NEW YORK/KÖNIGSTEIN — Archbishop Bernardito Auza, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations and president of the Path to Peace Foundation, has announced that Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) will be the 2019 recipient of the Path to Peace Award.
The Holy See Mission said it has chosen to honor the international papal charity in recognition of its humanitarian and pastoral support of persecuted Christians.
The Path to Peace Foundation supports various aspects of the work of the Holy See Mission to the UN. The Foundation also funds humanitarian projects in developing countries.
Dr. Thomas Heine-Geldern, executive president of ACN International will be accepting the Award at the annual Path to Peace Gala Dinner May 22, 2019 in New York.
„To receive this outstanding Award is a great honor for Aid to the Church in Need“, said Dr. Thomas Heine-Geldern. He added: “It is an eminent recognition of the worldwide bridge of love built by the generosity of our benefactors and the suffering and persecuted Church.”
ACN Headquarters in Königstein, Germany.
Previous recipients of the Path to Peace Award include: Cardinal Mario Zenari, papal nuncio to Syria; Supreme Knight Carl Anderson of the Knights of Columbus; and Queen Sofia of Spain.
Founded in 1947 by a young Dutch Norbertine Priest, Father Werenfried van Straaten (1903 -2003), to help meet the needs of refugees and displaced people in post-World War II Germany, ACN supports more than 5,000 projects each year in more than 140 countries.
Projects include the construction of churches and chapels; support for the training of seminarians, men and women religious as well as lay catechists; emergency aid; and transportation for clergy and religious.
Last year, ACN donors gave more than €100M in aid. Since 2011, ACN has provided more than €70M to support Syrian and Iraqi Christians threatened by ISIS and other Islamist groups, ensuring the survival of Christianity in the region.
The Path to Peace Gala Dinner will be held from 6PM-10PM on May 22, 2019 at the Pierre Hotel in Manhattan, 61st Street and Fifth Ave.
Seventy years ago, the organisation founded by “Bacon Priest” Werenfried van Straaten (1913-2003), Aid to the Eastern Priests (today Aid to the Church in Need (ACN)), initiated the campaign “A vehicle for God”. So-called “rucksack priests” were given vehicles so that they could dispense pastoral care to the displaced Catholics of the German diaspora after World War II.
“I give religious instruction at seven schools and regularly celebrate Holy Mass in three centrally located towns. Each week I travel 215 kilometres by bicycle, often in the rain and snow, along streets and paths that are covered with ice or slush in the winter, with mud in the spring and with loose sand in the summer.” Letters of complaint such as this one were what inspired Father Werenfried van Straaten to provide priests in post-war Germany with a set of wheels.
As a result of the horrors of war and the division of the former German eastern provinces, more than 15 million people were forced to leave their homes. More than half of the displaced persons were Catholic.
Many of the East German Catholics were resettled in regions that were almost exclusively Protestant and had not seen a Catholic church in centuries. About 3000 priest, “heroes of pastoral care”, provided spiritual comfort and administered the sacraments in these regions. As they themselves had also been displaced from their former homes, they travelled on foot from one place to another, carrying the liturgical vessels for Holy Mass with them in their rucksacks.
The priests looked like vagrants with their threadbare clothing and mended rucksacks. They were on the go for hours each day, covering hundreds of kilometres. They braved wind and weather, usually on foot or – the more fortunate ones – by bicycle. Severely weakened from the hardships borne during their own expulsion, many of the priests died.
Not long after the war had ended, in 1947, Father Werenfried was quick to recognise the material and spiritual needs of those who had been displaced. The native Dutchman and Premonstratensian from Tongerlo Abbey in Belgium was a visionary of charity. He trusted in God, in the good in people and in the power of forgiveness, even between those who had once been bitter wartime enemies. He worked tirelessly, at first collecting clothing and food in Belgium and the Netherlands for the people displaced.
Cardinal Frings from Cologne blesses the Volkswagen during a launching ceremony for the chapeltrucks in Königstein, 1952. He is blessing the first seventy “vehicles for God” (Volklswagen) provided by Flemish students an youth groups for the rucksack priests.
“Convoys of aid”
Beginning in 1949, the distressing reports from the rucksack priests prompted Father Werenfried to extend his efforts and beg for “vehicles for God”. With success. In only two months he was able to collect enough money to purchase 120 cars! Recognising the signs of the times, he planned the next campaigns with bold entrepreneurial spirit: “We have to head east with convoys of aid. We have to man trucks with priests and fill them to bursting with gifts of charity.”
When Father Werenfried preached about “convoys of aid”, that is exactly what he meant. Seventy automobiles and 14 so-called “chapel trucks” were blessed on 22 April 1952 in Königstein im Taunus, the most important religious centre for displaced Catholics and today the international headquarters of ACN. The chapel trucks were semi-trailer trucks that had been converted into mobile chapels.
