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Pastoral work

 

Bangladesh – Living in a Muslims world: A vision

23.02.2018 in ACN International, Bangladesh, By Josué Villalón (ACN Spain), International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Journey with ACN, Julie Bourbeau, Pastoral work

Bangladesh

Living in a Muslims world: A vision

The bishop without land, without a house and without a car: “I was living in rented accommodation, in a house belonging to Muslims, in which I was not allowed to celebrate the Eucharist.”

 

Bishop Bejoy N. D’Cruze of the diocese of Sylhet, in the north of Bangladesh, is pursuing his mission among the poor tea plantation workers and tribal groups, in a Muslim country

 

Bishop Bejoy is small of stature, but has a huge heart. His smile never fades, not even when he is talking about the difficult situations he faces in his life and mission. He recently visited the Spanish national office of the international Catholic pastoral charity and pontifical foundation, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), and shared his experiences of the first few years of his episcopate in Sylhet, a diocese founded just seven years ago in the north of Bangladesh. This is an overwhelmingly Muslim country, with Hindu and Buddhist minorities. Christians make up less than 1% of the population. His diocese lies in an area of great poverty, dominated by vast tea plantations, and where the majority of the population lives on less than one Euro a day.

Bishop D’Cruze: Sylhet diocese – Plot of land to buy for future diocesan pastoral centre. 

 

What is life like at present in the diocese of Sylhet?

Sylhet is a new diocese, established only in 2011, and I am its first bishop. When we were visited by Véronique Vogel, ACN’s project section head for Bangladesh, I did not even have a house of my own. I was renting a room in a house belonging to Muslims, where I was not allowed to celebrate the Eucharist. Nor was I permitted to hold any religious meetings. I was allowed only to say my own private prayers. But in fact I did celebrate the Eucharist secretly, sometimes in the company of my priests.

 

So then, you started without even having a fitting place where you could celebrate Mass?

In starting my new mission as Bishop of Sylhet, I became a person without land, without a home and without a car. For my first two years as bishop I had to use public transportation – but the problem is that in Bangladesh, you have to wait a very long time for the bus or the train. They are always late. And so I wasted a lot of time. Now I am trying to complete various building projects, even though land is very expensive in Bangladesh. There are over 160 million people living there in a relatively small country. I still don’t have a cathedral, or even a pastoral centre.

What are the main things the Church needs in Sylhet?

Our principal need, apart from caring for the poor, is to be able to have a church in the town where I live, so that people can see that there is a visible Christian presence. There are around 300,000 Muslims in this city and around 1,500 Christians. Thanks to the support of ACN and other people, we will soon be able to inaugurate the first ever church in this city. This church will also be used for meetings and gatherings of people, and by children for catechesis. It is both a church and a multifunctional hall. In Sylhet we have six different Protestant communities, and ever since I’ve been here we have had very good relations with them and they accept me as if I were their bishop too. We have many ecumenical encounters. And, of course, this church will also have a multipurpose hall, because the rest of the Protestant communities don’t have any place to gather.

 

How was it seen by the Muslim majority that you were planning to build a church?

Where the Muslims are the majority, they don’t want people of other religions. In Bangladesh there is a constant battle against the minorities – the Hindus, Buddhists and Christians. The Church represents a hope for the minorities, because it always stands up for their rights. And besides, there is also discrimination in the workplace, in the infrastructure. Because in many cities, Christians face difficulties in being able to build. Yet despite everything, Bangladesh is a respectful Muslim country. There is less radicalism, and we, despite being such a small community, have an important influence in the field of education and healthcare. So far this new church has not caused too much annoyance among the people, even though some of the most radical elements have demonstrated against it.

 

In recent years there have been a number of attacks against religious minorities in Bangladesh by radical Islamists; some have even been claimed by the Islamic State. Is there an increase in radicalism in Bangladesh?

