USA: This weekend Catholics can contribute with projects in Latin America

The U.S. Bishops’ Annual Collection for Latin America and the Caribbean will take place at Masses on Saturday, January 21 and Sunday, January 22

(C) Pexels
(C) Pexels

Hispanics in the U.S. have been blessed with countless opportunities. This is our great opportunity to give back to the Lord so many graces with which he has gifted us. In the countries where we come from, there are pressing needs, and we have to thank the Bishops of the United States, who, taking into account the hard trials faced by our brothers in Latin America and the Caribbean, organize every year an annual collection, with which they support (and we) projects at the service of the community, which need an economic boost to organize, develop, and empower themselves socially and spiritually.

Opportunity to change and save lives

“The Collection for the Church in Latin America is about changing lives – sometimes saving lives – and bringing people to Jesus. Your gift, no matter how large or small, will join with those of other Catholics to make a multimillion-dollar impact in places where people are praying for miracles,” said Bishop Octavio Cisneros, auxiliary bishop emeritus of Brooklyn and chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Subcommittee on the Church in Latin America.

Bishop Cisneros, who came to the United States as an unaccompanied teenage refugee after the communist takeover of Cuba, spoke of his desire to help people who face poverty or oppression in their homelands. “I know what it is to leave behind everything and everyone but Christ. You hold tight to God and to Our Lady for strength and hope, praying continually. Such are the prayers of those who survive disasters or seek faith in the face of crushing poverty or political oppression. Your gifts to the Collection for the Church in Latin America are the answers to many such prayers”, he expressed.

Together, we have contributed more than $6 million

In 2021, this collection provided 281 grants totaling more than $6.1 million for ministry, evangelization, vocations work, seminary training and to help churches recover from natural disasters. Nearly 50% was used for evangelization, faith formation, social ministry, and pastoral work. The next largest portion, totaling 29%, was for disaster response, followed by vocations and preparation for the priesthood or religious life at 20%, according to the report of USCCB.

Devastating hurricane relief and faith formation

It can be read in the mentioned report that in Nicaragua,  where political strife has compounded damage from two devastating hurricanes, recovery projects included building numerous rural chapels to replace those destroyed and training 1,200 lay leaders to provide emergency management services along with pastoral care.

In Cuba, this collection supports many community “mission houses” for prayer and evangelization, from which trained lay leaders go door-to-door each summer, telling thousands of people about Jesus in a nation that discourages religious faith.

In Haiti, 400 young people have received a theological education ranging from biblical studies to Catholic social teaching and are now ministering to hurting people in their communities.

Young men receive help in Paraguay on their way to the priesthood

In Brazil, the collection funded new commercial kitchen equipment for a community of contemplative nuns who support themselves by making communion hosts, while in Paraguay, 38 young men who had begun studies for the priesthood just before the global pandemic struck received support for basic needs such as food and healthcare.

Trip to Cuba

Fr. Leo Perez, Director of the subcommittee of the Church in Latin America, told Exaudi that he had just returned with Chairman of the subcommittee, Bishop Octavio Cisneros, from a site visit of the projects they support in Santiago and Guantanamo Cuba. This beautiful country is crippled by a weak economy and a government that historically suppressed the growth of the Church. Yet we met with lay Catechists, teenagers and adults, who are on fire with the Holy Spirit to spread the Gospel. These joy filled ministers meet with children in poor parishes every Saturday morning, and once a month with young people.

And he went on: “They do it using lively dynamics and materials which the CLA collection helps to provide, they are a continued presence of Christ in a country that does not support the growth of religion. The next day we joined them for a celebration of Epiphany, or the Three Kings day, in several parishes. Thanks to the contributions of generous people in the USA, they were able to provide a plate of food to children who often go hungry, while also teaching them the Gospel of Christ’s manifestation to the Magi and the world. I left inspired by their Apostolic faith to continue my own ministry”, he closed.

Give until it hurts, Carlo Carretto and the two blankets

I close this invitation to contribute to this campaign with this phrase of Mother Teresa: “Give until it hurts“, and whenever I use it, I take responsibility for the phrase and what follows. The gifts we have received from the Lord are infinite, and I think we are not sufficiently aware that God asks us to balance the scale at least a little. Be that as it may, we live in opulence. How much less could we live with so that other Christs may have a more dignified life?

I read it 40 years ago and I will not forget it. The writer Carlo Carretto recounts in Letters from the Desert that he was in the desert living a life of prayer and dedication. He found a poor man, old Kada, who was shivering with cold. Carlo had two blankets, but he gave none to Kadá, because he knew that if he gave him one, he would shiver with cold himself. Later, he was tortured by the thought of not having been radical in love, as Christ on the cross was to him.

I leave to the reader this meditation which helps me a lot to put things in context. And I take responsibility for saying it.

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