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What Are the Home Missions?
“Home Missions” is the name for dioceses and parishes in America, in its territories and former territories, which cannot provide basic pastoral services to Catholics without outside help. By “basic pastoral services” we mean Mass and sacraments; religious education; ministry training for priests, deacons, religious sisters and lay people; and subsidizing poor parishes.
For many decades, the Church in the United States has sent missionaries overseas to serve the people of Latin America, Africa, Asia and Oceania. The Home Missions are dioceses and parishes here in America that need the same kind of support.
Where Are the Home Missions?
Surprisingly, the Catholic Church is poorly established in many parts of our country, especially Appalachia, the South, the Southwest along the Mexican border, the Rocky Mountain States, Alaska, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, and remote island chains like the Marshalls and the Carolines in the Pacific. Generally speaking, the home missions are everywhere Catholics are few and the Church is fragile.
Approximately 90 of the 200 Latin- and Eastern-rite dioceses in the United States, about 45 percent, are unable to provide the ministries of word, worship, and service for their people without funding from the Catholic Home Missions Appeal. They all need support from Catholics in places where the Church is better established.
The Diocese of Amarillo, Texas has 48 parishes and missions, many with less than 100 families. About half its parishes are without a resident pastor.
The tiny (737 square miles) Diocese of Caguas, Puerto Rico serves an estimated 800,000 Catholics with only 56 diocesan priests. The Archdiocese of Miami has 181 diocesan priests to serve about the same number.
Thousands of immigrants to the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux, Louisiana are from Mexico or Central America. Most are men, working in the construction industry, in sugarcane fields, or offshore on the oil platforms. Developing creative Hispanic Ministry programs is a whole new phenomenon in “Cajun country.”
Tucked into the northwest corner of Minnesota, the Diocese of Crookston is mostly small farms and small towns. Only 27 of the diocese's 69 parishes have a resident priest to celebrate Mass and administer the sacraments.
The canonical territory of the San Diego-based Chaldean Eparchy of St. Peter the Apostle serves 40,000 Arabic-speaking Catholics in 19 states: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, Oklahoma, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming.
The Diocese of Juneau, Alaska is 500 miles of islands, peninsulas, and fjords. Most of its 11 parishes and 13 missions are accessible only by bush air services or local ferries. The diocese's village missions may serve anywhere from four or five people to four or five families.
Only two people out of a hundred are Catholic in the Diocese of Knoxville, Tennessee. Some people in the Appalachian counties have never met a Catholic.
Having suffered the ravages of four hurricanes in eight years, the Diocese of St. Thomas (Virgin Islands) struggles to make ends meet. Many urban parishes in New England or the Midwest have larger budgets than the whole diocese. Strongly dependent on the tourist industry, the diocese receives approximately 25 percent of its total income from outside sources.
The Diocese of the Caroline Islands in the central Pacific faces a remarkable challenge. The bishop must forge a sense of Catholic community when the diocese covers well over a million square miles of Open Ocean, encompasses two different nations (Palau and the Federated States of Micronesia), and serves 135,000 people speaking four different languages. The 13 diocesan priests travel by motorboat and plane among the 100 or so inhabited islands.
In the Diocese of Baker, Oregon, the pastor celebrates Mass twice a month at St. Mary's Parish in Elgin. On the other Sundays, a deacon leads a Communion Service there, because the pastor must serve parishes in two other towns, La Grande and Union. There are only 25 active diocesan priests to cover 63 parishes and missions in this 65,000-square-mile diocese.
Words of Appreciation
"I am writing with a very grateful heart for your wonderful contribution to the diocese from the Committee on the Home Missions. Without your assistance, our diocese would be severely crippled as far as the assistance which we can give to our people"
Most Rev. David L. Ricken, Bishop of Cheyenne, Wyoming
"If you are looking for reasons to feel optimistic about the impact that Committee on the Home Missions' grants are having in broadening the reach of the Catholic Church, you need look no farther than this mainly rural mission diocese. The dollars entrusted to us by Catholic Home Missions are both a wonder and a blessing and go far in strengthening the Catholic presence."
Most Rev. John J. McRaith, Bishop of Owensboro, Kentucky
"It is difficult for me to express in words how important these Committee on the Home Missions' grants are to our diocese. Your grants help foster ministries to our faith-filled people."
Most Rev. Thomas J. Rodi, Bishop of Biloxi, Mississippi
Note: For fuller profiles of selected mission dioceses, see “In the Field” on this website.