(ZENIT News / Washington, 07.06.2023).- Catholics in the United States have an opportunity to support spiritually vibrant ministries in some of the world’s most impoverished regions through the U.S. bishops’ collection for the Solidarity Fund for the Church in Africa. This annual collection helps African bishops’ conferences and regional associations of conferences expand pastoral ministry and evangelization, improve church administration, prepare more people for church leadership, and even to help end conflicts.
“The Solidarity Fund for the Church in Africa supports a partnership between the bishops of the United States and the bishops of Africa to help Catholics in some of the world’s most troubled regions grow in faith, produce new vocations, and bring the peace of God into war zones and other areas of deep suffering,” said Bishop Peter L. Smith, auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Portland in Oregon and chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Subcommittee on the Church in Africa.
Many dioceses take this offering in their parishes through envelopes and e-giving platforms in August, though other dioceses choose a different time. #iGiveCatholicTogether also accepts funds for the collection. Thanks to the generosity of parishioners, in 2022 the Solidarity Fund for the Church in Africa awarded nearly $2.7 million through 91 grants.
Over one quarter of the total sponsored the formation of clergy, religious and lay leaders. Nearly another quarter supported construction projects, mostly to repair and renovate essential church infrastructure that has deteriorated – critically important in a region where the Catholic faith is growing rapidly. Smaller amounts covered the operational costs of serving parishioners, improving church communications, promoting justice and peace, providing continuing education for clergy and religious, supporting evangelization, buttressing religious education and Catholic schools, and strengthening child protection programs.
- In Zimbabwe: A grant supported skills training for 120 ministry leaders to provide spiritual and emotional support to people who remain traumatized by the impact and isolation of the COVID pandemic. Each of these leaders will train others so the program will multiply until it reaches every parish and community.
- In Sudan: A Solidarity Fund for the Church in Africa grant helped a diocesan vocations outreach effort to thrive and raise up more priests and religious for the Diocese of El Obeid, which covers a territory one third larger than the state of Texas.
- In the Central African Republic: Gifts from U.S. Catholics underwrote youth education for peace and good citizenship in a diocese that has experienced violence and instability for decades. At a conference in the Diocese of Bossangoa, 300 young Catholics learned about human dignity, the responsibilities of citizenship, and how to live in harmony with their neighbors, then went home to share these concepts in their communities.
- In Uganda: At a sprawling refugee settlement for those who have fled conflict in the region, the Solidarity Fund for the Church in Africa sponsored discussions to ease tensions and build respectful relationships between refugees and nearby Ugandan communities.
“All of these undertakings are done at the behest of the African bishops, who spend much time in prayer and discernment about where aid from Catholics in the United States is most needed in their pastoral ministries. Parishioners who give to this collection can be certain that their support will help African Catholics who are in the greatest need, and who also have a great desire to serve Jesus,” Bishop Smith said.
More information on the Solidarity Fund for the Church in Africa may be found on the USCCB website: https://www.usccb.org/committees/church-africa.