The far northeast of India is linked to the rest of the country only by a narrow corridor of land. It is one of the poorest regions in India and an area of frequent unrest.

In relative terms the Catholic Church is quite young here. It began to spread here only around the end of the 19th century – and in many regions only in the last few decades. There are around 2 million Catholics living in this region, most of whom belong to the ethnic minorities. Owing to an influx of Bengali migrants from Bangladesh, the proportion of Muslims in the population has grown much faster in recent decades in northeast India than in other parts of the country.

One of the more recent dioceses in northeast India is that of Bongaigaon, in the state of Assam. There are around 67,000 Catholics here among a total population of some 64 million. Most of these Catholics belong to the indigenous Bodo peoples. However, in the diocese as a whole at least a dozen different languages are spoken.

Whereas in the past it was foreign missionaries who first announced the gospel here, today the Church is increasingly represented by indigenous vocations. Currently there are 23 young men from the diocese of Bongaigaon who are preparing for ordination as priests. They themselves come overwhelmingly from poor, indigenous families who can do little to contribute financially to the formation of their sons. ACN has stepped in to help with a promise of 9,200 Euros.

Nigeria is not the only country suffering from the terror of Boko Haram. Its neighbour, Cameroon also suffers from the violence of Islamist terror groups in the northern part of the country. It is true that the organised armed attacks by Boko Haram have now decreased in the face of a united military offensive by several African countries, but there continue to be suicide bombings, murders and abductions in the affected areas. Many people are living in fear.

The Catholic diocese of Maroua-Mokolo in the Far North Region of Cameroon faces many difficult challenges. Not only is it situated in one of the poorest parts of the country, but it also has to take in large numbers of Nigerian and Cameroonian refugees.

 

Help for the training of priests in a diocese threatened by Boko Haram terrorists in Cameroon

Help for the training of priests in a diocese threatened by Boko Haram terrorists in Cameroon

 

There is a positive side to this, however, for the people‘s faith is unbroken and despite the fear of attacks, people continue to flock into the churches. At the same time the number of vocations is also growing. At present there are 32 seminarians training for the priesthood in the diocesan seminary, plus another 18 youngsters at the minor seminary and four more who are studying in their so-called „propedutic year“ – a form of educational foundation year in preparation for entering the seminary proper. This is an astonishingly high number, given that there are only around 84,000 Catholics in the diocese. Bishop Bruno Ateba Edo is naturally delighted at these vocations, but he desperately needs financial help in order to be able to give these young men a solid and thorough formation. He has asked ACN for help and we are planning to give him 27,000 Euros.

On Dec. 8, 2018, the Diocese of Gizo—located at the furthest corner of the world in the center of the South Pacific—celebrated with great joy the ordination of Deacon Thomas Patavolomo in his home community of Voru Voru, located on the northern part of the island of Choiseul, which is part of the Solomon Islands.
This is the first ordination produced by the vocation campaign started by the diocese 11 years ago in a very coordinated effort to recruit an adequate number of candidates to the priesthood to run the seven parishes scattered around Choiseul Island as well as in the territory’s western province.
Four of the seven parishes are still run by the Dominicans, who recruited a good number of priests in the region about 40 years ago, when the diocese was first established, in 1978, almost at the same time as when the Solomon Islands obtained independence from the United Kingdom.

 

After 11 years of effort: new local priest ordained in the Solomon Islands

After 11 years of effort: new local priest ordained in the Solomon Islands

The remaining three parishes are run by foreign missionaries. The very isolated Gizo Diocese had until now only two diocesan priests and 12 priests on loan. The ordination of Father Thomas and the fact that three more diocesan candidates from Waghina, Sirovanga and the Shortland are close to ordination represent a major step for the diocese toward having its own local clergy.
Voru Voru was already proud of contributing to the Church a second priest: Father Kobakina, who joined the Dominicans; and now there is a diocesan priest, Father Patavolomo.

An expression of high expectations and big plans, a celebration and speeches by government officials and representatives of other Churches marked the occasion of Father Patavolomo’s ordination. Already some years ago, the 12 tribal chiefs of the Voru Voru region formally agreed to give a portion of their land to the Catholic Church where a pastoral center will be built.
The ordaining ordinary, Bishop Luciano Capelli, has underlined the role of the priest in today’s society as being at the service of the people by uniting them, forming them, and encouraging them to dream big—while also challenging them to do their part for the mission of the Church: a mission to serve the people.
Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) has supported the formation of Father Thomas and the other seminarians in the diocese. ACN also supports priests in the diocese of Gizo with Mass stipends.

 

After 11 years of effort: new local priest ordained in the Solomon Islands

After 11 years of effort: new local priest ordained in the Solomon Islands

The convent of the Discalced Carmelites in Abancay, in southern central Peru, was initially established in 1964 with seven religious from Cusco. Today the community has no fewer than 20 religious, who live a strict life of prayer and self-denial. And so by now they have been able to send some of their sisters to no fewer than four other Carmelite convents, where vocations were fewer. They write: „In our contemplative life we pray daily for the needs of the world and of all mankind.“

 

a new host baking machine for the discalced Carmelite Sisters in Abancay, Peru

A new host baking machine for the discalced Carmelite Sisters in Abancay, Peru

 

