longer able to undertake what is for many a three to four-hour walk to church because of the famine. The catechists, who, together with their families, primarily live from farming, are especially in need of help.

Ethiopia, 24 April - 05 May 2012 Itang Parish, outstation Poul, Apostolic Vicariate of Gambella (Project: ETHIOPIA / GAMBELLA 11/00014, Construction of chapel) Project trip of Fr. Andrzej Halemba, Christian Klyma and Eva

Aid to the Church in Need has approved emergency aid for 1,415 catechists in 13 of the famine-stricken dioceses to the amount of $692,650 CAN or $489 CAN dollars per family for the entire year.

Ethiopia is in the top ranks of countries receiving assistance from Aid to the Church in Need.  In 2014, projects in the country received more than 1.7 million dollars in aid.

By Eva-Maria Kolmann, ACN International

Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada


10.12.2015 in ACN BENEFACTORS, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Child's Bible, Ethiopia


God Speaks to His Children – now more than ever!

Ethiopia is a country which embodies a tremendous ethnic and linguistic diversity. There are over 80 different ethnic groups in the country, speaking as many languages and belonging to a great variety of religious faiths.

There are approximately 700,000 Catholics in this country of Ethiopia which account for barely 1% of the total population. But despite its small numbers, the Catholic Church is extremely active in the country.

God speaks to his Children, which has now been published in a total of over 50 million copies worldwide and in more than 170 different languages

For example, the Church maintains 203 kindergartens and 222 schools, all of which are open to children and young people of all faiths and denominations.  Currently these institutions are providing  almost 180,000 children and young people with an education. It is through these schools that the Church hopes to build bridges among the various races and cultures.

In the same vein, the Catholic Church runs no fewer than four universities, serving over 7,000 students. The Church is widely welcomed by the ordinary people, especially in those areas where they still adhere to traditional local religions and in some cases have never even heard of Jesus Christ. Upon first hearing the Gospel, many of these people say to the priests, “We love your God. Please come to us as well!”

One particularly valuable and much loved instrument of the Church’s catechetical outreach is the ACN Child’s Bible, God speaks to his Children, which has now been published in a total of over 50 million copies worldwide and in more than 170 different languages including several of the languages spoken in Ethiopia. So it is that in many village chapels – often little more than a shelter of wooden posts covered with branches – one can find heavily thumbed-through copies of ACN Child’s Bible in the local language. The stories are read out loud to the little ones, time and again by the local catechists, but the children never tire of them and  listen with shining eyes to the words and deeds of Jesus.

The Apostolic Vicariate of Awassa lies in the south of Ethiopia. The Child’s Bible has become so popular here that we have received a request to reprint 10,000 copies: 5,000 in the official Amhara language and 5,000 in the local Sidama (or Sidamo) language, the language spoken by around 1.6 million people in southern Ethiopia.


We are helping with a contribution of 13,500 CAN towards the printing costs, so that many more children can embrace the Good News in their hearts.

Dans le Vicariat apostolique de Gambella, les enfants désirent une Bible. Soutenez-les!

In the Apostolic Vicariate of Gambella,the children want Bibles!  Would you like to contribute to this or other similar projects?




27.04.2015 in ACN Feature, By Marta Petrosillo, Ethiopia, Uncategorized

don Mussie ZeraiEritrea / Ethiopia


“It is a tragedy that could easily happen again. There are many other migrants in the hands of Isis.” The words are those of Don Mussie Zerai, an Eritrean priest, who was speaking to the Italian office of the international Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) about the recent murder of around 30 Ethiopian and Eritrean Christians by the terrorists of these so-called Islamic State (IS) – a murder the terrorists themselves portrayed in a video they posted on 19 April.

Don Zerai is the founder and president of the agency Habeshia and is known for his work in defense of the asylum seekers and migrants who are trying to escape the wars, dictatorships, terrorism and persecution in their own countries. It is work that in recent months has brought him nomination as a candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize.

“The people who were murdered by the jihadists were hoping to be able to start a new life and receive protection in Europe”, he remarks. There are many other Christians like them, who are braving long and difficult journeys, often precisely to escape persecution. But during their journey they encounter yet more serious discrimination on account of their faith. “In the detention camps in Libya the Christians are always discriminated against and maltreated,” Father Zerai tells ACN. “Just a few days ago I was told how, in one centre in Misurata, the Christians are being forced to pray and fast during Ramadan along with the Muslims – but with this difference: when the sun sets, the Muslim detainees are given food, but the Christians are denied even this right.”

