Pastoral aid


ACN Project of the Week—Support for the youth pastoral centre in Sarajevo, Bosnia

29.11.2019 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN International, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Eastern Europe, Pastoral aid, Pastoral care, Pastoral work, Religious formation

Project of the Week—Bosnia

Support for the youth pastoral centre in Sarajevo

By ACN International, Adapted by ACN Canada
Published online – November 29, 2019

Catholics are a minority in Bosnia and Herzegovina—now at a bare 14% of the population, and falling. This decline began during the Bosnian War (1992 to 1995) when half the Catholic population was expelled or forced to emigrate from the country. And with every new year, many continue their exodus as the future looks dim, owing to the discrimination they face when seeking employment, in attending schools and in regular social life. Catholic bishops have been complaining for years that Catholic Croat families who would otherwise be willing to return are not receiving the support they are entitled to. At the same time, a growing Islamization of the society is very noticeable, with the building of numerous new mosques.


The Catholic Church continues to work hard for a better future, through its reconciliation work, its schools and its charitable work, all of which are open to people of all ethnic groups. At the same time, the Church strives to offer steady employment opportunities that will provide families with some prospect for the future. One beautiful example of reconciliation work is the John Paul II Youth Centre in Sarajevo, offering a range of initiatives for promoting interfaith and interdenominational dialogue.

Spiritual Retreats, Pilgrimages and Interfaith Dialogue

Each year thousands of young people benefit from a broad range of programs offered by the centre. Their enthusiasm remains as they return with great energy to their own parishes to work with a renewed faith for a better future. The centre also offers employment, with 10 full-time positions and 10 part-time positions, providing these men and women with a steady income and a future for their families. An additional 300 volunteers help out as needed. Training in leadership is available along with courses in spiritual exercises for confirmation candidates, volunteers, altar servers and other types of youth groups. An ecumenical program is in place for young people of different faiths to learn about shared responsibility and how to create a better future in the society in which they live. Those attending come not only from the archdiocese of Sarajevo (Vrhbosna) itself, but from all over the country.

Other big events are have been organized, such as a large youth pilgrimage in May to the Shrine of Our Lady in Kondzilo,  which was attended again this year by well over 3,000 young people. A music festival, with modern Christian music, and a young people’s Way of the Cross procession giving hundreds of youth from individual parishes the opportunity to gather together in shared faith.


ACN recognizes the valuable work done by this youth centre named for the great Pope, Saint John Paul II. The Saint who held such great affection for young people, established the very first World Youth Days during his pontificate. This year we are helping once again, with a promised contribution of $37,500.


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

ACN Success Story – Mass Offerings for priests in Brazil

03.04.2019 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN PROJECTS, Brazil, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Pastoral aid, Pastoral care, SUBSISTENCE

 Mass Offerings for 19 priests of the Shalom Community

The Catholic Shalom Community was founded in 1982 in Brazil. Its members include young people, families, married couples and priests, who live in so-called “life communities“ and are dedicated to the work of evangelization and Christian instruction, mainly for young people. Central to the life of the community and its 3,000 or so members in 20 different countries is the daily celebration of Holy Mass, along with personal prayer, meditation on the Sacred Scriptures and a radical decision to follow Jesus Christ.

Last year ACN gave Mass Offerings for a total value of 13,800 for the 19 priests in the community living in Brazil. The Mass Offerings are given on an individual basis by our benefactors, in the form of money or other small gifts, in return for which the priest agrees to celebrate Holy Mass for the benefactor’s intentions. There is no suggestion here of “paying” for the Holy Mass, but rather of a fraternal Christian gesture of gratitude and support for our priests, who do not shrink from difficulties or sacrifice in proclaiming Christ and offering Him in the Eucharist for our sakes.

One of these priests is 46-year-old Father Jairo Barbosa Leite. He has been a member of the Shalom community for 25 years. However, in October 2015, while inspecting the renovation work being done on his parish church, he fell nearly 20 feet and has been paralyzed ever since. Yet he refuses to speak of the accident as a “disaster” or a “act of fate“, but instead chooses to declare ‘”Naturally it was a shock, when I realized that I would be permanently paralyzed from now on. Then I understood that this was no burden, but rather a grace. Many people think that you can only be happy if everything is going well. But I am happy, and I feel I have been given a special grace – precisely because I now find myself totally dependent on others. And I can even reach out to people who are far from faith, for they inevitably ask themselves how it is that I can still be happy. But I see it as God‘s Providence. Even while sitting paralyzed in a wheelchair, I can recognize what value my service still has, through my life of prayer, the night vigils, the celebration of the Eucharist, hearing Confessions and the educational courses I am still able to offer. I am happy to know that God can use my priesthood in this way. How good it is, despite my weaknesses, to be able to entrust my sins to God and witness to his intervention!”

On behalf of all his fellow priests, Father Jairo thanks us for the Mass Offerings from our benefactors. “I want to thank all the benefactors of your charity and to assure them that their donations are helping to save souls, through the Church and the men of the Church whose ministry continues throughout the world.”

