PORTLAND — In an effort to promote solidarity throughout the hemisphere by providing support for pastoral projects in Latin America and the Caribbean, the Diocese of Portland will hold a special collection at all weekend Masses in Maine churches on the weekend of Jan. 21-22. Last year, even during the pandemic, dioceses across the country raised nearly $6 million that were distributed to 281 ministries in Mexico, Central/South America, and the Caribbean.

All the proceeds support evangelization, catechesis, marriage and family ministry, pro-life work, vocations, youth ministry, prison ministry, pastoral outreach, formation for clergy, religious, and lay leaders, and disaster response. The collection also funds the creation and implementation of safe environment/child protection programs in the Latin American dioceses that are supported by the fund.

“I have seen first-hand the good that the continuing generosity of the faithful in the United States has accomplished throughout the world and particularly in Latin America,” said Pope Francis. “The collection remains a precious means of sustaining, both spiritually and temporally, the efforts of the local churches of Latin America and the Caribbean to proclaim the Gospel and to form missionary disciples imbued with zeal for the spread of God’s Kingdom of justice, holiness, and peace.”

In Nicaragua, where political strife has compounded damage from two devastating hurricanes, recovery projects included building numerous rural chapels to replace those destroyed and training 1,200 lay leaders to provide emergency management services along with pastoral care. In Cuba, this collection supports many community “mission houses” for prayer and evangelization, from which trained lay leaders go door-to-door each summer, telling thousands of people about Jesus in a nation that discourages religious faith. In Haiti, 400 young people have received a theological education ranging from biblical studies to Catholic social teaching and are now ministering to hurting people in their communities. In Brazil, the collection funded new commercial kitchen equipment for a community of contemplative nuns who support themselves by making communion hosts. In Paraguay, 38 young men who had begun studies for the priesthood just before the global pandemic struck received support for basic needs such as food and healthcare.

In 1965, during the last session of the Second Vatican Council, the bishops of the United States approved the creation of an annual national collection to support economic aid to pastoral projects of the Church in Latin America and the Caribbean. Aid is provided to pastoral projects in 25 countries, with special priority given to evangelization and catechetical programs as well as mission-related activities that promote an encounter with Jesus and help us to respond to his call to be disciples.

For more information about the Collection for the Church in Latin America, please visit www.usccb.org/committees/church-latin-america.