Schoolchildren in Zambia, 2002
In addition to the solidarity work of the USCCB and American dioceses, we encourage individual American parishes to build relationships with their brothers and sisters in Africa. This form of concrete solidarity puts a human face on both the great gifts and the vast challenges facing the Church in Africa. We have suggested six acts of solidarity below:
- Pray regularly for our brothers and sisters in Africa. Prayer must always be the starting point and foundation for our work of solidarity. Too often we fail to recognize the power of prayer and how important it is for our brothers and sisters in situations of great difficulty to know that we truly are one with them in the Spirit. As Pope Benedict XVI wrote in his first encyclical Deus Caritas Est, "people who pray are not wasting their time, even though the situation appears desperate and seems to call for action alone
In the example of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta we have a clear illustration of the fact that time devoted to God in prayer not only does not detract from effective and loving service to our neighbor but is in fact the inexhaustible source of that service. In her letter for Lent 1996, Blessed Teresa wrote to her lay co-workers: "We need this deep connection with God in our daily life. How can we obtain it? By prayer".
- Preach and teach on the challenges facing the Church in Africa and what we can do to help. Consider organizing an annual educational "African Sunday" in conjunction with the solidarity collection. For guidance in this area, please visit Catholic Relief Services' Africa Rising: Hope and Healing website.
- Advocate on behalf of the peoples of Africa. Individuals and groups within the Catholic Church in the United States are actively engaged with the Church in Africa in the promotion of human rights, debt relief, increased development assistance, demobilization of child soldiers, promotion of peace in troubled regions, and protection of the environment. We encourage parishes to help Catholics to educate themselves about Africa and commit themselves to the promotion of justice, peace, and development through public advocacy. Consider signing up for your diocese's legislative alerts, visit CRS's Africa Rising: Hope and Healing website, and note recent USCCB advocacy on issues impacting Africa.
- Partner with a sister parish in Africa: American parishes have found "twinning" with African sister parishes to be enriching experiences of communion and a means of deepening bonds of solidarity with other members of the Body of Christ. Possible ideas could include sponsoring seminarians, contributing funds for the construction of village chapels, wells, and catechist houses, setting up Catholic school letter exchanges, or establishing reciprocal spiritual formation programs.
- Give generously to the collection for the Solidarity Fund for the Church in Africa. The Church in Africa nearly tripled during the papacy of John Paul II, growing from 55 million to 144 million members. The Pastoral Solidarity Fund has been established to address the burgeoning needs of this vibrant Catholic population, but it depends on the generosity of the American Catholic population. The Subcommittee assures you that your contributions will be effectively used. The Subcommittee is building relationships and capacity before distributing grants, and we are also developing clear criteria for grants in the following pastoral areas: catechetical programs, seminaries/ seminarians, continuing education of clergy, communications/mass media, and Catholic education and schools.
- Travel to Africa to share daily life with our African brothers and sisters. A Ugandan proverb captures the importance of solidarity trips in stating that "you cannot hear the mouth crying unless you hear the mouth eating." Africans are some of the most hospitable people in the world and eagerly anticipate any guest. And those who have visited Africa know how the experience can transform worldviews - there is no substitute for seeing Africa and her peoples with one's own eyes.
--U.S. Catholic Bishops, Called to Global Solidarity
Selling peanuts on a Sierra Leone beach, 2003