One third of the funds we give to Africa go into construction: parish houses, seminaries, convents and chapels. These are safeguards against suffering, spaces suffused with the love of God.

This sort of space is needed by the young parish of Saint Anne in the diocese of Natitingou, in Benin. The parish includes 20 villages; the largest of them, Dakou, is where the chapel will be built. Some 15 years ago the tiny Catholic community of Dakou built a small mud chapel, but it collapsed a few years later.

For many of the pagan animist peoples of this mission territory, that was a bad omen. The Christian God does not endure, they thought. But the Catholics of the parish have remained steadfast and faithful to Christ and one another. They continue to gather in another building, which also serves as the village school.

Now the younger people want to make a new start and, faced by brand new mosques and their gleaming facades, they plan to build their own, if modest, house for God. The only problem is they have nothing but the work of their hands.

With these they will gather sand and stone. But the bricks and mortar, the cement, windows and doors, paint, plaster and benches all cost money. ‘We will be so grateful for anything you can do, that God may be known and loved here’, writes Father Hippolyte Bakoma, the parish priest. We have promised him the missing sum they still need.

Father Hippolyte belongs to the congregation of the ‘Frères Missionaires des Campagnes’ (Rural Missionary Brothers), who work in evangelisation and development education in rural areas. They work to stop the burning of the forests, while teaching good husbandry and forest management (including the use of agricultural implements and machinery), bookkeeping and fair trade.

And they themselves are setting an example in agriculture, while at the same time sowing the seed of faith. They form prayer groups, teach the faith, and celebrate Holy Mass. The aim is to sow seeds of fruitfulness not only in the soil but also in the human soul.

This article can be found in Mirror 0317.