Zambia, a landlocked country in southern Africa, is fortunate in enjoying a degree of stability – unlike many other African countries. Nevertheless, the country still faces serious challenges, including poverty, poor infrastructure and an alarmingly high rate—12 percent—of HIV/AIDS, which has resulted in numerous children becoming 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, but in recent years there has been greater activity and an increase in the spread of Islam.
At present, one of the major problems lies in the spread of fundamentalist sects which spring up with simplistic and populist messages. 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 fall prey to such false promises.
Crucial to work of the Church 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 in Zambia 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 training for the priesthood. The diocese lies in the west of the country and covers a vast area: some 35,000 square miles. It has 13 parishes, each as large 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 due to distance and isolation, they are more likely to turn to sects.
The local Church is poor, and a solid and thorough priestly formation takes many years and costs great deal of money. Consequently ACN is keen to support the formation of these eight young seminarians and has promised a contribution on $9,500 for the present academic year.
Will you give to support these poor seminarians in Zambia? We are sure they will remember you in their grateful prayers.
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