fbpx

Sisters

 

ACN Feature Story – The worsening conditions in Syria after nine years of war

25.03.2020 in Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Sisters, SUBSISTENCE, Syria

Syria

Nine Years of war

Religious Sister living in Syria talks about the country’s tragic conditions

March 15th marked the ninth anniversary of the start of the conflict in Syria. “The situation is terrible,” said Sister Maria Lúcia Ferreira, a sister from the Mar Yakub Monastery in Qara, in the Christian region of Qalamoun, in a statement to the Portuguese headquarters of ACN international.

 

Text by Paulo Aido, ACN International
Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada
Posted online March 25, 2020

According to the Portuguese-born religious, Sister Myri, “after the crisis in Lebanon and the new sanctions imposed on the country, the economic situation has become really terrible. People complain that they can barely buy [anything] to eat.”

Weather conditions have worsened an already difficult situation. “The winter was mild until January, when several snow storms struck us here in Qalamoun, one of the coldest places in Syria,” said the Sister, who belongs to the Congregation of the Sisters of the Unity of Antioch. Qalamoun is located in a mountainous area and is a traditionally Christian region, located in western Syria, near the border with Lebanon.

 

Burning clothing for heat

Sister Myri also explained that they had very little electricity in recent days. “Here in Qalamoun, we still get two hours with electricity and four hours without it, but I think the area is better off than others because we heard that in the city of Homs, they sometimes go two days without electrical power. It depends on the part of the country.”

As a direct result of electricity and gas shortages, of the economic crisis and of the worsening weather conditions, the poorest families are going through very hard times. The Portuguese nun gave as an example the tragic story of one family: “A local woman, whom we know well because she has a disabled daughter, told us that she had neither electricity nor gas. It is very hard to get gas in the country, or any kind of fuel oil to heat the furnace. So, she told us: “To keep Maria, my girl, warm, we have been burning clothes that we no longer use.”

Electricity shortages have also forced the Sisters to change some daily routines in the monastery. “Now we cook with firewood. We have to find firewood so that we can cook and eat something hot.”

“It’s horrible, people can no longer buy anything to eat. Some people survive on bread and water,” Sister Myri said. For this reason, she is asking for a show of solidarity and prayers for the Syrian people. “I would like to ask people to join us to pray for these people who are in such a situation.”

Like the town of Qara, where the sisters live, all of Syria continues to suffer from an extremely weak economy caused by nine years of war that have already left more than 380,000 dead and turned millions into refugees and internally displaced persons. The situation is exacerbated by the violence that continues in the northeast of the country, in Idlib province, where government forces are trying to capture the last stronghold still in the hands of jihadist groups. Syrian children are direct victims of this climate of war.

According to UNICEF, more than 300,000 children have been displaced from their homes and neighbourhoods since December alone. Approximately 1.2 million children are in a situation deemed extremely vulnerable.

ACN is implementing various humanitarian aid projects for the neediest populations in Syria, including children. An example is the “fuel for heating” campaign with which ACN is supporting four major projects in Aleppo and Damascus. This is enabling more than 1,700 families in need, including the elderly and the sick, to cook food and warm their homes for at least a few hours.

ACN Project of the Week – Transportation aid in Belarus

30.01.2020 in Sisters, TRANSPORTATION

Belarus

A car for the Dominican Sisters in Baranovichi

 

Back in 1992, almost immediately after the collapse of the Soviet Union, three Dominican Sisters from Poland came to Belarus and began their apostolate in the town of Baranovichi. Evidently, their example was a powerful and attractive one, for the order grew and today has a fine number of local vocations with no fewer than 18 Sisters from Belarus itself. And more young women are waiting to join the order.

 

Today the Dominican Sisters are working in four different locations across Belarus. In the Catholic parish in Baranovichi, today a city of 170,000 people, they perform duties as sacristans and parish clerks, they work with children and young people and care for the sick and elderly. Around a hundred children and young people attend the catechism classes, and the Sisters also prepare adults for reception of the Sacraments. At the same time, they help to ferry the frail and elderly to church or bring them Holy Communion in their homes, comforting and supporting them in many different ways. At Christmas time they organize gifts, with parcels of clothes, food and medical items for those in need.

