WASHINGTON--U.S. Catholics will once again have the opportunity to support the work of evangelization at home--from dioceses where a few Catholics are scattered across tens of thousands of square miles to those that struggle with overwhelming numbers concentrated in smaller areas--when the Catholic Home Missions Appeal (CHMA) is taken up later this month.
Strengthening the Church at Home is the theme for the second annual appeal for the home missions. The Appeal will be taken up in most dioceses of the country on April 25, the Fourth Sunday of Easter.
The Catholic Home Missions Appeal supports the work of the Church in more than 70 mission dioceses throughout the United States and its Caribbean and Pacific dependencies, where the local Church depends on significant outside help. Often living in isolated and remote areas, Catholics in these dioceses frequently face obstacles to practicing the faith that would be difficult for some of their co-religionists to imagine.
"The Catholic Home Missions Appeal helps the smallest parishes of our country keep their doors open," said Bishop Edward J. Slattery of Tulsa. Bishop Slattery is Chairman of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on the Home Missions, which coordinates the appeal.
"The Appeal provides the most basic funding for priests to travel to celebrate Mass in remote parishes as regularly as possible, so that people can be nourished by the Eucharist and the Word of God," the Bishop said. "It supports religious education programs so that our faith can be handed on to the next generation and so that adults can be enriched in their knowledge of the faith."
The Catholic Home Missions Appeal also assists formation for seminarians, catechists and adult leaders, and evangelization ministries to youth, ethnic communities, migrant workers, inactive Catholics, and those who have never heard the Good News of the Gospel.
"As Chairman of the Committee on the Home Missions, and on behalf of bishops in home mission dioceses, I ask your support for the Catholic Home Missions Appeal," Bishop Slattery said in a letter sent to pastors of Catholic parishes throughout the country. "Your pastoral leadership is essential to help the Church in the United States build a presence where it is absent and strengthen its presence where it is weak."
A promotional kit prepared by the NCCB Committee on Home Missions has been sent to diocesan coordinators and others throughout the country. It includes a full-color poster, a backgrounder, and a bookmark for parishoners (all in English and Spanish), a collection envelope, bulletin announcements/clip art, prayers of the faithful, photos, and camera-ready ads. Materials designed to paint a picture of life in the missions of the United States depict a wide variety of pastoral needs in a diverse range of dioceses. Among them:
--the Diocese of Cheyenne, the biggest geographic diocese in the continental United States, where 47 priests serve 50,000 Catholics scattered across 100,000 square miles.
--the Diocese of Brownsville, Texas, where there are more than 700,000 Catholics, many of whom don't speak English. About 40% of its population lives below the poverty level, and many are younger than eighteen. At the present growth rate, by the year 2000, there will be one priest for every 12,000 Catholics.
--the Diocese of Lexington, Kentucky, which serves 50 counties, 39 of which are in Appalachia, one of the country's most economically depressed regions.
--the Diocese of Pago Pago, American Samoa. The population of American Samoa is about 60,000, including some 9,000 Catholics. The dioceses consists of 9 parishes, plus a mission on the neighboring island of Manu'a. The largest parish has 1,000 families living in 5 villages.
NOTE: Interested persons can visit the Catholic Home Missions Appeal website, www.nccbuscc.org/em/homemissions, or contact the Committee on the Home Missions at 202-541-3010.