From the Desk of Fr. John Pfannenstiel, OFM Cap.
On Saturday mornings, members of the Legion of Mary gather around a statue of our Blessed Mother to pray the rosary and help each other grow in their Catholic faith. Many of them are catechists for the children of Ugogo, Nigeria.
And an hour later hundreds of children appear for catechism classes.
What makes this quite unusual is where they are.
All of this is happening in an abandoned and partially dismantled factory. The concrete skeleton of the building surrounds them.
Life is not easy in this part of Nigeria.
Yes, there is poverty, but there is also Boko Haram, an Islamic terrorist group not so far away. Life is very difficult for Catholics. In recent weeks, the terrorists have murdered Priests and Sisters.
Several years ago our Capuchin friars established an elementary school in Enugu, a city about 30 miles away. It is jammed with students and has a long waiting list.
Yes, there are plans to enlarge the primary school in the near future.
But right now, they need a high school.
There are no public high schools in the region. The people are too poor to build one themselves.
The Capuchin missionaries have turned to us, the Seraphic Mass Association, to help establish the first secondary school in the area.
The local superior of the Capuchin friars, Fr. Johnie Anyanwu, is passionate for the people of Ugogo. He loves them like the Good Shepherd! I have talked with Fr. Johnie many times. He described the conditions for the people in Ugogo.
The people are simple, subsistence farmers with only enough land to barely provide for their families. They are devout Catholics. Most of them walk many miles to come to Church on Sundays and holy days. They love their children and want a better future for them. And they want them to be good Catholics.
Can you help our Capuchin missionaries build a Catholic high school for the poor people of Ugogo?
The friars have not yet named the high school, but they want to start building this year. Each year another grade will be added as construction progresses, with a total enrollment of 700 boys and girls.
The new Ugogo Catholic high school will be staffed with Capuchin friars and Franciscan Sisters. Seven of the friars and five Sisters are already certified to be teachers. They will do a great job.
The local people have donated land for the school, and they are eager to get this project started.
It will take five years or so to complete the new high school. To start the project the Capuchin missionaries need $400,000. Hopefully, the first class of ninth graders can begin studies a little over a year from now.
The Seraphic Mass Association has a reputation for getting things done right. We have a history of building wonderful Catholic schools in very poor areas of the world. And we have a great accountability system with every project we undertake.
With your help, I know we can change the future of hundreds of young people in Ugogo, Nigeria!
The Catholic faith is growing by leaps and bounds in Nigeria. The community of Capuchin friars is very young, established less than 40 years ago. The Capuchin community of priests and brothers is growing rapidly, with many enthusiastic and talented young men joining the Capuchin Order. They are also brave and bold in their Catholic faith.
The hunger for the Catholic faith and a solid Catholic education is growing, even with the threats of Islamic terrorists around the good people of Ugogo.
I pray that you will help us build a school for them.
Like most schools in many poor countries, there will not only be classrooms and offices, but dormitories, a dining hall, a chapel and gardens. Students will live and study at the Ugogo Catholic high school. Some will come from far away. The vast majority of children will not be able to study at home. There is no electricity. Food is minimal. Parents are illiterate. To learn well the children must live at the school.
I know this is a very big project. But I also know the good Catholic people of Ugogo and the entire region really need this school.
Will you help change the future of hundreds of children?
Your generous support will build a school for the children of Ugogo, provide a brighter future for generations to come, and help the missionaries in their work to establish the Catholic faith as a beacon of hope and light.
I can assure you that my Capuchin brothers in Nigeria will keep you in their prayers. With thankful hearts they will be honored to lift up your intentions and needs at the altar as they offer the holy Mass.
And I know the parents of Ugogo will be grateful forever for the future you have given to their children and grandchildren.
Yes, this is a project that will take a number of years to accomplish. Brick by brick, room by room, and building by building ... we can make this happen. We are in for the long haul, as they say, and with your help we will succeed!
In my conversations with Fr. Johnie I told him that we will try our best. I said, “I trust our wonderful Seraphic Mass Association family, and I put it all in God’s loving hands.”
It is quite inspirational to see men, women and children gather together in that dismantled and abandoned factory site. There they pray and learn our Catholic faith together. There they show their love for Jesus and our Blessed Mother. There they are moved to be hopeful and thankful.
We stand with the good Catholic people of Ugogo. Boko Haram fanatics will not defeat the love of God that comes to us in Christ Jesus!
Our Capuchin missionaries are with the people of Ugogo, strengthening their Catholic faith and giving hope to a new generation.
Thank you for your faith, generosity and support of our Capuchin missionaries and our Catholic family in Nigeria.
Your generous gift to begin construction of the new Catholic high school in Ugogo will give hope to countless families and help the Church be strong and grow even as it is threatened by terrorists.
Fr. John Pfannenstiel, OFM Cap.