Washington, DC - - The President of the Catholic Church Extension Society invited members of the Catholic foundation world earlier this month to work in a $15 Million partnership over the next three years to create one hundred new Hispanic leadership positions within the home mission territories of the United States.

In a talk before members of Foundations and Donors Interested in Catholic Activities assembled for their 35th annual meeting in Naples, Florida, Father John Wall highlighted the breathtaking pastoral challenges that changing demographics within Catholicism present, especially within home mission dioceses.

There, the growth in the Hispanic population in particular, he said, requires a corresponding welcoming presence on the part of the church – a task requiring the enlistment and preparation of more lay leaders in dioceses that presently have few personnel resources.

Right now there are over eighty dioceses within the United States considered mission territories, often containing vast geographic stretches of rural and remote terrain with few churches and priests.

Since 1905, more than $450 million has been distributed to dioceses by the Catholic Church Extension Society to help them staff and operate their small, struggling parishes.

Many of these smaller U.S. dioceses have experienced a dramatic influx of Hispanic populations over the past two decades.

Research indicates that nearly 40% of the entire U.S. Catholic population is Hispanic and projections see the mid century marking their growth as the majority of U.S. church members. More than 50% of all Catholics in the U.S. under age 25 at the present time are of Hispanic descent.

The growth of the Hispanic population is leading to the emergence of Latino-oriented churches in all the major religious traditions across the country.

Father Wall told FADICA that the future of the Catholic church within U.S. society hinges in no small part on the degree to which Latinos feel a sense of ownership and belonging.

Over the past year Extension and FADICA have worked together to assess leadership needs within the home missions, focusing mostly on the present service of women religious. In a conference last October, home mission sisters stressed the urgency of preparing laity for leadership within the home missions.

Father Wall’s remarks to philanthropists in February take the discussion forward to a specific objective of creating one hundred new positions for lay, Hispanic leadership.

As proposed by Father Wall, the plan would call for a commitment of fifteen million dollars over three years to be funded through partnerships among Extension, the home mission dioceses and cooperating donors and foundations.

The U.S. Catholic population of some 66 million has grown at 1% per year over the past decade. Nearly three quarters of this growth is attributable to the increase in the Hispanic population in this country.

The FADICA network of over fifty foundations and donors meets regularly to discuss trends of importance to the future of the Catholic church. The organization itself does not provide grants, but its members often cooperate in supporting initiatives where there is a common interest.