“Each new generation needs new apostles” – so wrote Pope Saint John Paul II in his message for World Youth Day 1989 held in Santiago de Compostela, Spain. It was the spark that inspired the Missionary Brothers of Saint Paul in Burma (Myanmar). For 28 years now they have been bringing the Gospel of Christ to the people.
Their charism is “ad gentes” – to the nations – and their motto is “I thirst” from St John’s Gospel (19:28). These two phrases frame the logo of their congregation and are intended to show their desire to imitate Christ and continue His redemptive work. And like their patron saint, Paul – the apostle to the nations, who spent three years preparing himself thoroughly for his mission, so too the Brothers of Saint Paul place great value on the formation of their novices, postulants and aspirants. The majority of them will go on to bear witness to the Gospel by their lives as brothers in the congregation. But right now, especially in the anti-Christian environment in which they live, they need a solid theological grounding, including Bible studies and liturgical training. Their formation also includes lessons in Church music and – an indispensable feature today – a basic grounding in IT studies. Once a week they visit the sick and they also regularly go out to the remotest villages. Today they are active in a number of dioceses in the country. There is no shortage of new vocations; currently they have five postulants and 42 aspirants in formation. For such a young congregation, which began with nothing, it is not easy to cope with the cost of their training, board and travel expenses. And, to put it bluntly, they cannot cope. Yet at the same time they do not wish to turn away any genuine new vocations, nor will they consider taking shortcuts in their formation programme. For the entire Gospel must be proclaimed, in season and out of season. So they have turned to CAN for help (€7,000) and we have promised our support. “For the labourer is worthy of his hire” (Lk 10:7). And as for us, is it not “more blessed to give”? (Acts 20:35)
In his first letter to the Christians in Asia Minor, Saint Peter writes: “You yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Pt 2:5).
The Carmelite Fathers in the Central African Republic understand these words both literally and metaphorically. They see themselves as living stones in the Church and they also manufacture stones, or more precisely, bricks, with which they build schools, churches and hospitals. The very first missionaries here did the same thing over 120 years ago. Now it is a matter of trying to rebuild the country after decades of power struggles and civil war. “Our bricks will prove stronger than war and hatred”, says Padre Federico – and by that he means both the living stones which are the Carmelite Friars and the bricks for building the houses.
For while the old bricks, made of baked clay, eventually crumbled, the new bricks they are producing are made of earth, sand and cement, compressed in a special machine with just a little water. They will last practically forever, an image of the fidelity and perseverance of the Carmelites. Bodelo is 20 years old. A refugee, he sought shelter with the Carmelites, along with his family. Seeing the new bricks, he exclaims enthusiastically: “Mbi ye ti ga maçon – I want to be a bricklayer.”
For Bodelo and other refugees like him, there will be opportunities to work in brickmaking and rebuilding. The Carmelites will also be selling the bricks for other projects – like the centre for undernourished children that is now being built in Bangui at the Pope’s request. “Not a bad beginning”, laughs Padre Federico, “to have the Pope as our first customer!” But what matters most to him, and to the Holy Father too no doubt, is the steady trickle of young men knocking on their door. “They are the stones with which we are building the Church of Christ in this country”, he says. Except that while it takes no more than a week for a brick to be ready to build with, the formation of a young Carmelite novice will last from the first moment of his vocation until the end of his life, built into the walls of the living Church. “And whereas all the bricks are identical, each brother is quite different from the next. They all have the same goal and all burn with the same love, but each one builds different mansions with this love in the Kingdom of God.” For 10 years now, Padre Federico has been responsible for the formation of the postulants, novices and seminarians.
He has asked our help for the 38 young Carmelites in the monasteries and seminaries of Bangui and Bouar and also Yaoundé in Cameroon. A total of €22,800 will help these young hearts burn brighter and these young men become living stones in the spiritual house of the Church.
An average age of 41 is something that most convents in the West can only dream of. But the Poor Clare Sisters in Brestovsko in Bosnia and Herzegovina are indeed still young. Only one of them is aged over 60, and the two youngest are just 24 and 26 respectively. The convent was founded in 1989, immediately after the collapse of communism in the country, at a time when the old Yugoslavia still existed. Four religious sisters came from Split, now part of Croatia, to establish a new convent in what is now Bosnia and Herzegovina
Today there are seven sisters in the convent. They live a life of poverty and seclusion and ceaseless prayer. They grow their own vegetables in the convent garden and in order to support themselves they bake hosts and sew Mass vestments for the diocese. But even then, the little they earn is not enough to cover even their own very modest needs. Above all, their healthcare is a heavy financial burden for them.
Existence aid for 8 contemplative of the clarissian sisters in Brestovsko.
ACN has always given special priority to the support of the contemplative religious, who pray in quiet seclusion for the needs of the Church and of the whole world – even though they are widely disregarded by many people today, who see them as doing „nothing useful“ in society. But Father Werenfried van Straaten, the founder of ACN, knew better and has found beautiful imagery with which to describe their hidden ministry. He compares them with „Pure snow, high in the mountains in the sunlight of God‘s love. Snow that melts, disappears and is seemingly useless. But see! Little rivulets come rushing down, growing broader, merging together into foaming torrents, into waterfalls which drive power stations, machines, factories and entire industries, conjuring sparkling seas of light and flowing on, transforming arid plains into fertile fields and filling a grey world with trees, plants, grain, flowers, fruit and beauty, and carrying shiploads of food and everything else needed for a life of human dignity to distant shores…“ This, he adds, „is the essence of all contemplative life, of all resting quietly in the presence of God, all loving listening to the Word of God.“
Every year we provide a small sum for the support of the sisters in Brestovsko, and the 2,100 Euros we are sending this year is no exception. Rest assured that these sisters are praying for everyone who is helping them!
