The Greek-Catholic diocese of Oradea continues to rejoice at the high number of new priestly vocations. One of the most important factors contributing to this is the intensive family apostolate of the diocese. For it is evident that families who play an active part in Church life and who truly live their faith will provide the most fertile soil for future priestly and religious vocations.
We are helping the seminary once again for the formation of its 54 candidates.
In 2017 the seminary in Oradea celebrated its 225th anniversary. In the 20th century, however, this long history was brutally interrupted by the communist persecution of the Church, and it was not until after the political changes that it was once again possible for young men to enter the seminary. The new beginning was far from easy – above all from an economic point of view. ACN has been helping the reconstituted seminary in Oradea since 1993. And it still urgently needs our help today, for the diocese is very poor.
Romania: Support for 50 for seminarians in Oradea.
Father Anton Cioba, the rector of the seminary, has written to us. „Without help from abroad, we could not fulfil our mission“, he says. „We continue to depend on your support and we thank you with all our hearts for the help you have already given us in the past. In doing so you are helping us to experience the universality of the Catholic Church. May God bless you and all our kind benefactors.“
We are helping the seminary once again for the formation of its 54 candidates. A total of 32,400 Euros.
The congregation of the Servants of the Lord and the Virgin of Matara has been blessed with many vocations in Ukraine. Currently there are no fewer than 13 young novices undergoing formation in the diocese of Ivano-Frankivsk, desiring to consecrate their lives for ever to the service of God and their fellow men. Most of them are young, being aged no more than around 20.
The sisters of the congregation accompany young people, organise retreat days, provide catechetical formation and care for orphans, the sick and elderly, who often live in great need in Ukraine.
Ukraine: Help for the formation of 13 novices of the congregation of the Servants of the Lord and the Virgin of Matara.
Among other things, the young novices help in summer to organise holiday camps for children and young people, giving them an opportunity to take a break and enjoy themselves, but at the same time to deepen their understanding and faith in God. For these young sisters it is also a good exercise in the work of catechesis. Last year some of them travelled with a group of 50 or so young people to attend a youth meeting in Italy. Although the bus journey was long and tiring, they were all enthusiastic and inspired. Sister Maria Christiana, the novice mistress, recalls: „I have never seen young people so filled with enthusiasm at the truth and the experience of community.“ The sisters also organise walking pilgrimages to the shrine of Krylos, in Ukraine in the diocese of Ivano-Frankivsk itself. During the pilgrimage, a walk of around 25 km, they pray and sing, and the sisters are also available for personal counselling sessions, at which the young people can unburden themselves freely and put all their many questions about the Christian faith or their own personal problems. Last year some 400 young people took part.
ACN regularly supports the congregation for the formation of these young sisters, and this year we are proposing to do so again, with a contribution of 7800 Euros.
Thanks to the help of our benefactors, we were able to contribute 3,000 Euros to enable 40 diocesan and religious priests to attend an ongoing formation session in the diocese of Bouar. Given that the country is suffering such violence and extreme problems, it is especially important to support and strengthen the priests, since they are often the only ones who can really help their people not to lose hope.
The priests of the diocese all benefited greatly from these days of exchange and ongoing formation.
The formation programme included such important pastoral issues as marriage preparation and how to deal with irregular marriage situations and, more generally, the appropriate formation for the Sacraments, adult baptisms and the role of catechists in the small and remote rural villages. At the same time the priests were able to reflect on their own vocation and the importance of the priesthood, while additionally receiving training in a range of practical matters, such as bookkeeping, general administration and record-keeping – all matters that are essential and obligatory in every parish and institution but for which many priests are often inadequately prepared when required to take over a ministry which demands such skills. The priests of the diocese all benefited greatly from these days of exchange and ongoing formation and wish to express their gratitude to all our generous benefactors who made this meeting possible.
Sadly, however, immediately after these beautiful and encouraging days, there was a terrible and tragic incident. 47-year-old Capuchin Father Toussaint Zoumalde, who had so recently given a talk on the priesthood and the vocation of the priest, was murdered on his way home from the meeting. This priest, who himself came originally from the diocese of Bouar, but was currently serving as Provincial Superior of his order in Chad, had been planning to spend the night in Ngaoundere, in Cameroon, on his way home, when he was stabbed to death by unknown assailants. He was a highly learned priest who had studied in Rome and himself been involved in the work of priestly formation. Friends and colleagues described him as a fine and multitalented individual with a profound soul and a great love of the Church and the priesthood in particular. A songwriter and poet, he had a wonderful manner with young people, to whom he brought the Gospel message, and he had previously been responsible for the Catholic radio station in Bouar.
We were able to contribute 3,000 Euros to enable 40 diocesan and religious priests to attend an ongoing formation session in the diocese of Bouar.
In Chad, in addition to his many other activities, he was the head of a cultural museum of the Mboum ethnic group. In their obituary for him the Capuchin Fathers wrote: „In killing him on the night of 19 March, the cowardly hand of his murderer knew nothing of the beauty and elegance of Brother Toussaint, this priest who was so rich in the fine qualities of the Gospel and the beauty of the priestly order.“
So it was, that just a few days after meeting with their fellow priests in Bouar, at which Father Toussaint had given his confreres such inspiring and profound reflections on the priesthood, his mortal remains were carried to their burial by his brother priests, amid great mourning among all the people and the entire Church in the diocese. The words he had spoken at this meeting of the priests have thus become his lasting legacy.