We have seen a small growth in Islamic fundamentalism. Small but powerful. In 2015, on November 20th, a doctor who was also a PIME missionary was beaten up by a group of fundamentalists. He was seriously injured and is still recovering in a hospital in Italy. Two or three Christians have also been murdered, and a church was attacked. I do not think it is too serious, however. As for me, personally, on December 23, 2015, just before Christmas, I received a “charming” letter from these fundamentalists in which they said, “Be prepared, Bishop, because we’re going to kill you.” But then nothing happened to me; I think it must have been a mistake (he tells us, laughing).

 

What impact on society and on the Church in Bangladesh did the visit by Pope Francis have at the beginning of last December?

Within my diocese and in Bangladesh generally, ever since the papal visit, more and more people are coming to our gatherings, and we are enjoying good interreligious relations. I’m very happy about this and also for the help we continue to receive. Many thanks to ACN for working so well on our behalf. We feel very grateful to you.

 

The international Catholic pastoral charity and pontifical foundation, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), has been working together with the local Church in Sylhet since the founding of the diocese. Currently, ACN is supporting a number of different projects for spiritual formation and human development, together with the pastoral, educational and justice and peace commissions. In 2016, ACN gave over 845 000 dollars in aid for projects in Bangladesh.

 


 

ACN Project of the Week: Pastoral care in for families in Pakistan

28.07.2017 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN PROJECTS, Family Apostolate, Pakistan, Pakistan, Pastoral work

Pakistan

Supporting Pastoral care for families

 

The diocese of Hyderabad is located in the southern part of Pakistan and covers a vast territory of over 137,000 km². 

Here live an extraordinarily minority group made up of about 50,000 Catholics, many of whom belong to ethnic minorities, among a population of 28 million Muslims, many of who were formerly Hindus.

These groups find themselves at the very bottom rungs of society, often condemned to work as labourers in the fields of big landowners or as brick makers in the brick furnaces. Generally speaking, they find themselves entirely at the mercy of their wealthy masters. Some also perform menial tasks like street sweeping or toilet cleaning in the towns and are paid very irregularly.  Understandably, because of this financial instability, families often fall into debt. Should a family member fall ill or lose his job, or if his employer fails to pay his wages, the entire family will be forced to borrow money often at extortionate interest rates, resulting of courser in ever deeper debt and thrusting them into a vicious spiral of poverty and dependency. Many families have become trapped for generations in this cycle of debt slavery. It is a very heavy and crushing burden for many people.

 

Bishop Samson Shukardin writes: “Just to put something on the table each day is a daily battle and a daily reality for these families. The spiral of poverty, unemployment and indebtedness drives many into drug addiction and other forms of dependency and brings upon their families a veritable plague of conflict, arguments, discord and in many cases domestic violence.”

 

It is the bishop‘s deepest wish to help these families hold together in these difficult circumstances, and live their Christian faith in such a way that peace, harmony and love prevail within them. To fulfill this heartfelt wish, he has established a program to strengthen and support married couples and their families.

 

 

Under the direction of a Sister who has spent 25 years working with family apostolate, and with the help of trained and experienced married couples, courses and meetings are being offered in all 17 parishes of the diocese, for young soon to be engaged couples, for married couples in the process of establishing their family and for family groups in general. Topics included among others:  How to be good parents? How can family pray together? How do couples learn how to communicate and respect one another? How can we establish a Christian marriage and a Christian family life, based on the Sacraments?

“They have my full backing and support,” writes the bishop stated in a letter to us, “since the welfare of the family is decisive for the future of the world and of the Church.”

“Only if we nurture the Christian life of families and support them pastorally will the Church be faithful to her mission as a light to the nations.”

 

We have promised an amount of $18,488 to help in funding these courses for families and married couples in the 17 parishes of the diocese.

Thank you for supporting these Christians in Pakistan!

 

 


 

ACN Project of the Week in Peru : Expansion of pastoral activities in the Rain Forest

19.04.2017 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN Canada, Pastoral care, Pastoral work, Peru, Project of the Week

Peru

Expansion of the pastoral outreach program in the Amazon rainforest

Forty-five years ago Sister Maria Luisa Maduell left everything to follow Christ by joining the congregation of the Sisters of Jesus. A vocation that took her from Spain, deep into the Amazon region of eastern Peru into the apostolic vicariate of Yurimaguas, a region largely covered by Rainforest. She believes that it was Providence that sent her to the indigenous peoples of the Rainforest.

