By Vatican News staff writer
The US Bishops’ Conference Subcommittee on Aid to the Church in Central and Eastern Europe is highlighting the Catholic Community in Kyrgyzstan in its collection campaign slated for Ash Wednesday, 17 February 2021.
Kyrgyzstan, the Bishops said in a statement on Monday, “is often compared to Switzerland for its beauty and to Siberia for its history as a Soviet gulag.” Inadvertently, the Catholic Church was revived in the country when it was used as a prison for ethnic Poles and Germans deported from western Russia for refusing to denounce their faith during the communist regime.
The bishops noted that since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, countries in Central and Eastern Europe “have been working to rebuild their religious life as well as government structures, social welfare activities and economies.” More so, Catholics of that region, who have endured decades of anti-religious persecution under Soviet rule, are in urgent need.
The collection for Central and Eastern Europe, therefore, the bishops clarified, will support “seminaries, youth ministry, social service programs, and pastoral centres, as well as church construction and renovation in 28 nations that were once under communist control.”
A church filled with fervor
"During my visit to Kyrgyzstan in 2019,” recounts Bishop Jeffrey M. Monforton, president of the USCCB Sub-Committee for Aid to the Church in Central and Eastern Europe, “I was moved and humbled by the fervor of the people - including the young people - who filled the churches.”
“One of the most moving experiences of my ministry”, he continued “was to confirm an elderly woman in a nursing home. She had been baptized as an infant, but her parents were afraid to allow her confirmation. For many, many years, she prayed to receive the sacrament, and saw my visit as an answer to her prayers.”
Encouraging support for the collection campaign, Bishop Monforton explained that the generosity of the faithful “will impact the lives of many in Central and Eastern Europe.”
Aid to churches in need
In 2020, the USCCB Sub-Committee for Aid to the Church in Central and Eastern Europe awarded $6.1 million in funding for 323 projects in 25 countries.
For the Ash Wednesday collection, the faithful who are unable to attend Mass in person are encouraged to contact their local parishes for giving options since many of them support online/electronic donations. Some dioceses have also selected different dates for the campaign to avoid conflict with local activities.
Further information about the collection campaign can be accessed on the US Bishops’ Conference website.