What a refreshing and rarely heard phrase!
“We envision a church where all Catholics in under-resourced and isolated areas of the country have the opportunity to experience excellence in church life and ministry.” So reads the vision statement of Catholic Extension, a society of committed men and women who for over 100 years have been supporting the works of the Church in financially strapped and underserved areas of our nation.
unleash the power of faith that transforms hearts, lives and society
Their website, www.catholicextension.org, goes on to explain that “one can define multiple aspects of excellent church life and ministry, from liturgy and prayer, to culture and language, to facilities and pastoral leadership, to preaching and cultural sensitivity and more.”
Catholic Extension, headquartered in Chicago, raises funds nationally and through its grant making process distributes funds for certain purposes to under-resourced Catholic communities and “mission dioceses” across the United States. Over the past 10 years they have provided nearly $175 million to these needy and deserving causes.
In doing so, they contribute significantly to the growth and vibrancy of the Church and help “unleash the power of faith that transforms hearts, lives and society.”
There are six types of funding this venerable organization will consider funding. The first is building the foundation of the Church by maintaining and extending the Church’s basic pastoral presence and administrative functions in targeted communities through salary support and small operational grants. The second is building leaders by assisting dioceses with the recruitment, education and formation of current and future Church leaders, including – importantly – the support of hundreds of seminarians. The third is building churches and other facilities through construction, expansion and renovation of critical facilities.(How easy for so many of us to underestimate the role of sacred space or gathering areas.) The fourth would be support for programs of faith formation for young Catholics. The fifth is capacity building where Catholic Extension actually assists poor dioceses develop self-supporting financial and operational capabilities. The sixth is in enhancing pastoral and social ministry by supporting specific and strategic elements of the Church’s ministerial efforts in under resourced communities.
Examples of all of the above appear on the website of Catholic Extension, including impressive support for seminarians, renovation of dilapidated and historic churches, and Hispanic lay leadership programs. In his letter on the site, Father John Wall, president of Catholic Extension, reports on the millions of dollars that have gone to scores of “mission dioceses” and how this critical support is “building faith, inspiring hope, and igniting change in our own land among our own people.”
I remember seeing flyers in the mail about Catholic Extension when I was a boy. But, it’s only now that they appear on the National Catholic Community Foundation website catalog on ministries that I have had the benefit of learning more about them. Some would say that extension is synonymous with advance!