“When life is easy and things are going well, you may feel that you don’t need to rely on God for your needs,” Catena said. “But when you’re faced with not being sure you’re going to survive these times, when there are sad things happening all around you, faith is the only thing left to rely on. It’s my faith that keeps me there.”
If there’s one thing Catena wants his supporters and fellow Christians to know, it’s that you don’t need to travel to a far-off country to serve God and others. You can take part in Catena’s mission, right where you are—because it’s not just his mission, but Christ’s.
“The biblical imperatives Christ gave us are real. When he says take care of the least of these, he means that,” Catena said.
The work Catena does may sound almost superhuman, and in a way, it is: Supernatural grace sustains him when human means fall short.
“We are really fortunate that we are a mission hospital, and the church is 100 feet away. We have a priest there who offers Mass every day. That’s really indispensable,” Catena said. “Without all that I don’t think I could keep doing this.”
Besides the Eucharist, Catena is is sustained through the intercession of the saints. He looks to them for inspiration, particularly the Sudanese saints Josephine Bakhita and Daniele Comboni. “We have a tremendous Catholic history here,” he said. Mother Teresa and St. Francis of Assisi, who both cared for the sick, are also patrons and role models for Catena.
“I think of St. Francis of Assisi and his approach, and I try to imitate that.” He mentioned the moment when St. Francis embraced a leper, as leprosy is very common in the Nuba mountains where Catena works. He has found that St. Francis’s life has particular relevance for the Church today.
“St. Francis lived at a time with a lot of scandals among the clergy, and I think there are a lot of parallels with our own time,” Catena said. Modern-day Catholics can see in St. Francis a model of faithfulness, even in a time of crisis.
“He didn’t leave the Church, but stayed and worked quietly and humbly to change it from within.” VIDEO Now, more than ever, the Church needs the laity to roll up their sleeves and take an active part in service, education, and ministry.
“Traditionally the church has relied on priests, sisters, and brothers to do this kind of work. But now there aren’t enough of them. We can’t sit back and expect them to do everything,” Catena said. “We as laity need to get involved.”
While most may not be called to move to Africa to do mission work, every Catholic can take stock of their time, talents, and gifts and figure out how best to serve.
“I think everybody can do something,” Catena said. “Take it as something personal. Really try to own your faith.”
These are hard times, without a doubt, but there is reason for hope, if you look for it.
“What I see the Church doing in Africa is incredible,” he said. “Don’t lose hope in your faith. I can promise you the Church is doing a lot of good.”
You can support Dr. Catena’s mission by donating to his
hospital in Sudan or to the Ararat Challege. Read more: Where are the oldest churches in Africa? Read more: Prayer to Saint Josephine Bakhita, who knew who she loved