ACN Canada


ACN Project of the Week – Central African Republic and Cameroon

16.08.2017 in ACN Canada, ACN International, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Aid to the Church in Need Canada, Cameroon, Central African Republic

Central African Republic and Cameroon

Help for the formation of 39 young Carmelites

Some people already know, quite early on in their lives who they want to be.

At the age of five, young Jean-Thierry Ebogo from Cameroon was already sure that he wanted to be a priest. To him, being a priest was nothing less than “being Jesus.” So, when he joined the Carmelite Order in 2003 at the age of 21, it seemed as though his dreams were close to being fulfilled!


But Providence had other plans. After just a year, a malignant tumour was discovered on his right leg. He was told that even amputation was not enough to stop the spread of the disease. By the time he got to Italy for treatment in 2005, the cancer had already metastasized.


On 8 December 2005, the feast of the Immaculate Conception, he was granted special permission to take his permanent vows in his hospital room. His only worry was whether he would still have time to be ordained into the priesthood. He bore the severe pain with a smile, offering it up for priestly and religious vocations. “I only want to be healed in order to become a priest,” he said. But his life‘s dream was not to be fulfilled, for he died soon afterwards, at the age of just 23. By then, his reputation of holiness had already spread, and a vast number of people came to his funeral. His beatification process was concluded at the diocesan level in 2014.



Persevering and courageous youth

Before he died, young Jean Thierry Ebogo had promised to gift Africa with a veritable “rain” of priestly vocations. It seems that he has kept his word, for the Order of the Discalced Carmelites in Cameroon and above all in the neighbouring Central African Republic is blossoming with numerous priestly vocations today.


In the desperately poor Central African Republic (a country that only makes the international headlines because of repeated violence and unrest), 27 young Carmelite novices are now responding to the call of God and preparing to take their permanent vows as well as for ordination into the priesthood. These men want to give their lives so that peace becomes a reality in their country. In Cameroon as well, where Jean-Thierry Ebogo was born, there are another 12 young men undergoing formation.

In the Central African town of Bouar, Father Cyriaque Soumbou, a member of the formation team for future priests and religious, says: “It is a joy to see these young men who, in the midst of all the adversities in daily life and despite all the challenges, are endeavouring to give meaning and purpose to their own lives by allowing themselves to be led by the Holy Spirit in seeking to discern the will of God. These young seminarians are like precious pearls to me, they are a reason for thanksgiving, because they are the future of the Theresian Carmel.” He himself had been drawn, even as a child, by the solitude and prayer of the Carmelites, but at the same time also by the joy of living together in community and the devotion of oneself to the service of others. All these things he had seen in the Italian missionaries who had brought the Carmelite Order to his country and who are still working there to this day. “I am quite certain that this inner joy is not the fruit of human effort, but that it is Jesus who unites us,” he says. “How gentle is the hand of the Lord who wishes to accompany me. The teaching of Saint Teresa of Avila is always clear: what counts in the religious life is humility. We must never trust in our own strength but only in the grace of God.”  This is also how Father Cyriaque describes his own personal experience.


ACN is providing 35 478 dollars for this academic year, to help these 39 young Carmelite novices in Bangui, Bouar and Yaoundé continue with their important formation.





ACN Project of the Week – Ethiopia

09.08.2017 in ACN Canada, ACN International, ACN PROJECTS, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Africa, Aid to refugees, Ethiopia, EVANGILIZATION, MOTORIZATION, Project of the Week



Bicycles for 30 catechists in Gambella


The apostolic vicariate of Gambella lies in the extreme west of Ethiopia, on the frontier with South Sudan. It is a remote and underdeveloped region where there is widespread poverty.


Therefore, there are recurrent and intermittent inter-tribal conflicts mainly between the more settled, farming tribes and the nomadic herders. The cattle eat the farmers’ crops, and the farmers are taking away the traditional grazing lands of the herders. In this conflict over scarce resources, there are frequent and violent clashes. Recently, there have also been clashes between the local population and refugees of the Nuer tribes from South Sudan.


According to the UNHCR, there are over 330,000 refugees from South Sudan in the area at present – almost as many people as the existing population of Gambella state. In early 2016 in particular, there was violent unrest here, with numerous deaths. The Catholic Church is working hard for peace and reconciliation. It is the only force in this region capable of combating the violence, hatred and rising anger in this volatile region of the world.

The people of Gambella thirst for the sacraments and especially to hear the Word of God for the first time.


Announcing the Good News in more villages!

