Interview with the new Ecclesiastical Assistant of Aid to the Church in Need
Father Anton Lässer has been the Ecclesiastical Assistant of the worldwide Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), based in Königstein im Taunus, since April 2023. He is responsible for the spiritual life of the charity in cooperation with the 23 national offices. Lässer belongs to the Passionist Order, and before his spiritual career he worked for a management consultancy among other things. Volker Niggewöhner from ACN Germany spoke with him about his first impressions in his new office.
Volker Niggewöhner: How did you come to your new task?
Father Anton Lässer: As so often in my life, the task came to me. I received a call from the office of Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, who has been President of the pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need since 2011. He asked me if I would be willing to take on the task of Ecclesiastical Assistant. I replied: I do what the Church wishes me to do. But that is for my religious superiors to decide. So I submitted to this decision and accompanied it in prayer.
What were your first impressions of Aid to the Church in Need?
It feels a bit like swimming in the ocean. Aid to the Church in Need is a very complex and international work. In my first weeks, we were visited by many bishops from all over the world, I attended meetings of the main bodies of Aid to the Church in Need in Rome and at the consultations of the directors from the national offices. I am in good contact with the different levels of leadership. We want to use the opportunity to reflect on the office of Ecclesiastical Assistant at international and national level and continue to make it fruitful.
Is there anything that has amazed or surprised you?
I am really amazed at the way that dialogue is conducted at the various levels, but also at the faith of all those who bear responsibility at Aid to the Church in Need. I have never encountered a charity that is so professionally organised on the one hand, and on the other hand has so many people who are burning for the Kingdom of God. The pastoral orientation of Aid to the Church in Need is very special. We not only help where there are wars or natural disasters, but also support the survival of the Church, and specifically the religious women, priests and fellow workers who could not live and work without this aid. A great advantage is our strong networking with project partners in all parts of the globe. Their involvement makes a decisive contribution to fulfilling our responsibility towards our benefactors. This is a great strength of Aid to the Church in Need.
What do you think is the special character of Aid to the Church in Need in comparison to other relief organisations?
Aid to the Church in Need began after the Second World War with benefactors acting to support people in need who were once their enemies. That, in itself, was a huge grace. Another special feature, in my view, is that its appeal for support is linked to a very clear proclamation of faith. In this way, the donations become gifts through which others are touched by the love of God. Aid to the Church in Need is a community of prayer. It is something special when our workers begin their work before the tabernacle, or when during Holy Mass they lay their project partners on the altar in their thoughts. And a very important point is this: Aid to the Church in Need does not act as a donor organisation that then determines how things must be done on the ground. There is always dialogue with the recipients. We and our benefactors are like a bridge of hundreds of thousands of people whose gifts and prayers give aid wherever the Church is in any form of need.