by Julie Asher
WASHINGTON (OSV News) — Funding from the U.S. Catholic bishops’ annual national Collection for the Church in Latin America made it possible for a community of contemplative nuns in Brazil, who support themselves by making Communion hosts, to buy new commercial kitchen equipment.
In Haiti, funding from the collection also allowed 400 young people to receive a theological education ranging from biblical studies to Catholic social teaching. Today, they are ministering to hurting people in their communities.
These and many other examples illustrate that the collection “is about changing lives — sometimes saving lives — and bringing people to Jesus,” said retired Auxiliary Bishop Octavio Cisneros of Brooklyn, New York.
The bishop is chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Subcommittee on the Church in Latin America.
Bishop Cisneros made the statement in a Jan. 9 news release from the USCCB about this year’s collection, which will be taken in parishes in most U.S. dioceses at Masses Jan. 21 and 22, the same weekend as Word of God Sunday.
Massgoers’ donations to the collection, “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,” Bishop Cisneros said.
If U.S. Catholics cannot be at Mass that weekend, #iGiveCatholic Together campaign (igivecatholictogether.org) also accepts funds for the collection, which benefits ministries in Central and South America and the Caribbean Islands.
In 2021, the Collection for the Church in Latin America provided 281 grants totaling more than $6.1 million for ministry, evangelization, vocations work, seminary training and to help churches recover from natural disasters, according to the USCCB news release.
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%.
Among the ministries helped by the collection were many community “mission houses” for prayer and evangelization in Cuba that train lay leaders to go door-to-door each summer, “telling thousands of people about Jesus in a nation that discourages religious faith,” the USCCB said.
In Nicaragua, where political strife has compounded damage from two devastating hurricanes, collection funds helped two recovery projects and included building numerous rural chapels to replace those destroyed as well as training 1,200 lay leaders to provide emergency management services along with pastoral care.
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 health care.
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,” he said. “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,” he added, “are the answers to many such prayers.”