Media spokesman says it builds the future of the Church
By Agnieszka Krawczynski
Photo: Aid to the Church in Need supports the formation of 21 seminarians in the diocese of Tombura-Yambio in South Sudan. (Courtesy of ACN)
About one in 10 of the world’s future priests are getting support from a single organization.
Aid to the Church in Need gave financial help to 10,760 seminarians in 2016. That’s about a tenth of 116,939, the world’s population of major seminarians last year.
“It’s really because we believe that basically seminarians are preparing the Church of tomorrow,” said ACN spokesman Mario Bard.
The organization delivers grants at the requests of bishops or religious superiors around the world.
“For example, you have a bishop who says to us: ‘I need help because my seminarians come from a very poor area and they have no money to support their formation,’” Bard said.
About 4,667 of those men, the largest group, live in Africa.
“There’s a lot of vocations for the priesthood and the money is not there. The family can’t afford to send their young men to seminary,” Bard said.
“The numbers are very high for Africa” when it comes to religious sisters, too. ACN provided grants for the formation of about 1,883 sisters and 387 novices on that continent last year.
The second largest group of seminarians getting help from ACN were in Latin America (2,900), followed by Eastern Europe and Asia.
“We think it’s really important to emphasize formation,” Bard said. “Someone who is well prepared to become what he is called to become will give a really good service to the Church.”
It’s not just priests and religious who are calling on ACN for financial help. The organization also gives out grants to help form lay leaders and catechists.
Bard said that in Africa the formation of Catholic leaders, lay or religious, has been tremendously important, especially in recent years.
“In many countries, even people who are not Catholic are looking at the Catholic Church as a place of hope, a place of help, a place where they can go,” he said.
In 2013, for instance, central Africa monks welcomed in their convent 10,000 displaced people who at the time were fleeing violence in the area.
To show their appreciation, priests and seminarians who get grants from ACN pray for their donors, Bard said, to substantial benefit. “Every day in the world, one Mass is celebrated every 22 seconds to the intentions of our benefactors.”