The Order of the Most Holy Saviour was founded in Sweden in the 14th century by Saint Bridget of Sweden; it is also known as the Order of Saint Bridget, or the Bridgettine Order. These nuns live a life of strict enclosure and contemplative prayer. In the 17th century a Spanish branch of the order was founded, and today it still has convents in Spain, Mexico, Venezuela and Peru.
The Bridgettine convent in Puebla, Mexico was founded in 1907. Living in the convent today are 20 professed nuns along with three young women who as of yet have not taken their final vows. And, there are more young women who want to enter the convent.
The sisters have told us that a tragedy occurring a few years ago, was actually the surprising reason for a sharp rise in the number of vocations. Sadly, seven of the professed nuns had been killed in a road accident and suddenly, more and more young women asked to join the order.
But a major problem arose when the building was severely damaged by an earthquake whose epicenter was close to Puebla. Part of the building had to be demolished for security reasons – and because the building, which dates back to the 19th century, was already problematic on account of the cold, the damp and the inadequate ventilation – problems that had made it an unhealthy place to live in the past. It was also small and cramped, and with outside sanitary facilities, all of which made it inadequate for housing.
Thanks to the generosity of our benefactors, ACN was able to help with a contribution of $37,500 toward the cost of rebuilding a convent wing. Now there is much more space, and the Sisters will be able to bring in more young women and enjoy healthy living conditions. The Brigettine’s send their gratitude and prayers to all who have helped!
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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.
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.
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?
5,000 copies of Child’s Bibles in the Urdu language
Christians in Pakistan face all kinds of discrimination, harassment and oppression. Most of these Christians are from the poorest and lowliest sections of society and they must stand up to all sorts of difficulties standing in the way of their social advancement.
Usually Christians perform the most menial tasks. They are the road sweepers or domestic helpers. Most of them would like to see their children have better lives, but their hopes are often frustrated by the fact that Muslims generally receive more favourable treatment and have better opportunities than they, even with the same level of education. While for the poorer Christian families, even sending their children to school in the first place involves great deal of financial sacrifice. Often their mothers and older sisters have to go to work, in order to be able to cover the school fees.
Most families have many children, and these children are seen as a gift from God and a sign of hope for the future. The parents are proud to see their children get a good education, though most cannot read or write themselves, and so they can do little to help their children.
When Christian children are sent to a state school, they often find themselves pressured to renounce their faith. And so, in order to root them more deeply in their own faith, most attend school first in their own parishes, in one of the many Sunday schools where they can grow in their faith. They pray and sing together and come to better know the Good News of the Gospel.
With great enthusiasm, they re-enact some of the Bible stories as theater performances. In this way they not only enhance the beauty of the great feasts but also help their parents, who for the most part cannot read the Bible themselves, to better know and understand the Bible stories.
The Sisters of Saint Paul, a congregation very much involved in the media apostolate, have been active in Pakistan since 1965 and have produced a wide range of religious and catechetical literature. Now they would like to produce a little Bible for children that will contain not only Bible stories but also short prayers. The idea is to use this book in the Sunday schools and in the religious education classes of the Catholic schools.
“Once the children are well grounded in their faith, the parents are less afraid of sending them to the state schools,”the Sisters report. For then there is less danger that they will be deflected from their faith.
ACN has promised a contribution of $9,425 CAN towards the cost of printing 5,000 copies of this book.
To donate to this or to a similar project – please do so on-line on our new secure donation page.If you would prefer to call us, or write to us – our contact information can be found here
Right now, Lebanon is facing huge challenges . This small country of just 4.5 million has had to find space for no fewer than 1.1 million refugees. In fact, this number includes only those refugees officially registered with international agencies. The real figure is almost certainly much higher than this.
Every day more refugees are arriving in Lebanon, from Syria and Iraq. More often than not, their dreams of a better life here are quickly devastated for while they have at least saved their lives, they very soon find themselves confronted with immense difficulties with simply finding ways to live and to survive. They face astronomical rents for example, even for the smallest and most miserable living accommodations. There is no work. Medical treatment is expensive and indeed virtually unaffordable for most refugees. If refugees attempt to move elsewhere within Lebanon, they can be arrested and imprisoned as illegal immigrants. Many have had false expectations of what awaited them abroad.
