The Catholic priests of Sudan know all too well what suffering is - not from reading the newspaper or watching the television, but directly and personally, as part of the bloody Way of the Cross of the Catholic Church in Sudan. The younger priests grew up during the long civil war and completed their studies in the most difficult of circumstances. An entire generation has known practically nothing else but violence, persecution and poverty. The almost 25 years of civil war, which led to the formation of the new country of South Sudan, have still left many open wounds that mark the people of the country, here in the North.
(Sudanese priests at prayer in a chapel in Khartoum © Aid to the Church in Need)
The priests are there for their suffering people in every possible way - providing pastoral care, material support, education and much more besides - and all in the knowledge that there are far too few of them to cope with the ocean of need that surrounds them. Their own souls are just as wounded as those of their people, while knowing their hands are empty because they too have nothing. Yet God has called them to be shepherds to his suffering flock.
The average age of the priests in the 27 parishes that make up the Archdiocese of Khartoum is just 40. Given the numerous difficulties and immediate challenges they face, few of them have ever had the opportunity, after their initial formation in the seminary, to take stock, pause for breath, refresh themselves spiritually or continue their own spiritual and pastoral formation. To address this situation the Archdiocese has now furnished a house that will be open to these priests whenever they need to seek counsel or help, share their problems with their fellow priests or pursue their own ongoing priestly formation. It will also be a place for priests suffering burnout or sickness, a place of healing and recovery. It is intended that in future it will be open to Catholic priests from all over the country, and also from neighbouring South Sudan. For the moment there is not much space available, but the activities are already underway. Now the plan is to extend the house.
The Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) has already helped with $15,500, and are now giving a further aid package of $44,000 so that the house can soon be ready to accommodate as many priests as possible and so provide them with a place where they can recover and renew their strength for their heroic work of service.
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 7246 Baulkham Hills NSW 2153. Ph: (02) 9679-1929