Father Werenfried van Straaten, whose name means “warrior for peace,” was born January 17, 1913, just outside of Amsterdam in The Netherlands. He planned to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a teacher, but found himself called to the priesthood. In 1934, he entered the Norbertine Abbey of Tongerlo, Belgium.
His lifelong work, Aid to the Church in Need, sprang from the ashes of World War II, when Father Werenfried, then just 34, launched a campaign to aid 14 million displaced Germans. At the time, hatred of the German people was still so intense that a relief campaign to help them seemed nearly inconceivable. But on Christmas Day, 1947 with an article, “No Room at the Inn,” written for his Abbey’s newsletter, Father Werenfried passionately called upon faithful to have the courage and compassion to open their hearts to suffering World War II refugees. The brave priest went on to say,
“For me,” he wrote, “the most pressing problem was making room for love again in Europe.” It seemed an impossible task, but Father Werenfried put his trust in Divine Providence, and launched his revolutionary Battle of the Bacon, collecting strips of bacon for the hungry and the poor. That initial campaign was the beginning of Aid to the Church in Need. Since then, the organization has grown tremendously and is still striving to meet the urgent need for spiritual and pastoral care of the suffering and persecuted Church throughout the world.