Bishop Raharilamboniaina with the priests in his diocese assisted by ACN
© Aid to the Church in Need

Having a Holy Mass celebrated for a particular intention is a long and venerable tradition. The offering, given to the priest by the person concerned is in no sense a "payment", but rather a gesture of love and gratitude and also of financial support for the individual priest who in the words of Consecration in Holy Mass once more makes present the Sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the altar. For many priests in the poorest countries of the world these Mass offerings are in fact a crucial means of survival.

This is certainly the case in Madagascar, one of the poorest countries in the world. The diocese of Morondava is materially poor, but it is rich in priests. In the last 10 years, in fact, the number of priests in the diocese has more than tripled, from 20 to 70. As a result, the diocese has even been able to send some of its priests to another recently founded diocese in the country and also to the island of Reunion, where the bishops were in need priests. Moreover, there are another 50 young men from the diocese of Morondava who are currently training for the priesthood.

This rapid growth in priests in the diocese is partly due to the fact that a number of religious congregations have been established there. But at the same time Bishop Marie Fabien Raharilamboniaina is convinced that this boom in new vocations is also the fruit of prayer. He himself has written a special prayer for numerous and holy priestly vocations, and the Catholic faithful and especially the children are also praying regularly for their priests. Bishop Marie tells us, "We are convinced that prayer leads to new vocations. A vocation is the fruit of prayer, and therefore we are insisting in all our schools not only on speaking about God but also on the need to give the children themselves the opportunity to speak with God in prayer".

In other ways too, the bishop is deeply committed to his priests and to supporting them in living out their vocation. He tells us, "I invite my priests to embrace the promise that Jesus himself has made and rely upon divine providence. As Saint Teresa of Avila once said, "Take care of God's work, and God will take care of yours". "I also tell my priests that the People of God will care for them". And each year he invites all the priests of his diocese to take part in spiritual exercises, ongoing formation sessions and a diocesan pilgrimage, and he regularly visits the parishes so as to help them in every possible way.

The local Christians also help their priests as well as they are able, yet they too are poor and the priests need additional support in order to be able to continue their own spiritual formation and take part in retreat days and the like. And while the faithful themselves have little, the priests often do not even have the most basic means of subsistence; they don't have enough to eat, they need support for accommodation, they often have to travel on foot. Hence they often have to turn to their bishop for help. Fortunately, thanks to the Mass offerings offered by the generous benefactors of ACN, Bishop Marie Raharilamboniaina is able to provide some material support for his priests.

"We thank God for the priests who bear witness to His love in our diocese of Morondava and we thank all our generous benefactors for their love for our priests", the bishop writes. "Our priests see you as a sign of divine providence".

The Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need is supporting the 70 priests of the diocese of Morondava with Mass offerings for a total of $30,000 or in other words with roughly $435 per priest per year.

The vital work of Catholic charities like Aid to the Church In Need provide a lifeline to the Church wherever she is poor, persecuted or threatened. Please help our work by donating online or send your donation to Aid to the Church in Need, PO BOX 335, PENRITH NSW 2751 or by calling 1800 101 201.

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