South America


ACN Project of the Week – A new parish church in Camela, Brazil

11.07.2019 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN PROJECTS, Brazil, South America


A new parish church amidst the sugarcane


The town of Camela has a population of around 30,000 souls, and lies in the midst of the vast sugarcane plantations of northeastern Brazil.


The life of the people here is marked by great poverty and grave social problems manifesting in widespread violence and drug addiction.  Moreover, there has been an expansion into the territory of fundamentalist sectarian groups. Today there are no fewer than 75 different temples belonging to them in the town, while the Catholic Church has just one – far too small – parish church and chapel in the cemetery.


Furthermore, the church is sandwiched between a store and a supermarket, leaving no possibility of extending or enlarging it. Since there is not enough space inside the church for all the faithful. Sunday Mass is instead celebrated on the local sports grounds.


Father Laion Fernando Gonçalves dos Santos Ferreira, the parish priests, works very hard to serve his people. Together with three lay missionaries, they provide an excellent and fruitful pastoral ministry.


The parish has now been given a plot of land on which to build a new parish church. And they need our help.


ACN is proposing to offer $53,550 to support this project. Will you help us?


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 – Mass Offerings in Uruguay

27.03.2019 in Project of the Week, Uruguay


Mass Offerings for 20 priests in Tacuarembo

Although Latin America as a whole is described as a “Catholic continent,” Uruguay, the second smallest country in Latin America, in fact, has a long secular history.

In the 19th century, all public expression of religion was banned and banished to the private sphere. The secularist government of the day engaged in numerous deliberate provocations against the Catholic Church. For example, on Good Friday – a day of strict fasting and abstinence for Catholics – the government would deliberately offer free barbecues for all.

A strict separation between the Church and State has existed in the country since 1917 and formally enshrined in the Constitution. No religious festivals are acknowledged in the public calendar. So it is not surprising that not even half the population of 3.3 million people declare themselves Catholics today. As a result, the Church struggles to maintain itself without outside support. The statutory requirements imposed by the state for the maintenance of Church properties are extremely high. Meanwhile, most priests live on the bare minimum.

The diocese of Tacuarembo lies in the northern-central part of the country and covers an area of around 24,000 km². It has 20 priests, who minister to around 100,000 Catholic faithful in 16 far-flung parishes with a total of 85 churches and chapels and a number of different charitable institutions as well. The area is sparsely inhabited and the faithful live widely dispersed.

We are therefore planning to help these priests with Mass Offerings, for a total value of $17,970. This works out at just $900 per priest for an entire year. These priests will celebrate these Holy Masses for the intentions of those benefactors who have given them. Therefore, please know that your Mass Offerings are of enormous help and are grateful appreciated.


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

Bishops speak out over electricity blackouts in Venezuela

18.03.2019 in ACN International, ACN International, By Johan Pacheco, By Johan Pacheco, South America, Venezuela

In this time of legal darkness, there has been added a literal darkness.”

The political and economic crisis that is ravaging Venezuela has become even worse in recent days as a result of the electricity blackout that has affected the whole country, 23 different states, since March 7 this year. According to information provided by Caritas to the international Catholic pastoral charity and pontifical charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), the electricity crisis has affected almost every other area of the supply chain, including water, gasoline, transport, communications and the hospitals.

By Johan Pacheco, ACN-International
Canadian English Review: Mario Bard, ACN-Canada
On line in Canada: March 18, 2019


Sources tell us that the problem originated as a result of a breakdown in the central hydroelectric generating station which provides energy for 80% of the country”, the Caritas report explains. Nonetheless, the authorities of the government-controlled National Executive allege that the emergency was caused by “electronic warfare” as a result of a “terrorist cyber-attack” from abroad.

In different statements, gathered by ACN, most of the Venezuelan bishops have now spoken out in response to this grave crisis, which has left some communities without electricity for over 130 hours now, provoking chaos and consternation among the population, social tensions and looting, as well as shutting down schools and businesses.

Many people died

Archbishop Ulises Gutiérrez of Ciudad Bolívar stated that “the country has been left in the dark, with blackouts throughout the country for over five days now. They have affected the hospitals and clinics, the public services, communications, banking activities, paralyzing the country as never before in its history. A significant number of our fellow citizens have died through not getting the medical attention they needed, as a result of the lack of electric power.”

The Caritas report indicates that according to information from the organization Médicos Unidos, some 20 individuals have died throughout the country, as a result of the electricity outage in the hospitals.