 

The living conditions of the indigenous peoples are very simple and they are very poor. Their huts have roofs made of palm leaves and most of the small riverside settlements are only accessible by boat. There are no roads, the only medical and educational help they receive comes from the local missionaries. The women cook their meals on open wood fires and grow a few basic vegetables in little garden plots. Their basic diet consists of yucca, plantain bananas and occasionally a little fish. “As a religious, I often sit with the women and cook alongside them. It is important to be close to the people, simply to be with them,” explains Sister Maria Luisa.

 

The apostolic vicariate of Yurimaguas covers a vast area of some 70,000 km². The Catholic faithful are thinly scattered across this area and there are far too few priests. Sister Maria Luisa works in the parish of Saint Thomas, or Santo Tomàs del Rio Paranapura, providing all the pastoral care, since at the present time there is no priest here. She has two other sisters and a few lay helpers to support her. The lay helpers in this work of evangelization are themselves very simple people, and Sister Maria Luisa speaks of them with enormous admiration: “They have only a minimal formal education, and yet in their own way they are theologians, mystics, people of great faith and above all of unbelievable generosity,” she says. Every month, each of them visits the people in the area assigned to him and prays with them, helping them to understand the Gospel message and grow in faith and in love for Jesus Christ. In this way they manage to visit three quarters of their vast parish area each month.

Bishop José Luis Astigarraga, who sadly died in January 2017, was delighted at their commitment and spoke of a “truly missionary undertaking.” He had been bishop of Yurimaguas since 1991 and was for many years a friend of ACN. Thanks to the continuing and faithful support of our benefactors, we were able to help him regularly and generously. Only shortly before his death he again thanked us and all our benefactors for the help they have given for his apostolic vicariate over the years. It was his cherished wish that the activities in the parish of Saint Thomas on the Rio Paranapura not only be continued but indeed intensified, and he wrote to us saying, “I not only approve this project but want to see it go further.” And he urged us to support Sister Maria Luisa and her helpers by providing catechetical material, training up more lay helpers and giving further in-service training to those already involved in this work, and also so that they could take part in retreat days.

We are delighted to report that we have been able to fulfill one of the last wishes of the late bishop and are planning to support the project with $21,750.

 


 

ACN Project of the Week – A vehicle to help a priest in Malawi

22.03.2017 in Africa, Aid to the Church in Need Canada, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Journey with ACN, Malawi, MOTORIZATION, Pastoral work

Malawi                                                                                 

 A vital vehicle to reach remote parishioners in the mountains

Here is a success story signed by Aid to the Church in Need!  

 

The parish of Saint Paul is one of the largest parishes in the diocese of Blantyre and lies in a mountainous area, close to the frontier between Malawi and Mozambique.
(more…)

Project of the Week – Supporting young mothers in Burkina Faso

05.10.2016 in ACN BENEFACTORS, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Burkina Faso, Pastoral work

For the love of life

Supporting young single mothers in Burkina Faso

 

As soon Antoinette told her boyfriend she was pregnant, he slammed the door in her face. Suddenly, he would have nothing to do with her any longer. And her uncle too, with whom she had been living, simply kicked her out of the house when he learned of her condition.

 

The 16-year-old found she was completely alone. Fortunately though, the story had a a happy ending. A neighbour told her about the care centre for pregnant women and single mothers run by the Catholic Church in Dedougou. She went to them, sought shelter, and now she can give birth to her baby in a loving, caring and supportive atmosphere.

Antoinette‘s story is far too common a story for many young girls in Burkina Faso. Socially speaking, women very much hang on the bottom rung. Only 14% of so can read or write, and the number of young girls trying to raise one or more children alone is growing.  More often than not, the father of their child will not accept any responsibility for it. Most of these girls are already from poor and disadvantaged families, often with no one to care for them. Many are, in fact, orphaned.

