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: Relativism: An obstacle to the pursuit of truth

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When I was a kid, my favorite television show was The Partridge Family. Mostly because I was completely enamored of the late David Cassidy, whom I was convinced I would marry some day. But also because the show featured just the kind of mildly corny humor a seven year old is inclined to enjoy.

I remember one joke in particular. Keith (David Cassidy) is trying to give big brotherly advice to Danny (Danny Bonaduce). He says “If you just believe, you can be anything you want to be.”

Danny responds, “Great! I want to be a black woman.” Laugh track ensues. Because everybody knows that a pale white, red-headed, freckle-faced kid cannot grow up to be a black woman.

I was thinking about that scene as I was listening to Bishop Robert Barron Feb. 6, giving a riveting talk on relativism to a packed house here in Denver. As he spoke about the philosophical underpinnings of relativistic thinking, I realized that joke couldn’t be told today. Because, as a society, we don’t seem to agree that race, gender, or just about anything else, are based in any kind of objective truth.

Bishop Barron spoke of a video you may have seen. A rather short male interviewer asks college students what they would think if he told them he identifies as a woman. Then an Asian woman. Then a 6’4” Asian woman. They hesitate at times, but all ultimately agree that if that is his “truth,” then he is indeed entitled to be a tall Asian woman.

That is the ultimate expression of relativism.

Relativism, boiled down, is essentially the belief that there is no “objective” truth that is true for all. Rather, we as individuals, each establish our own subjective “truths,” and we live “authentically” to the extent that we honor these individual “truths.”

The speed with which we have descended down this path is breathtaking. When I was in my 20’s (which was not long ago at all — right???), I used to debate abortion at Berkeley. Not exactly a friendly audience — I remember mentally noting exits, including windows, that I could utilize if things got out of hand. But they showed up, and they listened, because there was still some understanding in society that there was such a thing as truth, and hence an openness to listen to others to see if together we could arrive at that truth. Or, at the very least, that I could employ the truth as I see it to convince you that your understanding of the truth is flawed.

Not so today. Open discussion of controversial issues is almost nonexistent on most college campuses. Of course. If I have my truth and you have your truth, what would be the point? We are just supposed to respect each others’ truths and move on.

But the problem is that we all have to play together in the same sandbox. Somebody’s truth has to rule our social interaction. If we can’t come to an agreement about whose truth is truer, then the only option left is force. And so, instead of listening to what you have to say, I attempt to forcibly shut you down. I smash windows. I disrupt your talk. Or, alternatively, I call on the authority of the university to do that dirty work for me while I hide in a safe space with my crayons and puppy videos.

Pope Benedict XVI called relativism a “dictatorship.” And, ironically, it is. The philosophy that purports to allow everyone to believe as he wishes, actually allows no one to believe in anything but relativism. And because there need be no rhyme nor reason behind any individual belief, enforcement through persuasion becomes impossible. Hence, the inevitable clash of ideologies. And it will be the stronger, not the most persuasive, who will prevail.

Parents, please — teach your children that there is such a thing as truth. That yes, we may disagree with others about what that truth is. That we respect people — all people — regardless of their beliefs. (Another objective truth.) But beneath the disagreement, there is a truth. There is a God or there isn’t. Jesus Christ is divine or He isn’t. Sexual expression has an inherent meaning or it doesn’t. Gender is fixed or it isn’t.

[And parents, if you want help with this, get your hands on Chris Stefanik’s book Absolute Relativism, and check out his YouTube videos on the same subject.]

In any disagreement about objective truths, someone is right and someone is wrong. Or perhaps both are partially wrong and neither grasps the full truth. But the truth is there.

In the old days, our goal was to find it.