Bishop Mario Moronta of San Cristóbal stated that the authorities, “far from listening to the just complaints of the people, continue to harden the hearts of those who hold in their hands the solution to the difficulties, and above all to the central problem for which these same people are clamouring – namely a change of political direction and not the imposition of an unacceptable system that is not at the service of the men and women of Venezuela.”

Surviving with dirty water

For his part Bishop Ernesto Romero of the apostolic vicariate of Tucupita, declared that “the paralysis of the electricity supply throughout almost the whole of the country is nothing more than a demonstration of the indifference, laziness, lack of maintenance and incompetence of the national government.” The emergency has led people to resort to desperate and unsafe measures, such as collecting water from unclean sources, eating partly rotten food and undergo risky mobilization.

Bishop Polito Rodríguez of the diocese of San Carlos announced that “Venezuela is today confronting the worst humanitarian crisis in its history as a republic; human rights are being violated with impunity. In essence, freedom and equality have been disregarded by those who are governing.”

Bishop José Manuel Romero Barrios of El Tigre has also spoken out, saying that the life of the Venezuelan people “has been subjected to a growing structural violence which, while not actually physically attacking the humanity of its people, is nonetheless expressed in the failure of those responsible for the management of society to attend to the most basic needs of the population.”

Speaking in similar terms, Archbishop Jesús González de Zárate of Cumaná called on people to raise their voices “to denounce the lies, the injustice, the use of violence, the fanatical desire to divide and control us, the repression and persecution of legitimate protest and all those things within our society that are contrary to the plan of God.”

Bishop Ángel Caraballo, the apostolic administrator of the diocese of Cabimas, added that “in this time of legal darkness, of darkness in relation to social security, darkness in relation to food, darkness in regard to civic peace, there has been added a literal darkness, an additional element which simply adds to the humiliation suffered by the Venezuelan people, through the fault of the regime, which has forgotten about people in order to sustain a dominant political system that has brought only tragedy, death, unrest and misery wherever it has been implemented.”

Bishop Oswaldo Azuaje of the diocese of Trujillo deplored the current situation and called on his people to continue, “looking for the Lord in every brother who needs us. The days of the blackout were an opportunity to witness great examples of solidarity… in the sharing of food and drinking water, gasoline for the vehicles and many other examples of people sharing their sufferings and joys together.” 

The message of the bishops has brought words of relief and hope to the Venezuelan people in the midst of the dark turbulence they are currently living through. Caritas announced that it will continue to actively pursue its service of “Ollas Comunitarias” (“community cooking pots”, i.e. shared meals service) in the different dioceses, and also its programme of “medication banks”

ACN-Canada invites his benefactors to pray for the People of Venezuela who is suffering from so much repression.

Thank you for what you can do to help the Church in the spiritual work She does along the material one, to maintain in the heart of the population hope and faith in the adversity.

Brazil – ACN Project of the week – Catechetical Material for Marginalized People

27.02.2019 in ACN, ACN Canada, ACN PROJECTS, Aid to the Church in Need Canada, Brazil, Brazil, By Eva-Maria Kolmann, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Journey with ACN, South America


Catechetical materials for pastoral work

The “Bethlehem Mission” (Missao Belem) is a lay spiritual community of people who devote themselves above all to caring for the homeless, the addicts, the lonely and all those facing a crisis or some other difficult situation. The members of the community, who describe themselves as “missionaries,” share their lives full-time with these homeless victims, often even living on the streets with them. In doing so they are endeavouring to bring the Good News of Jesus Christ to these people on the margins of society and make His teachings living and tangible for them.

The community is still very young, having been founded only in 2005 in Brazil, yet it already has 160 mission houses and another 7 intermediate centres in 70 different cities of Brazil, Haiti and Italy.

Right now some 2000 or so homeless people are being cared for by members of the community in Brazil, which includes 70 consecrated members and 200 full-time voluntary members. They all live together in the various communities, like one big family. People who have until now been living on the streets slowly become accustomed to living an orderly life in the community and are able to begin to discover the potential for themselves. The community also offers them the opportunity to have therapy where necessary. And they can also take advantage of the chance to gain practical and professional qualifications or become re-accustomed to the world of work. Wherever possible, the street children are encouraged to return to or at least make contact with their families. Where this is not possible, they are helped to find loving homes with foster parents or adoptive families, in collaboration with the relevant authorities.

So far around 50,000 people have been taken in and helped by these communities. Roughly half of them have since been able to return to normal life. Many have found their way to faith and sought baptism. It is a particularly moving sight to see grown men, some advanced in age and after years of homelessness and addiction, dressed in a white baptismal robe, standing there with a baptismal candle in their hand, or going forward like little children to receive their First Holy Communion. In such cases it is quite evident that baptism has been the start of a new life for them as children of God.

