“They have hearts full of the love of God.”
This was how Palo Archbishop John Forrosuelo Du described the global community of ACN donors who gathered at Fatima for the re-consecration of the charity organization.
Palo Archbishop John Forrosuelo Du was one of only seven representatives who presented testimonies about the sufferings, needs, and hopes of the Church to the pilgrim-benefactors of Pontifical charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).
ACN organized this pilgrimage for its community on the twin occasion of the 70th Anniversary of the Foundation and the 100th Anniversary of the Apparition of the Blessed Virgin at Fatima. In 1967, ACN founder Fr. Werenfried van Straaten consecrated his organization to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, offering it as a work of service for Christians in need.
Archbishop Du’s message focused on how grace was ever present amidst the pain and suffering that Typhoon Yolanda brought to his flock.
“We all know in his letter to the Romans, St. Paul stated ‘where sin increased, grace abounded all the more.’ But I realize that it is not only when sin increased, but more so when pain and suffering increase, His blessings abound the more.”
For Archbishop Du, the assistance that he received from ACN was one such grace.
“You were there to help us in spite of the fact that we were strangers to you,” Archbishop Du told the 1,000 benefactors of ACN coming from all over the world.
Yolanda destroyed 76 of the 78 churches in the Diocese of Palo. In 2015, ACN donated more than ₱100 million used mostly to help in the reconstruction of typhoon-ravaged churches in the Philippines, including ten of the most damaged churches in Leyte. Had it not been for ACN’s aid, Archbishop Du would not have been able to fund the reconstruction of the churches under his diocese especially since there were hardly any organizations willing to shell out money to reconstruct religious buildings.
During that time, even though most of the churches had no roofs, Archbishop Du could still vividly remember how mass attendance increased compared to how it was before the typhoon.
“So I felt that during those times that they need to feel the presence of God. I felt that as a Church our responsibility is not just to focus on restoring their homes, but on bringing them much closer to God. And as a Church we need to provide them a fitting place to restore their faith; in that way their lives will be restored,” reflected Du.
Aside from the Philippines, religious leaders from Syria, Niger, Venezuela, Cuba, Papua New Guinea and Ukraine also delivered messages about the struggles and dreams of their respective church communities.
Last year, thanks to the generosity of the community of its benefactors, ACN was able to support 5,303 church projects in 148 countries amounting to almost ₱5 billion. Donors come mainly from industrialized nations such as Germany, France, UK, USA, and Australia. However, ACN also receives millions of Euros from developing countries such as Mexico and Colombia. Last October 2016, ACN opened a fund-raising office in the Philippines in the belief that despite the country’s poverty, the fervent faith of Filipinos can be a wellspring of hope for Catholics living in countries with far worse situations than ours such as Syria, Iraq and several countries in Africa.
ACN’s donors contribute monthly to the national offices which are then forwarded to Germany for disbursement. Another common form of donation is called a legacy where donors name ACN as a beneficiary in their last will.
“I am honored to meet people who are really mindful and thoughtful of the needs of the Church in the world. We Filipinos too should learn how to think global when it comes to our generosity and compassion,” said Du.
ACN’s pilgrimage started last 12 September and ended on 15 September 2017. ACN’s Philippine office sent a small contingent led by its National Director, Mr. Jonathan B. Luciano.
By Josemaria E. Claro, ACN Philippines