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LATAM-COLLECTION Jan-11-2010 (490 words) With photos. xxxi

U.S. collection highlights ministries supported in Latin America

By Catholic News Service

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras (CNS) -- When Auxiliary Bishop Octavio Cisneros of Brooklyn, N.Y., arrived in Tegucigalpa in October -- between the June political coup that ousted the president and before new elections were held in November -- he toured various locations including the Tegucigalpa Archdiocese's radio station and a park around a mountaintop statue of Christ.

As a guest on the radio station's Sunday morning talk show, Bishop Cisneros was soon taking calls from around the country, mostly from people thanking him for his interest in Honduras and for the U.S. church's financial support of some of the local evangelization, religious formation and ministry programs.

Several callers also expressed great concern for the state of vocations to the priesthood in the Diocese of Brooklyn, where many Hondurans have family members. They offered to pray daily for an increase in vocations there.

During a visit that also included talks with church and political leaders about the ongoing political situation, Bishop Cisneros and Oblate Father Andrew Small, director of the Church in Latin America office for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, got a whirlwind introduction to some of the pastoral projects being funded in part by the annual Collection for the Church in Latin America.

This year the collection is being taken in most U.S. parishes Jan. 23 and 24, though in some dioceses it is held at another time during the year.

A year earlier Bishop Robert J. Baker of Birmingham, Ala., and Auxiliary Bishop Peter A. Rosazza of Hartford, Conn., visited Cuba at an even more dramatic time for that island nation, during one of the four hurricanes to hit the country in 2008.

Nevertheless, they were given a chance to visit briefly in nearly every diocese in the country, seeing and hearing reports about projects such as aiding home-based worship communities and plans to sponsor a major international celebration in honor of the 400th anniversary of the Virgin of Charity of El Cobre, the patroness of the nation.

In August 2009, another delegation of U.S. bishops returned to Cuba to see how their funds to help rebuild after the hurricanes were being used. While there, they toured the site of a new seminary, a rarity in Cuba, which U.S. Catholics are also supporting financially.

Such familiarization trips for U.S. bishops help keep ties between U.S. donors and the always-struggling church in Latin America personal.

As in Tegucigalpa and Cuba, typically the local bishops themselves play host to their U.S. brothers, putting them up in their homes and sometimes even doing the cross-country driving.

In 2009, the U.S. bishops' Latin America collection funded 479 separate projects in nearly two dozen countries, spending $6.8 million, typically in grants of $4,000, $12,000 or occasionally $30,000.

In a statement encouraging support for the collection, San Antonio Archbishop Jose H. Gomez, who chairs the bishops' Subcommittee for the Church in Latin America, said such contributions make it possible to provide concrete support for evangelization in Latin America.


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