Also very popular and very successful are the evangelizing courses run by members of the community. More than 1400 people have so far taken part in these courses, which are aimed at training them for the mission of reaching out to people who still far from the Church, and especially to the marginalized in society, and proclaiming the Gospel to them. At the same time the participants are equipped with appropriate catechetical material, which they can distribute to those who are interested.

Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) is happy to help this wonderful initiative, and we have promised 69 150 dollars to help provide the necessary teaching materials for the coming four years.

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 Project of the Week: Formation for young sisters in Brazil

01.11.2018 in ACN International, ACN PROJECTS, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Brazil, FORMATION, South America


Help for the formation of 50 young religious Sisters


It was only 30 years ago that the religious Institute the Servants of the Lord and the Virgin of Matarà was founded in Argentina. Yet since then it has spread throughout the world, with 160 convents in 35 different countries on all five continents around the globe – such is the measure of its success to date. 


A particular feature of the Institute is its love for the Eucharist, the Mother of God and the Holy Father. The apostolate of the sisters covers a wide field – helping the priests in the parishes, giving retreats and catechetical instruction, teaching in schools, working in the youth apostolate. They also give selfless service in orphanages, homes, old people‘s homes for disabled children and hospitals. Some of the sisters also support expectant mothers in conflict situations, helping them to bring their children safely into the world. A number of them are also involved in the publication of theological books and literature.

The Institute continues to attract many new vocations, particularly in Brazil. Here, the birthplace of the samba, there are 50 young women currently in formation. They need our support so that they can receive a sound and solid training for the religious life and apostolate they will be engaged in. We have promised to help this year with a contribution of $17,145.


Thank you!


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: Mass Offerings in Uruguay

20.06.2018 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN Canada, ACN PROJECTS, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Journey with ACN, Mass Offerings, Priests, SUBSISTENCE, Uruguay


Special Mass Offerings for 18 elderly priests in need

Few people have summarized the importance of the priesthood more trenchantly than Saint Jean Marie Vianney, the famous Curé of Ars: “Without the sacrament of ordination, we would not have the Lord. Who placed him in the Tabernacle? The priest! Who welcomed your soul at its first entry into life? The priest! Who nourishes it in order to give it the strength to complete its pilgrimage? The priest! Who will prepare it to appear before God by washing it for the last time in the blood of Christ? The priest; always the priest.”


The Catholic Church in Uruguay has considerably less influence in society than it does in other Latin American countries. Only a little over half the population claim to be Catholic, religion has largely been banished to the private sphere. Needless to say, many aspects of the law are also in direct contradiction with Catholic teachings. The Catholic Church in Uruguay has considerably less influence in society than it does in other Latin American countries. Only a little over half the population claim to be Catholic, religion has largely been banished to the private sphere.

There are over 400,000 priests in the world in whose hands the bread and wine of the Eucharist are changed into the Body and Blood of Christ. Among them are 18 frail and elderly priests living in a retirement home for priests in Montevideo, Uruguay’s capital. Many of these hands have aged and the priests are perhaps also sick, a few barely have strength to elevate the Chalice. Nonetheless, they continue faithfully and tirelessly celebrating the Sacrifice of Christ.


Since mid-19th century, Uruguay, the second smallest country in Latin America, has had a long history with secularism. In 1859, the Jesuits were banished from the land and 12 years later all the cemeteries were seized by the state. Anticlerical, liberal elements engaged in constant provocations. For example, deliberately providing free barbecue grills on Good Friday, and inviting everyone to use them. Finally, in 1917 the strict separation Church and State was enshrined in the Constitution. Officially, there are no Christian feasts in Uruguay. Consequently, instead of Christmas, the official calendar has a “Family Day” and Holy Week is a “Week of Tourism.”


Many Catholic priests in Uruguay live on the edge of poverty, especially those who are elderly and sick. The 18 elderly priests in the priests’ retirement home in Montevideo have spent their lives faithfully serving God and the Church. Now that they have come to the evening of their lives, they deserve to receive loving care and gratitude for their service.


We propose to help them with Mass Offerings which will allow them to celebrate Holy Mass for the intentions of our benefactors. This allows you, our benefactors to contribute something towards the Church in need through this retirement home – and allows these priests to provide for their own simple personal needs, such as medication, etc.


We are giving a total of $22,000, to ensure each of these priests will receive $120 per month as an expression of our love and gratitude for their lifetime service.


