Denver faithful buy cows for struggling African diocese

Small herd will be income source for Congolese Catholics

Roxanne King

Thanks to the support of local parishes through the Missionary Cooperative Plan, a diocese in Democratic Republic of Congo now has a starter herd of cattle, which means hope for meeting future needs.

Cattle are fundamental to the people of rural Africa, providing food and a means of financial support. Before civil wars devastated DR Congo’s economy, the Diocese of Kabinda in Congo-Kinshasa had a thriving herd of 1,500 cattle. Sadly, during the conflicts, rebels stole the herd.

This summer, Congo native Father Kibambe Crispin, parochial vicar at St. Therese Parish in Aurora, made a Missionary Cooperative Plan appeal to three parishes of the Denver Archdiocese to buy cattle for his home diocese. Through the generosity of parishioners—particularly Risen Christ Parish—$36,000 was raised, enabling the Kabinda Diocese to buy two-dozen cattle, which could eventually grow to a herd of 250.

“The diocese can get money in the future (from these cows),” explained Father Crispin, adding that it plans to sell cattle, meat and manure from the herd. Ideally, the Kabinda Diocese would like to have a herd of 100 cattle to expand to create a sustainable source of income for its needs.

“The diocese is facing a lot of challenges: there is no car for it; parish rectories aren’t in good condition; churches need repainted. We want to build a school in each parish,” Father Crispin said. “If someone would like to help they can send donations to the Diocese of Kabinda through the Missionary Cooperative Plan.”

Located in central Africa, the Kabinda Diocese is home to over a half-million Catholics. It has 30 parishes, 65 priests, 160 lay religious and 59 seminarians.

Although rich in natural resources, political instability, corruption and a lack of infrastructure have kept the people of DR Congo among the poorest in the world. Despite the nation’s problems, the Catholic Church has remained a constant stabilizing force, leading scholar Michael Schatzberg to describe the Church as DR Congo’s “only truly national institution apart from the state.”

The Missionary Cooperative Plan, a project of the Denver Archdiocese’s Social Ministry Office, works to foster the spirit of mission outreach. Each year, in partnership with the Society of the Propagation of the Faith, representatives from Catholic organizations visit parishes to share their experiences and ask for financial support and prayers. St. John Paul II described the necessity of missionary outreach in the encyclical “Redemptoris Missio,” saying: “Local churches … must always maintain an effective sense of the universality of the faith, giving and receiving spiritual gifts, experiences of pastoral work in evangelization and initial proclamation, as well as personnel for the apostolate and material resources.”

Although economically poor, the people of Africa are rich in faith, boasting one of the world’s largest Catholic populations (158 million) and turning out a high percentage of the Church’s priests. Father Crispin is among the priests his homeland has shared with the Denver Archdiocese.

“My presence here is a blessing (for me),” he said about ministering in Denver, adding that it’s a grace meant to be shared with Catholics back home. “My wish is to help my diocese.”

TO HELP

Email: Fara.Kearnes@archden.org
Call: Social Ministry Office, 303-715-3171

COMING UP: 500 years later, who was Luther?

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Hero, villain, heretic, saint, reformer, corrupter, man of integrity, bombastic glutton. Which image of Luther should we believe? Because Luther primarily sought not to reform abuses in the Church but to reform the Church’s beliefs, Catholics cannot recognize him as a true reformer or a holy man. Nonetheless, it is widely agreed that Luther played a major role in shaping the modern world. With the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Protestant movement he initiated approaching on October 31st, we have been given a number of new books to assess his legacy.

Paul Hacker, Luther’s Faith: Martin Luther and the Origin of Anthropocentric Religion, preface by Pope Benedict XVI (Emmaus, 2017).

Hacker’s book provides an in-depth, theological analysis of the issue that stands at the heart of the Reformation: Luther’s teaching on salvation by faith alone. Pope Benedict’s preface tells us that the Reformation dispute fundamentally concerned Luther’s “turning away from the center of the Gospel” (xxii). Emmaus released a new edition of Hacker’s book for the anniversary this year. It was published originally in 1970 (in English translation), the fruit of Hacker’s own intense study of Luther’s teaching on faith that led him into the Catholic Church from German Lutheranism.