In urgent need of a vehicle

 

The three Sisters living in Baranovichi have just one 10-year-old car at their disposal, which is becoming unreliable and costly because of needed repairs. They have urgent need of a reliable vehicle, for in addition to their ordinary pastoral duties they also travel to the diocesan Centre in Pinsk for retreats and ongoing formation sessions, a distance of some 180 km (112 miles). They also travel to the Dominican formation house in Minsk (190 km) and the other Dominican houses within Belarus, a distance of up to 300 km in some cases.

 

The Sisters cannot afford a new vehicle from their own resources, so they have turned to ACN for help. It would be helpful for them to have a vehicle with a larger boot, since they often have many things to transport – like the Christmas parcels for example.

We have promised to help them with a contribution of $15,000 towards the cost of a new vehicle. The sisters want to thank all our benefactors in advance and they already enfold you in their prayers!

 

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

ACN Feature Story: Religious Sister and sexual assault survivor rebounds to ‘bring her people hope’

15.01.2020 in ACN Canada, ACN International, India, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Persecution of Christians, Religious freedom, Sisters

India

Religious Sister and sexual assault survivor rebounds to ‘bring her people hope’

by Anto Akkara, ACN International

Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin for ACN Canada

Posted to the web January 15, 2020

 

In August 2008, the Odisha state’s Kandhamal district witnessed the worst eruption of Christian persecution in modern Indian history. It was sparked by the murder of a local Hindu leader. Hindu radicals labeled the killing “an international Christian conspiracy,” blaming the Pope, Europe, and the United States. They called for revenge on Christians, which led to the deaths of 100 people and the destruction of 300 churches and 6,000 homes. Seven Christians, falsely accused of the murder of the *Swami, spent 9 years in jail. In early December, the remaining five Christians were finally released on bail.

 

Courage alongside trauma

Kandhamal district in Odisha where in 2008 riots by radical Hindus took place against Christians.

During the wave of violence that swept through the Kandhamal district, Sister Meena Barwa was raped and paraded half-naked through the streets. After years of trauma and legal proceedings—which are still ongoing—Sister Barwa decided to enroll in law school and work on behalf of the marginalized. She recently spoke with Aid to the Church in Need:

“The trauma was nearly unbearable, and I moved several times for my own safety, sometimes to places where I could not speak the language. I even wore disguises. For years, I was separated from my family. And the nights were especially bad. I dreamt of the assault often. The knowledge that Kandhamal’s Christians were suffering only added to my pain.

“From time to time, I returned to Odisha for court proceedings. The first trial traumatized me all over again. I couldn’t sleep for days afterwards; I was humiliated, offended, and mentally tortured. I developed a serious aversion to India’s legal system.

“But this did not keep me down. I decided to act on behalf of the people who suffered with me, to pursue justice for them. In 2009, I anonymously enrolled in a college outside of Odisha; I was just one of the girls living in a convent hostel. In 2015, I began a three-year law program, while continuing to attend to my duties as a nun.

 

 

Strength born of suffering and God’s blessings

“Many things have changed in the last decade. Today I lead a normal life, and I have become much stronger. The people I’ve met have helped me forget my pain; I consider them blessings from God. They were angels sent to guide me, so that I did not wallow in misery. Instead, I rose from my trauma and found a way to bring my people hope. I’ve become more humble, more patient, and more human.

“I pray the Lord’s prayer every day. The prayer is only meaningful when I forgive. How can I pray Our Lord’s Prayer if I do not forgive? By forgiving my attackers I have become free of my trauma, fear, shame, humiliation and anger. I feel I am living normal life and am happy because I forgave them. Otherwise, I would have gone mad. I have no ill feeling towards my attackers. I only wish that they become good people.

 

Tribal Catholics in Kandhamal district in Odisha where in 2008 riots by radical Hindus took place against Christians. These villagers have been expelled from their lands, losing all their goods, and have been resettled, often after living for months in the forest or in refugee camps, in another part of the district.