There are many people in this corner of Ethiopia, a newly evangelized region, who have never heard the Good News of Jesus Christ. Many of them are open to the faith, well disposed to the activity of the Church and eager to receive baptism. However, the region is remote and the villages widely scattered. There are too few priests, and so the catechists play a vital role, both in preparing people for baptism and in promoting the process of peace and reconciliation.


On Sundays these catechists often have to travel many hours on foot to reach the villages where there is no priest to celebrate Holy Mass, in order to pray with them and instruct them in the Catholic Faith. In order to provide the catechists with more autonomy, ACN has promised 10, 875 dollars to equip some 30 of these catechists with one bicycle each, to help make more efficient use of their time and energies and help them to better carry out their vital and precious service.




In this way, they will reach more villages and devote themselves still more intensively to the work of evangelization.


*  United Nations High Commission for Refugees 

ACN Interview – The Suffering Hearts of the South Sudanese people

04.08.2017 in ACN Canada, Africa, Famine, South Sudan

Sr Yudith Pereira RJM Ass. Executive Director, Photo:

South Sudan/Rome

The Suffering Hearts of the South Sudanese people

An interview with Sister Yudith Pereira by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada


Sister Yudith Pereira, a Religious of Jesus and Mary from Spain, spoke passionately to Aid to the Church in Need about the situation in South Sudan, the work of the Church and her organization’s mission to assist the people of South Sudan—always—but especially now, in the throes of a famine with catastrophic consequences.


We reached out to the Associate Executive Director of “Solidarity with South Sudan” at their international office located in Rome. The clear-voiced joyful and at the same time, soft-spoken, Sister Yudith, who has 17 years of missionary experience in Africa and a background in Agricultural Engineering, was especially happy to tell us that her order of religious had a special connection to Canada and a mutual cause for celebration, for the first of the blessed women in Canada—Dina Bélanger—also later known as Marie Sainte-Cécile de Rome—was also a religious of Jesus and Mary. Fittingly, the order’s charism is in part to provide education in the faith and a special concern for the poor and the disadvantaged.


“The situation is worsening”

In mid-June, the statistics indicated approximately one million children and possibly more, were suffering from malnutrition; while 250,000 of the food crisis cases were classified as very critical, and 5.5 million people were staring helplessly at the possibility of starvation—that is a shocking 40% of the country’s population.

When asked to share an overview of the situation in South Sudan and whether the famine was worsening or improving, she said: “No.  It is getting worse. The general situation of the country is worsening day by day.” As a frequent visitor to the country she ascertained, “the situation is worsening on all levels. The people are hungry, all of them. And you can see it, it’s terrible.”

Sister Yudith went on to explain the problem of inflation and access to supplies. “On one hand, the inflation is about 900%, so people can’t buy anything. The salaries have not increased. Even if there are things they could buy at the market; people still can’t reach them.” (…)It’s impossible to buy anything,” she said.


“But where are we going to get the food?”

Explaining that a great many people throughout the country have now been displaced, “people who were used to cultivating, once displaced, lose the capacity for producing food. So even in areas that may be producing food like in Riimenze where we [Solidarity with South Sudan] have a farm— around the main house there are more than 5,000 people displaced people who have left their farms because of fear of being attacked by one side or the other.”

“When rain comes, because the land is very flat in many areas it gets flooded. People cannot move. They cannot go to places to get food—or to camps to get food—so very often they eat grass”

Continuing with her description of the situation facing the people without singling out any of the different fighting factions she insisted, “We will only talk about the victims, because the situation is very complicated.” The religious Sister explained that even the people whose land is in a good location for cultivation are afraid of sackings by the armed groups for it is a regular occurrence. She said, “and they do it, even the refugees are sacked many times over, though they have nothing in their tents. It is a terrible situation. You may have money, but there are no roads and there is no market so you don’t know where to buy the food. It is a huge problem,” she said.


Sometimes, we are offered money to buy food—but where are we going to get the food? You can’t buy any. I know of some internationals bringing food from Uganda and Kenya, but it is very hard because there are no roads, there are huge holes in the roads, and they are very dangerous. You might be attacked,” she emphasized.

Reduced to eating grass

Another obstacle to food access according to Sister Yudith, is the rainy season which by mid-June, is well underway. “And then there is the rainy season … When rain comes, because the land is very flat in many areas it gets flooded. People cannot move. They cannot go to places to get food—or to camps to get food—so very often they eat grass. ‘People become isolated in many places, so it’s difficult to reach them— it has happened many times, that in an emergency, supplies have to be dropped by air in the hope that someone will find it. So it’s hard. Apart from that—the state does not give out enough for salaries, so people are not getting the usual money they should get—so the whole situation is terrible—it’s terrible everywhere. With much emotion, Sister Yudith reiterated the tragic reality, “Yes, they eat grass.” 


