Since the collapse of the former Soviet Union in 1991, countries in Central and Eastern Europe have been working to rebuild their religious life, as well as government structures, social welfare activities and economies. Catholics of that region who endured decades of anti-religious persecution under Soviet rule are in urgent need of help. Each year, the Collection for Central and Eastern Europe supports seminaries, youth ministry, social service programs, and pastoral centers, as well as church construction and renovation in 28 nations that were once under communist control.
This year, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Subcommittee on Aid to the Church in Central and Eastern Europe is highlighting the Catholic community in Kyrgyzstan in its collection campaign. This impoverished nation is often compared to Switzerland for its beauty and to Siberia for its history as a Soviet gulag. The brutal communist dictator Joseph Stalin inadvertently revived the Catholic Church there when he used it as a prison for ethnic Poles and Germans who were deported from western Russia for refusing to abandon their faith.
“During my visit to Kyrgyzstan in 2019, I was moved and humbled by the fervor of the people – including the young people – who filled the churches,” said Bishop Jeffrey M. Monforton of Steubenville and chairman of the Subcommittee on Aid to the Church in Central and Eastern Europe. “One of the most moving experiences of my ministry was to confirm an elderly woman in a nursing home. She had been baptized as an infant, but her parents were afraid to allow her confirmation. For many, many years, she prayed to receive the sacrament, and saw my visit as an answer to her prayers. I encourage Catholics to prayerfully consider supporting this collection, as the projects aided by the generosity of the faithful here in the U.S. will impact the lives of many in Central and Eastern Europe.”
In 2020, the Subcommittee on Aid to the Church in Central and Eastern Europe awarded $6.1 million in funding for 323 projects in 25 countries. Information about the Collection for the Church in Central and Eastern Europe, including the most recent annual report, is at www.usccb.org/ccee. Promotional resources in English and Spanish are at 2021 Collection for the Church in Central and Eastern Europe Resources | USCCB.
The Collection for the Church in Central and Eastern Europe will be taken up in most parishes on Ash Wednesday, Feb. 17; some dioceses select different dates to avoid conflict with local activities. Those unable to attend Mass in person are encouraged to contact their local parish for giving options since many parishes and dioceses have systems supporting online/electronic donations to the collection.