By Bishop Paul D. Etienne
Many Americans are surprised to hear that almost half of our country is considered mission territory. In fact, “home mission territory” can be found from Alaska to Louisiana, from Ohio to California. The needs of our mission dioceses vary greatly and the support of the Catholic Home Missions Appeal is vital to providing adequate pastoral services to our church at home.
The Diocese of Cheyenne, which I lead as bishop, is one of over 80 dioceses and eparchies that receives support from the Catholic Home Missions Appeal. One of our biggest challenges is how expansive and rural the diocese is – it covers the entire state of Wyoming. Many of our priests are charged with caring for multiple parishes, sometimes up to 100 miles apart. I drive more than 30,000 miles each year within the diocese to make pastoral visits.
These challenges impact our parishioners as well as they try to participate in the sacraments and parish life. For example, we wanted to provide a retreat for teens to give them an encounter with Christ and also to encourage them to return as leaders in future years. However, we faced a shortage of staff to plan the event and the lack of a retreat center in Cheyenne. But with the help of a grant from Catholic Home Missions, we were able to organize a successful event and bring teens from ten parishes to Colorado for the retreat!
The challenges in Cheyenne and across the home missions are great and often seem insurmountable. But many people give so much time and energy to serve the Church that it strengthens and grows. I cannot thank you enough for your support of the Catholic Home Missions Appeal. It is through not only your contributions but your prayers as well that make ministries possible.
This year I am excited to begin my tenure as Chairman of the Subcommittee on Catholic Home Missions and lead our efforts to support our many struggling dioceses. I encourage you to learn more about the home missions. Visit our website: www.usccb.org/home-missions. There you will find videos, newsletters, our annual report, and an interactive map of where funding goes.
Also, Catholic News Service recently featured Home Mission dioceses in a video and article series. They will help you put faces and experiences to the envelope you receive in your parish.
Please pray for the home missions and all who live and minister in them as you consider supporting the collection this year.