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WASHINGTON—The U.S. bishops will begin a scholarship program and provide funding for educational programs identified by the bishops’ conferences of Eastern Africa. Initial funding comes from a $500,000 anonymous gift to the Subcommittee on the Church in Africa of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) received in 2008.
Around the time of the donation, the bishops had begun a study, facilitated by the Mendoza School of Business at the University of Notre Dame, with bishops’ conferences in Eastern Africa, to determine the greatest pastoral needs in the region. The results indicated a need for strengthening Catholic educational institutions. The new program is one of many supported by U.S. Catholics through the Solidarity Fund for the Church in Africa, a USCCB National Collection whose 2011 them is, “It’s possible, join us.”
The Church in Africa is growing at a fast pace, and enormous needs outweigh the capacity of the local Church. The Solidarity Fund supports pastoral projects all over Africa, aids its growth and in some cases renews hope. U.S. dioceses and parishes schedule this special collection at their discretion throughout the year.
“The Church in Africa is blessed with a faith rooted in hope—a hope attained from surviving amidst the critical and unique challenges each parish, village, and country faces,” said Bishop John H. Ricard of Pensacola-Tallahassee, Florida, chairman of the USCCB Subcommittee on the Church in Africa. “Countries throughout Africa are rich in culture and resources and just plain human values. Nevertheless, HIV/AIDS also takes and threatens the lives of millions. War and oppression endanger children and families. Extreme poverty and famine are ever present. Faith is what sustains people confronting these realities. The Solidarity Fund helps alleviate the suffering of many in Africa while helping them to grow in the Catholic faith.”
Funded projects range from catechetical training of lay people in Namibia to training of pastoral caregivers for the sick in Catholic-founded hospitals and medical units in Uganda. Other projects supported by the Solidarity Fund include workshops on justice, peace and development in West Africa, assistance for Catholic radio stations in Liberia, training of catechists in Nigeria and the development of education and leadership training for Catholic teachers in Ghana.
In Brazzavile, Republic of the Congo, the Solidarity Fund supports The Action of Talitha Kum, a center that educates children, adolescents and young adults who have been traumatized by civil strife. They learn their faith and a trade in a safe, Catholic environment.
Since its beginning 139 dioceses in the United States have given over $9 million to the Solidarity Fund for Africa. The Subcommittee on the Church in Africa began funding projects in 2007. Since then it has approved 291 grants for just over $6 million. In 2010, the Subcommittee approved grants for 85 pastoral projects for $2.24 million. Grants last year were distributed as follows: leadership training, 18 percent; justice and peace, 18 percent; evangelization, 12 percent; communications, 11 percent; youth and education, 5 percent; conference and diocesan administration, 36 percent.
“I invite U.S. dioceses and parishes to be generous with the Solidarity Fund for the Church in Africa. This fund touches the lives of so many of our brothers and sisters in the African continent in a very real, tangible way,” said Bishop Ricard. “The Church in Africa continues to rely on the prayers and solidarity of U.S. Catholics.”
For more information on the Solidarity Fund for the Church in Africa and the projects it funds, visit www.usccb.org/nationalcollections.
Keywords: Church in Africa, Solidarity Fund, Bishop John H. Ricard, National Collections, USCCB, U.S. Bishops
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