The “Bethlehem Mission” (Missao Belem) is a lay spiritual community of people who devote themselves above all to caring for the homeless, the addicts, the lonely and all those facing a crisis or some other difficult situation. The members of the community, who describe themselves as “missionaries”, share their lives full-time with these homeless victims, often even living on the streets with them. In doing so they are endeavouring to bring the Good News of Jesus Christ to these people on the margins of society and make His teachings living and tangible for them.

The community is still very young, having been founded only in 2005 in Brazil, yet it already has 160 mission houses and another 7 intermediate centres in 70 different cities of Brazil, Haiti and Italy.

Brazil: Catechetical materials for pastoral work with socially marginalised groups.

Brazil: Catechetical materials for pastoral work with socially marginalised groups.

Right now some 2000 or so homeless people are being cared for by members of the community in Brazil, which includes 70 consecrated members and 200 full-time voluntary members. They all live together in the various communities, like one big family. People who have until now been living on the streets slowly become accustomed to living an orderly life in community and are able to begin to discover the potential in themselves. The community also offers them the opportunity to have therapy where necessary. And they can also take advantage of the chance to gain practical and professional qualifications or become re-accustomed to the world of work. Wherever possible, the street children are encouraged to return to or at least make contact with their families. Where this is not possible, they are helped to find loving homes with foster parents or adoptive families, in collaboration with the relevant authorities.

So far around 50,000 people have been taken in and helped by these communities. Roughly half of them have since been able to return to normal life. Many have found their way to faith and sought baptism. It is a particularly moving sight to see grown men, some advanced in age and after years of homelessness and addiction, dressed in a white baptismal robe, standing there with a baptismal candle in their hand, or going forward like little children to receive their First Holy Communion. In such cases it is quite evident that baptism has been the start of a new life for them as children of God.

The community is still very young, having been founded only in 2005 in Brazil, yet it already has 160 mission houses and another 7 intermediate centres in 70 different cities of Brazil, Haiti and Italy.

The community is still very young, having been founded only in 2005 in Brazil, yet it already has 160 mission houses and another 7 intermediate centres in 70 different cities of Brazil, Haiti and Italy.

Also very popular and very successful are the evangelising courses run by members of the community. More than 1400 people have so far taken part in these courses, which are aimed at training them for the mission of reaching out to people who still far from the Church, and especially to the marginalised in society, and proclaiming the Gospel to them. At the same time the participants are equipped with appropriate catechetical material, which they can distribute to those who are interested.

ACN is happy to help this wonderful initiative, and we have promised 46,100 Euros to help provide the necessary teaching materials for the coming four years.

Code: 212-07-49

Kazakhstan is a vast country, covering an area of well over 1 million square miles (2.7 million km²), or more than a quarter of the size of the entire United States. Yet it has a population of just 18 million. A former Soviet republic, it has been an independent state since 1991.

The population of the country is 70% Muslim. Around 25% are Christians, most of whom belong to the Russian Orthodox Church. Catholics make up only a tiny minority of some 300,000 souls. Most of these are the descendants of former Polish, German, Baltic or Ukrainian people, deported here under Stalin and others.

Ongoing costs of the priestly seminar in Karaganda during the academic year 2017/2018: Acolyte - liturgical ministry during holy mass with celebration of the Eucharist .

Ongoing costs of the priestly seminar in Karaganda during the academic year 2017/2018: Acolyte – liturgical ministry during holy mass with celebration of the Eucharist.

Kazakhstan is today an exceptional and happy example of friendly coexistence between the Catholic and Orthodox Christians and there are many positive encounters and joint initiatives between them. So it was that just recently, for the feast of the Orthodox Christmas, which falls on 7 January, Bishop Jose Luis Mumbiela Sierra of the diocese of the Most Holy Trinity in Almaty, who is also chairman of the Catholic Bishops’ conference of Kazakhstan, met together with Russian Orthodox Metropolitan Alexander to congratulate him and express his best Christmas wishes on behalf of all the Catholic bishops, priests and faithful in the country. Gifts were exchanged and the two men spoke together about some of the important issues facing both Churches at the present time.

Ongoing costs of the priestly seminar in Karaganda during the academic year 2017/2018: Bible studies in Makindk (Northern Kazakhstan) .

Ongoing costs of the priestly seminar in Karaganda during the academic year 2017/2018: Bible studies in Makindk (Northern Kazakhstan).

