How Creating an Apiary Will Help Drug Addicts in Russia

Before he became a priest, Father Sergij was for many years a police commissioner with the murder squad. He daily witnessed the evils that enslave people and make them capable of such terrible deeds. His experience taught him that every crime starts with smaller things. Before someone commits criminal acts and breaks the laws, he invariably begins by breaking the moral laws, he explains.

While at the height of his career, he felt himself drawn to the priesthood. He explains:

          “Serving as a policeman and the vocation to the priesthood might seem to be two very different things. But in              reality both of them are different ways of confronting evil.”

“I was determined to help people, and eventually it came to me that a more effective way of doing so than simply fighting crime was to offer them spiritual support and to help them to overcome sin, with God‘s help and through the Sacraments, the Scriptures and prayer. But ultimately, we must also remember that a vocation does not spring from our own human will, but that it is God who calls us to the service of the priesthood.”

Drugs are often the beginning of an ever deeper entanglement in crime and evil. As a police officer, Father Sergij was already familiar with the problem of drugs. After he was ordained in 1992, again and again he heard confessions of drug addicts; finally he felt a call to devote himself completely to people suffering from those addictions.

In 1996, in Sapjornoe, a town some 65 miles from Saint Petersburg and close to the Finnish-Karelian frontier, he set up a rehabilitation center for drug addicts, aiming to address the whole person, including his spiritual dimension. It was clear to Father Sergij now, as a priest, that addiction is much less a matter of a medical or a sociological problem than a spiritual sickness, which demands a spiritual and pastoral response.

The center takes in young men aged between 18 and 35 who have already been through a physical detox program in a clinic. The center is organized like a family. Father Sergij and his wife Ljudmila, welcome each young man who comes in, treating them the prodigal son in the Gospel. “We make no distinction between our own children and the young men who come here. The most important thing is to see the child in them, as we do in our own children,” says Ljudmila.

The young men are like brothers to one another, with the older ones helping the newer ones to grow into this new life. Each of the young men is given a specific task right from the start. They may work with the livestock, or in the vegetable garden, or they may learn a trade as a bricklayer, carpenter, joiner or roofer. A number of them work in the candle-making and host-baking workshops. There are also many other helpers who belong to this big family. In such an environment, something soon changes in the hearts and souls of these young men.

One of them, who has already turned his life around, is 22-year-old Mikhail. In his own words, he had become a “walking zombie” when he finally decided to change. It was clear to him that he would not live much longer if he continued with drugs as he was doing. He had lost all contact with his family, hardly slept or ate, and simply lived for his next fix. He also inevitably clashed with the law. It began to seem to him that his life was already over.

Finally, he went and asked for help at the Alexander Nevsky Monastery in Saint Petersburg, and they advised him to turn to Father Sergij. Even before he was accepted in the center, Mikhail began regularly attending church. He wanted to find out all about the Christian faith, which was something entirely new to him. As soon as he arrived in Sapjornoe, he was struck by the beauty of the place and by the love with which he was welcomed there.

He rapidly adjusted to the way of life. He recalls:

            “I felt so incredibly happy getting up in the morning to the sound of the bells, hurrying to prayer, then                          eating breakfast and afterwards going on to work for the glory of God. In Sapjornoe, I began to read books              again, something I hadn‘t done for five or six years. I loved the beautiful liturgies in the church. And how                    lovingly and delicately the meals were prepared! It was never like that at home.”

He stayed at the center for a year.

During this time I re-evaluated the whole of my past life and began to look forward to the future with a deep faith in God. The year in Sapjornoe gave me the impetus to begin a new life. I‘m not sure if I would still be alive if I hadn‘t gone to Sapjornoe. Glory be to God for all of this!”

At present, there are 60 young men who have been accepted in the center. In order to provide an occupation for them all, Father Sergij would now like to start up an apiary with 50 beehives.

As a Christmans Gift of Faith please help us help Father Sergij expand his rehabilitation center for drug addicts in Russia.

A Village Chapel for Ghana

When the first missionaries arrived in Ghana close to 110 years ago, it looked as though their mission had little prospect of success. Most died within a few weeks from tropical diseases and malnutrition, and the local population could be hostile to the Christian faith. Then something happened that looked very much like a miracle.