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

Feature Story in Paraguay – Sisters go where priest rarely visit

17.02.2017 in by Jacques Berset, Paraguay, Pastoral aid, Peru, Sisters


Sisters work where priests rarely visit 

Tupãsy! Tupãsy? The Mother of Jesus is coming! These were the words spoken in Guarani to welcome the Missionary Sisters of the Teaching and Atoning Saviour. The people living in the remote villages of the Paraguayan department of Canindeyú at the border to the Brazilian states of Mato Grosso and Paraná had never seen nuns wearing veils before.

When the Missionary Sisters of Jesus, Verbo y Víctima from Peru arrived towards the end of the 20th century, it caused a veritable sensation in the rural communities of the Virgen del Carmelo de Villa Ygatimy parish, a village situated about five hours northeast of the capital of Asunción by rural road. The parish has about one hundred “chapels” for its 20,000 believers, which is the name used for the scattered parishes of the Ciudad del Este diocese. The diocese extends across an area that is about as large as Belgium.


The faitful are hungry for the sacraments

“Three priests work in Curuguaty, 45 kilometres from here. They administer to 92 chapels, which means that they only manage to visit them from time to time. They go to the parishes that do not have any paved roads. They reach them on dirt roads that become impassable when it rains. The parish of Katueté is located 160 kilometres further on – the priest makes it there three to four times a year. In one week, he visits the chapels, celebrates Holy Mass and hears confession, which can sometimes take an entire day. The believers wait patiently for hours to receive the sacraments,” Mother María Luján, a Sister originally from Argentina, reports.


Her fellow religious Peruvian Sisters perform pastoral services such as marriages, baptisms and funerals in rural parishes that do not have a priest. They hold liturgies of the Word and administer the Eucharist to the sick. It is precisely this which makes up the charism of the Missionary Sisters of Jesus, Verbo y Víctima  (loosely translated as Missionary Sisters of the Teaching and Atoning Saviour): to work in those places that have not seen a priest for months or even years.

“Our Sisters live and work in the most remote areas of Latin America. They take care of people with no known postal address, the poor and the forgotten in Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay or Peru,” Mother María Luján explains.


Four years of waiting, for a priest to arrive

“To receive the consecrated host, we travelled 45 kilometres to the Brazilian city of Paranhos in the state of Mato Grosso do Sul,” María Luján continues. We then drove to the chapel San Antonio, 12 kilometres from the nearest city. The Diocesan Oeconomus Father Ernesto Zacarías came with us. After being bounced about on unpaved roads full of deep ruts, we finally arrived at the parish, which consists of 34 houses totalling 120 faithful.

The faithful had already been waiting patiently for a solid hour. They sang songs in Spanish and Guarani in the humid and sticky heat of December that signals the end of spring in the southern hemisphere.

They gathered in a small building made of bricks, which they had built together and expressed joy at the arrival of the priest! He is the first cleric to stop by this remote, inaccessible place in four years.

“They bring the sick out to him. He visits those who cannot be moved from their homes to administer the sacrament of Anointing of the Sick. We ‘kidnap’ him so that he hears confession for hours on end. He is completely exhausted afterwards,” Mother Lorena cheerfully says. She is a Peruvian nurse who looks after this parish. She is originally from Cajamarca, a village on the plateau in northern Peru, who has been working in Ygatimy for three years.


The arrival of the nuns transformed the parish

The villagers appreciate that the Peruvian Sisters are there. “They say that they are very happy that God visits them; that He travels so far to visit the simple people. They are poor, but have a great hunger for spirituality!”

In the villages, where nature has delightfully blended the green of the trees with the ochre-coloured red tones of the earth, the inhabitants live from farming, animal husbandry, cheese making and fruit harvesting. After Holy Mass, the faithful talk about the unfortunate circumstance that young people leave for the city to get their degrees, which means that they get to know city life with its modern technology. Later, they no longer want to return to the villages completely cut off from all of this, to lives of simplicity and hardship.

Since the sisters arrived in 1999, Mother Lorena says, the parish has undergone a transformation. “We have observed a spiritual reversal. In the past, the people hardly took part in parish life. The church was dirty, uncared for. Hours of spiritual retreat have led to a change. Now there is more solidarity and less alcohol and drug abuse. The sick receive better care.”

We continue our journey for approximately another fifty kilometres down a dust-covered, unpaved road, reaching the parish of Our Dear Lady of Fatima in Ypehu, in the mountains of Amambay, a stone’s throw from the Brazilian city of Paranhos. We are welcomed there by Mother Beatriz. She is the Reverend Mother of the small local community of the Missionary Sisters of Jesus, Verbo y Víctima.


The priest comes in, and they leave!

From their convent base, the Peruvian nuns perform pastoral care in thirteen chapels. The furthest of these is 41 kilometres away.  All of these chapels are only accessible by deeply creviced roads, putting their long-serving all-terrain vehicle to the test. A p
riest based in Brazil visits these villages four times a year. During Easter Week, a delegate of the bishop of Ciudad del Este comes to celebrate the Sacrament of Confirmation.

One of the challenges for the religious in Ypehu is the presence of religious sectarian groups.  Of course, “these groups do social work – provide food to people and give courses,” explains Mother Beatriz, a Peruvian missionary.  The pastor forces them to attend divine services. However, they still attend our liturgy on Sundays. The people want to have their children baptized in the Catholic Church because they have a deep faith and they greatly revere Our Lady of Caacupé,” the Peruvian missionary sister explains.

“In the past, five to ten people came to Mass. However, since the nuns are here, the church is always full,” confirms a parishioner, whom we meet in the church garden. The missionary sisters Mother Beatriz and Sisters Adriana, Edith and Felicia, however, assure us that should a priest come to live permanently in the parish once looked after by the missionaries of Steyl, they would quickly leave the place to move to a different one that does not have a priest. “That is our charism!”


Over 400 Missionary Sisters of Jesus, Verbo y Víctima work at 38 missions in remote and inaccessible places in various Latin American countries. The Sisters call these places Patmos after the Greek island on which St. John the Apostle lived in exile. From these missions, they often drive for hours on unpaved roads or even go by foot, ride donkeys or take ships to visit a deserted village or farm inhabited by just a few families.

It is said that there, where the paved road ends, is where the work of the missionary Sisters with their special charism begins.


Each year, Aid to the Church in Need helps the Missionary Sisters of Jesus, Verbo y Víctima through transport and training projects as well as aid to help secure their livelihoods in Peru and Bolivia.

This report was written by Jacques Berset as part of a project visit carried out by the pontifical charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) in Paraguay from 18 November to 5 December 2016.

Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, for the Canadian office of ACN


ACN supports Christian refugees in Syria 

09.09.2015 in ACN International, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, By Oliver Maksan, Pastoral aid, Syria


Concern for the coming winter

Project trip of Fr. Dr. Andrzej HalembaThe growing wave of refugees from the Middle East being accepted into the European Union has aroused a growing wish on the part of Syrian Christians to leave the country, says Father Andrzej Halemba, head of the Middle East Section of the Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), who is currently visiting a project in Syria. “The discussions in Europe have also been noticed here. Many wish to leave for this reason, especially the Christians. I have often been asked if I can help people to move to Germany, for example. But the aim of our work is to facilitate a future for the people in their own country.”

Father Halemba has already visited the war-torn country several times this year. “My impression, after several visits since the beginning of this year, is one of increasing concern about the ever greater instability in Syria. The military success of ‘Islamic State’ causes fear and anxiety especially among Christians. The future of the city of Aleppo, where many Christians still live, is uncertain.”

Father Halemba pointed positively to the work being done locally by the ACN-supported project partners. “They are working for the benefit of the people in an ever more efficient and coordinated way. This is also recognized by those affected. For example, when I was in the Christian town of Marmarita near the Lebanese border, the gratitude for the aid that our benefactors have made possible was overwhelming. The people said that our benefactors had made it possible for them to survive. One boy, when we met, only said one word in Arabic: ‘Shukran’; thank you. Everyone was very moved by that. An old woman pleaded with me, with tears in her eyes, to go on helping the Christians in Syria so that they could stay.”

Fr. Walid Iskandafy M.S.P. running our project for the IDPs in Maarmarita together with a lay volunteer Marmarita is a village in northwestern Syria. Marmarita is one of the largest villages in Wadi al-Nasarah, which means "Valley of Christians", a region north of Talkalakh. The population is Greek Orthodox. Marmarita used to be  a popular summer destination and tourist attraction in Syria. Now, many Internally Displaced Peoples found a refuge here Syria 2015 May, Marmarita SYRIA / NATIONAL 15/00147 Emergency support in the Valley of Christians, Marmarita, Governorate of Homs, January to June 2015

Marmarita currently houses many internally-displaced refugees, both Christian and Muslim. “The town is full to bursting. There is hardly any room left for the refugees to live,” says Father Halemba. The young dentist Sana (name altered for reasons of safety) heads a team of volunteers in Marmarita that is supported by ACN. “Marmarita is safe. We do not hear any bombs or explosions here. But the cost of living has become very expensive, and the people hardly have any jobs. Therefore our work is focused mainly on helping people to pay their rent, as well as medical provisions and school scholarships. Nearly 300 families are currently receiving rent subsidies. Some 140 students are receiving money for their travel to attend their universities, which in some cases are a long distance away.”

Syria 2015 May Badly damaged church St. Elijah in  Al-Qusayr (Qussair, Qusair, Alqseir). Pastoral visit of His Beatitude Patriarch Gregorios III Laham and the Ordinary of the Greek-Melkite Archdiocese of Homs, Hama and Yabroud Mgr Jean Abdou Arbach B.C. to the Parish of St. Elijah in  Al-Qusayr (Qussair, Qusair, Alqseir)

Sana, a Syrian-Catholic Christian, further explained that the individual fates of the refugees are a matter very close to her heart. “We are aiding a family that lost a child in an explosion in Damascus. Their second child is now sick with cancer and needs urgent medical support.” Sana said she was moved by the fate of a young mother who also lost her husband in an explosion in Damascus. “She is now struggling to survive with two small children. But she nevertheless finds the strength to help other refugees as part of our team of volunteers. This is a true example of Christian love of neighbour.”

Bread with one hand and the Bible with the other

Father Halemba emphasized the importance of humanitarian aid alongside the support of pastoral projects. “In the city of Qusayr, for example, we [ACN] have supported the renovation of a Church that was destroyed by Jihadists. It can now be used again for religious services. This gives the people hope that life can go on. The Church must give people bread with one hand and the Bible with the other. People need material as much as spiritual aid.” Father Halemba is particularly concerned about the coming winter. “Fuel and gas are in short supply in Syria and very expensive. But the people use these for heating. Last year 50 people died from the cold. We will therefore need to pay particular attention to aid for the winter.”

Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) has given over 11.6 million dollars in aid to the people in Syria since the outbreak of the war four years ago and is currently supporting 140 humanitarian aid and pastoral projects.


June 20 – World Refugee Day

18.06.2015 in ACN International, By Teresa Engländer, Cameroon, Central Africa, Emergency Aid, Gaza, Middle East, Nigeria, Pastoral aid, Refugees, Sudan, Syria, Ukraine, Uncategorized

 June 20 – World Refugee Day

ACN-20141012-14339Refugees ask: “What now?”

In 2014, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) spent more than 13.9 million helping refugees and displaced persons around the world.


Montreal, Thursday June 18, 2015 – When the militia attacked their village in Nigeria, they knew that there was no time to lose. They grabbed their children and ran for their lives. We’ll call them Family G. – as they fled, the father was killed; the mother and children made it to the safety of a refugee camp. However, although the camp offers a certain degree of security, there isn’t really anything else. Essentials like water, food, blankets, medicine and hygiene items are in scarce supply and these refugee families are simply overcome by a deep lassitude.

These people have been traumatized. For they have had to watch as family members died or were lost to them as they attempted to flee. They no longer have homes they can return to. Their uncertainty gnaws at them like hungry rats, asking themselves the same question every day: What now? Family G. represents countless refugee families around the world, all of whom have similar stories to tell.

51.2 million displaced people around the world

Approximately 51.2 million people around the world are currently in search of safe haven[1]. These families come from Nigeria, Eritrea or South Sudan, from Syria, Iraq or Ukraine. They are fleeing war and terror, political or religious suppression. Their persecutors may bear different names, but sow destruction under the same mask of hatred and delusion.

The Islamic terror organization, Boko Haram, has been ravaging northern Nigeria and Cameroon for six years. Around 1.5 million Nigerians are searching for safe haven within the country; another 136,405 people have fled to neighbouring countries. ACN is helping displaced persons from the especially hard hit dioceses Bamburi and Maiduguri in Nigeria with $62,500 and from Maroua-Mokolo, Cameroon, with another $20,700.  In Central Africa the rebel forces Seleka are creating havoc. Communities overflowing with displaced persons in this area have received $90,300 in aid.


InRefugee CAF Credit ACN Fr. Federico Trinchero South Sudan and Eritrea, people are fleeing both the unrests that keep breaking out between individual rebel forces as well as political and religious suppression. According to UNHCR, more than 560,000 South Sudanese are searching for a safe haven. Many have found refuge in refugee camps in Ethiopia: since 2014, ACN has come to their aid with $91,630. Projects for Eritrean refugees have been funded with $134,700.


In the Middle East, war and the terror organization Islamic State (IS) have been responsible for the displacing of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi and Syrian Christians and intensified the wave of emigration in these countries that has been increasing exponentially since the Arab Spring began in 2011. UNHCR estimates 6.6 million refugees have come from Iraq and just under 4 million registered Syrian refugees.

Many have fled to neighbouring countries such as Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan. Since 2014, Aid to the Church in Need has donated 10 million dollars to providing pastoral and charitable care to Iraqi refugees and another 6 million dollars for Syrian refugees inside and outside of the country, mainly in emergency relief.

The Gaza Strip remains in a constant and sad state of unrest. In 2015, ACN donated $20,820 to ensure that displaced Christians receive access to medical care in this region.

During the past year, the aid organization donated approximately $55,530 to Ukraine to fund a soup kitchen and provide medical care for people fleeing the Crimean conflict. Another $83,300 was given in 2015 to ensure the refugees access to pastoral care.Refugee Gaza

A major concern for ACN

From its veRefugee Ukrainery beginning, the situation of refugees has been a major concern to Aid to the Church in Need and remains so to this day. Through its refugee aid projects, ACN is keeping Father Werenfried’s legacy alive, a man who recognized the distress of German refugees after World War II and called upon his Flemish compatriots to make donations.

In his very first, evocative letter asking for donations, he wrote: “Many of us have it warm; we are doing well. We have a flat, glass windows that protect us from the cold and, despite the scarcity of food and other things that prevails because of the post-war period, despite extortionate prices, there is very little that we actually lack. But do we even think about the fact that outside, thousands of Marys and Josephs are making their way through Europe? That Christ is weeping in the guise of the poor, the homeless and the refugees, of hungry and thirsty people, of those incarcerated or sick, and of all those whom He has called the lowliest of His children and in whose misery He has concealed His incarnate form?”

An aid organization arose from this mission. The pontifical aid organization Aid to the Church in Need developed out of Father Werenfried’s first fundraisers and now has benefactors in over 21 countries. In 2014, the organization supported around 5,000 local church projects around the world with donations totaling 155 million dollars. Just from January 2014 to today (June 2015), the aid organization has invested more than 13.9 million dollars – in projects for refugees.


[1] These and other figures, source: UNHCR, http://www.unhcr.org/pages/49c3646c4d6.html

donateRefugee Iraq

ACN Feature: Central African Republic

08.04.2015 in By Eva-Maria Kolmann, Central African Republic, Pastoral aid, Refugees

Fr. Aurelio Gazzera OCD, Italian Carmelite miCentral African Republic

A Miracle of Forgiveness


Easter is the feast of love, which conquers hate and death. And yet: it is difficult to love your enemy. It is commonly believed that offering love to the same person who is responsible for loved ones being wiped out or the loss of the roof over your head is practically impossible. However, more and more people are rising above themselves.


 “Do good to those who hate you!”

He was almost lynched by the angry mob. Missionary Aurelio Gazzera said the Rosary as rocks pelted his car and furious people pointed weapons at him. The priest had brought the wrath of a number of Muslims down upon himself by supporting the withdrawal of the Séléka insurgents; some of the Muslims felt that they had been left completely open to acts of revenge from the rest of the population. However, as he was now being attacked by the mob, two Muslims stepped in front of him and saved his life. One of them was an insurgent who was notoriously known as being one of the most brutal of men. In the past he had complained Father Aurelio was publicly denouncing the crimes of the Séléka and threatened to kill him himself. Now he was saving the missionary from death.


The 52-year-old Italian Carmelite priest took the Gospels literally: “Do good to those who hate you!” Immediately after this incident, he began to head out several times a day with a few volunteers from his parish to visit those Muslims who had barricaded themselves in close quarters to save themselves from acts of revenge. He provided them with drinking water, rice and medicine that he paid for out of his own pocket, but his main incentive was to give them comfort: “These were the same people who had threatened me and broken the windows of my car with rocks. Now they were nothing more than frightened children, women and men who were in need,” said the missionary.

Central African Republic, Bozoum, Konvoi of refugees.13th of Ja

As time went on, Father Aurelio eventually managed to soften the hearts of his parishioners as well. After most of the Muslims were evacuated by convoy in February of 2014, about two hundred were left in the city of Bozoum, most of them women and children who still need help to this day. At first, the priest only cautiously ventured out asking people to bring money and provisions to the church to help the Muslims. “I did not insist too strongly,” he explained, “because I know that the wounds are still fresh. Many have lost family members, others have relatives who were tortured, several were robbed and all of them had to stay away from their homes for weeks at a time, and all because of the Séléka and a few Muslims.” 

In the end, Father Aurelio was overwhelmed by the generosity of his parishioners. “Normally, the parishioners contribute a few provisions for the orphans and a little money, about 20 to 25 dollars, to the collection we hold once a month for the poor. On that Sunday, I was profoundly touched by my Christians. They brought a very large amount of food and collected more than 100 dollars!” This is a lot of money for an extremely poor country. Deeply moved, he added, “The parishioners found it in themselves to do a lot more for yesterday’s enemy, than they usually do for their brothers and sisters, the poor of the parish.”

Central African Republic, Bozoum: Food and Money offered b Catho



What can the Church do?

Fr. Aurelio Gazzera, Italian Carmelite missionary working in BozAn important role model for Father Aurelio is Father Werenfried van Straaten, the founder of Aid to the Church in Need, who became legendary as the “Bacon Priest.” Father Aurelio had already read his book Where God Weeps while he was still in school. Since then, he has had the opportunity to visit his grave in Königstein im Taunus. Now, after many years, the missionary has reread the book by Father Werenfried.  

“I discovered many interesting items in the book that also apply to our situation here! After the Second World War, Father Werenfried initiated an extraordinary charitable effort: he asked the Dutch to help the Germans! After the war, Germany was destroyed in every respect. And the resentment harboured against the Germans was very strong. However, Father Werenfried had the courage and daring to ask those people who had almost lost everything because of the Germans to help the German refugees who had lost everything!” History is now repeating itself in the faraway Central African Republic.

