Catholic missionaries around the world devote their lives to helping the poorest communities alleviate suffering and improve their condition through faith and cooperation. But, often these priests and religious sisters are unable to achieve the impact they envision because they simply don’t have key equipment or lack sufficient resources. In many such cases, Cross Catholic Outreach acts as a bridge between vision and action by providing equipment, supplies and grants that sustain the spirit of hope and the momentum for change in these communities.
Cross Catholic was founded in 2001 by laypeople who in their missionary work worldwide had witnessed a dire need for additional resources to effect greater positive change in impoverished communities. The founders saw that priests and religious sisters were making a huge sacrifice to build a framework for success, but often lacked essential building blocks – such as establishing a feeding program without a steady supply of food or hosting volunteer physicians to diagnose illnesses but having no medicines to administer treatments.
Pursuing a mission of delivering food, shelter and hope to the poorest of the poor, Vatican-approved Cross Catholic – a 501(c)(3) nonprofit – has now given more than $2 billion in aid to help people in 36 developing countries globally. Resources and funds are channeled through dioceses, parishes and Catholic missionaries, thus cost-effectively helping the poor break the cycle of poverty while advancing Catholic evangelization. In addition to being highly effective, the organization runs lean: over 95% of expenses relate directly to supporting programs.
To grasp Cross Catholic’s impact, imagine a village where children’s health and wellbeing are being undermined by an unsafe water supply. Illnesses and deaths are tied to impure water, and some children spend hours hiking with buckets to retrieve water from distant springs, stunting their educational growth and opportunities. If clergy members serving such a community were to request help from Cross Catholic, the group – after a thorough assessment and with donors’ help – might provide comprehensive support. For this village, such support might take two forms: a “gifts in kind” of plastic pipes, valves, pumps and other supplies to connect it to a clean water source; and a “grant of aid” to pay workers to install the system, supplemented by labor from members of the community itself. The grand total for such transformative, life-saving support might be less than $20,000.
Such support is a blessing for affected communities – and also for donors in the United States, who are continually inspired by the Holy Spirit’s strength among people despite their poverty. Cross Catholic’s founders understand that members of the Church in the U.S. have a strong sense of brotherhood and sisterhood with others in the world, and want to make a difference. The challenge is that they often don’t have a clear picture of how they can help and, in particular, what impact their donations might actually have.
Cross Catholic solves this issue through transparency: their website offers donors complete details about the community in need, what the exact problems are, how local clergy are planning to address the problems, and what specific equipment, supplies or funds are required for success. The donor can support a specific project or several. Many make a family commitment or join with other members of their parishes. As projects progress, donors get updates on the work, including photos and stories about the specific families and individuals that benefited.
The organization makes extraordinary efforts to ensure that donors’ intentions are honored. This is accomplished in two ways. First, Cross Catholic builds a relationship with local clergy over time, typically starting with a small project, assessing its performance, and then moving on to larger projects. The clergy help optimize strategies by taking local conditions into account, which is key to ensuring impact and efficiency. Also, Cross Catholic has established its own international monitoring team, which visits each recipient community to ensure that funds are spent wisely and in keeping with the tenets of Catholic faith. The ties between Cross Catholic Outreach, its donors and these local communities often become very strong, extending as long as 15 years or more.
In several cases, donors who have shared in this deep relationship have established specialized endowment funds to ensure missions receive the long-term support necessary to create lasting success. Recently, one such fund was entrusted to a professional investment management firm that specializes in creating portfolios that strive for sound returns while reflecting Catholic values as articulated in the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Socially Responsible Investment Guidelines.
For more information about Cross Catholic Outreach, visit www.crosscatholic.org