There was a severe drought in the country, and people and animals were dying of starvation, while crops dried up and withered. The witch doctors tried everything to conjure up the rain, but not a drop fell from the heavens. In their despair, the people turned to the local missionary, who knelt and prayed. Within half an hour, the rain was drumming down upon the earth. At this, many people were converted and asked for baptism.

There are still a number of foreign missionaries living and working in Ghana today. One of them, Franciscan Father Martino Corazzin has been working there ever since 1991, and by now he has built many churches and schools and sponsored numerous social and pastoral projects over the years.

Since 2014, he has been parish priest in the Parish of Saint Francis, in Elmina, in the south of the country, in Cape Coast Diocese. His parish includes eight village sub-parishes, one of which is Saint Anne‘s in Nkontrodo. There are some 200 Catholic faithful here who regularly attend Holy Mass and play an active part in the life of the Church. Sadly, they have no church of their own and so celebrate Holy Mass and their other community activities in the local school hall and refectory. This is not really a fitting place for the celebration of Holy Mass, and the parishioners must check beforehand every time with the school to make sure it is free, as scheduling conflicts occur again and again.

In addition, there are eight separate sects and Pentecostalist communities in the town, each of which has its own permanent church or temple, and there is a real danger that some of the Catholic faithful will drift away to the sects out of sheer frustration at their own situation.

As Father Martino reminds us, “Prevention is better than cure. We must do something now to save our community before it is too late!” He is now urgently appealing for our help. The people themselves are too poor to contribute more than a little to the cost of the work. They live from hand to mouth, growing a few vegetables and keeping a few chickens, mainly for their own needs and to sell at market. There is little money available, and many of the young people are unemployed. Without our help, the idea of a new church will remain no more than a dream.

Almost every day, people ask Father Martino, “So what about our chapel?” He responds by telling them, “Pray night and day with faith and with trust, and the Lord will hear your prayers and touch the hearts of those who can help us!”

We cannot disappoint the faith of the Catholic faithful in Nkontrodo, and so we are proposing to help.

Please help us help Father Martino and his congregation build a fitting home for the Lord. 

Help Rebuild Two Village Chapels Destroyed by a Cyclone in Mozambique

In January 2017, the coastal region of northern Mozambique was battered for five long days by a severe cyclone. The tropical storm brought heavy rainfall and devastated large swathes of the countryside in two of the coastal provinces of this country in southeast Africa, already one of the poorest in the world. Thousands of homes were destroyed, and countless people left homeless.

Many of the properties of the Catholic Church were also severely damaged, especially in the mission Parish of Netia-Natete in the Diocese of Nacala. This parish covers a vast and predominantly rural area, which is also very poor. It has no fewer than 120 outstations with their own very modest little chapels where the faithful gather for prayer and catechesis. More than half – some 66 – of these chapels were destroyed by the cyclone.

Father Antonio Gasolina has turned to ACN for help, for his Catholic faithful in these villages are dismayed at having lost their familiar places in which to worship God and hear His Word proclaimed. For local faithful, God is first and foremost in their lives. Now they are hoping, in two of the remotest and most inaccessible villages of the region, to rebuild a small chapel where they can gather to pray. They plan to make a start on these two chapels at least.

The Catholic faithful here already live from hand to mouth, but have nonetheless made their own modest contributions to the building work and have also promised to pay the carpenters who will complete the roof. The parish still needs our help to pay for the costly building materials.

Please help us help Father Antonio rebuild two of the village chapels destroyed by the cyclone. 


Somewhere to be at home with God

In Mali, Senegal and many other West African countries Christians are in the minority. 

Mosques continue to spring up everywhere, while Christians must gather to pray under trees or in simple shelters that barely protect them from the rain, wind and burning sun. 

Take Yasso in Mali, for example, where the parish of Saint Teresa of the Child Jesus numbers around 5,000 souls, yet their rickety wooden chapel can accommodate only 150. Now they are building a church for 2,000 people, but they don’t have enough money for the steel roofing sheets. 

Please help us help the parish build a fitting home for the Lord