ACN Project of the Week – Help for refugees in Marawi

17.04.2019 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN PROJECTS, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Journey with ACN, Philippines


Success Story: help for refugees and people who have suffered trauma, in Marawi

Roughly 80% of the population of the Philippines are Catholic. However, in the southern Mindanao island group there is a relatively large number of Muslims. For years now, Islamist terror groups have been trying to establish an “Islamic State of Mindanao.”

In May 2017 several hundred Islamist fighters besieged, occupied and almost destroyed the city of Marawi, which was in fact already a centre of the Muslim faith. They killed many people, took many hostages and extensively damaged the Catholic Cathedral of Our Lady. Most of the hostages they took were Christians, and it seems likely that the terrorists even wanted to capture the Bishop of Marawi, Edwin de la Peña, who as it happened was not in the city at the time. So instead they abducted the vicar general, Teresito Suganob, and other Catholic faithful. But the Islamists also took a number of Muslims hostage whom they accused of collaborating with the Christians.

For five months the jihadists held Marawi in their power, but eventually the city was liberated by the government army, but leaving still more devastation behind. Thousands of inhabitants were forced to flee the city, most of whom still live in tents or crowded in with relatives.

Healing trauma


ACN provided emergency aid for the refugees during the conflict. But now, the most imperative need is to help those traumatized by the conflict. ACN is supporting a project run by the diocese helping some 200 men, women and children who were held prisoner for months and subjected to physical, psychological and spiritual torment. Among them, many women and even young girls, who were raped by their captors. Help is given to Christians and Muslims alike. Thanks to the kindness our benefactors, we were able to give $22,500 towards this project.

Another initiative organized by the local diocese is the “Youth for Peace“ project, bringing 184 Christian and Muslim students to visit refugee camps, where tens of thousands of people who fled the city are still living. The students help the refugees, regardless of their religion, and strive to witness to peaceful coexistence, even after the terrible events of 2017.

For the local Bishop, Edwin de la Peña, dialogue and the rebuilding of peaceful coexistence between Christians and Muslims are an absolute priority. ACN has given $90,000 to help fund this project.

The Philippines: The Catholic Church calls for prayer and solidarity

28.01.2019 in Philippines

AN urgent appeal for prayers for the victims of yesterday’s terrorist attack on a cathedral in the Philippines has been made by the leader of the local Catholic community. Two bombs exploded yesterday (27th January) during Sunday Mass in the Cathedral of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Jolo, southern Philippines, killing 20 people and wounding dozens more, according to local police.

In a message to Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, Father Romeo Saniel, Apostolic Administrator of Jolo, said:  “Please pray for the victims of Mount Carmel Cathedral bombing in Jolo. “No words can describe the sorrow and pain that we feel these days. May they be given justice in God’s time. “I know that the friends of the victims – both Muslims and Christians – are mourning and in deep sorrow today.

Pray also pray for the families of our young soldiers who died while securing the cathedral.” Fr Saniel added: “Most of those who died were our regular Sunday 8am Mass-goers.”

A Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines’ statement on the bombings also expressed condolences to the families of the civilians and soldiers who were killed.

According to local Church sources, the first blast went off at 08.45am local time (00.45 GMT), while Mass was being said.

As soldiers responded to the incident, a second explosion took place in the car park, where Mass-goers had gathered following the first detonation.  Initial reports suggest the second bomb was hidden inside the tool box of a motorcycle. Following an examination of the bomb sites earlier today (Monday, 28th January), police chief Oscar Albayalde said that the devices could have been set off by a mobile phone.

Deash (ISIS) claimed responsibility for the attack, but in a radio interview, Colonel Gerry Besana of the military’s Western Mindanao Command, said that CCTV footage suggested a break-away faction of Islamist extremist group Abu Sayyaf could be responsible.

Abu Sayyaf has pledged allegiance to Daesh. Since 2000, there have been at least 10 attacks on or near the cathedral, many of which Abu Sayyaf claimed responsibility for.

The cathedral attack came within a week of a referendum in which the Muslim-majority region of Mindanao voted for greater autonomy.

Text: John Newton, ACN-UK.

