Ethiopia: Ongoing formation for the Capuchin missionary priests
The Capuchin Franciscan Friars have a strong presence in Ethiopia. Out of 90 or so who are working actively in the pastoral ministry, many are serving in remote and neglected areas where there is virtually no one else to help and support the ordinary people.
Generally speaking, priests are highly regarded in Ethiopia. At the same time, however, this means that people expect a great deal of them, turning to them in all their spiritual and material needs. They look to the priest to help with money, food, medicines, a place at school for their children or a place to study; they seek advice about how to make their crops grow better or how to provide better for their families; they look for help and instruction as to how to earn their daily living. In areas of extreme poverty and hardship the presence of the priest can mean a great deal to these people.
(A priest instruction seminarians at the Capuchin Franciscan Institute of Philosophy and Theology in Addis Abeba © Aid to the Church in Need)
Precisely because these priests have to be "all things to all men" it is essential for them not only to have a solid basic formation but also an opportunity for continuous, ongoing formation. That is why the Order of Friars Minor has decided to provide regular courses to enable its priests to deepen their knowledge of the Scriptures. This not only gives them the opportunity to deepen their relationship with Christ but also helps them in their vocation and enables them to become better preachers and root the Gospel message more deeply in the hearts of the faithful. These ongoing courses are also important for the priests personally, since after completing their basic formation these Capuchin Franciscans usually go straight into pastoral work and soon find themselves confronted, round the clock, with every imaginable kind of care and difficulty. As a result they scarcely have a moment to focus on their own personal prayer life and spiritual development. Hence these courses are a vital opportunity for them to recharge their spiritual batteries and refresh their spiritual knowledge. The Franciscans have asked for help with this cause and the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) will contribute $12,000 towards this ongoing formation programme.
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