Catholic Arkansas Sharing Appeal 2024

We're a Mission Diocese
and a Diocese with Mission


Catholic Arkansas Sharing Appeal 2024

Published: February 4, 2024

Bishop Anthony B. Taylor recorded the following homily to be played at all Masses in Arkansas on Feb. 3-4, 2023.

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Bishop Taylor

My brothers and sisters in Christ, over the course of the past 15 and a half years as your bishop, I have come to marvel at the evident vitality of the Church here in Arkansas. We are a mission diocese and we are a diocese with a mission in two similar but distinct ways:

1.) Generous Catholics from outside Arkansas help us with needs we are not able to meet on our own; and 2.) generous Catholics from within Arkansas reach out to help others in our state through our annual CASA appeal, through our One Church campaign and in other ways as well.

It is easy for us to forget how much we are still a mission church, in terms of distance and population. Although we have 130 churches scattered throughout the state, we still have eight counties with no Catholic church and 36 counties without a resident priest — almost half of the state.

You too are missionaries — home missioners — and I am so grateful for all your sacrifices and dedicated work spreading the good news of Jesus Christ in your parishes and local communities.

But in much of Arkansas we continue to grow, especially in the northwest part of the state. Indeed, our Catholic population has tripled in the past 50 years, from 55,000 to 166,000, and we now constitute almost 6 percent of the general population: We used to be less than 3 percent.

Our growth is due in part to the sacrifices of many Catholics outside of Arkansas. Historically it was missionary priests who came to us from Germany and Italy, and then later Philadelphia, at a time when it was difficult to be a Catholic in Arkansas. Today we continue to be blessed with 22 missionary priests who now come mainly from Africa, Latin America and Asia.

Without the help of these generous missionary priests, many of our churches would not be able to have Mass every weekend. Thanks to them, we have not had to close any churches for lack of personnel during my time as your bishop.

Other outside help has come to us through the Catholic Extension Society, which, over the last 25 years, has given us $4.6 million in grant money for church construction and help with the salaries of many of our sisters engaged in Hispanic ministry. I encourage you to take a moment to thank our missionary priests and our religious order priests and sisters. We owe them a lot!

But that’s only half of the story. The other half are the sacrifices of many Catholics from within Arkansas. That’s you! So I want to take this opportunity to thank all 97 priests of our diocese — the 82 Diocese of Little Rock priests in active ministry and our 15 senior priests.

And of course, our Benedictine and other religious order priests. I also want to thank our 25 seminarians who give us so much hope for the future, our 107 permanent deacons in active ministry, the 60 men in formation for the diaconate and almost 150 men and women religious, many of whom are elderly.

But you know, the mission of the Church is for all of us, not just the clergy and religious. So, I am grateful for our Knights of Columbus who do so much to support the work of the Church across our diocese, and the Serra Club, the Knights and Dames of the Holy Sepulcher, the Knights and Ladies of St. Peter Claver, and of course our catechists and RCIA coordinators, and so on.

You too are missionaries — home missioners — and I am so grateful for all your sacrifices and dedicated work spreading the good news of Jesus Christ in your parishes and local communities.

And of course, it costs a lot of money to fund the operation of the diocese and the activities of the Church in Arkansas, which go well beyond just our diocesan offices — hence our annual Catholic Arkansas Sharing Appeal (CASA).

You would be amazed at all that is being done on the diocesan level, about which you can read in the latest issue of our weekly Arkansas Catholic newspaper. The Bible calls us to return 10 percent of our income to the Lord, most of which you should give to your local parish and other charities, but I do ask you to give 1 percent of your income to our annual CASA appeal.

By supporting the work of the diocese, you participate in the missionary outreach of the Church beyond your local parish. I want to thank you very sincerely for your exceptionally generous response to CASA last year. We made our goal of $2,000,000! We are a missionary church, and we are a church with a mission. Through CASA you participate in the missionary outreach of Jesus’ Church right here in Arkansas.