“He has empowered me to serve others”

“I am grateful for my life, my strength, and my sense of purpose, all of which were given to me by God. He is my strength, even as my trial drags on. And He has empowered me to serve others.

“The people of Kandhamal have suffered so much, but they are putting all their trust in the Lord. Suffering in itself is a grace. I see it as a challenge to grow out of it. The Christian community’s attitude towards what happened in Kandhamal in 2008 is not negative. They are hopeful and have a deeper faith. The tragedy has made them stronger. He words of St. Paul come to mind: ‘Who can separate us from the Love of Christ?’ The people of Kandhamal are living this.

* Meaning of ‘Swami’ – a teacher – in Sanskrit language: “One who knows.”

 


Aid to the Church in Need Canada (ACN) published a book called ‘God’s Initiative’ co-authored by Marie-Claude Lalonde and Robert Lalonde, made-up of interviews conducted in 2015 of religious Sisters around the world.  Among them can be found Sister Meena’s story.

Please contact ACN Canada if you would like a copy: suggested donation is $20.  Please call (514) 659-4041 x227 or write to info@acn-canada.org.  All proceeds go to supporting pastoral projects supported by ACN in 140 countries around the world.

Project of the Week: Support for the training of Religious Sisters in Peru

03.10.2019 in ACN BENEFACTORS, Journey with ACN, Peru, Sisters, TRAINING

Peru

Support for the training of religious Sisters

In many Latin American countries, state help of any kind is unavailable to people struggling with a physical or intellectual disability. Most families facing these challenges are already living in poverty and have few resources to address the specific needs of their disabled children. The Congregation of the Servants of God’s Plan (Siervas del Plan de Dios) however, have a special vocation to care for the poor and most in need.

The congregation has established schools for disabled children; They also provide care for the elderly, the sick and needy. They want every person to feel loved and accepted with a vision for the disabled to especially be able to discover and develop their own particular talents. The Sisters also want to support the transformation of negative attitudes within society with regard to people with disabilities.

 

An international presence

Today the Sisters’ work is present not only in Latin America, but in Asia, Africa, Europe and the United States. Their young congregation has many vocations, and many of the young Sisters are qualified doctors, lawyers, teachers and nurses. Right now, 31 new Sisters are undergoing training in the Peruvian capital of Lima.

ACN is providing financial support to help cover training costs with a contribution of $24,000.

 

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

ACN Project of the week: Ukraine – Novices in training

24.07.2019 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN International, Pastoral care, Sisters, Ukraine

ACN Project of the week in Ukraine

Support for the training of 13 novices

 The Ukraine congregation of the Servants of the Lord and the Virgin of Matara, has been blessed with many vocations. Currently there are no fewer than 13 young novices undergoing formation in the diocese of Ivano-Frankivsk with the desire of consecrating their lives, forever, to the service of God and their human being. Most of them are young, no more than around 20 years old.

The Sisters of the congregation accompany young people, organize retreat days and provide catechetical training.  They also care for orphans, as well as for the sick and the elderly in Ukraine who often live in great need.

Religious who receive and nourish the faith

Among other things, the young novices help during the summer holiday season to organize camps for children and young people, giving them an opportunity to take a break and enjoy themselves, and at the same time to deepen their understanding and faith in God.

For these young Sisters it is also a good exercise in the work of catechesis. Last year some of them travelled with a group of 50 or so young people to attend a youth meeting in Italy. Although the bus journey was long and tiring, they were all enthusiastic and inspired. Sister Maria Christiana, the novice mistress, recalls: “I have never seen young people so filled with enthusiasm at the truth and the experience of community.”

The Sisters also organize walking pilgrimages to the shrine of Krylos in the diocese of Ivano-Frankivsk itself. During the pilgrimage, a walk of around 25 km, they pray and sing, and the are also available for personal counselling sessions, at which the young people can unburden themselves freely and put all their many questions about the Christian faith or their own personal problems. Last year some 400 young people took part.

ACN regularly supports the congregation for the formation of these young religious, and this year we are proposing to do so again, with a contribution of $11,700.


