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: Healing hatred and anger after Charlottesville

Sign up for a digital subscription to Denver Catholic!

The confrontation in Charlottesville, Virginia, and the nationwide reaction to it are clear signs of the tensions simmering just below the surface of our society. But we know as people of faith that these wounds can be healed if we follow Christ’s example, rather than the path of revenge.

It was with a heavy heart that I learned about the Aug. 12 clashes between white supremacists and counter protesters in Charlottesville that resulted in the injury of around 34 people and the death of Heather Heyer. It was an “eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth” melee.

These events remind me of Pope Francis’ 2017 World Day of Peace message, in which he pointed out that “Jesus himself lived in violent times. Yet he taught that the true battlefield, where violence and peace meet, is the human heart: for ‘it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come’ (Mk. 7:21).”

What we witnessed in Charlottesville was an outward expression of hundreds of hearts, and as a shepherd of souls, I cannot stand by silently while people allow hatred toward others rule their hearts. Particularly reprehensible were the derogatory words the neo-Nazis and their white supremacist allies shouted toward African Americans, Jews and Latinos. This is not how God sees his children!

Every human being is bestowed from the moment of conception with the dignity of being made in the image and likeness of God, and we are all loved by him, even amid our sin and brokenness. Satan seeks every opportunity to twist these fundamental truths in the hearts of human beings and we can see the devastation it brings throughout history.

It can be tempting to respond to these attacks on our fellow man with violence, just as the members of the Anti-fascist movement (known as “Antifa”) did in Charlottesville. But this is not what Christ taught, since it allows hatred to gain a foothold through a different avenue. It is worth repeating: the human heart is the true battlefield.

Jesus’ response to violence and persecution stands in contrast with the way of hatred and anger. Instead, he taught his disciples to love their enemies (Mt. 5:44) and to turn the other cheek (Mt. 5:39). Christ’s radical answer is only possible because God unconditionally loves every person and is ready to forgive us when we repent. God’s love is the only thing that can cut through the hatred that is bringing people to blows, heal the human heart and form it after his own. As people of faith, we are called to bring the truth of love to these festering wounds so that hearts may be healed by Christ.

Joseph Pearce, the Catholic convert and former white supremacist, is a perfect example of this. In a recent article for the National Catholic Register, he recalls how it was his encounter with the objective truths of the faith that demolished his race-centered identity and seeing his enemies love him when he confronted them with hatred that changed his heart. We must pray for the grace to love as Jesus loves, to love as the Father loves.

“The way out of this deadly spiral,” Pearce says, “is to go beyond the love of neighbor, as necessary as that is, and to begin to love our enemies. This is not simply good for us, freeing us from the bondage of hatred; it is good for our enemies also.”

May all of us follow the great example of Mark Heyer, the father of the woman who was killed after the white supremacist rally. His daughter’s death, Heyer told USA Today, made him think “about what the Lord said on the cross, ‘Forgive them. They don’t know what they’re doing.’”

Jesus desires that every person have a heart that is whole and free from hatred, anger and pride. He desires to form our hearts, and that only comes about when we are receptive to his unconditional love, for only in receiving his unconditional love will we be able to give it to others. I pray that all the faithful will be instruments of healing for our country by bringing Christ’s forgiveness to their neighbors and their enemies.