ACN Project of the Week – Venezuela

16.05.2018 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN PROJECTS, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Journey with ACN, South America, Venezuela


A  pastoral centre for youth in La Guaira

Venezuela is descending ever deeper into crisis. The people are desperate and bitter, violence is growing, the murder rate is rising, many souls are seeking refuge and solace in drugs. The Church stands strong by those who are suffering and tries to give them hope.

In these difficult times, Bishop Raùl Biord Castillo of La Guaira, who is based in the northern part of the country, would like to strengthen the pastoral ministry. Seeking a means to do so, he has asked himself the following question: “What does God want for us?”

Venezuela, La Guaira, 2018
Msgr. Raúl Biord Castillo, Bishop of La Guaira with the faithful.

The bishop is particularly concerned about the country’s young people. Youth groups have already been set up in several parishes and a number of spiritual movements assist in youth pastoral ministry. Their goal is to address the issues that deeply concern young people and accompany them on their spiritual journey, in the hopes of integrating these young people into the spiritual life of the community and deepening their faith.

Spiritual vocations are to be promoted as well. The pastoral ministry needs to take the differing needs of each social environment into consideration, because young people face different problems depending upon whether they grew up in rural areas, in cities or in the suburbs. The young people range from university students to young workers, and so there are countless difficult circumstances that need to be addressed, such as drug and alcohol addiction, prostitution, street children, violence, crime, and the incarceration.

Some parishes do not have any place to hold the youth programs and often lack people able to devote themselves to this apostolate. For this reason, the bishop wants to set up a “school for group leaders” housing it in a former convent which they would convert into a meeting place, thus killing two birds with one stone! The facility could be used to train group leaders and youth groups from parishes that do not have a suitable place to meet could use the building for retreats and a range of pastoral activities.

Venezuela, La Guaira, 2018
Mgr. Raúl Biord Castillo, Bishop of La Guaira with youth.

The chosen location of the facility is ideal because it is situated in the mountains where temperatures are not too hot and a beautiful panoramic view acts as balm to the soul. The demand is great; the facility is already almost fully booked! Unfortunately, only groups of maximally 20 people can use the facility as it is now. Once the renovations are complete, it will accommodate up to 80 overnight guests.


Aid to the Church in Need would like to help hope flourish by setting up this facility in support of the young people who will benefit from it!  If you would like to contribute to this project – simply click the donate button and select the ‘Project of the Week’!




ACN Feature Story – Bulletproof faith in Brazil

08.05.2018 in ACN Feature, ACN International, South America


Bulletproof faith in a 12-year-old girl


LAÍS MARIA PEREIRA da Silva, 12, was born and raised in a part of Rio de Janeiro called Complexo da Maré , which comprises one of the biggest sets of favelas—or shanty towns—in this Brazilian mega-city.

 Despite her young age, Lais Maria is already too well acquainted with violence, despair, and also death. Her part of town is home to 17 different communities totaling 130,000 inhabitants. In addition to horrible living conditions—such as the kind of poverty where a piece of bread makes up a meal—the people in this area live under a constant threat of violence.


Brazil, March 2014 Parish Our Lady of Alagados


The favelas of Rio are controlled by various criminal factions each running drugs through alleys that make up the neighbourhood infrastructures and serve as highly guarded transportation networks. Complexo da Maré is among the most dangerous areas in the city because it is run by two major criminal organizations, Comando Vermelho (“Red Command”) and Terceiro Comando Puro (“Pure Third Command”), with each dominating opposite sides of the area. They are engaged in a constant battle in an effort to expand their respective territories.


Laĺs lives in a favela called Baixa do Sapateiro, on a street called Divisa Street, which means: border. The street earned its name precisely because it marks the border between the territories controlled by the two rival criminal organizations. “They stay in the alleys, exchanging gun fire. We have to lay down on the floor in our homes because no room is secure. The shots come from the front and from behind,” says Viviane Pereira, another resident of Complexo da Maré.


The violence does not only make Laís’ daily life difficult—it also clouds her outlook on her future. The schools in the area often need to cancel classes for security reasons. When there are no gun fights close to school, but there is shooting going on near her house, her mother, says the girl, “has to call the teachers to warn us that we cannot leave the school; we’re often asked to study for tests another day.” Lais dreams of studying to become a doctor so she can help people. This would also make it possible for her family to move to a safer neighbourhood.


Bullet marks of different sizes in the facades of the houses give evidence to the state of gang warfare residents of Complexo de Maré have to contend with. In an effort to protect themselves, some people board up their windows with bricks to guard against stray bullets, others build underground rooms to shelter their families during shoot-outs. But, no one is really safe. “When the shooting suddenly erupts, we run to the first house we see. Everyone around here knows everyone and understand the fear of these moments,” says Laís, who adds, “I’m afraid to get shot.”