The sisters of this contemplative congregation support themselves by the work of their hands. They make floral arrangements and sew liturgical items, but above all they make the hosts that are used for the celebration of the Eucharist in their diocese. Each month they produce over 300,000 hosts in their convent of Saint Joseph! However, with their old host making machine they found it very hard to produce this quantity, and at the same time the quantity needed has been steadily increasing as a result of the migration from the surrounding rural areas. So now the sisters have turned to ACN and, thanks to the generosity of our benefactors, we haven‘t let them down. 11,870 Euros was the amount they needed, and so now the sisters are rejoicing in their new host baking machine, which makes their work so very much easier. They are most grateful to you all and write, „May God reward you all for your generosity! You may be assured of our prayers. In our poverty we take our prayers to Jesus in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar and ask him to pour out his graces and blessings on each and every one of you.“

 

A new host baking machine for the discalced Carmelite Sisters in Abancay, Peru

A new host baking machine for the discalced Carmelite Sisters in Abancay, Peru

Catholics make up only a tiny minority of a little over 1% of the total population of Pakistan, which overall is over 96% Muslim. Generally speaking, Christians belong to the lowest levels of society and by most Pakistanis are not even viewed as full and equal citizens. They face abuse, discrimination and even persecution, not infrequently even including violent attacks.

Yet despite these difficulties, the Catholic Church in the country is very much alive and active, striving with all the means at its disposal to accompany and support the Catholic faithful and strengthen them in their faith.

 

Support for the marriage and family apostolate of the Catholic Church in Pakistan

Support for the marriage and family apostolate of the Catholic Church in Pakistan

 

One important element of this support is the help for married couples and families. For in Pakistan, just as elsewhere in the world, Christian marriage and the family rooted in Christian values face all kind of difficulties and challenges. And so the Church in Pakistan has devised a range of programmes to support and accompany young couples preparing for marriage and families with children. The National Committee for Family and Life is responsible for training individuals to work in the dioceses, preparing young couples for the sacrament of matrimony and family life. It also has a range of programmes which not only deal with the spiritual dimension of marriage but also help with practical problems of the kind that face most married couples and families. Questions such as: What does the sacrament of matrimony actually mean? What is the „Theology of the Body“ spoken of by Pope Saint John Paul II? How can a Christian family life be built upon the Sacraments? These are just some of the issues tackled by the programme. At the same time, issues such as natural family planning, conflict resolution, encouraging married couples to talk together and discuss their issues, education in responsible sexuality for young people, focusing on fidelity, love and mutual responsibility are also covered, along with many other topics.

Bishop Samson Shukardin, who is chairman of the National Committee for Family and Life has already run programmes of this kind for marriage and family life successfully in his own diocese of Hyderabad. And he rightly insists, „The welfare of families is decisive for the future of the world and the Church.“ We are helping with a contribution of 7,500 Euros.

The people of the Gumuz tribe live in western Ethiopia, close to the border with Sudan. Until just a few years ago they were a mainly nomadic people. In the late 19th century and well into the 20th century, many of the Gumuz people fell victim to Arab slave traders from Sudan.

To this day people living great poverty, and life is particularly difficult for the women. They have to do very heavy physical work, even while pregnant. And since there is a belief that the blood of a woman in childbirth brings a curse upon the family, the women are forced to go out alone to an isolated spot, such as a river bank, or deep in the forest, and give birth without any help or support. And since many girls are forced into marriage at a very young age, their bodies are scarcely mature enough to give birth for the first time, and of course they have no experience either. As a result they often suffer extremely long and difficult births, frequently with fatal complications. This and other such superstitions govern all areas of life, especially for the women, and are a cause of a great deal of suffering and fear.

 

Support for religious sisters working with the Gumuz people in Ethiopia

Support for religious sisters working with the Gumuz people in Ethiopia

 

It was not until a few years ago that the Gumuz first came in contact with Christianity, but now the Good News of Christ is touching more and more hearts. Many of the people who have ceased to be nomadic and now live a more settled life, build their round huts as close as possible to the nearest church, and more and more of them are seeking baptism.

For the past three years now the sisters of the Congregation of Saint Joseph of the Apparition have been working among the people. The three sisters of the congregation prepare the candidates for baptism and generally help the people to better understand and live by the Christian faith. They give special support to the women and girls, for example by ensuring that the girls can attend school. In general, the Gumuz have been slow to embrace education and schooling, and while the government has recently been trying to encourage school attendance in the area, its efforts have so far borne little fruit. It is often very difficult to persuade the parents of the value of sending their daughters to school. The sisters are doing valuable work in persuading them, since this is one of the best ways of improving the lives of the girls and women. One of the sisters also runs a small kindergarten, which among other things helps to prepare the children for attending school when they are older.

The three sisters live in extremely simple conditions in a mud hut. They have asked our help to support their life and ministry. Although they ask very little for themselves, they still need to cover the cost of things like fuel, since their work means they have to travel to the many different widely scattered settlements. We have promised them 13,200 Euros to support their life and apostolate.

TO LEARN MORE ABOUT Aid to the Church in Need, VISIT http://www.churchinneed.org
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ABOUT US

Founded in 1947 as a Catholic aid organization for war refugees and recognized as a papal foundation since 2011, ACN is dedicated to the service of Christians around the world, through information, prayer and action, wherever they are persecuted or oppressed or suffering material need. ACN supports every year an average of 6000 projects in close to 150 countries, thanks to private donations, as the foundation receives no public funding.