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: Lebanon & Syria
Success Story: Completion of a parish centre in Deir El Ahmar
Almost everywhere in Lebanon you can see the picture of Saint Charbel Makhlouf. Numerous miracles and answers to prayers are attributed to the intercession of this modern Lebanese saint. Saint Charbel, who died on December 24, 1898 at the age of 70, is seen as the epitome of the monk, having lived a life of strict asceticism, penance and contemplative prayer. Even during his lifetime he was reported to have healed the sick, and it is even claimed that he raised two dead people back to life.
Not surprisingly, then, the parish of Deir El Ahmar in the Baalbek plain is dedicated to this revered Lebanese saint. This mainly Christian village, which is surrounded by overwhelmingly Muslim villages and towns, has a population of around 10,000 souls. The people here live in very simple and humble circumstances. Most of them are ordinary peasant farmers, just like the parents of Saint Charbel himself, who were poor. His father died young, so that as a young boy he already had to work, herding the flocks of goats, before finally entering the monastery at the age of 23.
The young people of Deir El Ahmar have little in the way of life prospects. Unemployment is high, and more and more young people are sliding into drugs and addiction. Almost half of all the school pupils leave school early because they can see no future for themselves.
In response to this situation, the parish of St. Charbel sent us an urgent appeal for help, to enable them to build a parish centre where these young people could be given help and encouraged to to occupy themselves meaningfully. It would be a place where they could do their homework, learn a range of manual skills, and also study and learn about their faith. And the centre was to be not only for young people, but would also offer programs for all age groups – from children to engaged couples, through to elderly people.
ACN immediately agreed and stepped in with $37,300 to fund the project.
Now the parish priest, Father Hanna Rahmé has written to thank us. “On behalf of all the Catholic faithful of our parish, I would like to thank you and salute you,” he writes. “We are praying for all your generous benefactors who have helped us here in this region to bear witness to Christ, despite the difficult political situation and the uncertainty.”
Help to restore the church and other buildings in Quseir that were damaged or destroyed by the war
Quseir was once an important strategic town in Syria. It is situated not very far from the city of Homs, but at the same time it is quite close to the border with northern Lebanon and the route through to the Bekaa Valley. During the fighting for control of Quseir, almost all its 60,000 inhabitants – Christians and Muslims alike – fled the city.
Once there were 5,000 Greek Melkite Catholics living here. Some 40 of them were murdered and another eight remain unaccounted for to this day. The town was liberated two years ago, on 20 March 2013. And yet 80% of the houses in Quseir are either destroyed or uninhabitable. Of the 750 Christian families who once lived here, just 340 have now returned, after the Syrian army recaptured the town.
Now the bishop wants to repair some of the essential structures of the Church here, including the church, the parish house, the catechetical centre, parish centre and some other religious houses.
This repair work is essential in order to prevent further destruction of these properties, and above all so as to send a signal to the ordinary faithful. The visible rebuilding and the revival of Church life are the best way of reassuring the people and encouraging them to return to their former homes to live.
ACN has promised to help with a contribution of $35,800.
Please help us bring you even more ‘success stories’ – donate to ACN for projects like these!