The numbers don’t lie: Challenges continue in mission America

A recent survey conducted by Catholic Extension of mission dioceses in the United States revealed eight mission dioceses where half the parishes have no pastor; three where more than half the priests are retired or infirm; and nine mission dioceses have less than $50 in assets per Catholic.

These compelling statistics highlight the need for continued support from women and men of faith who recognize God at work in their brothers and sisters in the Catholic Church across America–in places they will never see and among people they will likely never meet.

Just two samples among the many statistics produced in the study:

  • In the Dioceses of Fairbanks, Alaska; Superior, Wisconsin; Crookston, Duluth and New Ulm, Minnesota; Salina, Kansas; and Sioux Falls, South Dakota, 50 percent of the parishes have no pastor. In the Diocese of Dodge City, Kansas, the figure is 72 percent.

    Together, these dioceses serve nearly a half-million Catholics.

  • In Texas, there is one priest for every 10,000 Catholics in the Diocese of Brownsville and one for every 6,800 Catholics in the Diocese of El Paso.

Examples of how your support helps address the critical needs expressed to Catholic Extension through our Grants Program currently include:

Social or Clinical Outreach

  • 23 grant applications totaling $354,520

Salary Subsidies

  • 175 grant applications totaling $2,341,072

Future Ordained Leadership Funding

  • 33 grant applications totaling $1,823,035

Lay Leadership Formation

  • 15 grant applications totaling $180,585

“At a time when even many big-city archdioceses encounter significant financial obstacles, these figures certainly highlight a broad array of challenges the Church and her missioners face every day across mission America,” said Bob Dixon of Catholic Extension. “That is why we thank our generous supporters to Catholic Extension who – every day – allow America’s missioners to recognize the face of God in all those they serve.

“Supporters of Catholic Extension, women and men of deep faith, see the work of the Divine alive in every corner and people of the United States, in places far and wide, and do what they can to be present to these communities by sharing their own gifts,” Dixon said. “Their generosity shines even in the face of daunting statistics such as these. We are immensely grateful for their generosity and the difference they make.”

Church Celebrates Year for Priests

Seminarian at Mt. Angel Seminary at St. Benedict in Oregon.

Seminarian at Mt. Angel Seminary at St. Benedict in Oregon.

Pope Benedict XVI recently announced that the Church will celebrate the Year for Priests from June 19, 2009, through June 19, 2010. Catholic priests throughout the world will spend this coming year deepening their commitment to their calling – a ministry of leadership, service and living the Gospel message.

Catholic Extension also invites you to celebrate the Year for Priests by reflecting on the gift of priesthood and learning more about the need to help educate seminarians for missions within our own country.

The call to priesthood resonates across America daily. Those who listen and respond spend years in academic and prayerful preparation. Many seminarians come from and return to serve in under-resourced and isolated mission areas like the Diocese of Brownsville, Texas, where there is only one priest for every 9,000 Catholics. As they give their lives in resounding answer to a Divine calling, Catholic Extension partners with them at every step of their journey.

It costs an average of $25,000 a year, for six years or more, to educate and provide for each seminarian – a cost that is prohibitive to nearly 40 percent of the dioceses in the country. We invite you to make this year a special opportunity to support Catholic Extension’s Building Leaders initiative, which provides assistance to create the next generation of leaders in the church.

Support is a powerful expression of celebration and partnership. Through supporters like you, Catholic Extension can help defray the cost of tuition, books and training for nearly 400 seminarians preparing for the priesthood.

Their education and work is critical, and your support helps them move closer to the priesthood – and active missionary work.

“The church needs priests who are holy, ministers who help the faithful experience the merciful love of the Lord and who are convinced witnesses of that love.”

–Pope Benedict XVI