From that day on for the next two decades, the chapel trucks from Aid to the Eastern Priests were on the road with a team of one German and one foreign missionary and a driver. The Church literally came to the villages to give displaced persons the courage to go on living. One driver recalled, “We drove a behemoth of a truck”. He felt like a “lion tamer” at the wheel. After all, each chapel truck was 14 metres long, two metres wide, three metres high and weighed five tons. One of the side walls could be folded out to reveal the altar. The entrance to the confessional was on the other side. Accommodations for the two priests had been set up in the rear of the truck, while the driver slept up front in the cab.
The large chapel trucks headed out for the last time in 1970. The trucks had stopped in hundreds of places in Germany and even some places abroad. The mobile chapels became the spiritual havens for countless displaced persons during the difficult post-war period.
ACN remains deeply committed to providing vehicle aid today
This is how the motorisation of pastoral work became one of the key focuses of Father Werenfried’s organisation, which is called Aid to the Church in Need today and has been a pontifical foundation since 2011. This is still true today. In many countries worldwide, the distances between villages and towns are much larger than in Germany. A single parish can be larger than an entire diocese there. To ensure that God’s workers do not “become stranded” on the way to Holy Mass or to visit a sick or dying person, ACN provides funding for vehicles appropriate to the local conditions – all-terrain vehicles, motorcycles, bicycles and sometimes even boats.
Analyzing 196 countries, ACN’s global Religious Freedom in the World Report found evidence of significant religious freedom violations in 38 countries. The research carried on over a two year period, from June 2016 to June 2018, highlight areas of the world where religious persecution limits the rights of individuals to practice their faith. Don’t close your eyes to religious persecution! #ReligiousFreedom
AID TO THE CHURCH IN NEED (ACN) is issuing an open invitation to participate in an extraordinary event taking place on 18 October: “One Million Children Praying the Rosary”. We talked about this prayer initiative with Father Martin Barta, the Spiritual Assistant of ACN International.
What is this prayer campaign about and when was it started?
The idea for the campaign came about in 2005 in Caracas, the capital of Venezuela. While a number of children were praying the rosary at a wayside shrine, several of the women in attendance strongly felt the presence of the Virgin Mary. They immediately thought of Saint Padre Pio’s promise: “When one million children pray the rosary, the world will change.” And that is exactly what this is all about: having faith in the power of children’s prayers. After all, Jesus teaches us: “Except ye … become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Mt. 18:3).
How can people join in the campaign?
Quite simply: we are inviting teachers, priests, kindergarten teachers and parents to pray the rosary together with children on 18 October for peace and unity in the world. ACN has instructional materials on the prayers of the rosary, posters and a letter of invitation for children and adults.
Why the 18th of October?
October is traditionally the month of the rosary; the 18th is the feast day of Saint Luke the Evangelist. He has handed on to us the story of Jesus’s childhood and, according to tradition, is said to have been close to Our Lady, the Mother of God. Therefore, the date is quite fitting.
Why has AID TO THE CHURCH IN NEED gotten involved in this prayer campaign?
We not only see ourselves as a pastoral charity, but also as a prayer community. Our founder, Father Werenfried van Straaten, deeply venerated Our Lady of Fatima. There, the Virgin Mary proclaimed to the visionary children, “Pray the rosary every day, in order to obtain peace for the world.” The daily project work that carried out by ACN in 149 countries allows the organisation to see first-hand just how greatly Christians and the entire world are suffering from the effects of terrorism and war. Only God can bring peace. We can play a part in this – through our work, but first and foremost through our prayers.
Do you receive reports from the world church on how many children take part?
Our materials for the prayer campaign are available in 25 languages, including, for example, Arabic and the West African Hausa language. Children from around 80 countries and on all continents are taking part. Accounts of the events are frequently sent to ACN, over the past year we received reports from countries such as Argentina, Cuba, Cameroon, India and the Philippines. It is truly a campaign of the world church!
Children and the rosary: this is not an easy connection to make for the churches in our part of the world. How do you get young people excited about these prayers?
I believe that it is actually the other way around: children are far more open to the rosary than a lot of adults. When the rosary is prayed correctly and under proper guidance, it reveals a view of the Virgin Mary, one that grows more intimate the longer you pray the rosary. And this intimate view of Our Lady is something that we can learn from the children!
For more information on the prayer campaign, go to: www.millionkidspraying.org/en
For 70 years now, Aid to the Church in Need has followed a single mission: to build a bridge of love that enables the suffering and persecuted Christians worldwide to witness their faith and inspire those who help them. ACN acts under the guiding principle: information, prayer and action. In fulfilling its work an essential part of ACN’s mission is to inform about this hidden suffering of Catholics in the world. We are committed to religious freedom and reconciliation across all faiths. To know more about the Pontifical foundation, watch the video