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Catholic Home Missions Appeal to focus on rural, impoverished U.S. dioceses

.- “Support the Mission Church Here in America” is the theme for this year’s national Catholic Home Missions Appeal, sponsored by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. It is scheduled for the weekend of April 29-30.

Most Catholics in the U.S. live in urban centers where the local parish is only a few blocks away and the congregation numbers in the hundreds or even in the thousands.

But there are areas where the Church community is poor and destitute and where resources are very slim. The Diocese of Fargo, for example, recently announced a plan to close about 30 of its 160 parishes. In the Wyoming, Montana and Idaho, there is a total of only seven Catholic high schools. In Alaska, remote parishes might see a priest only once a month. Finally, there are also the traditional mission areas of Appalachia and the Deep South, where there is usually only one Catholic parish, with 20 or 25 families, in each county. There are many places in America where being Catholic is not so easy.

In a letter, Bishop J. Peter Sartain of Little Rock, chairman of the Committee on Home Missions, urged all U.S. bishops to give particular attention to the collection this year and to ask their pastors to personally explain its purpose of “sharing the wealth” to their parishioners.

The bishop said the 2005 CHMA will yield $9.4 million, a 12 percent increase over 2004. But, at a recent allocations meeting, the committee was faced with the difficult decision to reduce its maximum grant to the neediest U.S. dioceses from $175,000 to $150,000, and to reduce the amount of support given to other Home Mission dioceses.

Among the reasons for this decision was the $3 million given to the five dioceses walloped by the hurricanes.

The Bishops’ Committee on the Home Missions was founded as the American Board of Catholic Missions in 1924. In cooperation with the Black and Indian Missions Board (1885) and the Catholic Church Extension Society (1905), the Committee provides financial support for missionary activities that strengthen and extend the presence of the Church in the United States, in its island territories in the Caribbean and the Pacific.

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