Today, in the aftermath of the dark times of war, Father Aurelio often ponders the question: “As priest and missionary, what can I do in this situation? What can the church do?” And he has come to the conclusion: “We can do so much, really so much! It is now more necessary than ever to rebuild the hearts and the conscience of the people.” He then talked about how much there is to do: houses were destroyed, hundreds of thousands of people have fled, the destitution is inconceivable. However, the most important work is “to comfort, to encourage and to promote awareness of the mistakes, the evil and the sin.” And he added, “This type of crisis is an appeal that affects us deeply and that encourages us to follow the example set by Jesus, His Gospel and His life more closely. He is the one who gives strength and courage. He opens up the paths of light and hope.


In the CentraCentral African Republic, Bozoum: Catholic faithful offering fool African Republic, Aid to the Church in Need supports the training of prospective priests and Sisters who will be the peacemakers of the future. In addition, the charitable organization is helping to rebuild and supports the work of the church in a country that is one of the poorest in the world.


 As Father Werenfried used to say: Place your trust in people! Because people are better than we think. However, not only people, but also God is better than we think…”

Serbia: The impoverishment of Serbia

25.03.2015 in Pastoral aid, Press Release, Reconstruction, SEMINARIANS, Serbia, TRANSPORTATION


The impoverishment of Serbia 

Königstein/Montreal – March 24, 2015. “Serbia has visibly become poor. For this reason, many have also given up hope. The 40 to 50-year-olds are now leaving, people in their prime.”   The Catholic bishop of Zrenjanin, Ladislav Nemet, used these words to describe the current situation in Serbia during a visit to the international Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).

eveque serbieBishop Nemet also said, “Waging war costs a great deal; however, being bombed even more. Years of international sanctions and the damage inflicted by the NATO bombing in 1999, which has yet to be repaired, have been very hard on the economic basis, especially on industry and the transportation infrastructure. Serbia has been thrown back at least 50 years.”

The Church feels the effects of emigration

According to the bishop, the first wave of emigration hit the south-eastern European country in 1991. At that time, those leaving were primarily young Serbs who did not want to fight in the war. The second wave was triggered by the bombing in 1999. According to a 2011 Census, Serbia currently should have 7.16 million inhabitants. The World Bank estimates that the country has lost approximately 300,000 inhabitants over the last ten years.

The Church has also felt the effects of emigration Greek Catholic Church. Bishop Nemet commented, “Today, the diocese of Zrenjanin in Vojvodina in the northern part of Serbia has approximately 65,000 believers. In 1991, there were still 99,000.” Because many believers in Vojvodina have Hungarian, Romanian, Croatian or German roots, moving to one of the countries of the European Union is comparatively easy. According to the bishop, most of the Serbs move to Austria, Germany or the United States. Thus, Chicago is “already considered the second largest Serbian community after Belgrade.”

ACN has been supporting the pastoral work of the Catholic as well as the Greek Catholic Church in all five Serbian dioceses giving pastoral care following the diaspora – for years. In 2014, the aid was primarily used for pastoral programs to help children and adolescents; renovation as well as construction projects were also supported along with help to avoid damage from flooding. Mass Offerings were given to secure the livelihood of pastors, as were the acquisition of automobiles to carry out pastoral care in diaspora regions.

Journey with ACN

19.12.2014 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN Canada, ACN International, CONSECRATED LIFE, Honduras, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Journey with ACN, Pastoral aid, Pastoral care, Pastoral work, Peru, Sisters
© Aid to the Church in Need

JOURNEY WITH ACN is  our weekly newsletter regularly posted to our blog and designed to acquaint you with the needs of the Catholic Church around the world – and various projects we have helped to bring into being together with ACN benefactors.

This week :   Peru  & Honduras


“It has become dangerous even to remain inside the church”

Renovation of the parish of the Immaculate Conception in Pevas, San José de Amazonas

There are no other countries in South America where the shortage of priests is more acute than in Bolivia and Peru. Even though some 84% of Peru’s population of around 28 million inhabitants have been baptized Catholic, there remains a tremendous lack of the most basic knowledge of the Catholic Faith and an acute shortage of necessary pastoral care, resulting in the flourishing of sects. Today approximately 10% of Peruvians belong to one of the many evangelical “free churches” – and this trend is increasing rapidly.

Even in the most remote regions, the sects are advancing – including here, in the vicariate of San José de Amazonas which is found in the extreme north-east of the country, bordering Colombia. This is an exceptionally remote region most easily reached by aircraft, or by boat along the upper reaches of the Amazon River. And quite apart from the growth of the sects, the sheer remoteness, inaccessibility and scattered nature of the settlements is another of the greatest challenges for priests and missionaries here.

In many of the smaller towns and villages the sects have already built small chapels and in this way they are luring to them many Catholics. There are, perhaps, 800 small Catholic settlements altogether along the rivers Amazon, Napo, Putumayo and Yavari and their countless tributaries – all in an area of around 60,000 square miles (155,000 km²). One of these centres is the parish of the Immaculate Conception in Pevas, which has existed since 1956. Due to the shortage of priests, most of these small communities are looked after by religious Sisters or lay missionaries, who conduct liturgies of the Word and prepare the faithful for reception of the Sacraments.

