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Delivering food, shelter, and hope to the poorest of the poor
Families expend a lot of time, money and planning to ensure that their loved ones can be home for Christmas. It’s part of what makes this celebration of our Lord’s birth so personally meaningful. We come together because we crave that feeling of fellowship and the great blessings our home brings — which is why, as Catholics, the Christmas season makes us extra sensitive to those who have no safe or comfortable place to call home.
This includes the many families served by our in-country ministry partners in Guatemala.
Technically, these families might not qualify under the dictionary definition of “homeless,” but their challenges and trials are still extreme. While it is true their shanties have walls and roofs, in most cases, those structures are little more than a crumbling patchwork of wood scraps, discarded plastic and rusty tin sheets assembled over a rough dirt floor. Since the roof is usually riddled with holes, rainstorms easily flood these small spaces and create unsanitary conditions — a breeding ground for disease.
As we prepare for Christmas during this Advent season, we invite you to join us in providing blessed relief to these Catholic brothers and sisters by showing your love and support through the Cross Catholic Outreach Christmas Catalog.
If you are not familiar with the Cross Catholic Outreach Christmas Catalog, it is a special mission of mercy we strongly encourage Catholics to use during the Advent season — particularly to incorporate almsgiving into their annual Christmas observances.
As you explore the catalog, you will be able to “shop” for gifts benefitting the poor and can choose the ones that most touch your heart — from a healthy meal for a child to a water system for an entire community. It’s very much like the experience of selecting Christmas gifts from a commercial catalog, but these gifts are very different. They allow you to Be Someone’s Miracle, blessing needy families around the globe.
On this year’s list, you will find one of the most impactful and life-changing items of all — safe, sturdy housing. This is a gift that can change an entire family’s life and continue to bless them for generations to come. If you choose to provide a house, you can give it in honor of a loved one and their name will be featured on a certificate you can send to let them know what has been done on their behalf.
To ensure that donations made through the Christmas Catalog are used wisely and cost-effectively, Cross Catholic Outreach partners with in-country parishes, missions, dioceses and other organizations to handle storage and goods distribution. In cases where projects involve construction, these partners typically provide site management and supervise building crews.
For our home-building initiative, the Guatemala homes will be built by Caritas Santa Rosa, which serves under the Guatemalan Diocese of Santa Rosa de Lima.
Caritas Santa Rosa works tirelessly to bless the poor with both physical and spiritual sustenance. Under the dedicated leadership of Father Raúl Monterroso, Caritas has worked to transform lives and restore hope through a wide range of outreaches. In addition to home construction, their projects have included feeding programs, water projects, educational efforts, agricultural support — and even training for disaster response.
Another critical component of the diocese’s outreach is People’s Holy Mission — an initiative founded by the previous local bishop to counter the spiritual decay he saw in Latin American Catholicism.
Concerned that many baptized Catholics were not applying Christ’s teachings to their own lives, the bishop invited parishioners and community members to attend lay-led meetings in people’s homes. This program has exploded in popularity, resulting in the training and equipping of many lay leaders to organize religious gatherings throughout the region. These groups are especially important in remote communities that do not have a parish priest and depend on the availability of lay Eucharistic ministers.
It would be hard for Selvin Ismael Reyes Estrada to see his sturdy new home as anything but an answer to prayer, and he is deeply grateful to those who provided it. He knows it will have a transformative impact on the lives of his wife, Oralia, and young daughter, Divine Andrea.
Selvin is a devout Catholic and prayer warrior — a man who loves the People’s Holy Mission retreats and has played a role in the evangelization of his community. Before he was sowing God’s Word, Slevin sowed corn and beans, a way of life he began at age 10 as the son of a farmer.
In his mid-teens, Selvin had to grow up fast when his father fell ill, leaving the boy to become the primary breadwinner for his seven younger siblings. He turned to his faith for strength, and in his early 20s he married Oralia and they started their new life together, still depending on his humble income as a farmer. Fourteen years later, God answered their prayers for a child, and their daughter, Divine Andrea, was born.
Selvin and his family have received a double blessing through Caritas Santa Rosa’s social programs, first benefiting from a water project in their community, and now becoming the happy owners of a Cross Catholic Outreach-funded home. They are so thankful for this gift, and they have not ceased praying that this same miracle will come to their neighbors as well.
Related: Housing Impact
The safe homes sponsored through this year’s Cross Catholic Outreach Christmas Catalog will feature a thick cement foundation, strong cement-block walls, and a metal roof that can withstand strong storms.
In addition, each home will be wired for electricity and will include a clean-air stove, sanitary latrine and an exterior washbasin — features that will not only improve the general health of the family but also could save lives in these challenging times. For security, the homes have sturdy, lockable doors and windows.
Caritas Santa Rosa’s approach to homebuilding involves the community too. This ensures that families feel a true sense of ownership when they claim their property. This is an important step in restoring dignity and hope in a community. The men, women and children help to the extent they are able, working alongside a construction crew. Through this hands-on process, families take pride in their achievements and learn God cares about both their material and spiritual needs.
The annual Christmas Catalog offers Catholic families this housing project as well as multiple other inspiring and impactful options for sponsoring a truly meaningful Christmas gift — one that will address a real and urgent need.
This year, we will have a new catalog online in time for Advent so you and your family can incorporate this inspirational giving opportunity into your observance of this joyous liturgical season. Together we can reach more needy families than ever before, blessing them with material aid and the spiritual joy of knowing our Savior, Jesus Christ.
Proceeds from this campaign will be used to cover any expenditures incurred through June 30, 2023, the close of our ministry’s fiscal year. In the event that more funds are raised than needed to fully fund the project, the excess funds, if any, will be used to meet the most urgent needs of the ministry.