“In the detention camps in Libya the Christians are always discriminated against and maltreated”

However, with regard to the tragic incident of the 12 Christians who were thrown into the sea in the straits of Sicily on 14th of April, Father Zerai urges caution. “The precise facts have not yet been established by the magistrates, and this is the first time that we have heard of religious discrimination among the migrants on the boats themselves. I hope that it is not true; otherwise it would be terrible.”

Among the Christian migrants murdered by the Islamic State there were at least three Eritreans, who were identified in the video published by the jihadists. Don Zerai also spoke about the persecution being suffered by Christians in his own country, which is sometimes called, not without reason, the “North Korea of Africa”. According to the most recent report by ACN on religious freedom, there are believed to be at least 1,200 Christians imprisoned for religious reasons. “Many Christian leaders, above all among the Pentecostals, have been arrested and tortured and several of them have died in prison. Even the canonically elected Orthodox patriarch is being held under house arrest and has been replaced by a ‘patriarch’ close to the regime.

“…attack the root of the problem”

The strict government controls also affect the Catholic Church, and her publications have been banned for the past 10 years – having been judged “guilty” of denouncing injustices and abuses. “They have banned us from publishing translations of the social teachings of the Church in the Tigryna language. The censors claim that they contain political material.” Don Zerai also fears possible repercussions following the pastoral letter written by four Eritrean bishops in June 2014, which contained a clear denunciation of the difficult conditions faced by the local Church. “The regime has not yet acted, because it does not want to appear vindictive. But the bishops are still expecting a harsh reaction in the future.”

In Ethiopia the situation of the Christians is somewhat better. “Yet even here,” as Father Habtesilassie Haillemariam, a priest of the Pontifical Ethiopian College, tells ACN Italy, “we are starting to notice the pressure from the neighbouring majority Islamic countries, such as Sudan and Somalia.” There was great appreciation, however, for the message of sympathy sent by Pope Francis to the patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, Abuna Matthias. “The words of the Holy Father will have an important effect on ecumenical relations, which face an obstacle in the identification of the Catholic Church with the Italian invader – an attitude that is still widespread even today.”

Recently, the Pope has also called on Europe to make a greater effort on behalf of the thousands of migrants currently seeking a better life on the Old Continent. “It is important to attack the root of the problem and not to restrict ourselves to simply responding to the emergency,” Don Mussie Zerai told ACN. “Every year the same tragedies are repeated, tragedies that are waiting to happen. In order to combat the people trafficking and to put an end to the deaths of so many innocent migrants, in the desert or in the Mediterranean, we have to provide them with a legal alternative, and above all to try and resolve the problems in their home countries, such as the dictatorships, wars, persecutions and the socio-economic contexts that deny them basic human dignity.”






Ethiopia – “I’m going to become a priest!”

18.07.2014 in ACN Canada, ACN International, Ethiopia, FORMATION, Uncategorized

By Eva-Maria Kolmann, ACN International

Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada

Father Hagos Hayish, the general secretary of the Ethiopian Catholic Bishops’ Conference describes how he came to his vocation and how he followed it in difficult times.

20120918_010Excitedly, five-year-old Hagos runs up to his mother: “Mummy, mummy, Our Lady is down by the river! The priests sang for her! They have such beautiful, colourful robes on! I want to be like them!” His mother laughs.But Hagos, that’s not the Mother of God! The Orthodox are celebrating the feast of Timkat today. They are celebrating the baptism of Jesus down by the river!” Nevertheless, from that day onwards Hagos Hayish is quite clear: “I’m going to become a priest!”

In his family, faith has always played an important role. “All my family and my relatives have been Catholics for years. My parents and grandparents always used to tell me exciting stories about the missionaries. In the evening, when darkness fell, my father would call us eleven children together. We would gather around him and listen. First of all he would play something on the flute, then he would tell us stories – about people, animals, about God and also about priests. And then finally he would teach us the Catechism, with questions and answers. In this way he prepared us for our First Holy Communion. If I had quarreled with a friend and told my father about it, he would insist that I go and settle the quarrel and clear up the matter completely.”