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

ACN-Projects of the week – India – Help for the formation of 15 novices Sisters

20.02.2019 in ACN International, ACN PROJECTS, Asia, By Eva-Maria Kolmann, FORMATION, India, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Journey with ACN, Sisters

India

Help for the formation of 15 novices of the Holy Spirit Sisters

 

The Holy Spirit Sisters are a congregation founded in 1950 in Germany. They work above all in pastoral care and their role is to support the priests in their work. Right from the start it was the desire of their founder that these religious sisters should be given a thorough theological formation, so that they could fulfil this mission as well as possible.

 

The sisters give catechetical instruction, prepare children, young people and adults to receive the sacraments and organize prayer meetings. They also visit the sick, poor families and the needy, and help them in their difficulties.

 

One of the pastoral work is to visit families.

In the two regional provinces of the congregation in India, namely Atmadhara and Jeevadhara, there are a total of 207 religious sisters in a region that covers seven of India’s federal states. In the state of Odisha, which until 2011 was called Orissa and which became notorious in the year 2005 on account of the violent and unprovoked attacks against Christians there, the sisters run a hostel or boarding home for 40 schoolgirls whose homes are too far from the nearest school and who would therefore be unable to attend school otherwise. The girls belong to various faiths and ethnic communities, and the sisters seek to convey genuine Christian values to them while teaching them mutual respect, so that their boarding home is at the same time making a contribution to peaceful coexistence among the various religions and ethnic communities in the country.

 

 

 

***

At the present time the Holy Spirit Sisters have 15 young novices undergoing training. Aid to the Church in Need have promised the congregation $6,750 to help with the cost of their formation. Thank to help us to help them!

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

 

ACN Project of the Week – Supporting Carmelite Sisters in Bolivia

13.12.2018 in ACN International, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Bolivia, Sisters, South America

Project of the Week – Bolivia

Support of five religious Sisters in Cochabamba

 

Bolivia has long been the poorest country on the South American continent. And even though the economic situation has seen slight improvement recently, there has been little sign of benefit for large sections of the population. The same can be said for the city of Cochabamba, Bolivia’s fourth-largest city. For although it has grown to become an industrial centre, many of its inhabitants continue to live in deep poverty. And, the ongoing flight from rural areas has led to more and more people flocking to the city.

Subsistence aid for Carmelitas del Sagrado Corazón in Quillacollo, 2017.
Photo: Sister Griselda with the children of the school Nuestra Señora de Urkupiña.

The Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart have been working in a western suburb of Cochabamba at two Quillacollo parishes, since 2005. Unlike the Discalced Carmelites, their better-known sister congregation, which is an enclosed, contemplative congregation founded by Saint Teresa of Avila, the Carmelites of the Sacred Heart are an active religious community. The five Carmelites in Cochabamba have opened up an educational centre for children, young people and women, where they offer, among other things, literacy courses and basic skills courses for women with which they can earn a living to support themselves and their families.

 

The Sisters also prepare the children for their First Holy Communion, accompany the children, young people and adults on their path of faith, organize retreat days and – in an area where there are very few priests and the parishes very large – they play a vital role in spreading the Catholic faith. They also support and counsel women who are victims of domestic violence.

 

The Sisters have turned to ACN for support for their life and ministry, since by themselves they cannot make ends meet. They also have to find money for transportation, medical provisions, food and so forth, as well as for their own general basic living essentials.

We have promised these Carmelite Sisters $4,000 dollars to help them in their work.

 

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

 

 

 

ACN Feature Story: Syria, “Helping to heal the spiritual wounds of the war”

19.11.2018 in International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Jesuits, Sacred Heart Sisters, Sisters, Syria, Texte: Josue Villalón

Syria 2016 September – Sr. Samia Jerij of the Sacred Heart Sisters in the courtyard of the Jesuits in the Old Hom

Syria

 “Helping to heal the spiritual wounds of the war”

Aid to the Church in Need is supporting the pastoral work of the Sacred Heart Sisters in the Syrian city of Homs.