Is armed conflict at the source of the famine?

In early June, Pope Francis cancelled his foreseen trip to South Sudan indefinitely for security reasons. When asked about this and the conflict as the main source of the famine crisis, Sister Yudith said, “I think that yes, the origin of the famine crisis is the armed conflict. The people in South Sudan, the government and the opponents, they are fighting for power and for money, for funds. It is not an ethnic fight. And as for Pope Francis visiting… the last time I went to the airport—there was no airport!  One side was not yet finished, and the other was taken down and the new one is under plastic tents. It’s like a tent airport—there is no security for the Pope.”

“We are very sad about not having the visit. On the other hand, people need to be aware that we also need to work for peace. At the higher and the lower levels, more and more because if not, peace never will be there,” she said almost as a plea.


Religious of Jesus and Mary Sr. Yudith Pereira interacts with some children on a visit to South Sudan. (Provided photo) from the Global Sisters Report


Helping Refugees and channeling emergency aid


When asked how the Church is working with the internally displaced people and what are they able to do she said “Most of us are helping refugees and channeling emergency aid, but as for Solidarity with South Sudan, we are not an emergency (relief) organization.”  The organization works with building community and providing training, “We still are focused on that but, of course, we channel emergency help. The problem is we don’t have the structure to do it, but we still have to do it! Around every parish and cathedral, everywhere—everywhere—around all the churches, you will find refugees and displaced people because they are considered safe places, or safer places. They are very involved in denouncing the situation and speaking up for peace—they can’t do more. They are doing a lot.” She went on to ask us to pray also for the people who are on the front lines helping the suffering, for it is very difficult work.


Please speak loudly!


When asked what the most pressing needs were for people of South Sudan in her view, she said what was of greatest importance was something somewhat surprising. “The thing people ask us for, is not food nor money. They tell us: Please speak loudly about what is happening in South Sudan. When Bishop Erkolano of Solidarity for South Sudan came to Rome, he asked us please to tell this story, to speak about this. He said a genocide is going on, killings are going on, and nobody speaks about it. It does not interest the world.”



This concludes this first part of our interview with Sister Yudith Per. Stay tuned to our networks for the second part where we will learn more about the role of women in solving the problems threatening South Sudan, and some of their stories and more. For more on how to help with the situation in South Sudan, you can visit our special website set-up to alleviate hunger in the region



ACN Press – Emergency aid for Nigeria

01.08.2017 in ACN Canada, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Press Release, [email protected]


$101,500 in emergency aid for Nigeria

ACN will send emergency aid to help widows and orphans affected by Boko Haram violence in the Nigerian Catholic diocese of Maiduguri

During a the recent ACN visit in March 2017 to the diocese of Maiduguri, Bishop Oliver Doeme highlighted the main challenges for his diocese, which include a humanitarian crisis, a lack of food, a lack of education (schools were destroyed), but also, what he calls, a spiritual crisis. The majority of people in his diocese are severely traumatized.


The bishop went on to explain that most of those killed by Boko Haram were men, which leaves the diocese with over 5,000 widows and 15,000 orphans to care for. The pontifical charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) has approved an urgent grant of $101,500 to support these victims of Boko Haram.


“Boko Haram fighters came to my home early in the morning” – explains Esther in her local language Hausa – ”they started to loot everything, then they took my husband and told him to convert to Islam, and when he refused, he was slaughtered in front of my eyes.” In the same way, Rose’s husband “was shot right in the forehead” for refusing to convert to Islam.


Photo: Widows of Boko Haram victims helped by the Diocese of Maiduguri


Grief overwhelms Agnes, 40 years old and mother of nine children, when she laments that she was unable to bury her beloved husband. “My husband was a builder; he was working outside of a house when Boko Haram surrounded all the people and gunned them down. The terrorists didn’t allow anybody to into the place to recover the bodies. No burial was possible, no funeral could be celebrated. They just left the bodies to rot there.” When she finishes speaking Agnes dries away her tears with the apron of her colorful typical dress.