Lebanon: An example of pastoral projects to the refugees children of Syria and Iraq.
In the capital city of Beirut, the Chaldean Catholic eparchy is striving to take care of Iraqi families, most of who have fled here from Mosul and the Plain of Niniveh from the advancing ISIS fighters. The eparchy provides these people with basic necessities, helps them look for work, and also ministers to them pastorally.
For example, children can prepare for their First Holy Communion and there are other catechetical classes for children and young people, plus pastoral and social services for women and many other services besides. Last year ACN gave a total of 43,500 CAD towards the cost of this pastoral and human support for the Iraqi refugees. For example, helping with the supply of catechetical materials, including audiovisual equipment .
Chaldean Bishop Michel Kassarji of Beirut has thanked ACN for all the help he has already received, and in advance,for the help he still about to receive. “We pray to Christ our Lord, the Good Samaritan, to pour out his graces on you in rich measure and bless you, and to reward you, and all those who have contributed to this wonderful work of charity, a hundredfold for the good you have done.”
At the same time he has asked us to help his community with additional aid for food and other necessities.
We have promised him 14,500 CAD.
Holy communion for the refugee children of Iraq and Syria, at St.Joseph Parish.
Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, President of Aid to the Church in Need
Year of Mercy
A message to ACN benefactors from Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, President of Aid to the Church in Need (ACN)
The symbol of hope, in heraldry too, is the anchor; but there is also another image which in some sense seems to me to be still more significant. I am thinking of the sails. The anchor holds the boat securely in the ocean, whereas the sails serve to drive it forward and to cause it to run through the sea towards the dry land. Hope is the breeze which, filling these sails, propels us forward. It was hope which, at the beginning of the Church, gave to the Christian message that extraordinary power to expand which carried it very rapidly to the ends of the earth.
On December 8, under the protection of the Virgin Immaculate, and together with the Holy Father and the whole Church, we have spiritually crossed over the threshold of the Holy Door and thus entered into the Holy Jubilee, the Year of Mercy.
This open Holy Door is the Door of Hope, the Door of Trust in Divine Mercy. With our crossing, we are called to forget the past and to turn our hearts forward, towards a new adventure of Grace, towards the fullness of God’s Mercy. In order for this to happen in an authentic way, we ought to seek to pass through the Holy Door after a sincere and heartfelt sacramental confession, coupled with the lively desire to embark upon the road of holiness. This holiness is a vocation written into our Baptism, through which each one of us is called to holiness. It is holiness that represents the full realization of our personality. This holiness is achieved within the context of our own personal situation, in the family, in the workplace.
Holiness is something immensely glorious, yet something extremely simple and ordinary. It means living the particular details of each day, of every circumstance, as a “vocation,” with intense love. We need to reach the point where we can allow the Lord to act within us, through us; until we’re able to say along with St Paul: “No longer I, but Christ lives in me; to me life is Christ.”
To hope, to hope always, to begin again to hope after the umpteenth disappointment, to hope that tomorrow will be better, even after it has on so many occasions been worse, to absorb all the apparent denials, just as the earth absorbs the heavy rain – this is truly great and reveals the omnipotence of Divine Grace. The symbol of hope, in heraldry too, is the anchor; but there is also another image which in some sense seems to me to be still more significant. I am thinking of the sails. The anchor holds the boat securely in the ocean, whereas the sails serve to drive it forward and to cause it to run through the sea towards the dry land. Hope is the breeze which, filling these sails, propels us forward. It was hope which, at the beginning of the Church, gave to the Christian message that extraordinary power to expand which carried it very rapidly to the ends of the earth. Our charity also lives completely on hope. When, for example, many project applications arrive, we must hope that our benefactors will help us fulfill so many hopes.
