International Women’s Day on 8 March honours the indispensable efforts of women and campaigns for their rights. The focus of this day is less on the about 660,000 women worldwide who have dedicated their entire lives to serving their fellow humans: religious sisters.
During the Lenten and Easter season, the pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) directs the attention of the public to these extraordinary women and calls for support.
“What would the church and society be without religious sisters,” the Executive President of ACN, Dr Thomas Heine-Geldern, commented. “This is true in many countries: when the government breaks down and all organisations leave because of the tense security situation – the religious sisters are the ones who stay.”
Kindergartens, orphanages, schools, medical facilities and parishes would be unthinkable without them. Not to mention their prayers for the concerns of the world: Pope Francis has called the religious sisters the “praying heart” of the church. “Anyone who has put their faith in the prayers of the religious sisters in a time of personal need knows how uplifting it is to be spiritually sustained and supported,” Heine-Geldern said.
Aid for 11,000 religious sisters in 85 countries
ACN supports about 11,000 religious sisters in 85 countries around the world. “Besides funding charitable activities, this includes granting subsistence aid – for example in eastern Europe, where the sisters have no source of income at all,” explained ACN Project Director Regina Lynch.
Other main areas of support are the formation of young religious sisters, rebuilding projects in countries in which convents have been destroyed through war or natural disasters and aid for transportation projects.
“As every employee of ACN who visits one of our project countries can confirm: without religious sisters, it would be impossible to carry out the work of the church under the most difficult circumstances. They are heroines – who do not shy away from either persecution or death,” Lynch said. Each year, the aid organisation receives tragic reports of religious sisters who have been killed in service.
The motto of ACN’s Lenten and Easter campaign is: “Extraordinary women. Thanks to God. Thanks to you.” The campaign gives religious sisters from all over the world the opportunity to talk about their vocations and their lives in prayer and community as well as their work for those most in need.
“The religious sisters are heroines of faith and charity,” explained ACN President Heine-Geldern. “They bear witness of the vitality and strength that comes from a life serving God and those around us. ACN is proud to be able to support these outstanding women.”