*Photo Credit: Duyog Marawi

ACN Project of the Week : Success Story in the Philippines

19.07.2018 in ACN Canada, ACN International, ACN PROJECTS, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Philippines, Project of the Week, Sisters

A Success Story in the Philippines

A vehicle for pastoral work among the indigenous peoples of the diocese of San Jose


For the past seven years, Sister Anita has been working among the indigenous peoples of the diocese of San Jose, supporting them with wise counsel and ministering to their needs. She looks after the children in the primary schools, making sure they have enough to eat, helping them with their studies and teaching them the Catholic faith. She helps and advises the women and organizes all kinds of different activities for the young people. “It is a joy and a blessing for me,” she says, speaking of her work.


She has to travel to visit the people in the villages where they live, and the distances in this mountainous region are considerable, making this journey a real problem. The only transport available which comes just twice a week called a “Jeepney” (a public minibus) travels through the various villages and back into the city, but it is impossibly overcrowded at all times.


People cram in, with their sacks of rice and cement and bulky cardboard boxes, and some passengers even have to sit on the roof. The journeys seem to take forever because at every stop there are things to be off-loaded and then un-loaded onto the minibus, as some passengers get off and new ones get on. If you miss one Jeepney, you have to wait three days for the next one.


This was making Sister Anita’s work extremely difficult to undertake, and so she turned to ACN for help.


Thanks to the generosity of our kind benefactors, we have been able to provide her with $37,750 for the purchase of a sturdy vehicle that can cope with the untarred roads and the rough and often muddy tracks.


Sister Anita is overjoyed and writes, “Your help is a blessing and a great support for our apostolate among the native peoples. Many thanks! We are so happy! And now we are all the more eager and determined to go out to the faithful and serve the Church.”



You would like to give to a similar project? Simply click on donate and select ‘Project of the Week’.


Philippines: “The reconstruction of the city of Marawi will take years”

13.04.2018 in ACN Feature, Asia, By Reinhard Backes, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Journey with ACN, Julie Bourbeau, Marawi, Philippines


“The reconstruction of the city of Marawi will take years”


Reinhard Backes travelled to the Philippine city of Marawi for the Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need. The Christian minority in the city was suppressed for months by Islamists. An interview about relations between Christians and Muslims in the region and how the aftermath of the conflict is being dealt with.

 What has been happening in Marawi over the last few months?

The city is a centre of the Muslim faith on Mindanao, even though the island itself, the second largest of the Philippines, has a Christian majority. And of all places, this was the place that was targeted by Islamist extremists. It all started on May 23, 2017. The Philippine military had planned an operation to arrest the leader of the so-called “Islamic State” of the region. However, extremists beat them to it and occupied the historic city centre of Marawi until well into October. In the end, the conflict was resolved through violence. The army heavily bombed the city centre. According to official sources, 920 extremists, 165 soldiers and 45 civilians were killed.


Was this more of a spontaneous attack, or had the occupation been planned for a long time?

Apparently the attackers were well prepared and well informed about the planned military operation. They may even have been warned by informants within the military. However, like so many other things, this is a matter of speculation because detailed information about what happened during the attack on Marawi is still not available. When I visited the city in early March, it was explained to me that the majority of extremists were Indonesians. Mindanao is easy to reach from Indonesia by sea. It apparently was, and still is, difficult for the military to control the ocean route. Observers believe that the army was not prepared for such a threat.

March 2018: visit to the historic centre of Marawi city, now called Ground Zero. During the Marawi siege, which lasted from May to October 2017, military airstrikes have transformed what was once the pride of Muslim Mindanao into rubble.

Were the Islamists helped by members of the general population?

It has to be assumed that they did receive some sort of “backing” from the general population. After all, the extremists apparently used a tunnel system to move about underground. And something like that certainly does not happen overnight.


According to media reports, Christians were taken hostage, among them a priest.

Many hostages were taken, the majority of which were Christians. Apparently the Catholic Saint Mary’s Cathedral was one of the first sites targeted by the extremists in the city. It is to be assumed that they wanted to take the bishop of Marawi, Edwin de la Peña, hostage, but he was not in the city centre at the time. And so they took the vicar general, Teresito Suganob, and other believers instead. However, the Islamists also took hostages from among the Muslims whom they accused of collaborating with the Christians.


Was Saint Mary’s Cathedral defiled or desecrated in any way?