Members of the Missionaries of the Mercy, prays with homeless people in the square of the cathedral of Sao Paulo. According to Father John Henry, founder of Covenant of Mercy, “homeless are the pearls of the city.”

Faith remains in spite of it all 

It was precisely at home that Laís’ family lived through one of the most harrowing moments of their lives. It was a typical afternoon except that her cousin Ian, who was 12 at the time, was playing on the home’s small patio; children are rarely allowed to play outside the confines of the home in this part of town. Laĺs remembers: “Suddenly, a shooting started. Before Ian could run inside, he got shot. My aunt, Ian’s mother, ran downstairs and found her son on the ground, with a puddle of blood around his head.”


The bullet had reached the right side of his brain. Family members had to wait for the shootout to end before they were able to take him to the hospital. Thankfully, Ian survived. But his injury required many surgeries. One of which required removing part of Ian’s brain resulting in some of his motor skills becoming impaired and affecting his ability to talk.


“I was very sad, very touched when everything happened to my cousin,” says Laĺs, adding: “today, seven years later, he plays with us, but he cannot run.” Ian is confined to a wheelchair and remembers very little about what happened that day, but his family will never forget. Laís, along with all her friends, live under a shadow of fear of getting hurt themselves, or worse. “I like to play… run with my friends,” Laís continues, although, she adds, “When we are in the streets or alleys near here, I’m afraid of getting hit, or that a shot hurts one of my friends.” In these almost unbearable circumstances, it is faith in God that keeps Laís and her family going. It would be easy to lose hope and give way to despair under the constant threat of violence.”


Lais and her cousin Ian, now 19 

However, speaking with the purity of a child, Laís teaches those who would hear an important lesson: even amidst the shootings, she says, “It’s possible to keep a bullet-proof faith and to be a sign of hope to the others. I always pray to God to support Ian’s parents, my uncle and aunt, and that nothing bad will happen to my friends.”

March/April 2014 Favela in Salvador

The pontifical charity, ACN, supports with different projects the formation of diverse missionary communities, many of which work in the peripheries of Brazil’s big cities. One of them is the community “Mercy Alliance” (“Alianza de la Misericordia”) which, with more than 2,000 volunteers and 337 social workers, brings the mercy of God’s Love to the poorest. They work in the favelas of Brazil and the most abandoned areas of the poor neighbourhoods where the situation reported by LAÍS MARIA PEREIRA da Silva is lived daily.

Over the last ten years, ACN has provided more than two and a half million dollars to support 47 projects so that newly born missionary communities can dedicate themselves to the evangelization of the peripheries and help the youth in these neighbourhoods and all those who live on the margins of society.


Success Story: Peru

17.01.2018 in ACN International, Aid to the Church in Need Canada, Catechist, Peru, South America


Success Story: Training of catechists in the Rainforest

Deep within the jungle of the Peruvian Amazon region lies the apostolic vicariate of Iquitos, a place only accessible by air or by boat. Though this may appeal to an adventurer on holidays, it represents a major challenge for the pastoral workers of the Catholic Church.


The parishes, which are generally made up of numerous small riverside settlements each one, accessible only by river boat have the possibly of being visited only when river levels allow for travel.  During certain seasons, like in the summer, when there is very little rain and the water level is low, many of the settlements are simply unreachable.

Father Jacek Zygala on his way to a community


Consequently, the local catechists play a very important role in the Church as facilitators for  prayer with the people in the villages, and instructors in the faith who generally sustain the life of the Church for long periods of the year given that the priests simply cannot each and every individual village as often as would be needed to provide the necessary pastoral care to the people. But now, thanks to the generosity of our benefactors, at least in the parish of Santa Clara of Nanay, the training of these catechists can be improved.


Every month, there is a parish meeting of catechists where workshops are provided and a range of different ongoing training opportunities. And at the same time, the catechists themselves can exchange ideas, based on their own personal experiences. Thanks to our benefactors, ACN was able to contribute $8,400 towards the set-up of this program.


In a letter of thanks, Father Jacek Zygala has written us, saying “It is still too soon to speak about the fruits of our work. We sow, and it is God who gives the harvest. But we are happy and satisfied to have been able to make this project a reality. Without the financial support we have received from you our missionary and evangelization work would be impossible.” He ends his letter with a heartfelt thank you to everybody who has helped!

Fr. Jacek Zygala with his pastoral team, Carococha

You can give to a similar project. Thank you!