Interview with Regina Lynch, Project Director ACN
- This year we are celebrating the Year of Faith. Why do you feel important to have this kind of celebration?
Many of us, who are Catholics, often take our faith for granted, or run it on “low maintenance”, for example by limiting its practice to Sunday Mass attendance and so every now and then we need a wake-up call, where we get back to basics. Catechesis is a key to sustaining our faith. This is especially important as society almost everywhere becomes more and more secular, even in many of the so-called mission countries. It is a chance for us to renew and deepen our faith but it also provides us with the opportunity to witness to our faith, to share the joy of it with others.
- How is Aid to the Church in Need living this year? What is special that have you done to follow the call of Holy Father?
We have always paid special attention to projects that aim at deepening the faith e.g. catechetics, retreats, providing materials such as bibles, catechisms but during this Year of the Faith, we have been making more of an effort to answer such requests and through exchanges with our project partners, we have been encouraging them to develop more of these initiatives. As a foundation, we are also going to close the Year of Faith with a pilgrimage to Rome with staff and benefactors.
- 3. Have you had and are you having projects focused especially to promote this Year of Faith?
We have received many projects for formation programs for laity with a special focus on the documents of Vatican II (India, Ukraine). There have been requests for renewal programs and retreats for priests in the light of the Year of the Faith (India and Congo). Dioceses or whole bishops’ conferences have requested more bibles and catechisms – either our own, I Believe, or the YOUCAT – for catechetical programs (Bolivia, Cuba). And just now at the beginning of July we are sponsoring 50 seminarians from all over the world to participate in a four-day pilgrimage organized by the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization to the tomb of St. Peter in Rome for those on a vocational journey. This not only gives the seminarians the opportunity to experience the universality of the Church – especially for those who come from countries, where Christians suffer for their faith – but to witness to the world how even in great hardship, it is possible to have such a vocation.
- 4. For your work in 140 countries around the world, you have a universal vision of the Church, have you noticed that this year has been different? In which way?
Certainly, we see a drive for the renewal of the faith in all corners of the earth. In November last year I was lucky to visit the Diocese of Kindu in the Dem. Rep. of Congo – a diocese that has suffered from one war after another and that is still difficult to reach because of poor or almost inexistent roads – and there I saw how well in advance of the Year of the Faith, a whole program had been worked out and was being implemented. Anyone who has attended Sunday Mass in Africa, knows how the faithful express their joy in faith through liturgical songs and dance and yet here in the Diocese of Kindu, the Bishop Willy Ngumbi Ngengele has made a point of reciting the Creed at Mass every Sunday, in order that everyone remembers the important tenets of our faith.
We also watched with great joy the response of the Church to the worldwide hour of Eucharistic Adoration on 2nd June 2013. After we had asked various dioceses in the different continents to send us photos of the adoration and processions in their parishes on this day, we were inundated with images of the faithful in front of the Blessed Sacrament – young and old, in humble churches, in beautiful cathedrals. For us it was also a source of strength for our own faith.
- 5. Is there any project related to the Year of Faith which would have touched you or impressed you in a special manner?
I have seen a great number of projects around the world which have impressed me but probably I am most touched by initiatives in countries where Catholics really suffer for their faith or where the Church has to make a special effort to have access to the universal Church. The Orissa Catholic Bishops’ Council in India, for example, represents the Church in a region, which has known great violence against Christians, in particular in August 2008 and the bishops prepared a programme for the Year of Faith, which aimed at strengthening the faith of its personnel and laity in the face of persecution. Many dioceses in China, which at the time of Vatican II had hardly any contact with the universal Church, now place a great deal of emphasis on formation of its laity and have been very active in this Year of Faith. In one diocese in particular we contributed to study sessions for priests and religious on topics related to Vatican II.
And from Sudan we received this comment from a priest in a region marked by violence and exit of Christians. He writes that with their bishop they have, “embarked on prayer and reflection journey spelling out the expectations from the faithful on the year of faith and how we could render all the activities an opportunity for renewal. We consider it providential to celebrate this year in our present situation. Other people leave but we still remain, it must be for a purpose.”
- 6. The charisma of your organization is to help the Church in pastoral need. Can you say that you live each year as a Year of Faith?
When you think that one of the main priorities of our Foundation is to support the Church in its pastoral mission in areas of primary evangelization and in regions where the faith has already existed for a long time but where there is a need to re-evangelize, then indeed one can say that we live each year as a Year of Faith. From the very beginning of Christianity, there has been a need to deepen and reaffirm what we believe and this is very much reflected in the projects that we receive on a daily basis from all over the world. What perhaps has changed, is that there is more awareness now of the need to strengthen our faith in order to withstand the challenges that come from living as a minority in a religious or politically hostile society. As Pope Benedict said at the beginning of his pontificate and as he repeated in the apostolic letter, Porta Fidei, an indication for the Year of Faith, “The Church as a whole and all her Pastors, like Christ, must set out to lead people out of the desert, towards the place of life, towards friendship with the Son of God, towards the One who gives us life, and life in abundance.” It is with great thankfulness and joy that we see this happening in the many dioceses that reach out to us.
The interview was conducted by Maria Lozano, firstname.lastname@example.org