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
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
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
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.
The Order of the Visitation Sisters was founded in 1610 by Saint Francis of Sales and Saint Jane Frances de Chantal. Also known as the Salesian Sisters, they live a contemplative life of prayer in enclosure. At the same time, however, many are also involved in spiritual accompaniment and education.
The name of the order is taken from the Visitation of Our Blessed Lady to her cousin Elizabeth in Saint Luke‘s Gospel (Lk 1:39-56), when Elizabeth greeted Mary as „blessed among women“ and Mary responded with the Magnificat. The emblem of the order is the pierced Heart of Jesus, surrounded by the Crown of Thorns.
Support for the Salesian Sisters in Malaga, Colombia
One of the best-known saints of the order was Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque who, in the 17th century in a series of visions in her convent in Paray-le-Monial in France, was urged by Christ himself to promote and spread devotion to his most Sacred Heart, in reparation for the cold-heartedness and ingratitude shown by so many people towards their Redeemer. In the visions Jesus expressed his great sorrow and suffering at the fact that so many people are utterly indifferent to the great love he has shown in dying for them on the Cross and allowing his Sacred Heart to be pierced through for their sake. Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is the appropriate response to this infinite love. Both the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the First Friday devotions to the Sacred Heart take their origin from these revelations and are now firmly established in the Universal Catholic Church.
Altogether, the Order of the Visitation Sisters has some 2,500 religious sisters, spread across over 150 different convents in four of the five continents.
The Visitation convent in Malaga, in Colombia, has recently gained two young aspirants after many years without any new vocations. They now have 10 sisters altogether, seven of them professed sisters who have taken their permanent vows.
They write: „By our contemplative lifestyle, in accordance with the Rule of the Order, we offer up to God each day our prayer, our humble service, joyful reparation and sisterly life together as a living prayer for the world and the Holy Church. We strive to constantly advance the formation of the community and of each individual sister, so that our prayer and our spiritual life may become better. We share the times of recreation and rest in the joy of being together and responding together to the call of God.
Our entire life, which is marked by obedience to a daily pattern, involving times of prayer, silence, work, study and community life, is a silent offering that we make to God, lovingly and for the salvation of souls.“
The sisters produce candles as a means of supporting their modest lifestyle. But their income from this is not sufficient to provide the sisters even with the basic necessities such as medical care and their daily needs. And so they have turned to ACN. We are proposing to help them once again this year as we have in the past, and so we have promised them 3,500 Euros.
Aid to the Church in Need is supporting the pastoral work of the Sacred Heart Sisters in the Syrian city of Homs.
The church of Altip, in the Bab Al-Sebaa district, just south of the Old Quarter of Homs, is a social and pastoral training centre. “Years ago it was a Catholic school, but then the government banned all non-state schools. Since then we have used it as a catechetical centre, giving religious instruction to young people and adults, and we also hold social events and sports days here”, explains Sister Samia Syiej, the religious sister in charge of coordinating catechetical instruction for a group of Confirmation children.
Sister Samia is a member of the Sacred Heart Sisters, a congregation founded in Syria and inspired by Ignatian spirituality. “We have 12 houses throughout Syria. I am also involved in pastoral work with handicapped children. Our congregation is very active and we pursue a range of initiatives, both pastoral and social”, she continues.
Sister Samia Syiej
Sister Samia points out the exact spot where the bombs fell, close to the centre of Altip. “Local families have helped us to repair two sections of the roof which were destroyed by the bombing. But in addition to everything else, what we now have to do is to help repair not only the external damage, but the damage within people’s hearts. I am a religious, and my first responsibility is to bear witness spiritually and help people. This is what moves me. We lived through the war and witnessed it close up. Catechesis is important in helping to heal the wounds.”
Working alongside Sister Samia are a number of young university students who divide themselves between the various different catechetical groups and actively help in this pastoral apostolate. A delegation from our international Catholic pastoral charity and pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) happened to visit while they were endeavouring to explain to the young boys and girls about the life of Jesus during his Passion and Crucifixion, a central point of the Christian faith. One of these catechists is Haya Elias. “Sister Samia taught us how to become closer to God, and now we are passing this on those who come after us.” She is studying philology at university and has always been a member of the group helping the sisters.
Children Gifts for Christmas in Aleppo 2017
“I am very conscious that I owe my life to God and to the prayers of people like Sister Samia”, says a young man who is currently unemployed. He was in the army of the Assad government, compulsorily recruited to fight in the war. During an ambush he was captured by a rebel group and held prisoner for months. Everybody assumed he was dead, but miraculously he succeeded in escaping. “I thank God, and I thank the sisters for never having given up praying for me. I am so grateful to them today and so now I am helping them as a catechist.”
