This month the Denver Archdiocese is sending a record amount of funds to missions in the poorest and most needy countries in the world.
Parishioners across the archdiocese gave $500,000 this year to support some 25 Catholic missionary groups working to spread the Gospel and minister to people worldwide, such as victims of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines and the poor in the politically-divided Thailand.
Fara Kearnes, coordinator of the Missionary Cooperation Plan, said the archdiocese receives about 250 applications worldwide from dioceses and missions seeking donations for its missionary work abroad.
Vetted missionaries or a representative are then invited to visit churches to share their experiences and seek donations and prayers, typically during homilies or at the end of Mass.
“This money is used overseas to build churches, seminaries, schools and hospitals. They’re also supporting vocations and catechesis,” Kearnes said. “Not only does it spread the Gospel to the ends of the earth, it allows our parishioners to hear the good works being done abroad.”
Pope Francis talked about missionary joy and Jesus’s mandate to “go forth” and make disciples of all nations in his first apostolic exhortation “Evangelii Gaudium” (“The Joy of the Gospel”).
“In fidelity to the example of the Master, it is vitally important for the Church today to go forth and preach the Gospel to all: to all places, on all occasions, without hesitation, reluctance or fear,” he wrote Nov. 24. “The joy of the Gospel is for all people: no one can be excluded.”
The Mission Cooperation Plan was established in the 1930s by Bishop William Griffin of the Newark Archdiocese who was then-director of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith. The plan gave to dioceses the opportunity to choose visiting missionaries.
Today, dioceses field applications, assign missionaries to speak at churches, then collect and distribute the funds collected directly to the missions.
Most missionaries are priests from overseas dioceses who visit during peak fundraising time between April and October.
“They’re sending priests and we’re in-turn able to raise money for them,” Kearnes said.
Worldwide the plan draws $113 million for missions, the bulk of which comes from the United States, she said.
Father Allan Weinert, C.Ss.R., treasurer of the Redemptorist’s Denver Province, has volunteered to appeal at churches in Denver for seven years to support the missionary work of the Redemptorists in Thailand.
He visited the country twice, specifically to see mission work in the Diocese of Udon Thani. He said “by all observances it’s one of the worst slums in the city of Bangkok.”
Father Weinert said he shares the story of how missionaries need aid to start schools and clinics. In one particularly moving story, he shares how two teenaged girls were saved from prostitution by the missionaries.
“I always believe their lives turned out better and more fruitful because of the work of the Redemptorists, but especially because of the generosity of the Church,” he said.
The Mercy Center that was built, he said, aids those with illness, women with children, orphans and youths unrepresented in court.
Other notable missionaries came from a seminary in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. Eight priests from the seminary visited Denver parishes over two weeks and raised $20,000.
“We hope to have them back this year,” Kearnes said.
A bishop from Uganda visited to raise money to obtain clean water, health services and resources to evangelize.
Spirit of Christ Church in Arvada gave a record amount—$39,000—this year to support the Uganda diocese. The funds will go a long way in the country, where the exchange rate is roughly $2,515 shillings for every U.S. dollar.
“That was the largest collection Spirit of Christ has ever done for the mission co-op,” Kearnes said. “We were thrilled. … They have a lot of needs in Uganda.”
To learn more, visit www.archden.org and search for “Missionary Cooperation Plan.”