Catholic Extension Awards $120,000 Grant To Diocese

by Chris Albracht

—Catholic Extension has announced it will award the Diocese of Amarillo a $120,000 grant - $30,000 a year over four years – to fund implementation of RENEW International’s Why Catholic? Journey through the Catechism / ¿Por qué ser católico? El Catecismo como camino a bi-lingual program in English and Spanish that aims to strengthen faith in Catholic communities from a pastoral, personal and practical standpoint.

In electing to institute the program in all of its 50 parishes, the diocese is taking a comprehensive approach to growing people’s faith and developing new lay leaders across the vast expanse of the Texas Panhandle, allowing New Jersey-based RENEW International’s presentations, workshops, retreat training and follow-up to have maximum impact.

Why Catholic? program will be a boon for our diocese by giving us the education tools we desperately need to help faith flourish and qualities of leadership blossom among our people,” said Bishop Patrick J. Zurek. “When local people see leaders rise from among them, it awakens their own desire to participate. It’s a domino effect that we hope will continue to play out for years to come, and we’re so appreciative to Catholic Extension for helping to make it possible.”  

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Amarillo

Why Catholic?, which will launch in the diocese in the fall of 2010, empowers parishes and all Catholics to better understand and strengthen their faith through a series of 48 small group study sessions. Conducted by local parish volunteers over the course of four years, the sessions encourage reflection on Catholic beliefs, sacraments, morality and prayer. They are intended to give participants the confidence to share their faith with others and serve their communities.

 “We are gratified by Amarillo’s desire to partner with us and RENEW International to implement
Why Catholic? across the entire diocese, and we see it as a potential model for the dioceses we serve, which often are both poor and remote, to help grow people’s faith in a very personal way despite minimal resources,” said Father Jack Wall, President of Catholic Extension.  “Parishes need leadership to come from within the community if they are to truly strengthen and become self-sustaining.”    

RENEW International staff will visit the diocese prior to the launch to train lay leaders in small community facilitation skills and Catholic evangelization, and then return periodically throughout the four years to provide ongoing faith formation and consultation. RENEW International offers parish kits, participant materials, and a variety of web-based resources in both English and Spanish.

“We are overjoyed that Catholic Extension has committed these funds to support parish development in the Texas Panhandle, ensuring that the Diocese of Amarillo does not have to limit its reach,” said Sister Theresa Rickard, O.P., President and Executive Director of RENEW International.  “The experiences of other dioceses across the country assures us that this process will support the missionary needs of the Diocese of Amarillo by giving community members the tools they need to understand and live their faith.”

Those interested in learning more or contributing to the project can contact the Development Office at Catholic Extension at
catholicextension.org or 800-842-7804. The Why Catholic? grant is one of more than 1,000 requests Catholic Extension will fulfill this year in poor and isolated communities across the U.S. and its territories.  Last year, the organization invested $14 million in the United States’ 84 “mission dioceses,” geographic regions of the country where the Catholic Church is growing and needs are great. Catholic Extension was able to do so through contributions from 47,000 individual donors who share its commitment to strengthen communities and sustain the Catholic faith throughout the country.

Since 1905, the Chicago-based Catholic Church Extension Society has been empowering Catholic communities by providing them funds to establish themselves; become self-sustaining; provide religious education and outreach ministries; build and renovate church buildings; and train the next generation of lay, religious and ordained Catholic leaders. Catholic Extension has distributed nearly $500 million to communities across America throughout its history.

RENEW International is a canonically-recognized Catholic organization operating under the auspices of the Archdiocese of Newark in New Jersey for the past three decades. RENEW International fosters spiritual renewal in the Catholic tradition by empowering individuals and communities to encounter God in everyday life, deepen and share faith, and connect faith with action. RENEW has worked with dioceses, parishes and campuses in 23 countries, and its materials and leader training have been translated and inculturated in over 40 languages. RENEW International can be found on the web at

This article originally appeared in The West Texas Catholic, the newspaper of the Diocese of Amarillo.

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