The international Catholic pastoral charity and pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) is introducing its first ever “Benefactors’ Day”. From now on this day will be celebrated every year on the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which this year falls on Friday 11 June. ACN and its project partners throughout the world will be praying and celebrating Holy Mass on this day for the intentions of all the benefactors who support the charity via its 23 worldwide national offices.
“Even though most of our benefactors prefer to remain unseen and unsung and in no way expect such thanks, it is very important to us and our suffering brothers and sisters to personally express our gratitude to them,” explained Father Martin Barta, the spiritual assistant to ACN International, in a letter to all the supporters of the charity. “We have chosen the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus for this Benefactors’ Day since their generosity has its source and strength in the imitation of the Merciful Love of the Heart of God.”
Fr Marin Barta, the spiritual assistant to ACN International. Copyright: Aid to the Church in Need.
Last year the charity was actively supported by a total of over 365,000 individual benefactors in 23 different countries around the world. ACN International does not receive any official funding from Church or State bodies and is funded entirely from the private donations of individual benefactors. The number of the charity‘s friends and benefactors actually increased in the year 2020 by 8% over the year 2019, despite the coronavirus pandemic, so that ACN was able to continue and even intensify its support for suffering and needy Christians in 138 different countries.
From its beginning ACN has never regarded itself only as a fundraising organisation, but rather as a community of prayer. This spirit of prayerful solidarity will be especially visible on Benefactors‘ Day. “Eucharist means 'Thanksgiving,' Father Martin explains. “Consequently, so many of our project partners – bishops, seminary rectors, religious communities and priests in Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe and Latin America – have promised to pray very specially on the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus for all the benefactors of ACN and to celebrate Holy Mass for their intentions.”
Families in Brazil, thanking ACN. Copyright: Aid to the Church in Need.
One of these project partners is Bishop Zenildo Luiz Pereira da Silva from Borba in the Brazilian Amazon region. He writes, “On Benefactors' Day we are moved by two emotions in particular, namely gratitude and a sense of obligation. Gratitude for all the support we have received, since without ACN we could not do the evangelising work we do. And also on this day a sense of obligation to pray for our benefactors, who are a source of peace and solidarity.”
A Priest celebrating the Holy Mass in Colombia. Copyright: Aid to the Church in Need.
Bishop Jaime Uriel Sanabria Arias from the Apostolic Vicariate of San Andrés y Providencia on the coast of Colombia als wrote to ACN. The region under his care is only just beginning to recover from a devastating hurricane which swept through the islands of the region in November 2020. “ACN was already expressing its solidarity through its helpful presence while we were still barely able to travel through our region. This experience of the presence of the Universal Church during such difficult times is a transformative experience, since it enables us to feel the closeness, care and loving concern of the Mother Church,” Bishop Jaime writes, adding “Dear benefactors, to all of you, your help made it possible to support our priests, who in turn took this help to our people, supporting and strengthening the faith of the Christian communities, above all so that they were not deprived of the bread of the Eucharist. And with your help we were also able to repair and rebuild the ruined buildings, the churches and parish houses, which are such precious centres for our evangelising work. Please be assured, dear benefactors, that your generosity has made a huge difference. Our vicariate is praying for you and will remember you very specially in the celebration of the Eucharist.”
The Poor Clare Sisters in Antsirabe, Madagascar, have also sent us a touching letter on this occasion. “We want to express our heartfelt thanks to you on this Benefactors’ Day, for all your help, which has transformed our life here. In 2018 we were in real financial difficulties and could not even afford to pay for our electricity or food. You were our salvation, a true friend to whom we could turn in our need! Then last year and again this year you have worked miracles in our life by bringing us well on the way to being self-sufficient. Your help for the extension of our spiritual centre was enormously important to our future. The revenue from visiting guests who use our centre is helping us to cover at least part of our daily living expenses. You have helped us to begin a new chapter in our history, and thanks to you we can now look forward to a more secure future.”
Main featured Image: Children in Syria. Copyright: Aid to the Church in Need.