These stories are but some examples of the thousands of traumatic experiences that Nigerian women in Maiduguri have endured in recent time. Kathrin, Helene, Justine, Juliette, Hanna… and so on up to the 5,000th. Behind each number, there is a face and although their faces appear composed, their hearts are full of pain. In order to assist these highly traumatized widows, a part of the ACN grant will be used to provide healing-sessions.


These women will also be trained in how to take care of their basic needs, now that they are alone. Before the attacks, they relied on their husbands’ income. Life has not been the same since losing them. Most of the widows have more than six children to feed and educate. Most refuse to marry again because they still feel very close to their husbands who were killed under terrible circumstances. A great many of these women continue to grieve, mourning their missing spouses, because their bodies have not been returned for burial leaving an open wound that is hard to close. Bishop Oliver has created the “St. Judith Widow Association” with an aim of better adapting the aid to the particular circumstances of every individual in need.


Photo: Refugees and displaced sitting in front of their hut


Another part of the project relates to school fees and feeding orphans. As bishop Oliver pointed out, “it is mostly the children living in the eastern part of the diocese who will benefit from this, as this part is the most affected and the poorest.”

The Catholic Diocese of Maiduguri is located in the northeastern part of Nigeria. Not only the birthplace of Boko Haram, but also the worst hit by its attacks. The three northeastern states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa lie at the center of Boko Haram activities. The Catholic Diocese of Maiduguri covers two and half of these states. Since 2009, over 200 churches and missions, numerous priests’ rectories, 25 schools, 3 hospitals, 3 convents, countless shops, personal houses of lay people and business centers have been destroyed on this territory.


According to data collected by the pontifical charity ACN during its recent trip to the affected area, Boko Haram has killed more than 20,000 people, 26 million people have suffered directly from the conflict and 2.3 million children and youth are deprived from accessing to education.


They may destroy our structures but not our faith. Our Faith is active and alive in persecution we are purified.”
Photo: Bishop Oliver Dashe Doeme inspecting a burnt church in Bahuli community in Catholic diocese of Maiduguri.

By Maria Lozano, ACN International,
Text adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada



ACN Project of the Week – Argentina

19.07.2017 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN International, ACN PROJECTS, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Argentina, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Sisters, SUBSISTENCE



Support for Sisters in the poorest diocese of the country


For Father Werenfried van Straaten, the founder of the international Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), suffering and need were never an abstract problem. For him it was always about the individual, a person with a face and a name, a child of God.


It is very easy to dismiss any sense of personal involvement when it comes to a statistic, a mere number can mean very little to us. However, the fate of an individual person with a face and a name is not as easy to distance ourselves from, for it touches us inwardly; it is a direct appeal to us personally and to the heart.


On his many travels around the world, Father Werenfried encountered a great many people living in poverty and destitution, in whom he saw God himself as weeping. They had names – Anna, Pablo and John, Maria and Miguel. He had looked them in the eyes, and what he had seen was for him a cry for help. He asked himself – and all of us – the question: “How is it that we are so comfortably situated? These people live beneath the same sun and the same stars as we do. God also created them on the sixth day, to be kings of creation. Where then is their kingdom? This trampling of their human dignity is a mortal sin against nature, a crying injustice. In addition, we too will personally share in this injustice if we do not do everything in our power to banish it from the world – everything in our power!”



A human crisis

Very few people know there are regions in Argentina where people live in the direst poverty. One such region is a diocese with the long name of “San Roque de Presidencia Roque Sáenz Peña.”  It is one of the poorest dioceses in the country and this, on paper, seemingly dry statistic is in reality a human crisis for those involved. Some of these people live in dirty, damp, unhealthy hovels or even under plastic sheeting. There are sick people barely being cared for, emaciated children, living off little more than a little flour moistened in water, gaunt-looking mothers…


The diocese covers a vast area of over 27,000 square miles (70,000 km²) in the north of the country, characterized mainly by savannah and dry forestland. It is home to the descendants of various indigenous tribes who in the past used to live as nomads. Many still live as hunter-gatherers. Now the large Agro industries, which are encroaching ever further on their traditional territories, are increasingly restricting their traditional lifestyle, grubbing up the forest and establishing vast soybean plantations. At the same time, the goats and cattle of settlers and small farmers are eating the forest bare.

Bringing home the truth

The Catholic Church is the only organization supporting these people. However, the distances are huge and there are only very few priests. Therefore, the support of the religious Sisters is vital. At present, there are 38 religious from various different congregations working in the diocese. They are supporting the people in many ways and bringing home to them the truth that they are indeed children of God. They visit the families in the villages, care for the sick and elderly, pray with the people and, while bringing them urgent and vital help, while at the same time managing to introduce a little light and laughter into their poverty-stricken homes.