The poverty is almost unimaginable by Western standards. Most Catholic faithful are simple campesinos who barely manage to scrape a meagre living from the land. Socially, and culturally, they have few prospects. This is one reason, perhaps, why the Church plays such an important role in their lives. Most of the villages’ inhabitants and of the homesteads and settlements in the surrounding area come to the churches to worship. And the parish church itself is both House of God and a communications centre at the same time – a place of shared prayer, but also a social and cultural meeting place. This is very much the case in Pevas. But time has not been kind to their parish church.

Bishop Miguel Olaortua Laspra has visited the community personally and seen for himself the state of the church, which was built in 1968. The rain and heat have caused the roof to rust through by now and the water drips through onto the altar missals. It has become dangerous even to remain inside the church, since at any moment pieces of the ceiling can break and fall. Therefore, the Bishop would like the church to have a new roof. “Unfortunately, the vicariate is not in a position to cover the costs of the repairs itself,” he writes. “We are therefore appealing to your generosity and would be most grateful if you can help us.”

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The parishioners themselves are willing to play an active part in renovating the church. But their efforts alone will not be enough. And so we were happy to promised them a contribution of $12,000 dollars.



Providing religious Sisters with the basics of life

© Aid to the Church in Need

© Aid to the Church in Need

She is young, and she works full-time – and yet she still does not have enough to live on. Ruth Nohemi Martinez is 29 years old, and since December 2010, she has been a religious Sister in the community of Our Lady of Guadalupe in San Francisco, in the Department of Atlántida.

Sister Ruth is one of 23 religious Sisters working in the dioceses of La Ceiba on the northern Caribbean coast of the country. Most of these nuns are active in the pastoral and catechetical field. They look after children, young people and adults providing religious instruction in the kindergartens and schools, preparing children for their First Holy Communion and young couples for the Sacrament of Matrimony. In many of these parishes the parish priests simply could not cope without the help of these parish Sisters of “theirs.” At the same time, many of the Sisters are also active in charitable and social fields. In their work with young people they run day-cares, help the children with their homework, provide lunchtime meals service for the poorest children, care for young people in the country areas and provide psychological and pedagogical counselling… Other Sisters work in retirement homes and hospitals and in the apostolate with mothers and women.

© Aid to the Church in Need

© Aid to the Church in Need

The scope of their work is enormous – but there is one thing that all these sisters have in common, and that is the fact that the little money earned by just some of the Sisters for their work is not sufficient to support their communities. Without the help of generous donations from outside this precious and richly blessed ministry of theirs would be impossible. Bishop Michael Lenihan of La Ceiba writes to say: “We thank you with all our hearts for your precious support, which is helping us spread the Good News in our diocese.”

To make a donation to ACN for refugees

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.


ACN has always given to the work of these Sisters and will continue to do so this year as well – with a contribution of $13,800 dollars, to ensure apostolates among those of the Consecrated Life, like Sister Ruth, can continue.



Journey with ACN – The Synod for bishops on the family

10.10.2014 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN Canada, ACN International, Brazil, DRC Congo, Ecuador, Family Apostolate, Madagascar, Pastoral aid, Uganda, Zambia

JOURNEY WITH ACN is our Friday our weekly newsletter regularly posted to our blog and designed to acquaint you with the needs of the Catholic Church around the world – and various projects we have helped to bring into being together with ACN benefactors.

This week :  The Synod for bishops on the family in Rome


This week, we would like to present you with projects ACN supported  of a family pastoral work nature, in the framework of the the Synod for bishops on the family in Rome taking place until October 19th. 

Brésil ACN-20140723-11616

© Aid to the Church in Need


Support for the apostolate of 150 religious sisters in the Archdiocese of São Salvador da Bahia 

Within the archdiocese there are some 50 different congregations of religious sisters involved in pastoral work, including the family apostolate and the religious education of children and young people. The Irmãs Franciscanas Marianas Missionárias have established a daycare and a school here and are helping around 200 young people towards a better future, through training in typing and the use of sewing machines, a joinery workshop and a brick making workshop.

In Sussuarana, in a Favela without any streets, drainage system or electricity supply, there are four Sisters of Divine Providence running a primary school with 237 pupils. Similarly, the Comboni Sisters in Coqueirinho are caring for the children there. Their parents are delighted that their little ones can not only be instructed in basic religious knowledge, but can also obtain a solid meal. ACN is planning to help a total of 153 religious sisters in this archdiocese with a sum of $71,500 .


 © Aid to the Church in Need

© Aid to the Church in Need


A centre for catechetical instruction in the parish of Saint Arnoldo

In Chimborazo, one of the suburbs of the city of Guayaquil, plagued by extreme poverty, drug-related crime and violence, the Sisters of the Annunciation are running a school for 300 children and also caring for families within the community. Within the space of one year the number of children and adolescents in the parish program has grown from 48 to 252. The sisters have turned to ACN for help to construct two rooms for catechesis. We have promised them $32,000 .