This world is starved of hope and will listen to a message to the extent that it is capable of offering it genuine hope. We Christians are responsible for the hope that has been given to us; for this hope we must be ready to give reason and not merely lip service.
We must be heralds of hope, passing it on to others; just as the faithful do in their processions when they pass the blessed water from hand to hand, so too we must pass this divine hope from heart to heart. For indeed, there are many things we can live without, but we cannot live without hope.
Christian hope is an active hope, full of things to do while we wait: to watch, to grow in love towards all. For this reason it is like yeast and salt in the dough of this world. To the Christ who is coming we must go forward with good works, with works of mercy, with the lighted lamp of faith. In good works Christ has already come. Hence we must focus on Him, and on all the rest only in relation to Him, in view of Him!
Dearest Friends, I pray that through the intercession of Mary, the Beloved Mother of the Redeemer, you may be able to grow each day of this Jubilee year in trust in the infinite Mercy of God, and that we all overflow the whole world with joy, every person and environment that we know, because there’s more joy in giving than in receiving. And with this thought I’d like to send you my warmest greetings.
JOURNEY WITH ACN is our weekly newsletter regularly posted to our website and designed to acquaint you with the needs of the Catholic Church around the world and introducing you to various projects we have helped to bring into being together with our partners and ACN benefactors.
This week: Syria
The Consecrated life
For a tiny corner of Heaven
She was born in Aleppo, Syria, today a city of martyrs, growing up in an Armenian family. The majority of Armenians live outside Armenia today because this people, with its ancient Christian traditions, was long persecuted and almost completely wiped out, particularly during the genocide. In April it will be 100 years since the Turkish government sent almost two million Armenians out into the desert, where hundreds of thousands of them either died of starvation and thirst or were shot and beaten to death by the Ottoman soldiers. Then there followed a time of bitter suffering under the Soviets.
The Armenian Church was almost wiped out. Its priests died in the Gulags. That was when Arousiag was born, in a foreign land. She was one of four sisters. The neighbors reckoned that three of them might well become Sisters – but never thought it would be Arousiag. “I was the cheeky one,” she recalls. “But I could never quite silence the voice in me that was calling me to the religious life.” In 1976, by now already a member of the Armenian Sisters of the Immaculate Conception, she visited Armenia. She said to herself, “I am an Armenian, born and bred. My ideal is Christ. Just as he was close to his people, so, too, I must be with my people.”
And so she stayed on. Today she runs the Our Lady of Armenia center, where the Sisters care for over a hundred poor families who would otherwise be unable to survive. Communism has destroyed not only the religious values, but all the other values as well. “So many people simply couldn’t care less whether they lie or cheat,” she says. She believes the only way is to rebuild is to start with the children.
Sister Arousiag lives by trust in God. And because of her trust hundreds of children can live their Faith.
Twenty years ago they started up a holiday camp program, “so that for three weeks at least the children can experience a different life” – can eat their fill, wear shoes without holes and clean clothes.
To start with there were 150 children; now there are 800 and they come from all over Armenia. “The purpose behind the holiday camps is so that the children can come to know Christ, so that they can accept the circumstances of their lives from God’s hand.” Sister Arousiag also takes in orphans and street children who are brought to them by the police or by neighbors, mostly from broken families. One mother explains: “I am divorced, I have four children, and three of them are here. One of my daughters is psychologically disturbed.” This is the fate of many people in this damaged nation. But Sister Arousiag is not about to give up, as she trusts in God. “I don’t have the money for the summer camp, and there are four groups already. I’ve handed over the problem to the Lord; He will have to do something. I don’t know what He will do, I only know that He loves us.”
Sister Arousiag also has a dream of her own: “I always wanted to become a saint. But I’m a long way from that. Now all I say to the Lord is: When the time comes, grant me a little corner of your great Heaven. With enough space so that I can take many of your children with me.” Just how many that will one day be is also partly down to us. •
Please click here to donate for this project or to similar ones – in Syria or elsewhere.
United through prayer for the poor and persecuted Church!