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At Cross Catholic Outreach, we believe that Christ’s call to serve the poor means more than just providing material aid. It means opening hearts and minds to the hope and transformative power of the Gospel. The holistic transformation of impoverished communities and families should include addressing their need for food, a safe house and a cup of clean water — but true joy and hope are only possible when a relationship with Christ is strengthened in the process. That’s why we partner with Catholic ministries that combine their material aid programs with spiritual outreaches — evangelizing and edifying communities and families with the truth of Jesus Christ.
There is a deep human need for purpose and a connection with God in the hearts and souls of the poor. To speak to that need, the Church must approach the poor as Jesus approached his followers. He provided food and drink and brought about physical healing even as he ministered to their spirits through his teachings. Many Catholic priests, sisters and lay missionaries in the developing world yearn to inspire spiritual renewal and growth among the poor, but their own humble means prevent them from enacting the holistic outreaches they envision. Cross Catholic Outreach comes alongside these faithful men and women to bear compassionate witness to the Gospel in poor and marginalized communities and to lead those they serve to an encounter with Christ.
Haitian Catholics receive the Eucharist at the Kobonal Haiti Mission.
Contrary to the modern misconception that spiritual outreaches deplete charities of resources that could be better spent on material aid, we have found that when a family’s physical and spiritual needs are addressed in tandem, the result can be greater than the sum of its parts.
This approach is at the heart of integral human development. This term, which is a prominent theme in Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s encyclical Deus Caritas Est, simply means we must approach our neighbor as a whole person whose many needs — material, spiritual, emotional, etc. — are interconnected.
When Cross Catholic Outreach partners with dioceses, parishes and missions in countries such as Nicaragua or Haiti, we empower the Church to be a force for integral human development — or holistic transformation — and poor families and communities are blessed as a result. There is a real difference between a meal given out of pity and a meal given in the name of Christ. Alms dropped in a beggar’s hat will seldom have the impact of a priest visiting the homes of the poor, praying over them, and getting to know the specific needs of families and communities. A father who experiences a personal encounter with Christ is more likely to feel hopeful, to spend his limited resources wisely, and to make personal sacrifices so his children can rise out of the cycle of poverty.
The outward form our shared Catholic faith takes is at the discretion of our ministry partners, which work within a variety of social and political contexts. Some partners may choose overt evangelization, while others operate in places where the law restricts religious outreach. In all cases, we take a stance of learning from and listening to our partners.
In observing their work, we recognize five distinct approaches (not necessarily exclusive of each other) to spiritual outreach:
Cross Catholic Outreach relies on support from U.S. Catholics to fund global Church missions. Whether those gifts are given to feed the hungry, to build a house or to support a specific spiritual activity, the result is the Gospel in action. This is how we obey Christ’s mandate to “go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation” (Mark 16:15).
Here are just a few of our many Catholic ministry partners that are reaching the poor and vulnerable with both material aid and spiritual care.
The Guatemalan Diocese of Santa Rosa de Lima is transforming poor, remote communities into places of light and hope through strategic programming that addresses urgent needs and seeks long-term change. Cross Catholic Outreach works with the diocese and one of its leading priests, Father Raúl Monterroso, to provide nutrition, safe housing, clean water and other critical services to the poor. Another effort we support is a spiritual ministry called the People’s Holy Mission.
The People’s Holy Mission encourages local Catholics to meet weekly in the house of a lay Catholic leader. At these meetings, members enjoy fellowship, read and discuss the Bible, pray, worship, and strategize about ways to minister to their local community. Such gatherings are especially critical in poor areas where there is no parish priest to celebrate weekly Mass.
In addition, the People’s Holy Mission sponsors training sessions and retreats for lay catechists and ministers. At these events, the mission pays a stipend for speakers and provides participants with food, supplies and transportation. Since most participants have limited financial resources, the mission depends on Cross Catholic Outreach to help fund these activities, which impact more than 1,500 small Catholic communities.
Answering the Cry of the Poor (ANCOP) is the Vatican-recognized humanitarian arm of Couples for Christ. Cross Catholic Outreach supports ANCOP’s housing program for poor families — a program that connects deeply and intentionally with Couples for Christ’s spiritual identity.
While new homes provide families with physical shelter, ANCOP’s spiritual formation and social development programs offer these families the biblical foundation and fellowship they need to maintain their new material blessings for generations to come. Beneficiaries participate in CFC’s 12-week Christian Life Program in order to build their faith and foster values such as respect, compassion and regard for the environment. Upon completing the program, couples are invited to join CFC and meet with other members in the community for weekly prayer and fellowship. They also gain access to medical clinics, vocational training and government-sponsored livelihood seminars.
When Father Glenn Meaux traveled to a remote, underserved corner of Haiti at the request of the local bishop, he found poverty, hunger, hopelessness, and a devastating lack of social cohesion. To establish a local Catholic presence, Fr. Meaux opened a small school of just 50 students. As the school expanded, a spiritual change took place. Broken families experienced healing, neighborhoods became safer, and Vodou practitioners encountered Christ.
Since then, Fr. Meaux’s Kobonal Haiti Mission has blossomed into a major community center that runs numerous poverty-relief programs, educates thousands of students and draws hundreds of villagers to Sunday Mass. And as a Cross Catholic Outreach partner, the Mission is able to turn to U.S. Catholic donors as it continues its work in a country torn by economic disaster and sociopolitical turmoil.
One recent Cross Catholic Outreach-funded project was the construction of a beautiful open-air chapel. The building was needed because the previous facility was too small, and many of the hundreds of worshipers had to sit under the trees. The opening of the new chapel has given Haitian Catholics a sacred space that honors their dignity, shows reverence for the Sacraments and enables families to participate without distraction by the elements.
You can play a role in the Church’s global mission of evangelization by supporting Cross Catholic Outreach. Your generous gift will empower local priests, sisters and other partners in developing countries to bear faithful witness to the Gospel, meeting urgent material needs in the name of Christ while spreading spiritual hope and transforming lives.
Giving monthly is a small way to have a big impact. Your regular support empowers our ministry to respond to urgent needs and fulfill our long-term projects across the world.
Do Catholic Charitable Projects Only Help Catholics?
The Church’s mission to help neighbors in need is meant for all people, regardless of their race, religion or creed. While some Catholic programs may specifically target Catholics seeking support, the overwhelming majority give freely based on the greatest need. Beneficiaries of poverty relief programs sponsored by Cross Catholic Outreach include not only Catholics but also Protestants, Muslims and adherents of other faiths — or no faith at all.
How do You Avoid Creating “Rice Christians”?
The term “rice Christian” is a reference to scenarios where beneficiaries of a charity “convert” to the faith simply to receive material benefits. Since, as a general rule, Cross Catholic Outreach projects do not require that participants express or hold a specific faith position, the danger of insincere conversions is extremely low.
Do all your projects include Catholic evangelization?
Our ministry partners’ spiritual outreaches take place both inside and outside the scope of the specific projects we sponsor. Rather than micromanage what each outreach looks like, Cross Catholic Outreach trusts its partners, many of whom are priests and religious sisters, to tend to their communities’ spiritual needs in the way that works best and falls in line with their mission or charism. Nevertheless, we do normally require that our partners have a meaningful faith element of some kind in their work.
Do you monitor/assess your partners’ spiritual activities?
Regular written reports document the spiritual goals, activities and outcomes of our ministry partners’ work. These reports can include lists and descriptions of spiritual events, numbers of people impacted, and narrative testimonies of program beneficiaries.
Proceeds from this campaign will be used to cover any expenditures incurred through June 30, 2022, 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.