The help given to the Church in Bulgaria by Aid to the Church in Need
Below is a brief summary of the aid given, (NB: in US dollars up to 1998 and in Euros from 1999 onwards):
1990 - $145,744; 1991 - $95,287; 1992 - $298,548; 1993 - $222,768; 1994 - $213,253; 1995 - $226,840; 1996 - $192,503; 1997 - $409,159; 1998 - $121,246;
1999 - 327,665 Euros; 2000 - 304,411 Euros.
Last year Aid to the Church in Need supported 39 projects in Bulgaria. Half of these were for the construction or renovation of churches, parish houses and convents.
The building up of Church structures continues to be a principal priority. Currently the Church is striving to obtain approval to rebuild the Latin-rite Catholic cathedral in Sofia. A few urgently needed churches are being built, since under communist rule the building of churches was forbidden. An additional priority is the whole area of Catholic education - especially youth work - so that people can be led into a living Faith. The various religious communities which are experiencing problems in maintaining themselves financially, owing to the widespread poverty among the population, are also receiving basic support from Aid to the Church in Need.
The Catholic Church in Bulgaria will continue to depend heavily on outside support for her survival.
(WB, January 2002)
A sample project of ACN in Bulgaria
New convent for the Benedictine Missionary Sisters in Sekirovo / Rakovski
The Benedictine Missionary Sisters are an international missionary congregation with around fourteen hundred members. From 1914 onwards they had been working in the north of Bulgaria in Zarevbrod and one or two other localities, in pastoral work, in education and in health care. In 1944 their houses were closed down by the communists. The last German sisters were expelled from the country in 1948. Their school in Zarevbrod was confiscated by the communists and turned into a psychiatric clinic. The 30 Bulgarian sisters of the congregation at the time were compelled to work in psychiatry in order to earn their living. The six nuns who survived this time are now between 70 and 80 years old and are all retired. Following the collapse of communism, a small section of the former convent was returned to the sisters, but the psychiatric clinic remained. For the sisters there was nothing else for it but to launch another apostolate, since there are now very few Catholics left in Zarevbrod.
In the year 2000 the bishop of Plovdiv asked the sisters to establish a house in his diocese. They set up a community in the parish house in Sekirovo. At present three of these sisters are already working in the parish, and more young sisters are waiting to join them.
Throughout the 40-plus years of Communist rule only a very limited range of religious and pastoral activities was permitted in Bulgaria. Although in theory almost the entire population of Sekirovo is Catholic, those who practise belong almost entirely to the older generation. Hence a particularly urgent task is the religious instruction of children and young people.
The Benedictine missionary sisters urgently need a convent of their own in which they can live out their religious vocation in accordance with the Rule of St Benedict. Currently three sisters are housed in a section of the parish house, but they are unable to live their community life in accordance with their Rule here. In any case, the parish needs these rooms for other purposes.
The bishop has offered the sisters a plot of land behind the church to build their convent on. The building is provisionally planned for five to six nuns. There will be additional rooms to house small groups of girls and to offer meetings and workshops in. Since three more sisters are already waiting to go to Bulgaria, this new convent is especially urgent. The sisters are working in pastoral work in the parish, especially with children, young people and women. Since the teaching of religious education was once again officially permitted, these sisters have also devoted themselves to this task.
The Bulgarian Catholics are very poor, and neither the parish nor the diocese can fund this new building. Hence Aid to the Church in Need has agreed to help with 20,450 Euros.
Photo: Sr Stella Matutina, 33, from the Philippines has worked in Bulgaria for 5 years. She says that she needs materials such as books and catechisms for the young people. It is not always easy she says “Communism has closed the people’s minds and when we try to teach them something new, it is very difficult … But the harvest is rich”, she says “though now is not the time for picking, it is time for sowing”.