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: Slovakia
Extension of a pastoral centre for the ministry to Roma children
One particular challenge facing the Catholic Church in Slovakia is the pastoral care of the Roma peoples. Two priests who are particularly involved in the care of the Roma people are Father Jozafat Jozef Brigan and Father Lorenz Reinhard Brecher, who between them care for 22 villages in the diocese of Roznava, where a majority of Roma families live. Most of them are unemployed and living in poverty. They usually have large families and all live together in a single room. Many do not even have electricity or running water. When the money runs out, they go hungry.
Father Jozafat explains: “The parents are often so frustrated and helpless in the face of this situation that they neglect their children. Sadly, many fall prey to alcohol. As a result, the children suffer still more and often spend more time on the streets than at home.” On one occasion an 11-year-old boy even ran away from home and begged to be taken in to the children’s home, since he could no longer stand life at home. Father Jozafat continues: “Of course we are caring for this youngster, who has stayed on in the children’s home. He regularly visits his family, but he does not want to go back there. This case shows just how difficult are the family circumstances in which these children have to grow up.”
Protecting them against bad influences
In 2005 work began on a pastoral centre for children and young people. Since then the Don Bosco Pastoral Centre has become a second home for many Roma children. By now around 200 children from the surrounding villages come here after school. They are split up into groups. Each day a different group comes. The children from the villages furthest away are collected from the school by the parish bus. Here they can play, do their homework, pray together, do sport, handicrafts and attend Holy Mass, and at the same time they are prepared for reception of the sacraments.
Father Jozafat explains: “They are learning the Christian virtues, so that they themselves can later assume responsibility and be able to found a good family. They have a place where they can spend their free time and their weekends, where they can learn something new, develop their abilities and grow in the Faith. In this way we hope to be able to protect them from the harmful influences to which they are exposed on the streets and through boredom. We can see that many children and young people start very early to smoke and sniff glue, and by the age of 14, 15 or 16 many are already living together with a boyfriend or girlfriend. Owing to the living conditions at home, the children not only have little chance of developing as people but even of growing up healthy. We are trying to address this need in the families. The children who come to us get food, and also clothing and shoes.”
But by now the pastoral centre has become too small, because more and more children are coming here. Consequently, the centre needs to be extended. “We need a larger dining room, and rooms where the children can sleep when they stay overnight with us on various occasions (at weekends, summer camps, retreats, New Year’s Eve, etc).
We hope to be able to contribute $66,160 for this extension work. •
United through prayer for the poor and persecuted Church!