Parishes in the Diocese of Trenton and across the nation will participate in the 2023 annual collection for the Church in Latin America the weekend of Jan. 21-22.

A program of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the collection began more than 50 years ago as a means of financial support and expression of solidarity between Catholics in the United States with those from Mexico to the Caribbean, to the southern tip of South America.

The Collection for the Church in Latin America supports pastoral programs as awarded by the Subcommittee on the Church in Latin America. Projects include the work of evangelization, formation of laity, religious and seminarians, as well as youth ministry and catechesis. Funding is limited to programmatic expenses and excludes building construction except in cases of emergency.

Pope Francis expressed his support for the collection in his October 2015 letter to then-president of the USCCB, Archbishop of Louisville Joseph E. Kurtz:

“I have seen first-hand the good that the continuing generosity of the faithful in the United States has accomplished throughout the world and particularly in Latin America,” the Pope wrote. “Through your support, many lives have been touched by the Good News of Christ’s merciful love, especially for the poor.”

Bishop Cisneros, who came to the United States as an unaccompanied teenage refugee after the communist takeover of Cuba, spoke of his desire to help people who face poverty or oppression in their homelands. “I know what it is to leave behind everything and everyone but Christ. You hold tight to God and to Our Lady for strength and hope, praying continually. Such are the prayers of those who survive disasters or seek faith in the face of crushing poverty or political oppression. Your gifts to the Collection for the Church in Latin America are the answers to many such prayers.”

In 2021, this collection provided 281 grants totaling more than $6.1 million for ministry, evangelization, vocations work, seminary training and to help churches recover from natural disasters. Nearly 50% was used for evangelization, faith formation, social ministry, and pastoral work. The next largest portion, totaling 29%, was for disaster response, followed by vocations and preparation for the priesthood or religious life at 20%.

In Nicaragua, where political strife has compounded damage from two devastating hurricanes, recovery projects included building numerous rural chapels to replace those destroyed and training 1,200 lay leaders to provide emergency management services along with pastoral care.

In Cuba, this collection supports many community “mission houses” for prayer and evangelization, from which trained lay leaders go door-to-door each summer, telling thousands of people about Jesus in a nation that discourages religious faith.

In Haiti, 400 young people have received a theological education ranging from biblical studies to Catholic social teaching and are now ministering to hurting people in their communities.

In Brazil, the collection funded new commercial kitchen equipment for a community of contemplative nuns who support themselves by making communion hosts.

In Paraguay, 38 young men who had begun studies for the priesthood just before the global pandemic struck received support for basic needs such as food and healthcare.

Most dioceses will take the Collection for the Church in Latin America on the weekend of January 21-22, though some choose a different date. All Catholics are urged to give to the collection when it is offered in their diocese. If they cannot be at Mass that Sunday, #iGiveCatholicTogether also accepts funds for the collection.

More information, including content for social media and diocesan/parish websites, may be accessed at https://www.usccb.org/committees/church-latin-america.