Duc in altum! “Put out into the deep!” (Lk 5:4). Christ does not demand the exceptional, still less the impossible, in order for miracles to happen. However, he does demand faith and sometimes a little effort. In the diocese of Lisala, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the catechists and missionaries regularly travel down the broad Congo River in an old river boat called the Magnificat in order to reach the communities on the banks and riverine islands.
“And he taught them from the boat” (cf. Lk 5:3): Bishop Ernest Ngboko on one of the islands on the River Congo.
Last autumn on such a journey, a sudden squall, as on Lake Genasereth, tossed the boat about violently. Driven by the wind, it veered off course and hit a tree on the bank. A large branch went straight through the stern, causing the hold to fill with water and the boat to capsize. Miraculously, no one was hurt but the Magnificat was unable to go any further.
The Magnificat after the accident.
Despite Bishop Ernest Ngboko Ngombe’s best efforts, the boat’s recovery and repair swallowed up the last of the diocese’s financial reserves. Now the faithful are hoping
for another miracle – in the form of our help. The diocese needs this boat. Bishop Ernest is asking for €8,700, so that the Magnificat can once again sail forth with its
“fishers of men” aboard.
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 diocese of Rayagada is situated in the south of the Indian state of Odisha (formerly also known as Orrisa), which became notorious 10 years ago for the violent attacks against Christians there. It is also the fourth poorest federal state in India.
Within the territory of the diocese there are just 50,000 Catholics among a total population of approximately 5.5 million people. Most of these Catholics come from the poorest and most socially excluded levels of society and many live a bare subsistence existence, gathering fruits and firewood from the forests. Most are illiterate and if they are forced to borrow and fall into debt, they face exorbitant interest rates from the moneylenders, with the result that their families fall into a form of debt slavery.
The diocese of Rayagada covers a vast area of well over 15,000 square miles (40,000 km²), and many of the villages lie in remote corners in the forests or valleys. There are just 24 parishes, also very large in area, so that the distances to be covered are considerable.
Not surprisingly, therefore, the 30 catechists play an important role. They visit the faithful in the villages and are frequently, so to speak, the „visible face of the Church“ in places where the priests only rarely manage to get. But even for the catechists many of the villages are still very difficult to reach. Until recently, the catechists had to make these long and difficult journeys on foot. But recently, thanks to the generosity of our benefactors, ACN has been able to help Bishop Alphinar Senapati to provide each of them with a bicycle. Now they are able to reach the faithful much more quickly and easily. You contributed 1,630 Euros for this purpose. Our heartfelt thanks to all who helped us!
In 2017 Catholics around the world celebrated the hundredth anniversary of the apparitions of Our Lady in Fatima, Portugal. On six occasions, between 13 May and 13 October 1917, the Mother of God appeared to three shepherd children and gave them a message for the whole world. She told them that prayer – especially the Rosary – penance and interior conversion were the means to avert war and disaster from the world, and that men must stop offending God by their sins. On 13 October 1917 a crowd of around 70,000 people were witnesses to a solar miracle in which the sun above them began to spin rapidly and then plunge in a zigzag fashion towards the Earth, before rising back to its place again. The Fatima apparitions have been recognised by the Church, and several of the Popes have since visited the shrine in Fatima.
Many Catholic faithful, on every continent, have responded to Our Lady‘s appeal, consecrating themselves to her Immaculate Heart, praying the Rosary and striving to love God better. They include many people in Africa. For example, in the diocese of Ifakara in Tanzania, which has only been in existence for five years, there is already a lively Fatima apostolate, led by Sister Euphrasia. Their aim is to spread the message of Fatima among the families in all 23 parishes of the diocese, encouraging the Rosary and encouraging people to avail themselves of the Sacraments, especially the Sacrament of Penance, and the same time encouraging a spirit of active neighbourly charity in order to live this faith in practical deeds as well.
However, most of the parishes in the diocese are in rural areas and include numerous outlying villages. And at the same time, until recently, they were short of the necessary materials, notably rosaries and booklets. But now, thanks to the generosity of our benefactors, we have been able to give 1,700 Euros for 30 bicycles, thereby enabling the catechists to visit the many villages more easily, plus another 1,500 Euros for the rosaries and other items required. Thanks to this help, the Fatima apostolate in the diocese has been given new impetus and been able to extend still further.
