Saint Therese of Lisieux,thePatroness of the Missions, often liked to quote the words of Jesus to Saint Francis of Assisi: “Go, Francis,rebuild my ruined Church”. In essence itis the same missionarymandate as “teachthemtoobserve allthatI have commanded you” (Mt 28:20). Today the Salesian Father Antonio is trying to rebuild the missionary work of the parish of Saint Therese in the diocese of Bo, Sierra Leone. There are 150 Catholic schools in the diocese, eachwith anything up to a thousand pupils, and the best way to proclaim the Gospel is through the ACNChild’sBible, “God speaks to His Children”. In many of the schools there are practically no other books available. “It’s a quite special experience for these children to actually hold a book in their hands”, Father Antonio tells us. And with the Child’s Bible “they can learn to read and at the same time come to know the Word of God. Reading opens the eyes, the intellect and the heart, while the Word of God builds them up.”
For many of the children the book is something treasured throughouttheirlives. Father Antonio recalls once asking one class of children, “How much do you think a book like thiswould cost?”None ofthem could say. Estimating the price Father Antonio put it at around €5, that would be 50,000 Leones. So then he asked them how much ofthis 50,000 they would be able to contribute in kind. They thought maybe around 1,000 Leones. So Father Antonio suggested: “Bring in the thousand. And every time you read the book, God’s word for children builds up the Church say a prayer for the people who have contributed the other 49,000.”
They agreed. So he did the same thing with all the other classes and with 1,000 Leones for each book, he was able to fund the summer camp for those pupils who couldn’t afford to give anything. Again and again Father Antonio reminds the children about those people working quietly in the background, without whom the Word of God could not be spread. Such people, he told them, also include “the person who can hardly move but who sits in his wheelchair translating the Child’s Bible into the local dialect”. Father Antonio learned the local language Bariba in Benin, thanks to the Child’s Bible, and also the Moba dialect in the north of Togo.He says theChild’sBible is also a kind of FamilyBible, since many adults are keen to purchase itforthemselves,their children and grandchildren. He is asking us for an additional 5,000 copies forthe schools in the diocese. We have promised him €10,000 towards the cost in order to build and strengthen the parish of Saint Therese with God’s Word for his children.