Three quarters of the population of the eparchy (or diocese) of Ivano-Frankivsk in Western Ukraine are members of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church, which is in communion with Rome but celebrates the Liturgy in the Byzantine rite. That makes this diocese the largest community of this particular rite in Ukraine, in terms of the number of faithful. And with 400 priests, averaging only around 35 years in age, it also has the highest number of Greek-Catholic priests in the country.
Ukraine: Help for the formation of 213 seminarians in the diocese of Ivano-Frankivsk.
Nor is the flow of vocations drying up. At present there are no fewer than 213 young men training for the priesthood at the seminary in Ivano-Frankivsk. They come from five different dioceses of West Ukraine.
Ukraine: Help for the formation of 213 seminarians in the diocese of Ivano-Frankivsk.
The seminary building itself dates back to the 19th century. During Soviet times, when the Church faced persecution, it was used as a training school for communist cadres. When the building was finally returned to the Church, after the collapse of communism, it was in an appalling condition. The seminary opened again in makeshift conditions and the seminarians of the time rolled up their sleeves and set to work to clean up and renovate the building, with support from ACN. And more recently, ACN has again helped the seminary to carry out essential repair and extension work to accommodate the growing number of students. Once again, the seminarians have rolled up their sleeves and helped, in order to keep costs down as far as possible.
For the 213 young candidates, this comes to a total of 127,000 Euros.
At the same time ACN is also providing regular support, year on year, for the formation of these future priests. For the cost of living is rising sharply and gas, electricity, water, food supplies and other basic essentials are becoming so expensive that the seminary cannot cover the cost alone. So this year ACN is planning to help once again, with a subsidy of 600 Euros per seminarian, so that they can complete their studies and be ordained to the priesthood. For the 213 young candidates, this comes to a total of 127,000 Euros. Can you help us?
According to Pope Francis, a priestly vocation is like a “diamond in the rough”, which needs to be “carefully polished with respect for the conscience of the candidates and with patience, so that they may shine among the People of God”. In the seminary of Mary, Queen of Apostles in Saint Petersburg, Russia there are six of these “rough diamonds”. One of them has come almost from the ends of the earth – from the Kamchatka Peninsula in the far east of Siberia, some 11 hours away by plane. Kamchatka belongs to the diocese of Irkutsk. Yevgeni studied tourism, and it was as a tour guide that he met a Catholic priest who became “an example for my life”. Later, in the army, he saw how many soldiers had lost all inner peace and were deprived of spiritual nourishment. He prayed with them, as he had learnt from his priest friend: the Our Father, the Rosary, the Creed. He felt God was calling him. “I could have done every possible thing in the Church”, he says, “but there is one thing that only the priest can do, namely forgive sins in the name of Christ and make Christ truly present in Holy Mass.” This is what he felt called to do. “By the grace of God, I am now the only seminarian from the largest diocese in the world”, he says. Gregor also felt the call. He was an electrical engineer and loved to party.
Proto-Cathedral; it is alongside the Roman Catholic Mary Queen of Apostles Seminary St. Petersburg.
One morning, after a night’s heavy drinking, he was sitting on the bus, bleary-eyed and late for work – and worried that he would be fired for being late. Then he remembered his Bible, opened it and read: “… from now on you will be catching men…, they left everything and followed him” (Lk 5:10-11). But Gregor still hesitated, wanting to see a sign. A mishap atwork meant that his late arrival went unnoticed in the chaos. He took this as a sign and soon afterwards, Gregor was on his way to Saint Petersburg. Each of the six seminarians has his own story to tell, as have the six men who are preparing for the permanent diaconate. They all represent the latest chapter in a greater story, that of the seminary itself. Founded in 1879, and confiscated by the Bolsheviks in 1918, for decades it was used by Communists as an administrative building, then finally it was returned in a dilapidated state to the Catholic Church after the end of the Soviet Union by a decree signed by the then vice mayor, Vladimir Putin. It is more than a seminary, it is a place of profound symbolic importance, a historical treasure.
Celebrations on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the opening of the seminary “Mariya Tsaritsa Apostolov” in St. Petersburg in November 2018.
700 priests have passed through its doors, many died as martyrs, two have been proclaimed saints. Since it reopened in 1993, 64 priests have been ordained. A seminary is the heart of the diocese, as then Apostolic Adminstrator of Moscow, Bishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz once said, “This seminary is the heart of the Catholic Church in Russia.” In short, it is a treasure in need of renovation. We are contributing towards the cost, which will run into millions. We have also assumed the running costs of €79,000 per year for the entire complex. But they will decrease once the pilgrim house they are setting up opens its doors. “Mariya Tsaritsa Apostolov” – Mary, Queen of Apostles – is a symbol of religious freedom and the eternal youth of the Church. As Pope John Paul II said, it symbolises “the Springtime that blossoms from the hand of Providence”.
“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)