On Sundays Hagos goes with his family to church. The journey is too far for them to be able to go to Holy Mass in the week as well. It is over 11 kilometers (seven and a half miles) each way – in all a journey of over 22 kilometers (15 miles). But Hagos is happy to go to church. “I did not understand everything, but I loved the pictures especially. The picture of St George always impressed me particularly,” he recalls today.


At the age of six the youngster goes to school. He is able to skip a full year because he is so quick to learn. But when he comes to the end of primary school, his father tells him: “Now you have learnt enough. You can now read and write like I can. That’s enough! I need someone to herd the goats.” Hagos cries and cries. After all he wants to become a priest! He appeals to his uncle to mediate between him and his father. And the parish priest is also called in. He is able to send two boys from the village to the minor seminary, where the younger boys prepare to enter the seminary proper, the “major seminary”. Three boys from the village have already applied. “What am I going to do if I can’t find a place?” asks young Hagos tearfully, who is now 13. The priest draws lots, and Hagos is one of the two lucky ones who will have the chance to go to the minor seminary. At the beginning he is homesick, but nonetheless he is happy to be able to follow his vocation.

The times are difficult ones. There is a civil war going on in Ethiopia. The communist regime under the dictator Mengistu Haile Mariam is calling up schoolboys and students for military service. It is a fate with which the seminarians are also threatened. In the holidays it is hard for them to get home, because a special permit is needed in order to travel from one place to another.

In 1985, after his A-levels, Hagos Hayish enters the major seminary. This is the time of the devastating famine, the horrifying pictures of which go all around the world. Again, the seminarians are threatened with being called up for military service – this time for the war against Eritrea. The young men have to hide.

When Mother Teresa visits Ethiopia in order to form a picture of the famine, she also visits the young seminarians. Hagos is the youngest and also, physically, the smallest of them. Because of this, he is standing in the front row to welcome the famous “angel of the poor.” “Do you want to be a priest?” Mother Teresa asks him. “Yes!”, he replies. “Do you want to be a GOOD priest? If so, carry on. If not leave the seminary today!” But Hagos is in no doubt: “I want to be a good priest!”



The times become ever harder. “I have seen many people die,” he recalls. At that time the government had decided to forcibly resettle hundreds of thousands of people. Many of them died as a result. Hagos’ own father is also due for deportation, but at the last moment he is rescued.

During his second year in the seminary, Hagos is called to undergo a medical examination. Now he is really in danger of being called up for military service. After the examination he has to collect his health certificate. The man who is handing out the documents cannot find his name on the list, however. Instead of Hagos, someone has written “Hagosa”. This is the female form of his name. “Women do not serve in the army. You’re in luck. You do not exist here! Go quickly,” the man tells him. “God had guided the hand of a man so that he wrote down my name wrongly,” Hagos Hayish explains, still full of wonder today. When he gets back to the seminary, the rector embraces him.

He enters the Vincentian order and on November 11, 1990 he is ordained to the priesthood. But then in 1998 war breaks out between Ethiopia and neighbouring Eritrea, which in 1993 gains independence from Ethiopia. Actually Abba (Father) Hagos is due to write his doctoral thesis, but for him the decision is clear: in 1999 he volunteers to go to the North of the country, where the people are suffering the most from the war. His own family is also expelled. His father has been abducted by the Eritrean forces, and there is no trace of him. Given this situation, Abba Hagos chooses not to return to university. Instead he takes over the parish of Nkala. For one week he is in the parish, for the next in the mountains, where the many refugees and expelled people have sought refuge. “Every day there was shooting; death was constantly present. The whole time I did nothing but hear confessions, because the people did not know if they would even survive that day. All of them were preparing themselves for death.”

One day the Archbishop of Addis Ababa himself comes to comfort the refugees. He promises the people: “You will return to your parishes!” Abba Hagos recalls the incident precisely. “The people were happy, but some of them asked, ‘Where is the Blessed Virgin? We can no longer hear the bells from Our Lady’s church. What has happened?’ And the children sang: ‘Where is the Blessed Virgin? Where is the Blessed Virgin?’ Archbishop Berhaneyesus Demerew Souraphiel answered them: ‘the  Mother of God is here among you!'”

