WASHINGTON (March 13, 1998) -- "Strengthening the Church at Home" is the theme for the first Catholic Home Missions Appeal (CHMA), scheduled for Sunday, April 26.
The term "home missions" describes isolated or remote areas where Catholics are relatively few in number and parishes are widely scattered. The goal of the appeal is to support the missions in the United States and its dependencies so that Catholics living in these areas can continue to hear the Gospel message.
The appeal is sponsored by the Bishops' Committee on the Home Missions, successsor to the American Board of Catholic Missions (ABCM). For more than 70 years, grants to the home missions were made by the ABCM from its portion of the Mission Sunday collection, established in 1924, but the ABCM share of that collection is being steadily reduced in order to provide more help in Latin America, Asia and Africa.
The U.S. Bishops authorized the Catholic Home Missions Appeal last year. Bishop Edward J. Slattery of Tulsa is Chairman of the Committee on the Home Missions.
"The needs of the home missions are not new, nor is our involvement," Bishop Slattery said. "But through the appeal, individual Catholics can show their concern for those who live in areas where the Church is struggling. It is an opportunity for Catholics in the United States to take care of their own."
The Catholic Home Missions Appeal will help fund diocesan evangelization efforts, parish religious education programs, education of seminarians, lay ministry training, and the pastoral care of growing migrant and ethnic communities on both diocesan and national levels.
"We seek to support the missions in the United States and its dependencies so that Catholics living in those areas can continue to hear the Gospel message and live it out," Bishop Slattery said in a letter sent to every bishop in the country.
"Contributions to the CHMA will continue to support the mission dioceses, organizations and religious institutes the American Board of Catholic Missions has funded throughout the past 70 years," Bishop Slattery wrote. "Time and again we have heard from our grantees that they depend on our financial support. A successful appeal will ensure that the faith will not be denied to those who hunger for it."
In a letter to pastors, Bishop Slattery noted that the ABCM distributed more than $5 million to the home missions in 1997. "If the bishops' Committee on the Home Missions cannot replace this funding, the Catholics of small-town Utah and Alabama, of dusty west Texas and remote Alaska, of tiny villages in the dioceses of the Pacific, will suffer in the practice of the faith," he said.
Promotional materials for the first Catholic Home Missions Appeal have been sent to bishops, pastors, editors, and diocesan coordinators throughout the country. The promotional kit contains materials designed to show the reality of missions in the United States. It includes a full-color poster (in English and Spanish), a backgrounder (in English and Spanish), the collection envelope, bulletin announcements/clip art, prayers of the faithful, reflections on the Sunday readings, and a press release with photos.
Mary Mencarini Campbell is National Coordinator for the Catholic Home Missions Appeal and may be reached at 202-541-3010. The E-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.