The Greek Catholic Order of Saint Basil in Ukraine certainly cannot complain of a lack of vocations. Currently there are 48 novices in formation at the seminary in Lviv. In all, the Basilian Order has some 340 members in 29 different monasteries. Their novice house is in Kharkhiv, in East Ukraine, and has its own land and livestock around it.
When one considers that the Catholic faithful were still being persecuted during Soviet times and were only able to live their faith in secret, this recent expansion seems almost miraculous. After all, the collapse of communism was only 30 years ago… During communist times, the members of the order were trained in Poland and then had to live their vocation underground.
Training aid for 48 seminarians of Basilian and 4 Orionists in the seminary of the Basilian in Bryukhovychi for 2018/2019.
In 2001, during his visit to Ukraine, Pope Saint John Paul II beatified 25 martyrs of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church who had given their lives in witness to their faith in Jesus Christ and their loyalty to the Church. Among the new Blesseds were four members of the Basilian Order who had died in the Soviet camps and prisons, including one bishop belonging to the order. Their sacrifice has borne rich fruit – as the wealth of new vocations testifies.
Nonetheless, the large number of young novices still in formation also poses a serious challenge for the order. The rector of the seminary of Saint Basil in Lviv has therefore turned to us once again this year for financial help, since prices are rising in Ukraine and the order has to find money to pay for electricity, gas, food, medicines, clothing and all the daily needs of the novices – which also include the salaries of the seminary teaching staff. In addition to the 48 seminarians of the Order of Saint Basil there are four young Redemptorist novices also undergoing training at the seminary, though not living there, since they continue to live in their own monastery. Altogether, we are helping with 31,200 Euros.
Again and again we are asked for help in providing bicycles and mopeds for the priests and catechists of the diocese of Eluru in southeast India. For many of the 1,150 villages of the diocese where the Catholic faithful live are accessible only via narrow, unmade tracks and the priests and catechists would otherwise have to spend hours on foot, walking from one village to another. At the same time, a car would be no use, since the narrow tracks are unsuitable for them. Hence, a moped or a bicycle is an ideal way of saving time and energy and providing a more intensive ministry for the people.
Success Story: 4 Motorcycles for pastoral & socio-educational work & evangelization in the villages of Eluru Vicariate.
For one thing, the faithful need pastoral support. Many have not long been Christians and need intensive support and accompaniment if the faith is to put down deep roots within them and enable them to grow into the life of the Church. At the same time, however, they need a great deal of help in the needs of their everyday lives. There is deep poverty in the region; most people work as day labourers and live from hand to mouth. Even the children have to work in the fields of the big landowners, herding the cattle of the rich or running themselves ragged as message bearers. Most cannot even think of attending school. Entire families live in tiny grass huts, without running water or any modern conveniences. On average, these families have to live on half a Euro a day, and sometimes they are cheated even of these paltry wages, so that the whole family has to go to bed on an empty stomach.
Thanks to the 3,200 Euros donating by our benefactors, we have been able to provide four mopeds for the diocese, so that the priests and catechists can now more easily reach these villages and bring the people the help they need. Bishop Jaya Rao Polimera extends his heartfelt thanks to all our benefactors and promises his prayers for all who have helped!
The life of a priest in Pakistan is by no means an easy mission. Most of the Catholic priests in the country have to minister to vast areas, and the threat of Islamic extremism is a growing and ever present danger. Again and again Christians are victims of violence and false accusations of blasphemy, and even in their ordinary everyday lives they face constant hostility and discrimination. Socially speaking, most Christians are on the bottom rung of society. They look to their priests not only for pastoral and spiritual help but also turn to them in every kind of need. Often, if a rural worker employed as an indentured labourer by a wealthy local landowner should die, his wife and children will find themselves suddenly thrown out onto the streets because their landlord has evicted them. Such people will naturally turn to their priest, as will the parents of sick children, the victims of violent attacks and all who are in need and despair.
Meanwhile, the priests themselves are often living in a state of constant tension. Most of them have already been the targets of threatening phone calls and letters, and even the bishops have received letters demanding that they convert to Islam. Almost all of them can also confirm that their telephones have been tapped and that they have received strange phone calls, for example by someone claiming to be a Muslim who wishes to convert to Christianity. If a priest should say the wrong thing at such a moment, he can find himself in all sorts of trouble.
935 Missae Ordinariae for 17 diocesan priests working in Multan Diocese – 2017: Prayer during celebration of the Eucharist.
Given this difficult situation, it is vitally important for the priests to be able to meet together regularly in order to encourage and strengthen one another and foster the fraternal spirit between them, while at the same time deepening their spiritual and theological knowledge.
In the diocese of Multan there are 18 diocesan priests and 19 priests belonging to different religious orders. Large parts of the diocese are in desert regions and there are numerous terrorist camps in these areas. The now deceased predecessor of the present Bishop actually himself survived a murder attempt in 1996, while in one of the churches in his diocese.
The Catholic Church in this region not only provides pastoral support for its own faithful but also supplies humanitarian aid in some of the areas where the government itself does not dare to venture, on account of the dangers. Many Muslims are also very grateful for this help and frequently ask the priests for their prayers.
The priests of the diocese meet together once a year for a joint retreat. There are also monthly meetings in various places. The fraternal spirit of communion between them helps to strengthen them and give new energy and impetus to their spiritual lives, so that they can return to their communities, refreshed and reinvigorated.
We have helped before, and this year we are helping once again, with 8,000 Euros so that the 37 priests of the diocese can continue to meet together. That represents a total of just 216 Euros per priest per year, to cover everything from travel costs to board and lodging.