One month after the Archbishop’s visit, the refugees are able to return to their ruined villages. “Everything was smashed, the houses destroyed, the trees felled; everywhere was full of landmines. Some 70,000 people had lost their lives,” Abba Hagos tells us. Yet his own family had once more been protected, for his brother returned safely from the war, and his father was released from prison after two years.

Today Father Hagos can look back on almost a quarter of a century of priestly ministry. “A vocation is a gift of God, but I received it through my family”, he says, deeply moved.

The Catholic Church in Ethiopia has around 700,000 faithful. That means that Catholics make up barely 1% of the population. Yet despite these small numbers, the Catholic Church is extremely active. She maintains 203 kindergartens and 222 schools, which are open to children and young people of all faiths and religions. They are attended by almost 180,000 children. Through this school is the Church hopes to be able to build bridges between the different ethnic groups and cultures. The Catholic Church also runs four universities, with over 7,000 students.

During the past year the international Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) helped the Catholic Church in Ethiopia with a total of over 1.71 million dollars CAN.







20.12.2013 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN International, ACN PROJECTS, CONSTRUCTION, Ethiopia, Journey with ACN, Uncategorized

JOURNEY WITH ACN is our Friday newsletter which will be regularly posted to our blog.  

Our weekly newsletter was designed to provide us with an opportunity to acquaint you with the needs of the Catholic Church around the world – and with some of the projects we have been able to realize together with ACN benefactors.

This week:  Ethiopia

A simple house for the priest in a remote outstation of the parish of Itang 

The apostolic vicariate of Gambella lies in the extreme west of Ethiopia close to the border with South Sudan. It is a remote and underdeveloped region, where there is great poverty. Many of the children here are visibly undernourished. The Catholic Church is greatly welcomed in this region. Many people say to the priests, “When the Catholic Church comes, everything becomes fruitful!.” And they remark with wonder, “Wherever the Church is, there is water. The government gives us bad water, but the Church brings good water. We love your God; please come to us also!.”

 © ACN


In fact the Church not only brings water, but hand mills for grinding corn; sets up kindergartens and support in agricultural matters. The Church also seeks to promote reconciliation between the tribes since bloody feuds erupt on a consistent basis, especially between the tribes which practise cultivation and those which live a pastoral, nomadic lifestyle. The flocks come and eat the farmer’s crops, and the farmers take over the grazing lands of the pastoralists.

In the village of Puol, the people would like the Church to be present with them. However, this village is in such a remote area that one could literally say it is at the other end of the world!  The “road” leading to it is difficult to negotiate even in the dry season. And when the river Baro, floods its banks in the rainy season leaving the village in total isolation for up to 4 months of every year. The people cannot even reach the neighbouring villages. During the wet season the only way that Father Desalegn Desale, their priest, can reach them is by motor boat.

Thanks to help from ACN, a chapel has already been built in the village and was consecrated at the beginning of this year, 2013.  The Catholic faithful meet here for Holy Mass, for prayer and religious instruction, for educational programs and other activities. Over 120 people in the village are preparing for baptism for until recently, they simply sat under the trees when the priest came.

Father Desalegn Desale travels regularly from the town of Itang to these remote regions in order to visit and minister to its people. But given the poor state of travel, it would make things so much easier if he had a place to stay in Puol where he could stay for several days and minister much more effectively to the people in Puol and the surrounding villages.

The good Father has turned to us for help. Traditionally, the people in this region build huts of wood and mud. But although cheap to build, such huts quickly deteriorate as a result of the rain and the floods and the termite activity. Consequently, there is a need to build something more permanent. We are hoping to be able to help with a contribution of $36,000, so that a simple and modest house can be built for the priest and the parish.

To make a donation by  please call: (514) 932-0552 or toll free 1-(800) 585-6333  or click the image to make a secure on-line donation.

To make a donation by please call: (514) 932-0552 or toll free 1-(800) 585-6333
or click the image to make a secure on-line donation.


We would like to take this opportunity to wish you a very blessed Christmas and joyful New Year.  May 2014 be one of Peace in our world.

Children's nativity play in Uruguay. AC

Children’s nativity play in Uruguay.