March 2018: image of paradise, but this is just an illusion. These two men were abducted by the islamists, for weeks. They keep psychological wounds. ACN will support program that will help them to recover.  

Yes. The church is pretty much completely destroyed, including all sculptures, statues of Our Lady and crucifixes. I saw a statue of the Virgin Mary that had been beheaded. They probably burned the head. All that was left was the clothed corpus. From an architectural standpoint, the cathedral is a rather simple, hall-like structure. Marawi is majority Muslim and so it was not acceptable to build an overly conspicuous Christian church. The Catholic community there has only a few thousand members, who are scattered for the time being.

 What was the relationship between Christians and Muslims before the Islamists invaded?

Just as in other countries such as Pakistan, where Christians are only a small minority among Muslims, they try to establish a good relationship with their Muslim neighbours. At least this is what I have noticed on the Catholic side. This is also the reason why Christians usually maintain close ties to the Muslim authorities, and Marawi was no exception. The same is probably also true for the Muslims, because the vast majority just wanted to coexist peacefully with their neighbours. This is why relations were mostly friendly. Now, however, a certain degree of distrust pervades.


How is the bishop of Marawi, Edwin de la Peña, dealing with the situation?

Bishop de la Peña is very keen on reconciling the two sides. That is why he has not made rebuilding the cathedral a top priority. He is focusing on strengthening the feeling of community and rebuilding relations between people and religions.


Have specific projects been developed to work towards these goals?

The diocese has started a number of initiatives. One of these is a rehabilitation centre, which offers assistance to over 200 people who were held captive for months and suffered physical and emotional torment. The centre is open to both Christians and Muslims. The counselling services include group and individual therapy sessions for women, girls and teenagers who have been raped, for men who have fallen victim to violence or were beaten, and for children who need to be reintegrated into daily life following the terrible experiences they have suffered.


And you mentioned another project…

It is called “Youth for Peace” and is also an initiative of the local Church. As part of this project, 184 predominately Muslim students attending Mindanao State University visit refugee camps. Thousands upon thousands of people fled the city centre during the conflict and are now living in camps that were set up outside of the city. The objective of “Youth for Peace” is to help these refugees, showing them “we are here for you, we want to recreate that which we once had, namely, a peaceful coexistence”: this is what the students want to achieve. In doing so, it does not matter whether the refugees are Christian or Muslim.

Inside the markedly destroyed St. Mary’s Cathedral of Marawi.

How is Aid to the Church in Need supporting these projects?

Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) first provided emergency relief for the refugees during the conflict. Now we would like to help make sure that the rehabilitation centre can continue its work. We are also supporting the “Duyog Marawi” Peace Corridor Program of the local Church. “Youth for Peace” is one of the projects started by this program. So far, two vehicles have been donated, a van and a transporter. Further aid is planned. We are also talking about helping to set up shelters for the refugees who have been living for months in tents. With tropical temperatures far exceeding 30 degrees, conditions inside the tents are almost impossible to endure. And then it also starts raining, at times heavily. Tents are therefore not a long-term solution. Instead, small temporary houses are being discussed, which should meet the needs of the refugees for the time being. ACN may become involved in this.


Is there a realistic chance that the city can be rebuilt in the next few years?

Reconstruction will certainly take many years. I have never seen a city centre destroyed to the degree that Marawi has been. And not much has happened since the fighting ended in October last year. The military says that all the unexploded bombs, ammunition and booby traps left behind by the extremists first need to be removed.


What are your thoughts now after your trip?

On the one hand, it is quite dramatic to see how Islamists have used and destroyed an entire city, an established culture, and to what extremes ideological delusion can lead. On the other hand, I was very surprised by the people of Marawi. Their situation may be catastrophic, but they have hope, they are taking action. I learned how important their Catholic faith is to them, the selfless concept of charity, which can be seen in the concrete aid being offered to the victims. And it was very encouraging to see how openly the young volunteers, both Muslims and Christians, interacted with each other. Almost in unison they said that by working together, they came to understand the beliefs of the others better, but at the same time, were strengthened in their own sense of identity.

