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: Central African Republic
Success Story: Books for the formation of the young vocations in the Carmelite monastery in Bangui
Father Anastasio Roggero is a living legend. This 76-year-old priest from the Ligurian province of the Discalced Carmelites is not, strictly speaking, a missionary, since he does not work constantly in Africa. Nonetheless, his heart is very much in the Central African Republic and almost everybody knows him there. He is one of the pioneers of the Carmelite mission in the Central African Republic, founded 40 years ago, and he is also the founder of the Carmelite monastery in Bangui. He had dreamt of this for years, and in 2006 that the dream became reality. And, in addition to the four Carmelite mission stations already in the country, a Carmelite monastery was established in the capital.
You can hear the excited screams of innumerable children, shouting “Ciao!” when Father Anastasio comes to visit his confreres. For it is the only Italian word they know. To them, he is simply “Father Ciao.” The adults are also joyful when he comes, and he himself is overjoyed to see “his” monastery flourishing for in the meantime there have been many local vocations, now 12 young men in the monastery are already preparing to take their permanent vows. And more young men have also joined the convent and are currently undergoing training.
The Carmelite monastery in Bangui has not remained untouched by the war, however. In fact, since December 2012, the grounds have taken the shape of a refugee camp. “Just imagine around 10,000 people having a sort of picnic in your garden for months on end – several tons of rubbish have been the inevitable result, and the grass is already only a memory,” says Father Federico Trinchero, who was the Prior here when the refugees began to arrive in their thousands. And even though, in the meantime, babies have been born in the chapel and in the chapter room, and everyday life has in many respects been turned upside down, life in the monastery goes on.
Despite the war, there have been no shortage of vocations. Easter of last year (2014), a group of 10 young aspirants were accepted into the monastery. This, of course, brought joy and the blessing of God for the community. And yet, it is also a challenge. For where are these young religious even to live in a monastery already overflowing with refugees?
They are not, however, lacking in resourcefulness and have simply set up a dormitory in the refectory, but these young aspirants still need proper training. “We are not letting ourselves be discouraged,” writes Father Federico. “We are happy that we are able to be here and to serve the Church and the people in this country. And above all, we do not want the tragic events that are still continuing to shake the country to prevent our young brothers from undergoing their theological and philosophical formation as serenely and worthily as possible.” For these young religious, who are currently undergoing their training today are the ones who in future will help their people to live in peace.
Father Federico has asked ACN for help to increase the stock of books in the monastery library. We have promised him $8,600. To support this project or others like it, please hit the donate button to make your donation on-line!