Strengthening Catholic Communities of Color through Volunteer Development


Thanks to New City Ministry, many Catholic communities of color in the Twin Cities have gotten a big bang from not-so-big bucks. For nearly 30 years, the ministry has provided modest personal development grants to Catholic men and women of color. By supporting these parish volunteers in their ministerial formation journey, New City Ministry affirms and strengthens entire faith communities.

Father Stanley Sledz, former pastor at the Church of St. Peter Claver in St. Paul, was inspired to launch New City Ministry after receiving an inheritance from his beloved uncle, Father Henry Sledz, a diocesan priest. To honor his uncle’s ministry, Father Stanley focused on his service as chaplain to Sodality, an Ignatian organization for Catholic laity that took him around the world. “Henry was always interested in different nationalities,” Father Stanley says. “New City Ministry reflects that
part of his life.”

Demonstrating the Power of Endowments

The ministry began as a donor advised fund at CCF. It was eventually converted to an endowed fund, ensuring grants will be available for future generations. “We started with the $200,000 inheritance,” says Father Stanley. “Since then, thanks to the continual growth the endowment offers, we’ve given away more than $250,000. CCF manages the money and lets us knowhow much we can spend each year, so I’m not worried about the fund going dry.”

Father Stanley set up an advisory committee to help review grant applications and allocate the annual distribution. He also named committee member Anne Attea, Director of Faith Formation and Social Justice at Church of the Ascension in Minneapolis, as his successor. Anne, along with future successors, will receive
CCF’s support to ensure endowment funds are used in accordance with Father Stanley’s vision.

Modest Grants Make Major Impacts

Anne describes the outsized impact the grants have in under-resourced communities. “Many of these parishes run on volunteers, and it’s hard for them to get money to do something extra,” Anne says. “These grants are often just a few hundred dollars each, but they make a huge difference in the lives of so many people.”

Grant recipient Juan Cuzco arrived from Ecuador in 2000 at the age of 21,with a dream to become a catechist. He had no money and didn’t speak English when he began volunteering at Holy Rosary Church in Minneapolis, a predominantly Spanish-speaking parish. Not long after, Juan received a New City Ministry grant to fund his Latino Youth Leader certification. Within a few years, and thanks to additional financial support from New City Ministry, he joined Holy Rosary’s staff as the Director of Faith Formation. Juan went on to earn a degree from the University of St. Thomas. “New City Ministry supported my vocation,” he says. “My hope for the coming year is to appl
to the seminary.”

On the other side of Minneapolis, the Church of St. Anne – St. Joseph Hien serves a thriving Vietnamese community. Trina Nguyen, a family ministry volunteer at the parish, explains how New City Ministry grants have funded leadership training for youth volunteers in the parish’s Eucharistic Youth Movement program, many of whom also teach. “Our parish is blessed with more than 300 students at Sunday school each week,” says Trina. “Our youth are so important to the parish, not only as leaders for the future, but as leaders for today.”

Tim Tran was one of the parish’s grant recipients serving as a catechist and youth leader. Later called to diocesan priesthood, Father Tran now serves as parochial vicar at St. Stephen’s Catholic Community in Anoka.

Ministry Yields Fruit for Local Churches

New City Ministry hosts an annual banquet to celebrate grant recipients, allowing them to share with each other what the grants enabled them to learn and do. “These are life-changing experiences,” says Anne. “Whether you’re getting certified as a youth leader or attending a conference that gets you fired up to be more involved … it all bears fruits for our local Church.”

Father Stanley feels blessed by the work. He also appreciates the opportunity to keep alive memories of an uncle whose love for the Church instilled in him a sense of joy. “He was very social. Every year before Lent, Uncle Henry hosted a Mardi Gras party, and he’d wear a costume based on one of the countries he visited through his work as chaplain to Sodality, Father Stanley says with a smile.

He retrieves a photo of his uncle and reads the handwritten memorial on the back: “Father Henry Sledz passed on to glory on June 9, 1991. Heaven should be a little more fun from now on.”



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