The church of Altip, in the Bab Al-Sebaa district, just south of the Old Quarter of Homs, is a social and pastoral training centre. “Years ago it was a Catholic school, but then the government banned all non-state schools. Since then we have used it as a catechetical centre, giving religious instruction to young people and adults, and we also hold social events and sports days here,” explains Sister Samia Syiej, the religious Sister in charge of coordinating catechetical instruction for a group of children preparing for confirmation.

 

Sister Samia points out the exact spot where the bombs fell, close to the centre of Altip. “Local families have helped us to repair two sections of the roof which were destroyed by the bombing. But in addition to everything else, what we now have to do is to help repair not only the external damage, but the damage within people’s hearts. I am a religious, and my first responsibility is to bear witness spiritually and help people. This is what moves me. We lived through the war and witnessed it close up. Catechesis is important in helping to heal the wounds.”

 

Working alongside Sister Samia are a number of young university students who divide themselves between the various different catechetical groups and actively help in this pastoral apostolate. A delegation from our international Catholic pastoral charity and pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) happened to visit while they were endeavouring to explain to the young boys and girls about the life of Jesus during his Passion and Crucifixion, a central point of the Christian faith. One of these catechists is Haya Elias. “Sister Samia taught us how to become closer to God, and now we are passing this on those who come after us.” She is studying philology at university and has always been a member of the group helping the sisters.Sister Samia is a member of the Sacred Heart Sisters, a congregation founded in Syria and inspired by Ignatian spirituality. “We have 12 houses throughout Syria. I am also involved in pastoral work with disabled children. Our congregation is very active and we pursue a range of initiatives, both pastoral and social,” she continues.

 

Sr. Samia Jerij of Sacred Heart Sisters with children – Children receiving Christmas gifts in Aleppo 2017

 

“I am very conscious that I owe my life to God and to the prayers of people like Sister Samia,” says a young man who is currently unemployed. He was in the army, compulsorily recruited to fight in the war. During an ambush he was captured by a rebel group and held prisoner for months. Everybody assumed he was dead, but miraculously he succeeded in escaping. “I thank God, and I thank the Sisters for never having given up praying for me. I am so grateful to them today and so now I am helping them as a catechist.”

The Church in Syria is very much alive, despite more than seven years of war. The priests, and the religious brothers and sisters in the country have become a fresh source of hope for the people. “We have never stopped offering our help, our prayers and our accompaniment… Everything is being done through the collaboration of the priests, religious and laity. We all work together to organize these activities and, thanks be to God, we have some very active

Sr. Samia distributing more gifts.

young people,” Sister Samia continues.

 

In addition to coordinating the religious instruction, Sister Samia also works in a home for mentally handicapped children. “We have always carried out projects with the help of ACN, even during the bloodiest moments of the war. Children and adults alike often need a word of hope, and want to grow stronger in their faith. The children come to the church, and they can also be very demanding. During the summer, for example, we held a number of youth camps, which gave fresh hope to many people. This is what motivates us.”

 

Over the course of 2018, and thanks to the generous help of our many benefactors throughout the world, ACN has been able to support more than 35 pastoral courses and programs for young people and children in various different parts of Syria, for a total cost of $255,000.

A special project in Cameroon – Conversion in Prison

04.10.2018 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN Feature, ACN Interview, ACN PROJECTS, Africa, Africa, Cameroon, CONSTRUCTION, Sisters

CAMEROON – CONVERSION IN PRISON

ACN renovates the chapel in Bafoussam prison

Sister Orencya, a Pallottine Sister, gives her service for the Church in Cameroon. She has been a missionary in the prison environment. For nearly a decade, she has been visiting prisoners twice a week at Bafoussam Central Prison. This prison is composed of a women’s ward, an adult men’s ward and a youth ward. Altogether, there are about 1,000 prisoners.

The Christian community, under the patronage of Marcel Callo, (deported by the German gestapo to the concentration camps because he was Christian)  has held a presence in the prison for 20 years now. A chaplain facilitates and is supported by volunteers from the Justice and Peace Association, novices from Xavierins Fathers, Sister Orencya and catechist detainees. In addition to attentive listening to the prisoners and providing material help (medicines, clothing, food), times of prayer, catechesis and mass are all organized for the imprisoned.