During the Marawi siege, which lasted from May to October 2017, military airstrikes have transformed what was once the pride of Muslim Mindanao into rubble. On the picture: View of the destroyed historic Centre of Marawi city.                                                                   




ACN Interview – Violence in Marawi, Philippines – Bishop’s speaks

02.06.2017 in Abducted Clergy and Religious, ACN International, Adaptation Mario Bard, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Interreligious Dialogue, Jonathan Luciano, Journey with ACN, Persecution of Christians, Philippines

Violence in the Philippines

Cathedral destroyed and interreligious dialogue in peril


“The general population is not sympathetic to ISIS elements.


Interview by Jonathan Luciano, ACN Philippines National Director, with Bishop Prelate of Marawi Edwin dela Peña (MSP) about the situation in the Prelature of Marawi in the Southern Philippines, where the terrorist Maute group attacked the city, killing Christians and burning down buildings. including the Cathedral of Mary Help of Christians. As of press time, 104 people have been killed and more than 12,500 families have been displaced. Fr. Chito Suganob, the Vicar General, was abducted together along with several staff from the ca. The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) confirmed the authenticity of the video now circulating on Facebook which had surfaced on Fr. Chito Suganob’s profile on Tuesday (30 May). 


How is the present situation now in the Prelature of Marawi?

We are still right in the midst of it, I don’t know how to describe it, our people are not there anymore, they have been evacuated.  Those who have been left behind, I don’t know what their situation is because there is a continuing operation to clean up the city, to flush out the terrorists plus there is aerial bombing.  I don’t know how they are surviving it.

Source: Wikimedia


Was the Cathedral totally destroyed?

Yes, I was told that the cathedral and the bishop’s house have been totally destroyed, first by the torching, it was set on fire, and then by the bombing as we are right there at the center of the fighting. I’m not so sure how soon we will be able to recover. It will be very difficult for all of us, not only for Christians, but for the Muslims as well.


How was the Muslim-Christian relations in Marawi before the incident happened?

Marawi is about 95% Muslims. We are a very tiny minority, we are a very small church in Marawi and the greater bulk of the Catholic population in the city in the area of the university where we have students coming from other provinces in Mindanao.


It was beautiful. We were engaged in interfaith dialogue and we have many partners. And in fact, Fr. Cito was in the thick of it because he was, his primary focus really is to connect, to link up with all the Muslim NGOs who have partnered with us in community development and education for interfaith dialogue. It was beautiful until this extremism emerged, the fighting, the presence of these extremist elements from the Middle East. Then the radicalization of our young people, unwittingly, unknowingly, some not oriented towards the current situation in the Middle East, still have become radicalized, especially here in Mindanao.

But generally, our relations with our partners have remained very positive and in fact, we learned from them that also disavow this influx of ISIS elements coming into Marawi, because they understand exactly what this would do to the culture of their people, to their way of life. The people of Marawi have always been very peaceful.

Marawi City on fire during the first day of the siege. (Photo: Ms. Sittie Ainah U Balt/ACN)


Is it correct to say that the general population is not sympathetic to ISIS elements.

Yes, yes, yes, that is correct. In fact, what is happening today, especially that we are on Ramadan, a very holy month for them, they are not able to celebrate it the way they would have wished. They feel a certain kind of anger toward these terrorist groups coming in to disturb this very holy remembrance of Ramadan. So if these extremist groups wanted to get the support of the people, they are going about it all wrong.










Based on your knowledge of how ISIS operates in the Middle East, do you see any difference with what is happening in Syria and Iraq versus what is happening now in Marawi?

It is something like that. It may not be another Syria or Iraq, but the way the city looks now after the bombing and all, it doesn’t look like Marawi anymore. The remnants of the old city, everything that we see on the news feed about Marawi, is all ruined, there is destruction everywhere. That is the image we have in mind of Syria and Iraq.


Who are the Maute group who led these terror attacks in Marawi?

From my own discussion with some religious figures here in Marawi, Maute is made up of Maranaos who have had to fend for themselves since the ouster of their mayor.   The mayor, previous heir of Marawi, had supported their drug-trade business.  Because he’s no longer mayor, and now that the drug peddling has been controlled by the government, the people who were used to an easy life of free-flowing drug money are suddenly without. That was probably one factor that led them toward radicalization.

We were also informed that money was coming from the outside,  as well as individuals who are part of some training.  There are foreign elements training them inside the lairs of Lanao Sur.  All of which probably are driving them to this kind of life.

