, 11 September, 2020 / 9:09 PM
Catholic Priests ministering under difficult conditions in Sierra Leone’s Freetown Archdiocese have been given Mass stipends amounting to 17,160 Euros to cushion them through the COVID-19 pandemic that has been characterized with dwindling Church resources in the west African country.
Announcing the award by Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) on the Catholic charity organization’s website, the organization noted that some 40 Clerics in the Archdiocese of Freetown were surrounded by very harsh conditions even as they strived to serve their flock.
“The 40 priests of the Archdiocese are helping the people in all their spiritual and material needs. Many of them are working in parishes where there is neither electricity nor running water, no vehicles and no other means of communication,” the ACN officials note in a statement on their website.
The leadership of the aid agency highlight the impact of COVID-19 on the Archdiocese of Freetown that was already struggling to sustain members of the Clergy.
“The coronavirus has only made things worse,” ACN leadership says and adds, “For now that all public Masses have been suspended, even the little support that came in on the collection plate has also dried up.”
Each of the 40 Clerics will receive about 430 Euros for the entire year, ACN leadership announced, adding that the Priests will in turn offer Holy Mass for the intentions of the benefactors who have made the offerings.
The Mass offering, also called stipend, is a gift freely given by the faithful as a gesture of gratitude and love and material support for the Priest, who in return offers the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass for the intentions of the benefactor, ACN leadership has explained.
Such intentions include prayer requests for the soul of a departed relative, for a sick person, or for a private intention known to the benefactor alone.
“As the Canon Law of the Catholic Church makes absolutely clear, the offering is in no sense a ‘payment’ for the celebration of the Mass. However, in many parts of the world such offerings represent a vital contribution to the support of our priests, who in any case more often than not use them not just for themselves but also for the wider needs of their people,” the leadership of the charity organization elucidates.
The Catholic aid agency notes that Sierra Leone is among African countries that have been worst hit by the COVID-19, owing to the country’s struggles with the aftermath of a civil war and the outbreak of Ebola that left many survivors vulnerable.
“In recent times the people of Sierra Leone have gone through a great deal of suffering. To this day the consequences are still evident of the bloody civil war that raged from 1991 to 2002, claiming innumerable human lives and devastating large portions of the country’s infrastructure,” ACN leadership notes in the statement on its website.
The economy of Sierra Leone, ACN leadership further notes, has been totally wrecked and over 70 percent of the country’s 7 million inhabitants are living in poverty today.
“The Ebola epidemic of 2014 and a string of grave natural disasters have only further exacerbated the situation. And now, in 2020, the coronavirus pandemic has also erupted, making life still more difficult for people, especially given the dire poverty already existing in the country,” says ACN officials.
“As always in such grave situations, it is the Catholic Church once again that is standing by the people,” the leadership of the aid agency observe, adding that for over a hundred years, the Church has been supporting the faithful in the country, “not merely pastorally but also in very practical ways, providing basic medical care, feeding the hungry, providing development aid and accompanying families in all their many needs.”
The Catholic Church, the officials of the charity organization note, is particularly active in the field of education.
“Until very recently, the Catholic schools were the only educational centres existing in Sierra Leone, and this despite the fact that 78 percent of the population are Muslims,” they say, adding that the Catholic Church is greatly respected by the people for its many works of charity, and for the fact that it helps all the people, regardless of their religion or ethnicity.
However, ACN leadership notes, the Church cannot neglect her primary mission of proclaiming the Gospel, administering the Sacraments, and bringing souls to God.
“Needless to say, however, the many activities she is involved in have to be paid for somehow. And since the local church is extremely poor, there is an urgent need for financial support from abroad,” ACN leadership says.
ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.
Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa