Numbers tell a powerful story of what is happening in the Church. They also help quantify the progress as well as the challenges. As I return from my travels in the Southeast coastal region of Charleston and Savannah, there are some astounding numbers grabbing my attention.
1 for every 100,000.
In the Diocese of Charleston, there are currently four paid leaders who work with the Hispanic youth – 400,000 in total. Although the Catholic population is growing rapidly, due in large part to the growth of the youthful Hispanic community, Catholics still comprise only five percent of the population. Catholic Extension is discussing how we can help the diocese get more youth leaders for the Hispanic community. “If we don’t get on board to do something, we can wave goodbye to them,” said Jerry, the diocesan director of youth and young adults.
This is the number of parishioners Sister Sandra of St. Cyprian in Georgetown, South Carolina, has single-handedly cultivated. She is in charge of ministering to the Hispanics in her parish, and there are no clergy or other religious sisters in the area to help her out. “What is your secret to success?” I asked Sr. Sandra, who operates out of an office located in a windowless storage unit where the roof is leaking and the carpet perfumed with mildew. “We just try to help people see how essential our faith is,” she said. From October to December Sister Sandra organizes 46 straight nights of prayer—a traveling novena which involves thousands of participants. Each night it’s held in a unique home with food and festivities. Her determination, unlike her facilities and equipment, remains intact.
This is the number of volunteers that Sr. Susan, a daughter of Charity at St. Cyprian, coordinates on an annual basis. Volunteers are Catholic and non-Catholic and they come from all over the county to work in one of the four non-profits operating out of the parish. Together they assist 305 women in crisis pregnancies; teach English as a second language classes; reach out to those living with HIV/AIDS; serve 23,000 meals a year in their soup kitchen and provide clothing, medicine and emergency utility assistance to the poor. It’s a huge and inspiring effort. “Parishioners are involved in everything we do,” said Sr. Susan, who talks fast, indicative of the fact that she has a lot on her mind. Catholic Extension is exploring opportunities to support St. Cyprian as it works to grow even more.
This is the total number of staff at Holy Family parish in Metter, Georgia. She is a woman religious named Sr. Mary, and her salary is supported by Catholic Extension. Sr. Mary is responsible for managing the activities of this church, which include a robust religious education program, a food pantry, clothing assistance, and migrant outreach. It is the only Catholic church in the county. “We love Sister Mary,” said Carol, a long-time parishioner and volunteer. “I’ve watched this church grow and I want that level of person for my grandchildren.”
This is the minimum number of days each week Mrs. “Lala” volunteers at her local church of St. Rose of Lima in rural Baxley, Georgia, which is supported by Catholic Extension with a small operating grant. And it’s not as if she has nothing better to do with her time. She is the mother of two boys and she owns a “pine straw” business that employs 25. “My faith is the most important thing in my life,” she remarked. Mrs. “Lala” teaches religious education to 40 children, runs the youth group for 30 teens and young adults, and organizes various other activities for this mission parish of 120 families. Her tireless efforts are having an impact. Each year the church continues to grow, and the youth see her as a trusted leader, often calling her to share their hardships and seek advice.
The numbers speak volumes about the progress we’ve made and where we still have a long way to go. Catholic Extension remains committed to these dioceses to help seize the opportunities before us to ensure the bright future of our Church in the Southeast.
— Joe Boland, Senior Director of Grants Management