By Ivo Aščić
Missionaries to Africa have had a long and sometimes unsettled history. There’s been the good of bringing education and good health practices to the population, of course, while spreading religious beliefs and practices. But sometimes missions have disrupted native culture and been a conduit for the less scrupulous to reap rewards of land and natural resources.
Bishop Friar Marko Dobretic (1707-1784) is an African missionary honored on a stamp. Dobretic was born in an area that today is part of central Bosnia, and was honored in 2007 on a stamp issued by Bosnia and Herzegovina (Croat Administration). Dobretic’s early studies and works through the Franciscan order took him to Italy. Dobretic returned to Bosnia in 1757, but in 1772 Pope Clement appointed him as an apostolic vicar and bishop in Eritrea, a state on the Horn of Africa.
This is not the place for religious, historical or political debate, but is where we can share information about the success of an ongoing stamp donation program that has spurred good works in modern Africa through an ongoing mission program.
But most people are not aware that stamps can help the hungry and poor people, but Brother Stjepan Dilber, from the Croatian Province of the Society of Jesus in Zagreb, has proven that. Here is his story.
During Brother Stjepan’s studies in Austria – when letters were a prevalent medium of communication – the well-studied philatelist realized that postage stamps could help his brother, Ilija, in his missionary work in Africa. In close to 50 years dealing with postage stamps and aiding missions, Brother Dilber has provided money for construction of several churches, schools and also helped in collecting food and education for the poorest children in several African countries just by selling postage stamps.
Several Croatian media outlets reported about Brother Stjepan’s unusual method of collecting aid. For this reason, then-President Ivo Josipović of the Republic of Croatia in 2011 awarded Brother Stjepan special recognition as the “Pride of Croatia.”
“Every day I get postage stamps and sometimes the whole collection from contributors and even unknown persons,“ Brother Stjepan said. “Organizers of prize games often send us tens of thousands of envelopes with stamps. I take stamps from the envelopes, dry and iron them and then sort them in albums by topic. I sell those stamps at much lower prices than on philatelic market. The whole income from stamps goes to missionaries in Africa for humanitarian purposes.
“Apart from the Croatian missionaries, I have also very good cooperation with highly active Slovenian missionaries of Pater Stanko Rozman and Lojze Podgrajšek in Malawi and Janez Mujdrica in Zambia, to whom I (have sent) donations for 20 years.”
Those who wish to contribute to the collection of aid for the mission (education of poor pupils, help hungry children, building schools etc.), by the donation of postage stamps or any other way (eg, phone cards, coins, etc.), can send to:
Misijski ured, Brat Stjepan Dilber, D.I., Palmotićeva 31, p.p. 699, 10001 Zagreb, Croatia; or by phone number +385 1 4803080.