We regularly help these sisters and this year once again we plan to support them in their modest lifestyle, for all the work that they do is offered entirely free of charge. We have promised a total of $24,800 to support their life and ministry – just $653 per Sister for an entire year. Thank you to our benefactors!



Aid to the Church in Need – A Record Year in Donations

05.07.2017 in ACN Canada, ACN International, Annual Report, World

Aid to the Church in Need in the Middle East: support that has continued from 2016 through to 2017. © ACN

Aid to the Church in Need

Another record year


Königstein/Montreal 05.07.2017—  In 2016, the pontifical charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) has once more generated a record sum in donations. The charity collected $189,550,370 in total, nearly 13.5 million more than in 2015, making possible the funding of 5,303 projects in 148 countries last year. Africa gained the lion’s share with 34 percent of projects funded on the continent.


The growth of the Church in Africa is seen reflected in a significant fraction of the projects also being located in Africa. The countries situated in the Sahelian zone receive particular attention, as do Northern Nigeria, Kenya and Tanzania—all countries in which an aggressive form of Islam is spreading. Emergency and subsistence aid in the Middle East, the cradle of Christianity, is a major cost factor. This aid went to securing a Christian presence in its region. Among all the countries, Iraq and Syria received the most aid in 2016 with 14.2 and 8.7 million dollars, respectively. This is, of course, due to the political situation in this region. Over 87.9 million dollars have flowed into the crisis areas in the Middle East since 2011, 26.6 million dollars in the past year alone.  Aid is expected to continue its exponential growth in 2017 as well.



 Packing ACN food parcel bags for Internally Displaced People at the packing centre in Ankawa, Erbil, in the Kurdish Region of Iraq


For example, the reconstruction project put in place by ACN, with three other Churches in the Nineveh Plains region of Iraq. This initiative has been created to help Christians return to their villages liberated from the grip of ISIS.


Vicariate of Chaco, Paraguay: Sisters are able to support the poorest of people through education, catechesis, presence, etc. – without the worry of what they will be eating tomorrow, thanks to ACN benefactors.

Construction Supporting Religious Sisters

As in previous years, a majority of the total aid approved for reconstruction projects received a 30 percent share of the total amount.  Over 1,200 chapels, churches, cathedrals and seminaries received co-financing around the world, mainly in the regions most devastated by forces of nature, with one third of these construction projects funded in Africa.


Emergency aid for the Middle East and subsistence aid for Religious Sisters follows closely, as well as formation aid helping an estimated 30,000 catechists and pastoral agents. Much attention was given to aid in Central and Eastern Europe who in the process of shifting from construction to training and continuing education. The Balkan countries received much attention because of the presence of radical forms of Islam.


Thanks to Mass Offerings, one in nine priests (43,015 in total) received help in the form of Mass Offerings in Africa (14,403) and in particularly in  Asia (11,293). Aid for 10,760 seminarians was approved, a number equivalent to every eleventh seminarian worldwide. Most were preparing for the priesthood in Africa (4,667), Latin America (2,900) and Eastern Europe (1,577).



DEM.REP. CONGO 800 ordinary masses for 10 Redemptorist Missionary Fathers, 2015 – 2016

With regard to Religious Sisters, formation and/or subsistence aid were granted to 11,080 among them, or to every 62nd Sister worldwide. In 2015, every 67th Sister received aid. In most cases, the help was in the form of subsistence aid for Religious Sisters in contemplative orders. Additional funding was provided for transportation in the form of 375 cars, 149 motorcycles, 239 bicycles and 2 boats.


Never before has Aid to the Church in Need collected so many funds in a one year span. Just under two thirds of donations (65 percent) issued from individual donations, a fifth (or 21.8 percent) from legacies.


The pontifical charity received most of its donations from France (43.2 million), followed by Great Britain (26.6 million), Spain (over 19.3 million), Germany (18 million) as well as Switzerland and Liechtenstein (13.3 million).

TOGO  Construction of the catechism rooms for the parish of St Paul Apostle of the Nations of Dapaong.


The Canadian office collected 3 million dollars.  Overall, the pastoral charity maintains its national offices with fundraising activities in 23 countries. Finally, 2,109 projects did not receive approval. Administration costs accounted for 6.4 percent of the budget (in 2015: 6.5 percent). These figures and statistics were audited and attested by the international auditing firm KPMG.