RDC 20100525_005

© Aid to the Church in Need

Democratic Republic of the Congo

Education for a responsible life

“Education for Life“ is the name of the program run by the Archdiocese of Kinshasa, which seeks to help young people, married couples and families to live a truly Christian life. The most recent campaign was a tremendous success and reached some 55,000 young people and adults. In fact the response was so encouraging that the archdiocese now wishes to extend this program. In order to do so, the books and other educational materials need to be updated and reprinted. ACN has been asked to help and is hoping to be able to contribute the sum of $101,500.


Madagascar ACN-20140403-06723

© Aid to the Church in Need


Education for life

In the diocese of Farafangana there are two projects – “Education for Life” and “Love and Education for Family Life,” both of which seek to promote the Catholic vision of partnership and sexuality. This educational and training program is being taught in the Catholic schools and parishes. The organizers have written to say that “It is being very well received among the young people and there is a great demand for it.” Inspired by the initial success, they now want to extend this program and provide training for all who are interested. ACN is contributing $25,000.



 © Aid to the Church in Need

© Aid to the Church in Need

Uganda and Zambia

Youth Alive“ – for a future without AIDS

In the last 15 years over 3 million people have been reached through the “Youth Alive“ AIDS prevention program. This initiative has long since spread to other countries and  now “Youth Alive“ is represented in 80 different countries, mainly on the African continent. Its team of educators, made up of young people for the most part, give talks in schools and parishes on issues such as sexuality and AIDS. Their goal is to prevent the spread of HIV by means of these educational campaigns and at the same time help children and young adults to develop a healthy, proactive approach to life. ACN is helping to support this program, with a total of $130,000 – spread over three years.

To make a donation to ACN for refugees

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.


Journey with ACN – Israel

02.05.2014 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN Canada, ACN International, Holy Land, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Israel, Journey with ACN, Pastoral aid

JOURNEY WITH ACN is our Friday our weekly newsletter regularly posted to our blog and designed to acquaint you with the needs of the Catholic Church around the world – and various projects we have been brought into being together with ACN benefactors.

This week again:   Israel



“Church in the heart of Jewish society”

Pastoral centre for migrants opened in Tel Aviv – Patriarch Twal: “Thanks to ‘Aid to the Church in Need’ for its help”

By Oliver Maksan, ACN International

With a ceremonial pontifical mass the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Fouad Twal, inaugurated the first Catholic pastoral centre of migrants in Israel on Saturday in Tel Aviv.  Those present included the Apostolic Nuncio in Israel, Archbishop Giuseppe Lazzarotto, and the Ambassador of the Philippines in Israel.  Twal expressly thanked the international Catholic pastoral charity “Aid to the Church in Need” (ACN) for supporting the project. The patriarch’s own words were: “I wish the benefactors of ‘Aid to the Church in Need’ could be here to share the people’s joy at the new centre. I thank all donors from my heart on their behalf. May God bless them.”

Father David Neuhaus SJ, co-ordinator of the Patriarchate for migrants’ pastoral care and initiator of the project, thanked “Aid to the Church in Need” for its support. “It would have been impossible to found the ‘Our Lady of Valor’ Pastoral Centre without the generous help of various charities, including as always ‘Aid to the Church in Need’.’ Aid to the Church in Need’ has accompanied the development of the Hebrew-speaking Catholic Church in Israel very closely and is now also helping the migrants. We are particularly grateful to ‘Aid to the Church in Need’ and pray for all benefactors.”



Father Neuhaus stressed that the Church of the Holy Land, which had to date been dominated mainly by the Arabic-speaking Palestinian Christians, was becoming much more diverse in its composition. “The migrants are making the Christian presence more complex since many of them come from Asia, Africa and Eastern Europe and live within the Israeli-Jewish, Hebrew-speaking society. Although they remain on the margins of this society, they identify with it and their children grow up speaking Hebrew. The Church is now called upon to establish itself where it previously had no presence: in the Jewish quarter where the migrants live, in the heart of Israeli-Jewish society,” Neuhaus explained.

The people there are now very grateful for the new centre. Lourdes, a Filipino woman working as a home nurse, is committed to helping during church services in the community. On the edge of the inauguration ceremony she told ACN: “For us the centre is home. Here we meet our compatriots and we can pray. I’m happy we have it.”

The new pastoral centre in the south of Tel Aviv serves the community of Catholic migrants in Israel, who comprise mainly guest workers from the Philippines, India and Sri Lanka, as well as asylum seekers from Sub-Saharan Africa. The number of guest workers has increased sharply since, following the Second Intifada, the Palestinian uprising against the Israeli occupation after 2000, most of the Palestinians who had been working previously in Israel were no longer granted a work permit. Many of the jobs they performed previously have now been taken over by guest workers.

Today about 40,000 Filipinos alone live in Israel with limited-term employment contracts. Like Lourdes, they work mostly in nursing occupations.  The Church sees the catechetical instruction and cultivation of a religious identity among migrant children as a special challenge. They attend Hebrew-speaking schools and receive no religious instruction there. With the help of “Aid to the Church in Need” a number of Hebrew-language books have therefore been published for religious instruction outside school.