Extension Society, Home Missions visit diocese


CHARLESTON — Grantors recently visited the diocese to meet area outreach representatives, diocesan officials, and Bishop Robert J. Baker. The Catholic Extension Society and Catholic Home Missions each sent two representatives for a two-day visit.

Extension is a private agency, while Home Missions is a committee of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops. Prior to 1998, Home Missions was called the American Board of Catholic Missions (ABCM). Until recent years, they received a 41 percent share of the Propagation of the Faith collection. By 1999, that percentage had been phased out. Now, a national second collection, the Catholic Home Missions Appeal, funds the committee’s efforts. They also seek individual donors.

Catholic Extension raises its funds through a planned giving program and direct mail efforts with Catholic donors, including priests, religious and laity.

On Aug. 30, Msgr. Kenneth Velo, president, and Dick Ritter, vice president, of Catholic Extension Society and Dave Byers, director, and Margit Serenyi, mission support specialist, of Catholic Home Missions visited St. James the Greater Parish in Ritter. On Aug. 31, the group visited the Our Lady of Mercy Outreach Center on Johns Island, which among many other projects, runs a home repair program called NAILS. That day, they also went to parishes in downtown Charleston: St. Patrick’s and Our Lady of Mercy, which runs a soup kitchen and clothing closet. A new volunteer house was recently established next to the OLM parish and is in the midst of repairs. The volunteer program is new within the diocese and will provide much-needed hands and hearts for area outreach projects.

“We came to investigate for ourselves and talk to the bishop about the needs of your diocese,” said Ritter. He added that Extension frequently funds building projects. They also provide grants for evangelization; campus ministry; parish, priest and religious subsidies; seminarian education; and support after natural disasters.

The Diocese of Charleston has received money from the Extension Society continuously since its founding in 1909, and the diocese started receiving money from Home Missions, as ABCM, in the 1920s.

The four major areas that Home Missions provides grants for are evangelization; catechesis; personnel training, including priests, deacons, religious and laity; and support for mission parishes.

Byers said that one-third of their funding supports Hispanic ministries.

Dorothy Grillo, director of the Office of Social Ministry for the diocese, explained that the two groups were reassessing which dioceses are the neediest.

She explained that the population of southern dioceses has changed over the years due, in part, to retirees moving south. “Dioceses that have historically received money may no longer be among the most needy,” said Grillo, who noted, however, that the representatives appeared enthusiastic about supporting some Lowcountry projects.

Ritter explained that it’s helpful for the two agencies to know and understand each other’s operations. Through interacting, the representatives ensure that their efforts are not duplicated and that funding is reaching those with the most need.