I can think of no better way to start the New Year than by saying a heartfelt thank you to a kind and true friend. Your generosity over the past year has blessed the lives of the poor in the missions and the ministries of grateful Franciscan missionaries. In the light and comfort of your friendship, I am writing to thank you once again for all you have done to support our missionaries who have dedicated their lives in service to God’s people, especially the poor.
Through your prayers and faithful generosity, we have fed, educated and provided medical treatment to thousands of orphans and other children living on the streets near our missions. I can think of no better example than seeing the smiling faces of the children at St. Joseph Parish in Quezon City, the Philippines, as they ate a delicious meal prepared by parish volunteers. For Teresa and her younger brother Paul, it may have been their first and only meal that day. If eyes could cut through the heart, they took a huge slice of mine that day.
Your support has enabled us to treat people suffering from malaria, tuberculosis and leprosy at our hospital in Guinea Bissau, West Africa, and other clinics in developing countries around the world. Fr. Victor will be able to purchase a year’s worth of medications to sustain the care of patients at Cumura Hospital.
You have helped us care for hundreds of families trapped in war-torn Syria by providing them with food, housing, medical assistance and other essential items. Despite what we may hear on the news, the situation has become worse and not better for many people, especially families and children. Working hospitals and clinics are bombed when the beds are full of patients.
You helped us rebuild a Franciscan school for poor children in Mozambique that was destroyed by a typhoon. The friars contacted us shortly after the typhoon cut a path of destruction through Beira and destroyed the church, the friary, and the school. The Franciscan missionaries asked us to help them rebuild the school first so the children could return to their classes.
Your prayers for us bless the Franciscan Order with seminarians, and your gifts have helped us educate future Franciscan missionaries who will serve the poor for generations to come. At the novitiate house in Mbarara, Uganda, twenty novices were forced to share five small bedrooms this year. Five young men are sharing a guest room with no common facilities at the Aspirancy House in Calbayog City, Philippines. Construction of new homes for the novices in Uganda and the aspirants in Calbayog should begin this month. I am sure you can imagine the hope, joy and renewed life these young men represent to our worldwide Franciscan community.
Your generosity allows 135 primary and high school children to gather at St. Mary Parish in Negril, Jamaica, where they receive a good breakfast, clean uniforms, a place to do homework and then are transported to school under the Get Kids to School (GKTS) program. At the end of the school day, the Franciscans transport the children back to the parish hall where they receive a meal and are given time to do school work in groups under the supervision of parishioners. This is the second year that the Franciscans have been able to provide scholarships for five graduates of GKTS to attend university. This program is highly successful and could grow to include more children with increased funding.
Through the generosity of friends of Franciscan Missions, three families were given the keys to new homes constructed for them in Galapagos, Ecuador.
These are just a few examples of the breadth and depth of our work with the poor around the world. In this New Year, these same types of service to the poor will continue through the tireless efforts of our Franciscan missionaries.
We will also continue supporting the education and formation of young seminarians who wish to dedicate their entire lives in service to God and the poor as Franciscan missionaries. Many come from poor, developing areas of our world where their Franciscan presence is needed. Some must be turned away because the Order does not have enough funds for their education and training. In many locations, young aspirants and novices are sleeping on the floor or sleeping in bunk beds six to a room in a space designed for two. Some Franciscan provinces cannot accept any more young men because there is no space.
Finding the funds to house, educate and form these young men to serve as Franciscan missionaries is a great challenge that our worldwide Franciscan Order faces in the New Year.
We will continue to support feeding programs for children in the Philippines and Africa. In addition, orphans in several countries will continue to need housing, good food, clothing and education at our Franciscan missions.
I hope you take pride and joy in what you have helped accomplish in partnership with our Franciscan missionaries. If possible, I ask you to consider continuing your support in this New Year, and I invite you to share ever more deeply in our Franciscan lives and ministries.
As Franciscan friars, we live each day in faith that God will always provide. And God has blessed our Franciscan missionaries and the poor they serve with faithful and caring friends like you. We thank God for you!
Happy New Year,
Brother Andrew Brophy, OFM
P.S. Your faithful commitment and generosity strengthen us for the challenges of the year ahead. We are so grateful to have you walking with us as 2020 unfolds. I thank you in advance for your support of our work with the poor in the missions.