After Indonesia, Madagascar is the largest island nation in the world. It lies in the Indian Ocean, off the southeast coast of Africa. The Catholic Church here is still a missionary Church. Roughly half the population belong to traditional African religions, while Catholics make up a minority of approximately 18%.
In Saint Joseph‘s parish in Betatao, a small town around 80 miles (135 km) northeast of the capital Tananarive (the former Antananarivo), the number of Catholics is growing strongly however, and today already more than a third of the population are Catholics. Two years ago there was even an ordination. This year the parish is celebrating the golden jubilee of its founding. It serves an area of nearly 2000 square miles (5000 km²) and includes 40 separate communities. Up until 1981 the Jesuits used to run the parish, but today it is ministered to by three diocesan priests.
Father Daniel Richard Rafenomanana, the parish priest, and his two fellow priests certainly have their hands full. They have to regularly visit all the numerous outstations, administering the sacraments, proclaiming the faith and helping those in need – with the indispensable support of the sisters of the congregation of the Little Daughters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. In addition to this the Catholic Church runs several schools in the area and is very active in youth work as well.
But there is one major problem. At present the priests are living in an old house, built in the traditional manner, which is being constantly battered and damaged by the strong winds and rain. It is also too small for the needs of the parish, which requires additional storerooms and a garage, and also guestrooms – for example for when the bishop visits the parish or when seminarians come to spend their stage of practical pastoral experience here. And ideally it would also be good to have a common sitting room, where the priests can gather together and strengthen one another in fraternal solidarity, or spend time conversing with their guests.
The Catholic faithful contribute what they can, but there is no way the parish can fund a new presbytery from its own resources. So ACN is proposing to help with a contribution of 12,300 Euros.