The Maranao Muslims of Marawi City preparing to evacuate their ancient hometown. (Photo: Ms. Sittie Ainah U Balt/ACN))


The government has kept denying that there is ISIS presence in the Philippines. What can you say about that?

I’m not so sure about it. They can deny it for as long as they can, but some people…you know what?  I’m not the right person to speak about it. I’m just echoing what I know: that some of them have even been trained outside.  For instance, the Maute brothers studied in the Middle East. They come from very rich families here who have the means to send their children to school in Saudi Arabia and Jordan. I have heard about this.


Is there a relationship between Maute and the infamous terrorist group, Abu Sayyaf? 

I think so, the fact that Hapilon is in Lanao, in fact they were about to serve him with an arrest warrant before all this happened. That was the trigger. Hapilon is Abu Sayyaf, so they have a tactical alliance with the Maute brothers in Lanao Sur aside from the fact that both are also sympathetic to ISIS, so they have this tactical alliance, and they probably have joined forces.


Do you have any updates about Fr. Chito and other kidnapped Christians?

I am aware of the video of Fr. Chito since yesterday. He is alive! I am happy about that, but sad also about the reactions of the DDS netizens (DDS stands for Digong Duterte Supporters- the supporters of the president), who castigated him for his message without any regard for his present situation as a hostage deprived of his freedom. We have lost our sense of humanity! How sad! I grieve for this country, and I am so sorry for the situation of Fr. Chito and company.

Father Teresito Suganob kidnapped Mai 2017 in Marawi. (Pictures taken from facebook page from Father Suganob) Fr. Chito Suganob, the Vicar General was abducted together with other Cathedral Staff.

We did not have any contacts with the military until a few days ago when I was able to link up with a commanding officer of the Marines division who are now doing up the clean-up operations in Marawi.  He has promised that they will do their best to locate Fr. Chito and company. There are about 12 to15 people with him. Some of them were teachers from nearby Dansalan college and they just happened to be meeting together in one place where they are being held, but some of them were at the Cathedral at the time as they were preparing for the feast of Mary, Help of Christians the following day. So we had many people in the house and in the Church doing all sorts of things.


Do you consider this incident as an escalation of the various anti-Christian events that have happened in Mindanao?

Yes, I suppose it is.


Do you know of any personal stories of solidarity between Muslims and Christians these past few days?

Yes, personal knowledge concerning the family of my driver who were holed up in one of the rice mills in Marawi City.  Accompanying them was their barangay (village) chairman. who is Maranao.  He was the one who organized the group and gave them an orientation as to how they should respond if the Maute group intercepts them along the way. So they left the house together and went toward the bridge, where buses were waiting to take them out of Marawi. I would consider them heroes for leading this group of both Christians and Muslims, to flee the danger that awaited them.

But there were some people in the group who were trying to catch up, part of the crowd trying to cross the bridge, who were then accosted by this Maute group, this terrorist group. They were asked if they were Christians. Unfortunately, they responded “yes” because they were not there when the orientation was given.

One fellow, the husband of one of our adopted families living in the cathedral compound in Marawi, was pulled out of the group because he was wearing a sleeveless shirt and had a cross tattoo on his shoulder. So he was identified as a Christian and was pulled out.

Then, lately we have heard reports of men being killed and dropped into a ravine. They say they were also part of the group trying to catch up to join the convoy of evacuees.

You can also read in the papers many other stories of Muslims trying to protect Christians.


How would this incident affect Christian-Muslim relations in Marawi?

Even though people are familiar with what we have been doing here in Marawi and the relationship that we have built up through the years, the old biases that Christians have had against Muslims are bound to be stirred up because of the current situation. This is very frustrating.  Interfaith dialogue is a very fragile process, and incidents like these can destroy the very foundation.

And there are some people fueling these anti-Muslim sentiments. It’s sad, because we’ve made such headway in improving relations between Muslims and Christians in Marawi. Without a doubt,  Muslim-Christian relations among the Maranaos is the best compared to others considering we have done in the 41 years since the establishment of the prelature.

Our schools, some of which were here before the prelature, have always been dear to our Muslim brothers and Christians because many of their parents studied there.  Professionals in the town have attended our schools and sent their children to our schools, because they have developed this kind of patronage and loyalty to our schools.


