The U.S. bishops' upcoming Collection for the Church in Latin America helps meet the "myriad spiritual and material needs among the most impoverished people in the western hemisphere," said Bishop Octavio Cisneros, chair of the bishops' Subcommittee on the Church in Latin America.
"In an era with too much focus on what divides us from our sisters and brothers in Latin America," he said that U.S. Catholics "continue to strengthen bonds of faith, hope and love" and show solidarity with them.
Bishop Cisneros, the retired auxiliary bishop of Brooklyn, New York, made the comments in a column shared with OSV News by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Office of National Collections.
Parishes in most U.S. dioceses take the collection during Masses the weekend of Jan. 27-28. The #iGiveCatholicTogether campaign also accepts online donations at usccb.igivecatholictogether.org, where visitors can give by selecting the "Church in Latin America" campaign.
The collection supports pastoral projects in Latin America and the Caribbean. In 2022, it provided 251 grants totaling nearly $6.6 million "to support a region where poverty, political and religious oppression, and other hardships" make the Catholic Church's work "exceptionally difficult," Bishop Cisneros said.
He gave some examples of how funds are used, including supporting "crucial ministries" that help people in Mexico build new lives after imprisonment; training for deacons in Brazil who will serve rural areas deprived of priests due to ongoing shortages of celibate clergy; and equipping religious sisters in Colombia who teach families practical and spiritual skills they need "to strengthen and grow in faith."
The collection also supports efforts by Venezuela's Archdiocese of Caracas to stop human trafficking and to hold training workshops on prevention and on spiritual and psychological support for survivors of trafficking. In Peru, grants help set up 24 mission posts to serve Indigenous people.
Each program is designed by local church leaders in response to specific needs. An annual report available in English and Spanish online gives a breakdown of how grant funds are used in different countries.
Bishop Cisneros said these ministries and hundreds of others supported by the Collection for the Church in Latin America "bring hope to people whose afflictions are impossible for most people in our nation to imagine."
In an October 2015 letter to the USCCB marking the collection's 50th anniversary that year, Pope Francis described it as "a precious means of sustaining, both spiritually and temporally," the efforts of the church in Latin America and the Caribbean "to proclaim the Gospel and to form missionary disciples imbued with zeal" for spreading God's kingdom "of justice, holiness and peace."