Having a Holy Mass celebrated for a particular intention is a long and venerable tradition. The gift, or “stipend,” given to the priest by the person concerned is in no sense a “payment” but rather a gesture of love and gratitude and also of financial support for the individual priest who in the words of Consecration in Holy Mass once more makes present the Sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the altar. For many priests in the poorest countries of the world, these Mass stipends can even be a crucial means of survival.
This is certainly the case in Madagascar, one of the poorest countries in the world. But while the Diocese of Morondava is materially poor, it is rich in priests: in the last 10 years, the number of priests in the diocese has more than tripled, from 20 to 70. As a result the diocese has even been able to send some of its priests to another recently founded diocese in the country and also to the island of Reunion, where the bishops were in need priests. Moreover, there are another 50 young men from the Diocese of Morondava who are currently training for the priesthood.
This rapid growth in priests in the diocese is partly due to the fact that a number of religious congregations have been established there. At the same time, Bishop Marie Fabien Raharilamboniaina is convinced that this boom in new vocations is also the fruit of prayer. He himself has written a special prayer for numerous and holy priestly vocations, and the Catholic faithful and especially the children are also praying regularly for their priests.
Bishop Marie tells us, “We are convinced that prayer leads to new vocations. A vocation is the fruit of prayer, and therefore we are insisting in all our schools not only on speaking about God but also on the need to give the children themselves the opportunity to speak with God in prayer.”
The bishop is deeply committed to his priests and to supporting them in living out their vocation. He tells us, “I invite my priests to embrace the promise that Jesus Himself has made and to rely upon divine providence. As Saint Teresa of Avila once said, ‘Take care of God‘s work, and God will take care of yours.’ I also tell my priests that the People of God will care for them.” Each year he also invites all the priests of his diocese to take part in spiritual exercises, ongoing formation sessions and a diocesan pilgrimage, and he regularly visits the parishes to help them in every possible way.
The local Christians also help their priests as well as they are able, yet they are poor and the priests need additional support to be able to continue their own spiritual formation and take part in things such as retreat days. While the faithful themselves have little, the priests for their part often do not even have the most basic means of subsistence; they don’t have enough to eat, they need support for accommodation, and they often have to travel on foot. As a result, they must turn to their bishop for help.
Fortunately, thanks to the Mass stipends offered by the generous benefactors of ACN, Bishop Marie Raharilamboniaina is able to provide some material support for his priests.
“We thank God for the priests who bear witness to His love in our diocese of Morondava and we thank all our generous benefactors for their love for our priests,” the bishop writes. “Our priests see you as a sign of divine providence.”
We are committed to supporting the 70 priests of the Diocese of Morondava with Mass stipends for a total of $23,900 – approximately $340 per priest per year.
Will you give to support these priests as they do God’s work in the midst of dire poverty in Madagascar? We are sure they will gratefully remember you in their prayers.
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