Sister Anna Kot from the Pallontine Sisters in Cameroon sent the photos together with the following lines: “Hello, A few days ago, we sent you the letters of thanks and request for grant 2018. Now we send some pictures of our apostolate in Cameroon. I do it as secretary in the name of the superior delegate, Sr. Véronique Sakowska. With the best regards and expressions of respect.”

 

ACN financed the rehabilitation of the chapel in 2017. Several inmates wrote letters of thanks. Here are some excerpts:

 

You have turned our chapel into paradise”

“Many of the faithful have converted and many who did not come to church are now the first to arrive in the chapel on the Lord’s Day. You have, through your actions, attracted souls who have made a firm resolve to change and to be baptized.”

“As God never abandons His children when they cry for help, He has sent an angel among us: Sister Orencya, to listen to our cries and transmit them to you. Thank you for everything you do for us inmates. Many prisoners have converted because of our improved life in the prison environment. Many follow catechesis classes and are part of prayer groups in our Marcel Callo community. By receiving much support from you, we have understood that we are not abandoned despite our faults and that the Lord is always with us. Thanks to God and thanks to you, I consider myself happy to live my detention in the peace, joy and love of Christ.”

“God allowed me to enter this prison to know him. Outside, I lived in debauchery. In this prison, I am a path of conversion and radical change of my mentalities. All this thanks to God and through you through the manifestation of His goodness in my life”.

In his letter of thanks, the chaplain explains the choice of the patron saint: Marcel Callo.

“Marcel Callo was deported by the German gestapo to the concentration camps in Germany. His motive: his detractors said that he was a Christian. He will die there at the age of 23.  During his detention, he devoted his time to serving his brothers. Today, following Christ, through daily prayers, Eucharistic celebrations by the priests of the Sacred Heart and catechesis, the Marcel Callo community continues the work of evangelization within the prison. This environment makes everyone happy. »

 

ACN has promised to continue supporting the prison ministry in Cameroon and has just approved a $13,590 project for pastoral care of prisoners in the main prisons of Kumbo and Nkambe in the Anglophone area of the country.

ACN Project of the Week – support for Sisters in Ukraine

29.08.2018 in ACN International, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Catholic Religious Sisters, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Redemptorists, Sisters, SUBSISTENCE, Ukraine, Ukraine

Ukraine

Support for the life and ministry of four Redemptorists Sisters in Lviv

 

In the 1930s a dozen or more Ukrainian girls travelled to Belgium to prepare for the foundation of the first Redemptorists convent in their home country of Ukraine. However, it was not until 80 years later that this dream was finally fulfilled. The outbreak of the Second World War, and the subsequent Soviet tyranny made their return impossible, and believers faced decades of persecution by the communists. It was not until 2016 that three Redemptorists sisters finally succeeded in establishing the first ever Redemptorists convent in Ukraine.

 

The Sisters had to start from zero, initially establishing their convent temporarily in a family home. They worked hard and long to cultivate the wilderness that had grown up around the house. Soon after, another professed Sister would join them, but remains in Poland for now and another a young candidate is also in the picture. Meanwhile, the convent has been granted formal permission to admit young women who wish to consecrate their lives to God, and there are already a few interested. But they will have to wait for some time, because the house is only able to accommodate eight people.

A number of ordinary Catholic faithful come to pray with the sisters at regular prayer times and other liturgical celebrations. Many come seeking the prayers and counsel of the sisters and a sympathetic ear to listen to their problems.

The sisters are grateful for their vocation and overjoyed that the long awaited foundation in Ukraine has finally become a reality. Nevertheless, despite their frugal lifestyle, it is very difficult for them, as enclosed religious, to support themselves in Ukraine, especially against the background of sharply rising prices.

 

We have promised them $3,000 for the support of their life and apostolate.

 

Are you in inspired by this projects supporting seminarians? If you would like to help create more projects such as this, simply click to donate.