What is your message to the ACN community worldwide?

It is very unfortunate that our small prelature which is the smallest and poorest local church in the Philippines had to undergo this very difficult crisis. Our Cathedral, the Bishop’s house and our parish have been destroyed.  We will have to start from scratch to rebuild and to re-establish the Christian presence in this predominantly Muslim area of Central Mindanao. We must continue our mission of offering the hand of reconciliation and friendship to our Muslim brothers and sisters because this was the legacy of Pope Paul VI when he re-established the prelature of Marawi.

At the height of the crisis in the early 70s, the Pope, quoting Bishop Tutu, stated, “We Christians should be the first to offer the hand of reconciliation and brotherhood to our Muslim brothers and sisters. That is the way to establish peace that has been broken because of the war.” I think that the same holds true for our present situation today.

We cannot turn our backs away from what we have started, what the Prelature had begun in the middle 70’s: to continue the work of dialogue, continue working with our Muslim brothers and sisters, to establish, to rebuild the broken relationships, the broken dreams and hopes of so many people to live in peace. We just want to live in peace and we would like to ask you to help us to rebuild that peace with the kind of work that we do: working with and being in dialogue with our Muslim brothers and sisters.

A group of 100-200 armed men of the Maute group, a terrorist group founded by a Muslim clan whose children studied in the Middle East. The Maute group has pledged its allegiance to ISIS. (photo:  Ms. Sittie Ainah U Balt/ACN)




What are the most urgent needs at the moment?

We are not so much concerned about our needs in the moment. Our focus is more trying to do what we can to respond to the humanitarian crisis that happening in Iligan right now.  We have so many evacuees from Marawi, and they need all the support that we can give.

This is what some of our dioceses and all the dioceses of the Phillipines, including Caritas Filipinas in Manila and the Archdiocese of Manila through Cardinal Chito Tagle have requested.  They have asked us how they can be of help, and where to send all their donations. So we have united with the Diocese of Iligan to put up command centers at the Diocesan Pastoral Center in Iligan City to be able to receive donations, and have organized volunteers to do the repacking and the distribution.

We are also working with our Muslim brothers and sisters who are with us in dialogue.  It is a great opportunity for us to show our solidarity in responding together to the needs of our brothers and sisters, especially those in the evacuation centers. So this is what we are doing.   If there is anything you can do to help us, to bring the attention of the world to what is happening in Marawi right now, to our relief operations, we would appreciate it so much.

One of the evacuation centers for Marawi City refugees. (Photo: Ms. Sittie Ainah U Balt/ ACN).

Interview: Jonathan Luciano, ACN Philippines
English adaptation: R.P.Delaney for ACN Canada

Project of the Week in Malolos

28.12.2016 in Philippines


Mass stipends for 25 priests in the diocese of Malolos

Worldwide, there are over 400,000 priests who have the power to utter the words of Consecration in Holy Mass whereby the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ – the most precious gift on earth. And yet so many of them live in great poverty themselves.

Some are old and sick; others have to travel long distances and work tirelessly in order to bring God‘s presence and his Gospel message to the people. All this they do for love of God – they do not receive any kind of salary. From earliest times, as an expression of gratitude and support, the Catholic faithful have helped their priests with Mass stipends – gifts of money or gifts in kind – while at the same time asking them to celebrate Holy Mass for a particular intention.

In no sense should giving for a Mass Offering be seen as “paying” for the Mass – but rather as showing solidarity as brothers and sisters in the faith and providing material support for priests, who shrink from no difficulty or sacrifice to bring us Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. For many priests all over the world these offerings represent an indispensable contribution to their material survival. In particular those priests in many poorer countries who teach in the seminaries, training a future generation of priests, often earn very little, since they have to be available at all times to support the seminarians – not merely providing a sound academic formation, but also helping them in their human and spiritual formation. Consequently, these priests have no parish community to support them, however modestly, but instead are dependent upon Mass stipends from abroad.

Philippines, March 2014 Bp José F. Oliveros during the Jubilee Houses in Malolos with his parishioners.

We have recently decided to help 25 priests in the diocese of Malolos, in the Philippines, with Mass Offerings. Here again they are mostly priests teaching in the local seminary, and they will be only too happy to celebrate the Holy Mass for the intentions of our benefactors.

