Editor's Report

Catholic Extension’s New York Story


At Catholic New York, we take great pride in both parts of our name. Stories we publish generally have angles that are both Catholic- and New York-focused. When they are not readily apparent, we sometimes spend a little time investigating to see if we can discover them.

Case in point is the story you are now starting to read.

We recently had a pitch from Catholic Extension about a sold-out dinner the national organization held in New York Oct. 22. They even included a quote from Cardinal Dolan, who had celebrated Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral with Father Jack Wall, president of Catholic Extension, that morning.

“Just as Pope Francis has caught the imagination of the world by saying the Church has got to go out to the highways and byways, Catholic Extension has been doing that for decades…,” the cardinal explained.

“When you have a jewel like Catholic Extension, it deserves national support.”

Chicago-based Catholic Extension, in the materials they sent us, said they were started more than a century ago “with a mission to build faith across the country.” The release also said the organization serves “91 poor dioceses,” or nearly half the dioceses in the United States, “by investing in people, ministry and infrastructure.” Through the years, Catholic Extension has built more than 12,000 Catholic churches across America.

That’s a pretty convincing case for the Catholic part of this story, but what about the New York angle? There too help came through the Youth Adult Leadership initiative developed with Fordham University, Boston College and the University of Notre Dame.

The new partnership that exists between Catholic Extension and the universities now involves 18 students who are serving in mission dioceses as they earn their graduate degrees. They take classes online or during the summer.

All three partners contribute toward the costs, so the students end up with a great graduate education and serve the needs of mission dioceses.

At Fordham, whose association with Catholic Extension dates to the 1960s, the six students are enrolled in the Graduate School of Religion and Religious Education. Colt Anderson, the Fordham dean, said the program’s students are a good deal younger than most of their classmates who generally enroll as “second-career people.”

“There is a desperate need to develop young people” to serve in the Church, said Anderson, adding that Fordham believes in the partnership so much it is working to develop fund-raising initiatives to expand the program.

Anderson, a native of the Diocese of Savannah, Ga., also told me about an added benefit for New Yorkers. As Catholic Extension provides assistance to help dioceses build churches, support ministries and develop personnel, some of the beneficiaries may be former New Yorkers who move to new places.

Fordham’s students are now working in the Diocese of Richmond, Va., and the Eparchy of St. Maron of Brooklyn. I had the pleasure of speaking with Mary Semenczuk, who is serving as a Catholic campus ministry intern at Radford University in southwestern Virginia. A couple weeks ago, she organized a diocesan-wide college women’s retreat as part of her master’s thesis project.

“What I’m learning in class, I can apply directly in ministry,” said Ms. Semenczuk, who expects to graduate from Fordham in May with a master’s in religious education with a concentration in youth and young adult ministry.

Her Catholic Extension experience, she said, has confirmed that “this is the right career fit for me.”