Catholics agree with Protestants that salvation comes only through faith. The key issue of dispute, which Hacker reveals, is Luther’s subjective emphasis of absolute, personal certainty, which cannot be undermined even by serious sin. Hacker describes Luther’s faith as reflexive, that is turned back on oneself, by emphasizing subjective experience and personal surety more than anything else. He describes how Luther differs from the Catholic position: “Faith is the way to, or the perquisite of, salvation, but Luther makes it coincide with salvation itself. This becomes possible because he has first identified salvation with the consciousness of being saved or the certitude of salvation, and then he equates this consciousness with faith” (71). Hacker shows us how this view of faith negated the Church’s authority, the sacraments, and even the need to love God.

Brad Gregory, Rebel in the Ranks: Martin Luther, the Reformation, and the Conflicts that Continue to Shape Our World (HarperOne, 2017).

For those looking for a more general and accessible book, Brad Gregory gives us a broader narrative of how Luther’s troubled conscience exploded into the crisis that tore Christendom in two. The first section looks at Luther’s own story, tracing step by step his conflict with Church authority. The second section explains how Luther’s teaching spawned a multitude of new sects and divisions, all interpreting the Bible in their own fashion. Greggory explains: “What the early Reformation shows so clearly is that scripture and the Spirt can be interpreted and applied in radically divergent ways. Once the papacy and the Catholic Church are thrown off, there are no shared authorities to adjudicate disagreements” (137). The final section looks at how the Reformation set the tone for the development of a secular culture. Though not intending these consequences, Gregory argues that the Protestant Reformers “led indirectly to a profound diminishing of Christianity’s public influence in Western societies. The religious disagreements and conflicts that followed the Reformation set the stage for religion’s eventual separation from the rest of life” (2).

Eric Metaxas, Martin Luther: The Man Who Rediscovered God and Changed the World (Viking, 2017).

Metaxas, who wrote a monumental biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, provides us with a different perspective on Luther. His book seems poised to capture the largest audience for the anniversary this year. While I can’t agree with his view of Luther as a hero of faith, I can appreciate his presentation of a more sympathetic and thorough look at a man who has inspired many Protestant Christians. It is helpful to recognize why Luther is such an important figure for so many people. This book definitely provides many more details on the life of Luther (with over 450 pages). However, I would exercise caution, because it unfortunately also contains many gross misrepresentations of the state of the Church at the time of the Reformation.

For instance, even though Metaxas shows us many ways that Luther encountered the Bible in his early life, he still claims that the Bible and Church had no connection in the early 1500s and that “the study of the Bible per se was simply unheard of” (52). Luther himself was a theology professor and throughout the Middle Ages the Bible was the primary text for teaching theology. Brad Gregory makes clear in his book on Luther that there were even “twenty-two editions of the complete vernacular Bible . . . published in German . . . by 1518” (29). Metaxas presents a false picture of Catholics as ignorant, afraid to pray to Christ, and thinking they must earn their salvation through works. Good historical research could easily dispel these myths, such as the books of Eamon Duffy, but we see Protestants continue to project Luther’s own scruples (hating God and spending six hours in Confession, 47) onto the Church of his time.

Jerome K. Williams, True Reformers: Saints of the Catholic Reformation (Augustine Institute, 2017).

What could have Luther been if he had chosen faithful reform? The answer is a saint. There is no doubt that the Church was in need of serious reform in the 1500s. We have a number of great saints who show us that fidelity to God does not contradict fidelity to His Church. They stood against corruption and initiated deep and abiding reform. The Augustine Institute has release both a book and video series on true reformers, who boldly spoke out against abuses and led to a deeper realization of the truth found in the Bible, read in harmony with the Church. These figures—Teresa of Avila, Thomas More, Ignatius of Loyola, and Charles Borromeo, for instance—continue to inspire us to take up the task of genuine reform today.