The area of present-day Malolos was first introduced to Christianity by the Spanish in 1572. The city of Malolos itself is especially renowned for the great festival that is held there every year on the last Sunday in January in honour of the Child Jesus. Each year the celebrated image of the Santo Niño – the Holy Child – is displayed for veneration and there are great processions during which thousands of the faithful bring their own statues of the Child Jesus from home and carry them in procession. There are various dance and music groups who accompany the processions, dressed in traditional costumes.

But Malolos also made the headlines not so long ago, in 2011, when it was struck by powerful typhoons and flooding. At the time ACN gave emergency aid of $21,900  for the 12 most severely affected parishes.

For the 25 priests of this diocese we are proposing to give Mass Offerings for a total value of $22,776. This represents just $911 per priest for the entire year. These priests are most grateful for this support and have promised to celebrate the Masses requested for the intentions of the benefactors who have given them.


ACN Project of the Week – Phillipines

10.08.2016 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN International, ACN PROJECTS, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Family Apostolate, Philippines, Religious education, TRAINING



Training of lay pastoral workers in the marriage and family apostolate

Children with their mother after the Sunday Mass in the Zamboanga Cathedral

Children with their mother after the Sunday Mass in the Zamboanga Cathedral

Zamboanga is the capital of the peninsula region and archdiocese bearing the same name and is found on the island of Mindanao. The archdiocese serves a population of some 620,000 Catholics. In the past, they established a training program for lay pastoral workers across their 27 parishes. Their task was to prepare young couples for the sacrament of marriage and also to provide support and counselling for married couples and families.

Now, in the face of a deepening crisis in the area of marriage and family, more resources are required. The situation being that more and more couples are simply living together and also many marriages and families are simply falling apart.

Therefore, the archdiocese is planning to train 127 lay pastoral workers to work in the parishes and provide counselling and support to married couples and families. They in turn will be supported by volunteers, who will also help and support the families.

The aim of the program is to ensure that families are profoundly rooted in the Word of God and in the Eucharist. That they too can witness to the Gospel, to the respect and the dignity of life from the moment of conception, and come to deepen their understanding of the Church‘s teachings on the sacrament of marriage, the family and human life, while also bearing witness to it in their own lives.

Among the many challenges facing families in this region are poverty and the constant threat of natural disasters. In this precarious situation, many couples simply live together because they believe they cannot afford to get married. Many other challenges also spring from the new media and other technologies, often harmful in their influence and damaging to families and human relationships in general.


Une formation pour les laïcs, sur trois ans, afin d'aider les familles.

A three year training program for lay people to help families.


The idea is to offer these couples and families workshops, seminars and annual retreats, as well as individual counselling and support, to help them in these difficulties. The lay pastoral workers who will run these programs must have themselves first undergone a three-year training course.


Aid to the Church in Need has been supporting this training course for lay workers who have been involved in the program since 2014. In this final year of the training cycle, thanks to our dedicated benefactors, we were able to give 14,500 CAD.



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Journey with ACN – Philippines

16.01.2015 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN Canada, ACN International, ACN PROJECTS, CONSTRUCTION, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Journey with ACN, Philippines

ASIA – Philippines

Rebuilding after Typhoon Haiyan

“Haiyan” – or in the Philippines, “Yolanda” – are beautiful sounding names for what was in fact one of the greatest natural disasters of recent times.


Just over a year ago this Typhoon unleashed its full fury on the coast of the Philippines, sweeping over 6,000 people to their deaths in its wake and devastating everything in its path. Even the Filipinos, who are generally accustomed to such natural disasters, had never experienced a cyclone of this destructive force before. Almost nothing could withstand the Typhoon, which swept across the islands, initially generating wind speeds in excess of 200 miles an hour.

According to UN figures more than 11 million people were affected by the storm, and many of them were rendered homeless. Thousands have lost all they possessed – including even the tools they need to work their fields, the boats they depended on for fishing, the livestock by which they earned their living, the factories where they worked, their tractors, motor vehicles, bicycles, etc. Thousands more lost family members and friends – yet not their faith and their hope.