Read the ACN Annual Report 2016




ACN Project of the Week – Guatemala

14.06.2017 in Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, South America

Success Story in Guatemala

Formation in loving prisoners


First, a little bit of history!  In the eighth century the Moors conquered the entire Iberian Peninsula, and for the next 700 years the Spaniards fought back against the occupying forces. Many Christians were also captured by the Moors and sold as slaves.


Young Pedro Nolasco, from Barcelona, decided that something must be done to help them. While still young, he had purchased the freedom of 300 prisoners with money inherited from his father.


In the year 1218, he declared having been visited by Our Lady and that she had asked him to establish an order to continue this work of freeing Christian slaves. So it was that the Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy, more commonly known as the Mercedarians (from the Latin Maria de mercede redemptionis captivorum and the Spanish “Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes”), was founded and in England also as the Order of Our Lady of Ransom.


The members of the order purchased the freedom of innumerable Christian prisoners held by the Moors often offering their own freedom and even their own lives in exchange for the unfortunate prisoners. They are unusual in that their religious rule has a fourth vow, in addition to the usual three vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, namely to purchase the freedom of Christian slaves even at the cost of their own freedom and their own lives.


The order is particularly strong in Latin America today. Still today, they continue actively caring for prisoners, providing practical and spiritual support to the impoverished families of prisoners. Its members also provide counselling and support for those who have fallen outside the law – in some cases innocently. In addition, they help former prisoners after their release and provide counselling to people encountering difficulties within the justice system. The community continues to accompany the former prisoners even after their release.  Since many of them no longer have any families and find themselves having to make a completely new start, with nothing. The Mercedarians help with finding employment and gradually working toward reintegration into society.


The order is happily blessed with many new vocations. Currently, there are 15 young men preparing for the priesthood in their seminary in Guatemala. Thanks to the generosity of our benefactors, ACN was able to help with $7,100 for their formation.


These future priests send you their heartfelt thanks for this support.

Please click to donate to GIVE for a similar project.




ACN Feature Story: Iraq- The Dominicans are going home

09.06.2017 in Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, By Daniele Piccini, Chaldean Catholic, CONSTRUCTION, Iraq


The Dominicans are going home


On the Nineveh Plain, in Iraq, 363 church buildings or other Church properties were damaged or destroyed by Islamic State (IS) and are now in need of rebuilding.

Dominican Sisters Luma Khuder and Nazek Matty, are both saying, “We hope to be able to return to Teleskuf as soon as possible. The families there have need of us.” Father Andrzej Halemba, the acting chair of the Nineveh Reconstruction Committee, told the international Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN): “Already 450 families have returned to Teleskuf; we are hoping that many others will follow their example.”

“The agreement between the three Christian Churches is a good sign. People can see that the Churches are united and that the decisions are not being taken unilaterally.” Sister Luma Khuder and Sister Nazek Matty, both Dominican Sisters of Saint Catherine of Siena originally from the convent of Our Lady of the Rosary in Teleskuf to the north of Mosul, see it as encouraging sign that Christian Churches in Iraq are committing to rebuilding the Christian villages of the Nineveh Plain, destroyed by the so-called Islamic State. On 27 March this year the Syrian Catholic Church, the Syrian Orthodox Church and the Chaldean Catholic Church formally established a committee, the Nineveh Reconstruction Committee (NRC), whose task is to oversee and plan the repair and rebuilding of almost 13,000 family homes.

March 2017: the Sisters can finally see their convent for the first time in two years.

Before the summer of 2014 the Dominican Sisters of Saint Catherine of Siena had convents in several different towns on the Nineveh plains. Then the extremist fighters of Islamic State arrived and together with around 70 or so fellow Dominican sisters, Sister Luma and Sister Nazek found themselves internal refugees in the autonomous Kurdish -controlled region of northeast Iraq. “In 2014, as soon as we had arrived in Erbil,” explains Sister Luma, “We began distributing food, milk and nappies. We set up “emergency convents” in order to be as close as possible to the Christian refugees, to serve them and accompany them. In 2015, just as soon as the refugees were housed in more permanent lodgings, we opened two schools, one in Ankawa, to the north of Erbil, and the other in Dohuk. There are 600 children at the school in Erbil, ranging in age from 6 to 13. We also opened a nursery school, which has 392 children in it. These centres are financed by ACN among others. We depend totally on their aid.”


