WASHINGTON (April 19, 2005)-"Strengthening the Church at Home" is the theme for the Catholic Home Missions Appeal which is scheduled nationally for the weekend of April 23-24.
The Catholic Home Missions Appeal (CHMA) provides a way for Catholics in more prosperous communities to assist their fellow Catholics in places where the Church struggles just to keep parishes open and to educate children in the faith. There are many more such communities in this country than many people realize.
Ninety U.S. dioceses (out of 195) rely on the CHMA to assist with the basic work of the Church: assisting poor parishes, youth ministry, training lay ministers, educating seminarians, training deacons, religious education, working with growing populations of Hispanics, African Americans, and other minority Catholics, evangelization, and migrant ministry.
Some Catholics who think they don't know what a "home mission" is might be surprised to learn they have traveled through one. Anyone who has ever visited eastern Kentucky or Tennessee, driven through rural Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi, spent time on the Mexican border, or passed through scattered small towns in Wyoming, Montana, or Oregon, has been in mission territory. The little brick or clapboard churches seen along the way are representative of the home missions. The Appeal also benefits Catholic communities in Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and island chains in the Pacific with ties to America. Examples from mission territories abound:
The Archdiocese of Anchorage has 19 active priests to serve the towns and villages of central Alaska; the Diocese of Lubbock in the Texas panhandle has 34 priests to cover 62 parishes and missions; the Diocese of Little Rock, which covers the State of Arkansas, has 109 priests for 123 parishes and missions; there are 70 priests in the State of Utah, 57 in Idaho, and 45 in Wyoming.
This year the Catholic Home Missions Appeal will award $10,641,500, an increase of $231,500 over last year. Some 90 dioceses and 20 Catholic organizations will be among the recipients. In addition to the usual grants, an additional $200,000 will enable young people in rural dioceses to have some experience of the universal Church by participating in World Youth Day which will be held in Cologne, Germany this summer.
This year's grants were finalized at a recent meeting in Little Rock. Bishop J. Peter Sartain of Little Rock is Chairman of the Committee on the Home Missions. They will be disbursed beginning July 1, 2005.
Since 1927, the Committee on the Home Missions has paid special attention to members of minority groups. About 40% of the funds raised through the Catholic Home Missions Appeal this year funded ministry among Hispanics; 15% supported Eastern Catholic churches in the United States; 7% went to Asians; 6% to Native Americans; 6% to African Americans; and 2% for ministry among Pacific and Caribbean islanders. The Committee on the Home Missions is the only Latin Rite entity that consistently supports the Eastern Catholic eparchies.
It also supports Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps chaplains through the Archdiocese for the Military Services, U.S.A.
The Committee on the Home Missions is the successor to the American Board of Catholic Missions begun in 1924. Until 1999, the CHM received a percentage of the Mission Sunday collection taken up in most dioceses in October; now all funds from that source go to overseas missions. The Catholic Home Missions Appeal was established by the Bishops in 1997 to guarantee continued funding of the home missions.
NOTE: Further information is available from the Catholic Home Missions Appeal at www.usccb.org/hm