Since then the people have been struggling to get back on their feet and rebuild their ruined homes and churches. One of the many devastated buildings was the church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception in the diocese of Borongang, on Guiuan, a small island in the Eastern Philippines — which was the first to be struck by Typhoon Haiyan.

© Aid to the Church in Need

© Aid to the Church in Need

Waves of 16 to 20 feet (5-6 m) were recorded here. Of the once wonderfully beautiful church that had stood there since the 1760s there is now nothing left but ruins. With one gust, the Typhoon tore off the roof and smashed in the walls of the church. At the same time the interior furnishings were destroyed. There is no possibility of rebuilding this beautiful church now, and so Bishop Lope C Robredillo has decided to build a new church in an architectural style similar to the original one.

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ACN is offering to contribute $209,000 CAN towards the cost of building this new church in Guiuan. Not only will this be a sign of solidarity with the deeply religious people who have lost everything, but at the same time it will encourage them to remain in their home region and not move to Manila, as so many others have done – where for most of them only a life of misery and destitution awaits.


Journey with ACN – Philippines

05.12.2014 in ACN PROJECTS, Journey with ACN, Philippines

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 :  Philippines

Help to protect their convent from termites, fire and thieves 

A renovation project: the Benedictine’s convent in Digos, Davao

On the island of Mindanao, set amidst the hilly landscape of the Davao region, lies the convent of the Benedictine Sisters of the Eucharistic King. It is dedicated to Our Lady Queen of Peace and has many visitors coming to take part in retreats and days of prayer. The guesthouse is in need of renovation, and the Sisters want to repair it and also protect it against break-ins, fire and termite damage.

There are currently 31 professed Sisters and four novices living in the convent. As contemplatives, they spend most of their time in prayer. Their presence is a precious blessing for their entourage, for the Sisters also visits the poor and elderly who nobody else cares for. They share their food every day with the poorest families. They have also helped other Benedictine convents around the world by sending their Sisters where they might be of service.

The oldest building in the convent complex was built in 1984. It houses, among other things: the dormitory of the novices, the candle-making and sewing workshops and the storerooms. The entire facade of the upper floor is made of wood and very vulnerable to fire. Sister Maria Columba Salinas tells us how fire actually did break out in the candle making workshop recently, but fortunately they were able to extinguish it. However, this incident was something of a wake-up call for the Superior who had already been aware for some considerable time that the building needed to be made safer. Three break-ins have already taken place; the thieves were able to gain access through the windows very easily.

©Aid to the Church in Need

©Aid to the Church in Need

Another serious problem with the buildings is termites which are steadily eating away at the timbers. “The coconut tree wood was treated with old second-hand oil to protect it against the termites, but in the last 30 years they have already done a great deal of damage,” the Superior adds in her letter asking our help to renovate the convent buildings.

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.

In order to keep costs as low as possible, the building will be renovated in three separate stages. ACN is offering to help with $28,000 CAN.

Will you help us to help them?

PHILIPPINES – One year later

07.11.2014 in ACN Canada, ACN International, Philippines, Reconstruction

ACN International

Adapted by Robert Lalonde


©Aid to the Church in Need

On 8th November 2013, super typhoon Haiyan pounded the island of Leyte in the Philippines with winds nearing 315 kilometres per hour and a tremendous storm surge that bulldozed the countryside. 11 million people were affected by the storm. Over 6,000 people lost their lives.

The Minor Seminary of the Sacred Heart in Palo was almost totally destroyed. At that time, there were only four priests in the building: the rector, the vice-rector, the dean of the College of the Philosophy and the Prefect of Studies, Father Mark Ivo Velasquez. As the latter explains, there were no seminarians because they were gone on their annual retreat.


©Aid to the Church in Need

Father Velasquez recalls the frightful events of that night: “I woke up at four, as did the other priests because we could not sleep and we wanted to monitor the progress of the storm. We were watching as the strength of the wind increased and I was becoming increasingly worried because I could see the roof of the chapel being lifted up little by little. One of the dorms there, the walls exploded. The pressure was so great that it pushed one door to the other dorm. The high school building was destroyed. The auditorium it was totally flattened in a matter of minutes. Our carpentry shop which is at the back, it was completely destroyed”.

The wind damaged 80% of the Seminary buildings. Several months after Haiyan made landfall, the seminary has resumed operations.