By Auxiliary Bishop Peter L. Smith of Portland, Oregon, Chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Subcommittee on the Church in Africa
In August, many U.S. Catholic dioceses will take up a collection in their parishes for the Solidarity Fund for the Church in Africa, a USCCB program that works in partnership with the Catholic Church in Africa.
When I ask Catholics to give to the U.S. bishops’ Solidarity Fund for the Church in Africa, I can speak from my heart because I have seen what those gifts accomplish.
As someone who grew up in South Africa, I bear witness to both the injustices committed against Black Africans and to the power of the Gospel to bring repentance, reconciliation, and healing. The Solidarity Fund for the Church in Africa reflects a truly Catholic approach to promoting pastoral care, peace and well-being as it addresses the interwoven demands of Christian faith and social justice.
Many dioceses in the U.S. take up this collection in their parishes in August, through both envelopes and their e-giving platforms. The online platform #iGiveCatholicTogether also accepts donations. In 2021, parishioners like you gave more than $2.5 million to the Solidarity Fund for the Church in Africa, and the examples that follow show how those gifts have changed lives:
In Kenya, a $30,000 grant to the Kenyan bishops’ conference was used to teach youth ministry leaders how to evangelize during the COVID-19 pandemic, as clergy reported that young people suffered profoundly from isolation and financial devastation.
The grant allowed 190 youth leaders from all 26 Kenyan dioceses to learn methods of online evangelization, approaches to spiritual and emotional support for young people in distress, and best practices for mitigating the spread of COVID-19.
In Ethiopia, where civil war caused more than 5 million people in 2021 to flee their homes, the Solidarity Fund for the Church in Africa is funding an effort to teach peacemaking in Catholic schools. The bishops of Ethiopia say children who have experienced years of conflict and war now see violence as normal, requiring intensive education to instill in them a vision of peace, a desire to respect human rights and dignity, and a will to develop shared values for a civil society.
The grant of $32,000 supports curriculum development, printing and distribution of textbooks, and training of 95 teachers from 45 of Ethiopia’s Catholic schools so they can provide peace and moral education to more than 31,000 students.
The Southern African Catholic Bishops Conference, aided by a grant of $22,000 from the Solidarity Fund, is helping Catholics in South Africa to care for the environment. Although this region has long suffered from the effects of climate change, many southern Africans do not understand why water stops flowing, farmland withers and fisheries no longer produce.
The grant supported the creation of a Catholic toolkit for local environmental action and the training of 40 leaders — who will, in turn, train others — as they pilot this work in 15 South African dioceses. Leaders teach the biblical spirituality of creation care, then guide parishioners to identify and carry out projects involving energy and water conservation, planting trees, reducing the use of plastic, and stopping illegal dumping.
In Burundi, the Solidarity Fund for the Church in Africa awarded a grant of $19,000 to train national and diocesan church leaders to prevent child sexual abuse and respond to reports of abuse of children and vulnerable adults. Over a two-day training session, church staff were provided with information and practical training to use in their ministry, and also heard from survivors of sexual abuse by clerics. A three-day session for bishops included how to collaborate with civil authorities to seek justice while showing compassion to victims.
As these examples show, the Solidarity Fund for the Church in Africa helps Catholics to apply the Gospel to every level of human life: caring for souls, caring for communities, and caring for humanity’s relationship with God’s creation.
These grants may seem modest in size but a few U.S. dollars can go a long way in Africa and have tremendous impact. Your gift is multiplied many times over, especially as it joins the gifts of millions of other Catholics.
These are grassroots solutions that just need a little outside help. The Solidarity Fund for the Church in Africa responds to the needs identified by church leaders in African dioceses and episcopal conferences. Our brothers and sisters in those lands identify their own needs and priorities, design and implement the projects, and are accountable for the transparent use of all funds. Despite the poverty and conflict that many African Catholics endure, their hope and faith moves them to pour their energy into serving Jesus.
When you give to the Solidarity Fund for the Church in Africa, you can be assured that you are loving your neighbor and doing your part to build God’s kingdom on earth.