When the girls become pregnant, they are thrown out of the house or forced into abortion. Sometimes they give birth to their baby and then abandon it on a street corner. Many are already compelled to sleep on the streets, because they have nowhere else to go. Others may be fleeing from an arranged marriage, of again may have already slid into prostitution.Too many of these girls and young women only end up in prostitution because they can see no other way of supporting themselves and their babies. This is often the start of a vicious circle in which they might also become infected with HIV and end up in a still worse situation than before. It also frequently happens that they become pregnant again very soon afterwards, still further compounding their difficulties. Sadly, some of these young women end up in such despair – they ultimately take their own lives.

 

Centre d'accueil en faveur des filles-mères, Dédougou

Supporting young women often rejected from their homes and communities because they are expecting a child. They center in Degougou welcomes these young mothers so that life can flourish in the best conditions.

 

The centre for young mothers in Dedougou offers hope and a refuge for many girls and women who have ended up in such desperate situations. Here, they are given support and advice, the opportunity to continue their schooling – or go to school for the first time in their lives. Additionally, they are also given the opportunity to train in a useful skill, such as hairdressing. For many of the girls it may be the first time in their lives that anyone has ever cared for or helped them. They learn what it is to feel valued and to what means to feel safe.  They are given the chance to bring their children into the world in the peace and security offered by the centre – resulting in the ability to hope for a better future.

 

Aid to the Church in Need has been helping for this centre for some time now.

 

Thanks to the generosity of our benefactors, we are able to help again this year, with 21,900 CAD.

Would you like to support a project like this one?  We welcome your love and support.  Simply click to ‘Donate’.

donate

 


 

International Prayer! 1 Million Children Praying the Rosary

05.10.2016 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN Canada, Children, Children, Pastoral work, Peace, Prayer, Press Release

PRESS RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

 

Children Praying the Rosary

More than ever: Pray for Peace and Unity

Montreal, Wednesday October 5 – Again this year, Aid to the Church in Need is supporting the One Million Children Pray the Rosary* campaign, an international event with participation also across Canada taking place Tuesday, October 18.


Since the inception of this initiative born in Venezuela in 2005, the international organization has been attracted to the idea of uniting children together to pray for peace in the world.  In Canada, several pastoral services, dioceses and parishes, will participate in the nearing event.  “We want to share this initiative which represents our mission so well, year after year,” explains Marie-Claude Lalonde, the pontifical charities’ national director. “Even more so given what is happening in Syria at the moment, in Iraq and in the Democratic Republic of Congo making praying for peace and for unity in the world an essential part of Christian life.”

 

Christians also have a few more reasons to be touched by this call to prayer, particularly because it is a question of religious persecution, as the upcoming Report on Religious Freedom will demonstrate when it is launched this November. “In many countries, Christians are a minority and experience persecution.  It is our duty to do what we can to help them, if only to pray for them,” explains Mrs Lalonde.

 

This prayer initiative connects to one of the goals Aid to the Church in Need has – which is to pray for Christians who are poor, isolated and persecuted throughout the world, as well as to stay informed about their situation and act on their behalf.

 

Material available!

In order to support our parishes, schools and Catholic spiritual centres, or other organizations who wish to participate in this pastoral initiative; the Canadian office of Aid to the Church in Need has material made for children and their guides: a leaflet and a letter for children, a poster and decade Rosaries among others.

We invite anyone interested to contact us, at 1 (800) 585- 6333 or (514) 932-0552 or send an email to info@acn-aed-ca.org to request the free material.

 

*Witnessing children praying the Rosary before the Virgin Mary in Caracas (the capital of Venezuela) a few women felt the strong presence of the Holy Mother and became aware of the power of the children’s prayer.  What followed was the launch of this great prayer initiative.

 

1er Juin: les enfants réunis dans les ruines de la cathédrale Notre-Dame-de-la-Paix à Homs, prient pour la paix en Syrie.

June 1st, 2016:  Children at Our Lady of Peace Cathedral in Homs, Syria – Praying together for Peace. 

