Religious sister holds a child outside a Catholic hospital in Petauke, Zambia.
Sister Seperasa Bahati Massawa holds a young patient outside of Minga Mission Hospital in Petauke, Zambia.

Empowering Catholic Leaders to Transform Poor Communities

Catholic social teaching emphasizes a preferential option for the poor and vulnerable — a value that was clearly modeled by Christ during his time on earth. Jesus repeatedly brought hope and healing to the needy and downtrodden, and he urged his followers to do the same. In fact, his words in Matthew 25:31-46 indicate that our treatment of the poor demonstrates the legitimacy of our faith, showing that we truly love God and others as he commanded us to do.

Throughout Church history, Catholic leaders have taken these words to heart, and many have sought to address the crushing challenges faced by the poor Jesus described in Matthew 25 — the hungry, the thirsty, the sick and the neglected. Today, in developing nations around the world, the Church continues its long tradition of caring for families in need. Devoted priests, sisters and lay people follow Christ’s example by meeting urgent needs and inspiring fellow Catholics to engage in social outreach.

Often, however, these dedicated men and women of faith lack the resources they need to put their missions of mercy into action. They long to see lives permanently transformed for God’s glory — but without financial backing and logistical support, the scope of their outreaches remains limited.

For this reason, Cross Catholic Outreach works with U.S. Catholics to empower such leaders, providing the support they need to create lasting change. Working together, we can strengthen their efforts and help bring transformation to their communities.

Students walk to school in Chaggu-Paala, Ghana.
Children in Chaggu-Paala, Ghana, attend school inside a deteriorating building without solid walls.

Poverty in Ghana, Malawi and Zambia

In developing nations such as Ghana, Malawi and Zambia, poverty prevents many families from accessing the things they need in order to escape abject poverty and eventually thrive.

In Ghana, for instance, almost one-quarter of the population lives below the poverty line — and in the Diocese of Wa (our ministry partner in the country), most districts report a poverty incidence between 71% and 92% (Ghana Mapping Report). Families living in these areas often lack access to necessities such as clean, safe drinking water, sanitation and education. Many remote, rural communities do not have proper school buildings and struggle to attract quality teachers.

In Malawi and Zambia, similar issues exist. In both countries, more than half of the population lives below the poverty line. Many poor families live in remote communities that do not have developed infrastructure, such as safe water and sanitation. A whopping one-third of Zambia’s population does not have access to an improved water source (CIA World Factbook). As a result, many women and children walk long distances to collect any water they can find. Often, the only available sources are contaminated rivers or streams and shallow, hand-dug pits that are rife with bacteria.

Families facing these oppressive challenges each day are prone to discouragement and hopelessness, but the Church can play a critical role in turning their lives around. Local priests, sisters and lay leaders certainly long to be agents of change and deliver lasting relief in Christ’s name — but they often encounter formidable obstacles themselves.

Catholic priest holds a child near Petauke, Zambia.
Fr. Andrew holds a child near Petauke, Zambia. He shared that many families in this area urgently need safe water.

Religious Leaders Longing to Address Poverty in African Communities

Father Andrew Pumula, the parish priest in Petauke, Zambia, is one leader looking to improve the lives of those in need. He identified a lack of clean water as one of the major issues facing families in his region.

“People and animals share the same water source,” Fr. Andrew explained. “Domestic animals, such as cattle and pigs, step into the water in order to drink it, and this is the same water that people are fetching for their use. It is dirty and unhealthy.”

In alignment with our values at Cross Catholic Outreach, Fr. Andrew believes that both physical and spiritual outreaches are necessary for effective ministry. By meeting the urgent need for clean water, he feels we can better communicate God’s love and salvation to people who are suffering.

“I take a holistic approach to life, emphasizing both the physical and spiritual aspects,” Fr. Andrew shared. “Christ had a passion for people who were suffering, and he wanted to do something about their welfare. By bringing the people’s water closer to them, they will see God in action.”

Teacher stands outside of her schoolroom in the Diocese of Wa, Ghana.
Helen strives to provide her students with a quality education — but the overcrowded, inadequate school building makes it difficult for children to learn.

Lay Leaders Committed to Making a Difference

There are many Catholic laypeople serving in poor communities too. For example, Catholic schoolteachers working in extremely remote regions are focused on building a brighter future for the next generation. By providing both academic and spiritual instruction, they unlock doors of opportunity for young people and strengthen them with the message of God’s truth.

While this is an incredibly noble mission, these teachers often deal with daunting challenges because they lack sufficient classroom space, equipment and supplies.

Helen Azerigo is a case in point. She works in the Diocese of Wa, Ghana and is committed to equipping her students with a quality Catholic education, but the conditions she faces present one challenge after another. Still, she endures.

“It is important for the children to get a new school because they are our future leaders. We don’t know who might be the next president of Ghana!” Helen said.

While Helen is willing to give all she has to achieve her goals, her classroom does not even have doors, and its uncontained environment makes it hard for her to succeed. The children she is there to serve become distracted by outside noises, and some have even wandered out of the classroom — running all the way to the dangerous roadside. Additionally, the building itself is overcrowded, and many children must learn from outside. When storms roll in, they either huddle together inside the too-small structure or leave school altogether.

These dismal conditions are extremely discouraging, and some of Helen’s students have already dropped out of school as a result — forfeiting the life-changing benefits an education could afford them. Helen believes that a safe new school could provide the children with the encouragement they need to complete their education. She wants them to achieve God’s best for their lives — but at present, she struggles just to get them through each lesson.

“Getting a new school will have an impact on the students’ lives because they will learn, and they’ll continue when they grow up. They will not stop,” she projected. “But as we are lacking, we don’t know when or how they will even get to the next level, and others are even dropping out now. We have to convince their parents to bring them back.”

Catholic priest stands with village water committee in Babile, Ghana.
Father John Bosco Eledi, the diocesan development coordinator in the Diocese of Wa, Ghana, stands with the village water committee in Babile, Ghana. With support from Cross Catholic Outreach and our donors, Fr. John Bosco was able to oversee the successful installation of a clean, safe well.

Empower Catholic Leaders to Meet Urgent Needs for Clean Water and More

Leaders like Fr. Andrew and Helen are striving to make a transformative difference in their communities, but a disheartening lack of resources threatens to derail their plans.

Your compassion can increase the impact of their efforts and help ensure that their faithful work remains on course! By supporting our Wells of Salvation campaign, you will directly fund the ministry efforts of three dioceses — the Diocese of Wa in Ghana, the Diocese of Karonga in Malawi, and the Diocese of Chipata in Zambia. Your generosity will put much-needed resources into the hands of hardworking, fiscally responsible leaders who are committed to installing clean wells, building safe schools, and sharing the life-changing love of Christ with families that have struggled for far too long.

Please give now to empower leaders by providing relief for their communities. Every compassionate contribution will fuel the merciful work of the Church, transform lives and bring God glory!