By Vatican News staff writer
Several Catholic dioceses struggling to recover from decades of persecution in Central and Eastern Europe are set to receive support for ministry and outreach to the tune of $3.56 million from the generosity of American Catholics and the annual collection for the Church in Central and Eastern Europe taken up each winter.
In June, the US Bishops’ Conference subcommittee on Aid to the Church in Central and Eastern Europe awarded 208 grants in 23 nations that were once behind the “Iron Curtain.”
Faith alive in spite of challenges
“The Catholics of Central and Eastern Europe kept the faith alive in the darkest of times, at great peril to themselves, and endeavor to pass that very same faith on to their children,” said Bishop Jeffrey Monforton of Steubenville, chairman of the subcommittee in a statement on the USCCB website.
The USCCB Subcommittee funds projects in 28 countries to build the pastoral capacity of the Church and to rebuild and restore the faith in countries of Central and Eastern Europe. Many of them have faced a century of hardship under oppressive communist regimes during which time religion and religious practices were openly persecuted. Years after the fall of communism in those regions, these countries are still working to rebuild their political structures, economies and religious life.
Bishop Monforton highlighted that the Catholics who gave to the annual collection are “reaching out in love to aid their brothers and sisters who suffered so much for their faith and are helping a new generation to grow spiritually in very difficult circumstances.”
Through these gifts, he added, “parishes are being renewed, critical social ministry is taking place, and bonds of love are formed between Catholics on opposite sides of the world.”
Several projects supported
Among the projects being supported by the 208 grants include helping clergy and lay readers respond to spiritual needs by revitalizing parish life in the Czech Republic, and providing funding for a cathedral and pastoral center in Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan.
The grants will also be used to promote pro-life ministries in five countries:
In Albania, for the training of lay readers to rebuild a culture of life rooted in healthy relationships, love for family and a deeper understanding of sexuality. In Georgia, it will provide direct support for pregnant women and new parents. A Romanian Catholic university, hospitals, schools, social services and other ministries will make use of the grant to promote respect for life, strong families and natural family planning.
A grant will also go to support a pregnancy resource center staffed with a professional psychologist and social workers in Slovakia, and in Slovenia, the Church will offer education to different age groups on healthy sexuality.
“The gifts of Catholics here in the U.S. to their sisters and brothers in Central and Eastern Europe will save lives, help people discover Jesus, and allow the Church that emerged from the catacombs to give witness to the power of the Resurrection,” Bishop Monforton said.