 

By Mario Bard, Aid to the Church in Need Canada

Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin

 

 


 

 

ACN PROJECT OF THE WEEK – INDIA

22.06.2016 in ACN International, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Aid to the Church in Need Canada, India, Pastoral care, Pastoral work, Projets pastorale

India

A pastoral program to mark the Holy Year of Mercy

Inde, mars 2004 Diocèse de Calcutta, Soeur Nirmala et Mgr Salvatore Lobo

India, March 2004 in the Diocese of Calcutta: Sister Nirmala and Msgr Salvatore Lobo

While still a young seminarian, Bishop Salvadore Lobo of Baruipur gained deep sympathy for the poor and disabled after meeting Mother Teresa.

This meeting would then prompt him to volunteer in her Kaligat House of the Dying in Calcutta, where he tended to the dying. It was an experience which would remain with him throughout his life.

 

In Bishop Lobo‘s deeply impoverished diocese, the Holy Year of Mercy, proclaimed by Pope Francis, is being commemorated with exceptional solemnity. This is why the bishop has consecrated a church dedicated to the Divine Mercy. It took him three hours by car and then another hour by boat just to get here – for this church stands on an island in the river. But then, he is rather accustomed to travelling long distances for many places in his diocese are hard to get to.

 

India 3

In the town of Baruipur

The concern nearest to his heart, is ensuring that people here truly take to heart the message of God‘s Mercy. He would like to put in place a pastoral program that will not only run the length of this Year of Mercy, but for three years and so help support the people’s development in a spirit of love, peace and mutual forgiveness. A range of different courses, workshops, retreats and days of reflection will be offered to the various different target groups. A main focus will be on work with children for in this part of India, the Church only has a few Catholic schools resulting in insufficient religious support and accompaniment for the children.

 

Too many children spend their time in front of the television or playing computer games, and fewer and fewer go to church. As a result, the Bishop wants to intensify the work with children and young people in order to root them more profoundly in their faith. Imperative, will be the special programs being developed for women since they often receive very little support and count for little in society –  even in their own eyes.

 

Pastorale jeunesse

Youth pastoral program

There is also the fact that the Catholics frequently belong to the ethnic minorities who are at the bottom ranks of Indian society. It is precisely for people like these, who suffer exceptional disadvantages, whom the bishop wants to work at reaching with the understanding of God‘s love and mercy for them.

 

 

 

ACN is supporting this project and has promised $43,500 CAD to the implementation of these pastoral programs of the diocese of Baruipur!  Would you like to help support a similar project?

 

donate

 

 


 

ACN Project of the week : pastorals bicycles and mopeds!

08.06.2016 in ACN Canada, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Africa, DRC Congo, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Journey with ACN, MOTORIZATION, Pastoral work, TRANSPORTATION

Democratic Republic of the Congo

Gratitude for two mopeds and eight bicycles for the pastoral team in Poko

 

All across Canada, bicycles have become popular instruments for leisure activities and many people even use them to get to work. 

Elsewhere in the world, this method of transportation becomes a veritable treasure that you, ACN Benefactors, contribute to giving as you have in DRC Congo.

 

In the northeast of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, in the parish of St Augustine, Poko, two priests are delighted to have each received a moped! The catechists are equally pleased to have eight bicycles between them. Thanks to the generosity of our benefactors, who have given $13,920, they now no longer have to spend hours walking to reach their destination.

 

Also rejoicing is the rest of the Catholic faithful who stand to benefit most from these gifts. For now, the priests and the catechists can much more easily access the remoter villages. Now, the people can receive the sacraments more frequently, as well as instructions in their faith, and participate more fully in the life of the Church.2 motorcycles and 8 bikes for the parish St Augustin de Poko

 

Needless to say, this parish is situated in a predominantly rural area. The people here struggle to support themselves on what they are able to grow in the fields. Sadly, the armed conflict in the region has only made their poverty worse and has devastated the local infrastructure – roads, bridges, medical centres, parish centres – everything has been destroyed or damaged.

 

But what the people here need more than anything is spiritual help and support. Therefore these simple items, modes of transportation, funded by our benefactors, have brought untold spiritual blessings to the Catholic faithful of the area. Their heartfelt thanks to you all!

2 motorcycles and 8 bikes for the parish St Augustin de Poko

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

donate

 

 


 

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.

qu

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)


 

 

 

 

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.

Ukraine

“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.

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