The challenges facing Christians today are also keenly felt by the 12 young men currently preparing for ordination to the priesthood in the seminary in Karaganda – the only Catholic seminary in the country. At present there are barely 100 Catholic priests for the entire country, serving in the four dioceses of Kazakhstan. Clearly, far too few in number to serve the widely scattered Catholic population in this vast land.

The seminary has asked our help in providing theological books for the seminary, so that these future priests can enjoy a solid and rounded formation. We have promised 1500 Euros.

Code: 351-02-89

This year, the pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) is celebrating the 40th anniversary of its children’s Bible, God Speaks to His Children. Since its release, more than 51 million copies have been distributed across the globe in 189 languages. “It is beyond human understanding just how many children as well as adults have opened themselves to God through the children’s Bible,” the executive president of the foundation, Dr Thomas Heine-Geldern, explained when asked about the anniversary. He pointed out that for many families living in the world’s poor regions, the children’s Bible is the only book that they will ever own.

A secret global bestseller turns 40 Aid to the Church in Need’s Children’s Bible celebrates anniversary.

A secret global bestseller turns 40 Aid to the Church in Need’s Children’s Bible celebrates anniversary.

Children’s Bible relieves longing for God

“The letters we have received over the past 40 years, in which children, families, bishops and pastoral workers have expressed their thanks for the children’s Bible, bear witness to the deep longing for God that this book continues to relieve today,” said Dr Heine-Geldern. Divided into 99 short chapters, God Speaks to His Children retells the most important texts of the Old and New Testament in a way that is easy for children to understand. The stories in the current edition of the children’s Bible were written by German theologian Eleonore Beck (1926-2014) and brightly illustrated by the Spanish religious sister Miren-Sorne Gomez (*1937). The illustrations have become popular in religious instruction and catechesis.

The “father” of the children’s Bible was the Dutch Premonstratensian Father Werenfried van Straaten (1913-2003), the founder of Aid to the Church in Need. When the United Nations proclaimed 1979 as the “Year of the Child”, this became the impetus for the realisation of a long-cherished idea of Father Werenfried. He wrote at the time: “Children need something like a children’s Bible so that the image of Christ will become a living one in their hearts. The Church often does not have the means to acquire a children’s Bible written in the native language. Or the Church is being persecuted and is not allowed to publish literature of this kind. Many children are so poor that they cannot afford to buy a book. And so we would like to give them the Bible as a gift.”

Since its release, more than 51 million copies have been distributed across the globe in 189 languages.

Since its release, more than 51 million copies have been distributed across the globe in 189 languages.

In great demand from the very beginning

ACN presented the children’s Bible at the Conference of the Latin American Bishops that took place in late January 1979 in Puebla, Mexico, and was also attended by Pope John Paul II on his first foreign tour. The response was overwhelming: the bishops immediately ordered 1.2 million copies in Spanish. As soon as missionaries, bishops and catechists from other countries learned of its existence, additional translations became necessary. Today, the Bible is available in 189 languages, from Afar, which is spoken by around 1.5 million people of the same name in Ethiopia, Eritrea and Djibouti, to isiZulu, a Bantu language spoken in southern Africa. New translations are added regularly. After all, more than 2,000 distinct languages are spoken in Africa alone. There, the children’s Bible continues to play an important role in fostering literacy today.

From the very beginning, ACN has distributed the children’s Bible in poor countries free of charge. In more affluent countries, it is sold at cost price. The editions with the widest distribution are those in Spanish (around 14 million), Portuguese (10.3 million), English (2.5 million), French (1.2 million) and the East African language Swahili (950 000). Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Russian edition of the children’s Bible was mentioned by a Christian radio station. ACN was flooded with half a million orders within a short amount of time.

The editions with the widest distribution are those in Spanish (around 14 million), Portuguese (10.3 million), English (2.5 million), French (1.2 million) and the East African language Swahili (950 000).

The editions with the widest distribution are those in Spanish (around 14 million), Portuguese (10.3 million), English (2.5 million), French (1.2 million) and the East African language Swahili (950 000).

The popes also recognised the importance of the children’s Bible. Pope Benedict XVI, for example, handed out the ten millionth copy of the children’s Bible during his pastoral visit to Brazil in May of 2007.

