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Project of the Week – Senegal

Subsistence aid for five Poor Clares

Ever since the 11th century, there has been a strong Muslim influence in Senegal. Today, this West African nation counts 17.2 million people,  90% of which are Muslim. Sufism—a form of Islamic mysticism—is widespread throughout the country. Traditionally, relations between Muslims and Christians in the country have been tolerant and peaceful, but as in many other parts of Africa, a more Radical Islam is increasingly taking hold.  

Christians are the minority, accounting for just 5% of the population, most of whom are Catholics. And yet the Church runs numerous schools and charitable institutions, such as orphanages and rural clinics, which are open to those of all faiths. At the heart of all these activities is prayer, which nurtures the life of the Church and helps to bear fruit.

Back in December 2020, in order to strengthen this contemplative element in the life of the Church in Senegal, five Poor Clare sisters moved into a provisional accommodation in Ndollor, in the Archdiocese of Dakar. They had been sent here from their mother house in Abidjan, in Ivory Coast, to start a new foundation in Senegal. This was at the invitation of Archbishop Benjamin Ndiaye of Dakar, who was hoping that their presence and their life of prayer would help the Gospel message become more deeply rooted and firmly embraced in the hearts of the faithful.

The sisters are still only temporarily housed. They live from the land, growing peas, groundnuts, and maize. But life is hard. “The rains are infrequent and only for three months of the year,” they write. “The dry season lasts for nine months here. So we all have to rely on Divine Providence and each time hope that the next season will be better. Everyday life here is one of poverty and a battle for survival—not only for us, but for everyone else as well. As a mendicant congregation, we depend largely on the donations we receive from various quarters. But the local peasant farmers are even poorer, and so we share with them the little that we have. On top of this is the fact that we are only a new foundation. Building a convent is no easy matter and requires considerable financial resources, and that doesn’t exactly make our situation any easier.” To help support themselves, the sisters have a small workshop where they make candles, ointments, and liturgical items for sale.

Despite this meager income, their living conditions are more than basic. Often there is no electricity, so they pray using flashlights. Now they have turned to us in humble trust: “We are daring to knock on the doors of your charity, which means the doors of your hearts, to ask your financial support so that we can buy food for ourselves and for all who come knocking at our convent door. In helping us you will also be helping the downtrodden members of Christ.”

We want to help the Poor Clares and have promised them subsistence aid in the amount of $7,500 for the next year. Will you help us?

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