US collection for Church in Latin America aims to ‘Keep Faith’

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The upcoming Collection for the Church in Latin America will help address the challenges facing the Church in the region by supporting evangelization efforts and humanitarian work.

The collection, whose theme this year is “Keep Faith,” will take place on the weekend of Jan. 22 to 23. Its funds will promote lay leadership programs as well as the education of seminarians and vowed religious who help keep the Catholic faith alive in Latin America and the Caribbean.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Subcommittee for the Church in Latin America generally funds pastoral projects but in exceptional times the funds are used to rebuild in the aftermath of natural disasters.

Subcommittee chairman Archbishop José Gomez, coadjutor archbishop of Los Angeles, said 2010 was “an extraordinary year” for the collection both in terms of needs and in terms of U.S. Catholics’ response.

“Through our generous support for the Church in Latin America, we are serving the body of Christ and are sharing communion in that same body,” he explained.

The majority of the world’s Catholics live in the region. A shortage of clergy and a lack of personnel and resources affect the Church’s ability to respond to education and migration problems as well as to strong proselytism efforts from other religions.

One example of how the collection has been able to address those needs is a series of catechetical programs and Bible study groups in the Diocese of Juigalpa in Nicaragua that were funded by donations from the collection.

In 2010 the collection was able to distribute $7.3 million to 423 projects. Twenty-three percent of funds went to seminarian and vowed religious formation, 13 percent to the formation of lay pastoral assistants, and 43 percent to pastoral activities in parishes, diocese and schools. Nearly 5 percent of the collection helped build temporary chapels in Chile after the devastating February 2010 earthquake.

Assistance to the Church in Haiti totaled over $1.3 million. The aid helped with catechesis and Catholic communications after the earthquake. The collection also funded post-trauma counseling and pastoral care for survivors.

The aid to Haiti is expected to increase significantly in 2011, as a new church-run organization has been established to design and rebuild church infrastructure damaged or destroyed by the January 2010 quake.

More information about the Collection for the Church in Latin America, including a list of projects funded in 2010, is available at the web page http://www.usccb.org/latinamerica/resources.shtml.

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