The return of the displaced peoples – hoping for a domino effect

By now the situation is starting to change, and “the number of internal refugees in Kurdistan is slowly decreasing” notes Sister Nazek. “There is no longer any danger in Teleskuf, and a number of families have now returned to their homes,” she explains. And Sister Luma adds: “ACN is starting to rebuild the homes, including those in Teleskuf. IS only stayed in the village for a short time, and so the houses are not too badly damaged. We are also repairing our convent of Our Lady of the Rosary in Teleskuf, with the help of ACN. We want to return there as soon as possible together with the people, who are tired by now of living far from home.”

Restoration of Immaculate Mary (Al-Um Al-Tahira) convent in favour of Dominican Sisters fof St Catherine of Siena – Qaraqosh

“We know that since January 2017 around 450 families have returned to Teleskuf, and many others are preparing to return”, explains Father Andrzej Halemba, who heads the project section of ACN for the Middle East and is likewise acting chairman of the Nineveh Reconstruction Committee. “Today, of all the villages on the plains of Nineveh, Teleskuf is the safest. The area is in fact controlled by the Kurdish army. We are hoping that the return of the Christian families to Teleskuf will have a “domino effect” on the families from the other villages, who are still hesitating to return for fear that the situation is not yet altogether secure. ACN will be contributing over 40,000 Euros towards the cost of restoring the Dominican convent in Teleskuf. The Sisters need to return as soon as possible, for the families have need of them.”

Over the Nineveh Plain as a whole there are 363 Church properties that were attacked by so-called IS and which now need to be repaired or rebuilt. Of these 34 have been totally destroyed, 132 were set on fire and 197 are partly damaged. In Teleskuf alone we have counted 1104 private homes and 21 Church properties that have been damaged by IS.”


ACN will be contributing over $58,000 towards the cost of restoring the Dominican convent in Teleskuf.


Article: Daniele Piccini, ACN International
English adaptation : Amanda Bridget Griffin, Canada


Québec Press Conference — Interfaith Famine Relief campaign launch

08.06.2017 in ACN Canada, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Africa, By Marie-Claude Lalonde, Famine, Nigeria, South Sudan

Québec Press Conference — Interfaith Famine Relief campaign launch — June 7, 2017

 Against the famine – #PrayGiveSpeakOut


Speech given by Marie-Claude Lalonde, National Director of Aid to the Church in Need

(Translated by Amanda Bridget Griffin)


Aid to the Church in Need is proud to be participating in this collective and interfaith effort that follows the call for solidarity with Nigeria, South Sudan, Somalia and Yemen where famine has struck. We will do what we know how to do best; help on the ground. Though our organization is a pastoral charity, we never let our project partners down when they are hard hit. This time is no exception.

Of course, our charitable aid will not resolve the root problems. However, through our actions we will bring relief, as much as possible, to our brothers and sisters who are suffering from this horrible famine.


In order to declare a state of famine, (UN) people must already be dying. That is the case in South Sudan and the situation is more than worrying in Nigeria, Somalia and Yemen. It is one minute to midnight.

Marie-Claude Lalonde, National Director of Aid to the Church in Need. (Credit: Webtélé


Last year, Aid to the Church in Need provided food assistance to the diocese of Malakal in South Sudan. The situation is not improving. We have already promised to help feed 20,000 displaced people, still from the same region. We need $140,000, and that is only short-term aid. We will have to do much more.


In the northeastern part of Nigeria, we have unfortunately been witness to regular sectarian conflicts and attacks by Boko Haram. The least of which we see in the media and therefor we have practically forgotten that it was about a few problems and that hunger has been threatening for some time already. For Nigeria, we need $150,000 to provide food assistance and seeds in order to restart agriculture. In this case, as well, we know that our intervention will have to be extended over a certain time period. These two fundraising campaigns will not  cease at the end of June along with the Federal government’s program. We will continue as long as the needs are desperate.

Press Conference – Diocese of Quebec city, June 7 – Interfaith campaign to fight famine in four countries: South Sudan, Nigeria, Yemen and Somalia. (Credit: Webtélé

In any case, we will provide pastoral support to people traversing this hardship as well as to the Church who is always active is easing the ambient misery, and this whatever the religion of the person who presents themselves to her.


Pray, Give, Speak-Out; the theme of the interfaith call made public today. Through our fundraising campaigns, we invite people to be generous in a financial way, but we are also appealing for their solidarity through prayer. Giving for the famine, praying for those who are suffering and for peace to return.


We are continuing our work of drawing the awareness of our current and potential benefactors and to the public in general as a response to the call to Speak-Out.


Thank you to all the interfaith communities who are joining in this great movement. Together, we can lighten the burden of men, women and children who at this very moment have empty stomachs.”