The World Youth Day in PANAMA will be the launch-pad for a unique educational grassroots initiative that will gradually percolate to all of Central America. The DOCAT (= the catholic social teaching with a foreword and impulses from Pope Francis) will be distributed in huge numbers. A multitude of study groups will be formed. Archbishop Ulloa Mendieta of Panama says, “Nothing helps our youth more than education. Once they know the Christian social doctrine, they will also know how to fight corruption, end violence, establish democracy, make freedom happen and create wealth with the power of the Gospel”. Together with Pope Francis, he dreams of a revolution of love and justice that will affect all the countries of the region – from Mexico to Panama!

DOCAT presented in the World Youth Day 2016.

DOCAT presented in the World Youth Day 2016.

Pope Francis supports this with all his heart. He will distribute the DOCAT books and the DOCAT smartphone app to WYD Panama pilgrims as his personal gift. The host, Archbishop Ulloa, will invite the Central American pilgrims, in the opening speech and through the media, to enter deeply into the Catholic social doctrine. 25,000 Spanish DOCAT books and up to 1,000,000 digital versions are all set to be distributed. The only condition is: Whoever takes a book has to form a study group. (There is a free digital study guide to help animate these DOCAT study groups). All pilgrims can also download the DOCAT smartphone app which will also be freely available. Dedicated support and mentoring by 35 social doctrine experts from all over the world will also be available to the DOCAT recipients on how to work with catholic social teaching to build a fairer society.

The project will be support from ACN (Aid to the Church in need) which is an organisation that is approved by the Vatican.

The Institute for Philosophy and Theology run by the Capuchin Fathers in Addis Abeba is the only Catholic higher educational institution in central and southern Ethiopia. All the dioceses and all the religious communities in this country of Eastern Africa send their seminarians for their studies there.

The Institute also includes a „Capuchin Research and Retreat Center“, which provides religious formation for adults, spiritual accompaniment and retreat days for religious and laity alike. These facilities are likewise open to Orthodox and Protestant believers, and every other week there is an ecumenical seminar devoted to various different topics drawn from the fields of religious art, philosophy and literature. National conferences are held four times a year and every three years there is also an international congress.

 

A bookbinding machine for the Capuchin Fathers in Addis Abeba, Ethiopia

A bookbinding machine for the Capuchin Fathers in Addis Abeba, Ethiopia

 

The centre also publishes books, among other things translating spiritual classics from the European languages into Amharic and also publishing the contributions to the conferences, making them available not only to specialist readers but also to a wider public. At present the centre can print the books itself, but not bind them. This results in great delays in publication, and in addition it is expensive to have the books bound externally – which naturally also increases the price of the books. The centre, which is nonprofitmaking, would like to be able to offer the books at affordable prices. And so the Capuchin Fathers have asked ACN for help. We have promised 18,000 Euros for a bookbinding machine.

The congregation of the Bene-Mariya Sisters was established in Burundi in 1956. Their mission consists in helping families to live according to a Christian spirit and shape their lives after the pattern of the Holy Family of Nazareth. The sisters work above all with the mothers, since they are, so to speak, the „heart“ of the family and the ones who above all shape the family spirit. But the sisters‘ work also involves the training of catechists, and they themselves give catechetical instruction in the schools and parishes, lead parish groups and prepare couples for the sacrament of matrimony.

They are a missionary congregation, which means that the sisters are ready to leave their own homeland and go wherever the Church calls them. By now the Bene-Mariya Sisters (their name means ‚Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary‘) are active not only in Burundi but also in Tanzania, Chad, France and Italy.

 

Success Story: Prayer books for religious sisters in Tanzania

Success Story: Prayer books for religious sisters in Tanzania

 

But in order to be able to help others live according to a Christian spirit, the sisters themselves first have to learn this spirit and cultivate a profound personal relationship with Jesus Christ. This naturally involves an intensive life of prayer, involving both their personal and their communal prayer life.

In Tanzania the congregation is growing rapidly, and currently there are 33 young women in the novitiate, plus many more who would like to join the community. Altogether the congregation has 92 sisters in Tanzania at the present time. One result of this success, however, was that the community did not have enough prayer books for the many new sisters who had joined them – and of course these prayer books are vital to the life of the community. So the congregation turned to ACN and, thanks to the generosity of our benefactors, we were able to give 1100 Euros to cover the cost of 60 additional prayer books. Now the books have arrived, and there are enough to go around for all the new sisters. Needless to say, they are delighted and have promised their prayers for all who have helped them!

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 5000 projects in close to 150 countries, thanks to private donations, as the foundation receives no public funding.