Zambia, a landlocked country in southern Africa, is fortunate to be enjoying a degree of stability - unlike many other African countries. Nevertheless, the country still faces numerous challenges, including poverty, poor infrastructure and at 12% an alarmingly high rate of HIV/AIDS, as a result of which numerous children have been made orphans.
Roughly one third of the population are Catholics, while a little over half belong to various different Protestant denominations or ecclesial communities. Almost 15% still follow pagan animist religions. Until recently Muslims have made up only a very tiny minority; however, in recent years there has been increased activity and an increased spread of Islam. At present, however, one of the major problems lies in the spread of fundamentalist sects, which spring up with simplistic and populist messages. For example they often entice people - who are for the most part very poor - with promises such as: “If you join us, you will be rewarded even in this world, and the more you pray the richer you will become.” Often they succeed in luring away even the Catholic faithful, and so the Church in Zambia is very much aware of the need to intensify its pastoral work, so that the Catholic faithful do not so easily fall prey to such false promises. And crucial to this is the presence of more Catholic priests.
In the past, when the Church in Zambia consisted mainly of foreign missionaries, they were able to call on material support from their home countries, but today the Church has become more and more a home-grown local church, with native African priests. The young men who respond to the call of God and who are now training for the priesthood certainly cannot look forward to a comfortable life here; instead, many of them will be serving in remote rural areas where there is no electricity or running water and where they are often long way away from their brother priests.
Currently there are eight young men from the diocese of Mongu who are training for the priesthood. The diocese lies in the west of the country and covers a vast area of around 35,000 square miles (almost 90,000 km2). It has 13 parishes, each as large in area as a diocese would be in other parts of the world. More priests are urgently needed, since wherever the faithful are deprived of the regular support of a priest, on account of the distances and the isolation the sects tend to have an easy time of it. But needless to say, the local Church is poor, and a solid and thorough priestly formation takes many years and costs great deal of money.
Consequently the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) is keen to support the formation of these eight young seminarians and has promised a contribution on $12,000 for the current 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 7246 Baulkham Hills NSW 2153. Ph: (02) 9679-1929