The Church in Syria is very much alive, despite more than seven years of war. The priests, and the religious brothers and sisters in the country have become a fresh source of hope for the people. “We have never stopped offering our help, our prayers and our accompaniment… Everything is being done through the collaboration of the priests, religious and laity. We all work together to organise these activities and, thanks be to God, we have some very active young people”, Sister Samia continues.
In addition to coordinating the religious instruction, Sister Samia also works in a home for mentally handicapped children. “We have always carried out projects with the help of ACN, even during the bloodiest moments of the war. Children and adults alike often need a word of hope, and want to grow stronger in their faith. The children come to the church, and they can also be very demanding. During the summer, for example, we held a number of youth camps, which gave fresh hope to many people. This is what motivates us.”
During the year 2018, and thanks to the generous help of our many benefactors throughout the world, the pontifical foundation ACN has been able to support more than 35 pastoral courses and programmes for young people and children in various different parts of Syria, for a total cost of 170,000 Euros.
Children Gifts for Christmas in Aleppo 2017
It was only 30 years ago that the religious Institute the Servants of the Lord and the Virgin of Matarà was founded in Argentina. Yet since then it has spread throughout the world, with 160 convents in 35 different countries on all five continents of the globe – such is the measure of its success to date.
A particular feature of the Institute is its love for the Eucharist, the Mother of God and the Holy Father. The apostolate of the sisters covers a wide field – helping the priests in the parishes, giving retreats and catechetical instruction, teaching in schools, working in the youth apostolate. They also give selfless service in orphanages, handicapped children‘s homes, old people‘s homes and hospitals. Some of the sisters also support expectant mothers in conflict situations, helping them to bring their children safely into the world. A number of them are also involved in the publication of theological books and literature.
The Institute continues to attract many new vocations, particularly in Brazil. Here there are 15 young women currently in formation. They need our support so that they can receive a sound and solid training for the religious life and apostolate they will be engaged in. We have promised to help this year with a contribution of 11,430 Euros.
In October this year, the Church will once again commemorate two great figures of the Carmelite life, both of whom have been named as Doctors of the Church. On the 15th of the month Saint Teresa of Avila, the foundress of order of the Discalced Carmelites will be remembered and on 1 October Saint Therese of Lisieux, who was only 24 when she died, but whose „Little Way“ to this day inspires countless thousands of people all over the world to live in complete and loving trust in God.
The Discalced Carmelite sisters live in strict enclosure and pursue a life of contemplation and prayer. „I want to be love in the heart of the Church“, wrote Saint Therese of Lisieux, describing her chosen vocation. Although she never again left her convent, which she had entered at the age of just 15, she has been declared Patroness of the Missions, since prayer such as she practised embraces the whole world and is not bound by time or place.
The Carmelite sisters in Kiev, Ukraine
Since the political changes in the former Soviet Union there has once again been a Carmel in the Ukrainian capital Kiev. At the earliest possible opportunity, in 1991, Carmelite sisters from two Polish convents came to Kiev in order to help by their prayer and presence in the spiritual reconstruction of post-communist society there. Initially they lived in very cramped conditions in quarters adjoining the Holy Cross church. At the time this was the only Catholic church in Kiev that still functioned as a place of religious worship. The other two Catholic churches had been confiscated and turned into a museum of atheism and an organ museum. But eventually, in 1994-96 the sisters were at last able to move to a suburb of Kiev, to the site of a former state farm, and build a new convent in the midst of the fields and orchards there.\
Saint Teresa of Avila
Today there are eight Carmelites living there. They pray a great deal, above all for peace in the world, but also for the many personal needs that are entrusted to them by others. For many people turn to the sisters, asking them to include in their prayers family members who are sick or living in difficult or unhappy situations.
One of the major challenges facing the sisters is supporting themselves through their work. For although they bake hosts, fashion wax crib figures and sew liturgical vestments and other items, and although they grow fruit and vegetable for their own consumption – and live very modestly as well – it is still not enough to cover their living costs. And even the annual collection in the immediate area brings in little enough, for the faithful are very poor themselves and prices are rising as the economic situation in Ukraine visibly worsens.
ACN is also supporting these sisters – who once a month have a special Mass celebrated for all our benefactors and who include you all in their prayers – and this year we are doing so again, having promised them a contribution of 4000 Euros towards their living costs.