A Catholic foreign aid organization aims to advance the "integral development" of people it helps around the world by serving both their physical and spiritual needs.

Jim Cavnar, president of Cross Catholic Outreach, said the Boca Raton-based organization was launched in 2001 to help Catholic missions in developing countries "grow and supply their outreaches to the poor."

Cavnar told CNA May 14 that a project is successful when it shows "transformative power" in people's lives, as when suffering children become well, poor students graduate from school, and communities gain access to safe water or health care.

"These practical changes are accompanied by spiritual guidance from our partner churches or missionaries, so even more positive changes follow. Men, women and children come to Christ, and through his teachings, they experience a change of heart that will last," he said.

Its programs include a Daughters of Charity project in Ethiopia that helps 70 women and girls from rural towns become financially self-sufficient. Another program in the Philippines helps 1,000 poor families build faith-based businesses through micro-loans and weekly fellowship groups, the organization said.

The outreach organization has supported feeding centers, water projects, home construction, health care, education and job training in over 40 countries. In ten years it has distributed $2 billion in aid, with organizational and corporate gifts of supplies like medicine playing an important role.

Cross Catholic Outreach is an affiliate member of Catholic Charities USA. It has worked with the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, which handles humanitarian outreach for the Pope. The organization previously focused on helping Cor Unum's response to disaster relief and refugee needs, though more recently it focuses on large projects for impoverished communities.

It is the sister organization of Cross International, which raises funds for Protestant-run aid programs from Protestant sources.

Cavnar said Cross Catholic Outreach works through existing churches in a way that is cost-effective and that "empowers indigenous Catholic leaders." Local bishops and clergy often refer the outreach organization to suitable local partners.

He said donors can fund specific projects, such as an orphanage in Mozambique, a fresh water well in Kenya, or a school for the poor in Haiti.

Cross Catholic Outreach has "felt the direction of God" in its work, Cavnar said. Its assistance has often arrived at struggling local ministries "just when they need help most" to keep from closing.  The organization has sometimes  received large and unexpected donations to help meet its own commitments.

"These experiences show us that God is in our work and that he is using CCO to answer the prayers of the poor," Cavnar said.

The outreach's website is www.crosscatholic.org.