ACN covid-19 response programme
Caring for the suffering
Between 1989 and 2003, the West African republic experienced one of the bloodiest civil wars on the continent. The country has still not recovered from it right up to the present day. The consequences of the war are also a great challenge for the Church. Our aid to Liberia is mainly concentrated on supporting priests, who are often the only source of hope for many believers.
More than two-thirds of Liberians still do not believe in lasting peace. The civil war has continued to cause deep mistrust at all levels of society. We therefore support the Church in its pastoral mission wherever we can. Our focus is on supporting priests, who have to shoulder most of the spiritual rebuilding in this war-torn country. In addition to the consequences of the war, the Ebola crisis once again put Liberians to the test between 2014 and 2016. In order to better heal the traumas caused by war and epidemics, the bishops are planning to offer additional spiritual retreats for priests so that they are better able to support the faithful in their spiritual needs. (Annual Report 2018) ACN decided to help the 9 priests of Gbarnga Dioceses with 7.209€.
Facing the Covid 19
In April 2020 Father Fr. Ulick Toe-Tarpeh, Bishop’s Secretary, wrote to ACN sharing how the Diocese is facing Covid-19: “Greetings from Gompa (Ganta), from the Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in the Diocese of Gbarnga where I presently serve as associate pastor. I would like to share with you a personal ‘concrete experience’. Closure of churches due to Covid-19 It is a little over one and half months since churches have been officially closed due to the global covid-19 epidemic. Nevertheless, we as priests do celebrate Masses without a congregation continuously offering the collective intentions of our people most of whom share a common need especially during this present climate of the coronavirus pandemic. Personally, before the onset of this crisis I have never celebrated Mass in a church without a congregation. I am sometimes tempted to wish or will that the pews speak out the responses to the Mass! On this occasion of Good shepherd Sunday (4th Sunday of Easter, 2020) our parish catechist and I are the only ones at Mass. She serves as choir, lector and congregation. We are wearing face masks, having already washed our hands and applied sanitizers while keeping a safe physical distance all throughout the celebration. Over the past one and half month’s masses have often been celebrated privately by the priest alone.
Our newly commissioned diocesan radio station (Radio Paraclete) broadcasts daily live masses which are being followed by many people throughout the diocese. The station offers words of comfort and consolation and relay news of what is going on in the parishes and encourages the general public to abide by the regulations put in place by the government, public health institutions as well as the church. Occasionally, a priest goes live on social media while celebrating the Mass so that the parishioners who have the time and opportunity to follow the mass may do so.
We receive several requests daily from parishioners and other people to offer their intentions in the Mass as they cannot come to church. These Mass intentions are seldom accompanied by stipends since majority of our people cannot afford them. Moreover, the present situation has made it increasingly difficult for most people to make ends meet. Many people are starving and are at their limits. Our churches run mainly on weekly basket collections which are woefully inadequate to support the pastoral and other needs of the church. Since the closure of churches, it has not been possible to gather these contributions from the people most of whom are beginning to experience hunger and starvation as they have lost their jobs, businesses and self-help initiatives due to Covid-19. Nevertheless, there are a few others who try to reach out to the priests with little donations in the form of vegetables and foodstuff. No sooner do we receive these meagre contributions than we begin to share them with the poor, the elderly, those with disability who often stop by or call asking for assistance from the priests.
Covid-19 Lockdown and Regulations
As has been the case in other places there is a lockdown in the country with safety and travel rules as well as regulations regarding physical/social distancing. Staying safe for the survival of oneself and others is a daily task and responsibility that behoves on each and every one. Our life is not only in our hands to safeguard at this critical juncture but also in the hands of others. At Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish, we were privileged to have secured some face masks we have distributed to the more vulnerable members of the community. At the moment face masks are not readily available for those who can afford to buy. Most people have taken to wearing a customized face mask made by tailors from local cloth material called “lappa”. While this may not be safe enough to help contain the virus it is the only alternative available to most people.
Pastoral visits to outstations as well as communion to the sick at the homes and hospitals have been put on hold for the time being. As mentioned earlier, we receive calls to pray for people and we offer their intentions at private masses celebrated by the priests. Our Parish catechist is one person who is indirectly affected by the Covid-19 crisis. Her daughter and son-in-law who are away from home contracted the disease. The couple serve as nurses on the frontline. Since their mother/mother-in-law is hypertensive and would emotionally react to the news of their illness they decided to inform her only after they have begun recovering from the virus.”
I hope this short story will be of help as we renew our gratitude to ACN for your continuous support.