By Catholic News Service
Editor's Note: This is a column provided to Catholic News Service by Bishop W. Shawn McKnight of Jefferson City, Missouri, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Subcommittee on the Catholic Home Missions. The annual national Catholic Home Missions Appeal is scheduled for the weekend of April 23-24.
One of many lessons I've learned as a bishop is that miracles do happen. And, as I praise God for his work in the Diocese of Jefferson City, I also need to thank parishioners nationwide who participate in the Holy Spirit's transformation of lives by giving to the Catholic Home Missions Appeal of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
The appeal, which many dioceses across the country will take up in their parishes on April 23-24, supports Catholic ministry in dioceses where population density or economic challenges make it difficult to sustain faith formation and social outreach ministries. In 2021, the collection distributed nearly $9.3 million in grants for projects ranging from marriage preparation to seminary education to retreats for military veterans.
Through the Catholic Home Missions Appeal, parishioners "strengthen the church at home," sharing their blessings with fellow Catholics who lack the resources in their region. The renewal that I've seen as a result inspired me to accept the chairmanship of the USCCB Subcommittee on the Catholic Home Missions. I want every Catholic to know the great good that is done through their gifts. Their generosity makes visible and tangible the love, hope and healing that Jesus brings through the church that he founded.
One of our mission dioceses, the Diocese of Gallup, New Mexico, embodies Pope Francis' vision of "a church that is poor and for the poor." Its 52 parishes and 22 missions serve a territory the size of Illinois, much of it uninhabitable desert or mountains. People live hardscrabble lives, often hours away from stores, doctors -- and church. Consequently, in one remote parish, few young people were coming to religious education.
With help from the Catholic Home Missions Appeal, that parish's pastor recruited a team of loving and energetic sisters to run a three-week faith formation camp for the youth. Those young people experienced such joy in their faith that many of them brought their parents back to church.
Gallup is just one of more than 75 dioceses, eparchies and mission prelatures in the United States and its territories that regularly experience such miracles through the assistance offered by the Catholic Home Missions Appeal. The parishioners are often people of great faith who just need resources to share that faith with others.
My brother in Christ, Bishop Nicholas Samra of the Melkite Eparchy of Newton in Massachusetts, travels constantly among his 54 parishes and missions, which are spread between New England, the South and Southern California. Many have experienced dramatic growth from refugees fleeing civil war in Syria. Through gifts to the Catholic Home Missions Appeal, Bishop Nicholas is able to provide much-needed pastoral and social care to traumatized Catholics who arrived with little but the clothes on their backs.
Many mission dioceses serve populations that are unknown to most people but are close to the heart of God. Among them are the people of the Marshall Islands, whose five islands and 29 atolls in the South Pacific are scattered across an area larger than California. A half-dozen priests serve 5,000 Catholics, who comprise about 10% of the population.
Despite their poverty, these Catholics offer joyous witness to the Christian faith. Seafarers, who often spend months or years far from their families under grueling conditions, are of special concern. Thanks to your donations, sailors and fishermen arriving in ports across these islands can turn to the Catholic Church for health care and counseling, as well as for the sacraments.
On the Blackfeet (Pikuni) Indian Reservation in the Diocese of Helena, Montana, children attending the De La Salle Blackfeet School receive a quality academic education that is integrated with both the Catholic faith and their Native culture. To keep the school affordable for impoverished families, most teachers are one- or two-year volunteers. Gifts to the Catholic Home Missions Appeal support the purchase of multimedia religious education materials for the De La Salle Blackfeet School in the Diocese of Helena to strengthen its evangelization activities.
Your generous donations to the Catholic Home Missions Appeal strengthen the Catholic faith among people in our country who have no means to support crucial ministries.
On April 24, please give generously to the Catholic Home Missions Appeal through the offertory collection at Mass or your parish's e-offertory platform. #iGiveCatholicTogether also accepts funds for the collection. To learn more about the appeal and those who benefit from it, visit www.usccb.org/committees/catholic-home-missions.