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Photo Credit: Courtesy of Franciscan Charities

Project successful in funding clean-water wells in Africa

Franciscan Father Jean-Marie Mufeji's parish of 25 villages in the Democratic Republic of Congo covers about 1,930 square miles. Many of those villages do not have ready access to safe drinking water.

Previously, the women and girls from the village of Mulenga, had to walk 3.7 miles to find water. But thanks to donors to Franciscan Charities, including readers of the St. Louis Review, safe drinking water now is available from a well constructed in February.

A year ago, the Franciscans of Sacred Heart Province in St. Louis asked Review readers to help with the project in parishes in the Democratic Republic of Congo and in South Sudan. The plans for South Sudan stalled because of widespread violence, but efforts in the Democratic Republic of Congo moved forward.

A well in the village of Kienge was completed last month, and funds have been provided to finish another well, which was started by the government but not finished. A Franciscan friar serving in another area has a few small projects costing about $5,000 each that will be funded by Franciscan Charities.

"We'll also continue to work with Father Jean-Marie Mufeji as he identifies more villages in his area that need water," said Father John Eaton, OSF, director of Franciscan Charities, a ministry of the Franciscan province based in St. Louis at St. Anthony of Padua Parish.

The Franciscans started the effort as a Year of Mercy project in areas where Franciscans serve, focusing on one of the Corporal Works of Mercy, to "give drink to the thirsty." The goal was $50,000 for two wells, and about $19,000 had been raised when the Review article was published. To date, the Franciscans have collected $92,000, and their charity now expects to fund up to eight wells, possibly more if funding increases in the ongoing project.

According to Father Eaton, clean drinking water means that the 60 homeless or abandoned boys in the Congo at a ministry operated by Father Damien Isabell — a former member of the Sacred Heart Province who is now in the province in Africa — no longer will have to worry about getting malaria and typhoid fever from unsafe water. Waste or agricultural run-off pollutes many streams and rivers in Africa. 

>> How to help

To make an online gift, visit www.franciscancharities.org. Checks should be made out to Franciscan Charities and mailed to Year of Mercy Project, 3140 Meramec St., St. Louis, MO 63118. 

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