Sister Euphrasia has written to thank us: „Dear brothers and sisters, we want to thank you for your great support, which has enabled our apostolate to be very active. We have organised a seminar for the community leaders from the various different parishes. And after that, in the presence of our bishop and the priests, we distributed the various devotional items. We are praying for you! May our Blessed Lady continue to intercede for us all!“
Father Andrew Yakulula of the parish of Todonyang in the diocese of Lodwar in western Kenya is delighted and profoundly grateful for the help of our generous benefactors, thanks to whom ACN was able to give him 15,000 Euros and help him purchase a new vehicle. So at last he could replace his old, 15-year-old off-road vehicle with which he had brought so much help and comfort over the years to so many people in this corner of northwest Kenya. For in the end this vehicle was spending more time in the workshop than in serving the needs of the people in this region, plagued as it is by poverty, drought and tribal conflicts.
The parish of Our Lady Queen of Peace in Todonyang was established nine years ago and serves a total population of 18,000 people. It is a thinly populated area and without a functioning vehicle it would be impossible to minister pastorally to them all.
A section of this population belongs to the Turkana tribe, originally a nomadic people who moved from place to place with their cattle herds, wherever they could find water and pasture. But the frequently recurring severe droughts have led to the death of many of their cattle, which are traditionally their most important capital and on which they depend for their milk, their meat and their blood as their main source of nutrition. So now they are increasingly beginning to supplement their diet with crops such as maize, peas and beans and consequently more and more of the Turkana people are becoming settled and giving up their nomadic lifestyle. This has led to bloody conflicts over land between them and the members of the Dassanech tribe, conflicts that have repeatedly cost lives. So the Catholic Church is working hard to promote peace and reconciliation and endeavouring to mediate between the two ethnic groups.
Quite apart from this, the Church here in the diocese of Lodwar is constantly striving to help all the people in their many needs, including the provision of clean drinking water, care of the sick, schools and kindergartens and also nutritional aid for malnourished children. All this is part of the service she provides. Consequently, the priest‘s vehicle also has to function as an ambulance, a water truck and many other things besides. But above all the work of the priest is to bring God to the people. In Todonyang itself and in the four outstations of the parish he brings them the sacraments and helps them to deepen their understanding of the message of Christ. So this vehicle that our benefactors have generously funded is also bringing help and hope to so many people. Our heartfelt thanks to all whose donations have made this possible!
Young Father Ravi Kumar Devarapalli of the diocese of Eluru is delighted at his new moped, which he has been able to purchase thanks to the help of ACN‘s benefactors, who gave him 1200 Euros. Now it is much easier for him to visit the Catholic faithful in the surrounding villages.
The parish mission where he works is situated in an underdeveloped, rural region. He has no presbytery of his own, so he has to live in the bishop‘s house. Until now he managed to visit his central parish by using public transport, but in order to reach the villages in the outlying hilly countryside, he had to use a bicycle and battle his way over rough and difficult tracks. This was both exhausting and time-consuming, and besides, some of the villages are a long way from the parish center. There are nine of these villages in which people have already been baptized, and some of them are up to 10 miles (15 km) away, while the other three villages – in which the people are still preparing for baptism – are even up to twice that distance – 20 miles (30 km) away. Almost all the people have to work hard all day, as landless agricultural workers, day laborers or household servants, so that the priest can only visit them in the evenings. As a result, Father Ravi often had to cycle late at night along these long and difficult tracks. And on Sundays and holy days, he would often arrive late for Holy Mass, having been unable to make it on time on his bicycle.
“The people here are very poor and simple, but they are very open to the message of Christ”, Father Ravi explains. But the sects are also beginning to arrive in the region, and if the Church fails, for lack of resources, to provide adequate pastoral care for the people, they may well fall an easy prey to the sects, who often have considerably more money and personnel and who often take people in with their easy and unrealistic promises. But now, thanks to his new moped, Father Ravi can visit the people much more frequently.
“I am very happy to be able to exercise my priestly ministry here” says Father Ravi, who was ordained to the priesthood only in 2016. And he asks us to convey his thanks to our benefactors and tell them this: “Many people make decisions that change people‘s lives. Thank you for being such people! Your generosity will help me and our diocese to do the same for others. Thanks to your generosity we can go on helping to improve the lives of the Catholic faithful, above all in a spiritual sense. Thank you again for your goodness and kindheartedness!”