To GIVE via Aid to the Church in Need to the campaign

Pray, Give, Speak-Out, click here.

Thank you.

Declaration of Interfaith Appeal from Canada’s Faith Communities

Help us alleviate starvation in Sudan and in Nigeria




31.05.2017 in ACN Intl, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Aid to the Church in Need Canada, Czech Republic, Journey with ACN

Czech Republic

A place for the reawakening of the love of Christ

Cardinal Miroslav Vlk, archbishop of the diocese Praha in Czech Republic, visiting Aid to the Church in Need Intl in 2003

On 17 May 2017, Cardinal Miloslav Kardinal Vlk, the former Archbishop of Prague, would have celebrated his 85th birthday. However, he died just two months earlier. Just a few hours before his death, he whispered the words “Most beautiful King”. When asked what he meant by this, he replied, “Jesus on the Cross.” Those were his last words.


Embracing the Cross, and with it the Crucified One, were not empty words. For many long years of his life, throughout the years of the communist persecution of the Church, he had to wait for the privilege of even permission to attend university, since as a young man he had refused to join the communist youth groups. For 17 long years, after completing his secondary schooling, he had to wait for ordination to the priesthood, without ever knowing for sure if this day would ever arrive.

Even after his ordination, and serving as a parish priest and secretary to his bishop, he was banned for 11 years by the state from working as a priest. During this time, he earned his living as a window cleaner and as an archivist, and practiced his priesthood in secret. He would often recall how hard it had been for him to make this sacrifice. Yet, he was also able to say later, “I discovered that this cross did more for my salvation and that of others than if I had continued as the bishop’s secretary during those years… that time as a window cleaner was the most blessed time of my life. And I understood that I was living my priesthood in all its fullness.”

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, so that at the proper time he may exalt you,” (1 Peter 5:6). These words stayed with Miloslav Vlk like a leitmotiv in his life. He heard them first as a young man, when he felt the call to the priesthood, yet saw no possibility of achieving this goal. In 1994, when he was made a cardinal, he was shaken to hear these words once again in the letter of Saint Peter and realized how they had literally come true in his life.

He was finally laid to rest on March 25, 2017, in Prague Cathedral. Hundreds of bishops and priests from all over the world, and thousands of people from Prague and all over the Czech Republic were there to pay him their last respects. He was buried in the most important church in the Czech Republic, the same place where the Bohemian kings had been crowned and buried. However, his only King was Christ the Crucified.

As his coffin was lowered into his tomb in the stone floor, the ancient hymn rang out in the packed cathedral: “Christus vincit, Christus regnat, Christus imperat” (“Christ conquers, Christ reigns, Christ rules”). This is the King he saw when he whispered his last words, the King who allowed him throughout his life to share in his sufferings and his abandonment and who will now exalt him at the proper time.

The greatest wish of the Cardinal was to reawaken the love of Christ in the hearts of his people. After the years of communism, this was a huge challenge. Cardinal Vlk was a lifelong friend of ACN, and the help our charity was able to help him in rebuilding the Church in his Archdiocese of Prague was repaid by him “in a different currency – that of prayer,” as he again and again repeated to ACN.



However, there is still a great deal to do for the Church in his country today. Even now, many of the confiscated Church buildings have still not been returned by the state, and many of them are still in a pitiful condition. But most of all, it is the souls of the people that need to be rebuilt. For the Czech Republic is one of the most atheistic countries in Europe today. The good news is that wherever people see the Catholic Faith truly being lived; many young people soon rediscover this Faith and seek baptism. So new and living communities are being formed, with young families bringing their children up in the Faith and so laying the foundations for the Church of the future.


That is why this Project of the Week is particularly important in order to fulfill the wishes of Cardinal Vlk. In Tuchomerice, a small town not far from Prague, the new Catholic community Chemin Neuf (New Road) has set up a centre. It is a very active community on an international level, comprising 2,000 members in about 30 countries (Canada among them) organizing meetings for young people, young adults and married couples.  They offer retreats, prayer groups and a Bible school. Every day Holy Mass is celebrated in the community, along with the Morning Prayer of the Divine Office and there is a regular time for Eucharistic adoration. The centre is also intended to be available to visiting groups, so that not only local people but also Catholics from other parts of the Archdiocese can take advantage of the facilities it offers.

Thanks to help from ACN they have already been able to complete the chapel and the refectory, plus more recently an additional 16 guestrooms. But the work is still far from finished. We are planning to help with $36 500.