Cross Catholic Outreach Transforms Lives Worldwide
By Amanda Hudson, News Editor
February 24, 2022
BOCA RATON, Fla.—In 2001, coworkers Jim Cavnar and Brian Schutt left their former employer and began Cross International Catholic Outreach, which became Cross Catholic Outreach in 2011.
Several staffers at at The Observer have been familiar with Cross Catholic Outreach almost since it began through a fellow Catholic Media Association member, Robin Lees, who worked at Cross Catholic and was eager to share all that was being accomplished. Her enthusiasm for the ministry was contagious.
There now is an even newer connection from the Rockford Diocese to Cross Catholic Outreach. The ministry’s Marketing Engagement Manager, Karen Saum, is originally from St. Charles, and her father still lives there (and is an Observer reader). She has worked for Cross Catholic Outreach since 2020.
Wells of Salvation:
A Lenten Outreach to
Quench Thirst and Build
a Brighter Future
Families in remote communities around the world face hardships each day. Children and families often do not have safe water to drink, and a lack of sanitary waste disposal further promotes the spread of life-threatening waterborne diseases.
This Lent, you can change that. Cross Catholic Outreach is funding clean water projects worldwide.
You can build a brighter future for these families and provide clean water and sanitation to communities around the world.
Saum is enthused about the mission and thrilled with how her organization makes a difference in the lives of poor people around the world and with donors as well.
“I’m constantly amazed by how many lives are touched by the programs I am involved with and support,” she says. 
Saum names examples of what she’s seen in her work, saying they range “from the U.S. Catholics who deepened their faith and support of Cross Catholic Outreach by hearing our message of mercy from our outreach priests who celebrated nearly 1,000 Masses in 2021, to our food packing events (that) helped serve over 933,000 meals to the hungry in countries around the world.” 
“And to top it all off,” she adds, “the Box of Joy® ministry blessed over 100,000 children who most likely would never receive a gift at Christmas, showing them the love of Christ. It’s truly heart-warming to know the impact we are having on so many!”
Cross Catholic Outreach originated with a commitment to provide support to good works in process.
“Throughout the world, we had already seen that wherever there was the greatest poverty, the most desolate communities and the greatest need, the Church was already there in the person of priests, sisters and Catholic lay leaders who were committed to bringing the love of God to the poor,” says Cross Catholic Outreach president and founder Cavnar. “Our vision was to recognize the heroic efforts of these missionaries and to rally the Church in the United States to come to their aid.”
That founding vision was to work through existing Catholic organizations and ministries, he says. Instead of trying to create new programs, they are determined to focus Cross Catholic Outreach’s efforts to support the good works already begun in service to the poor.
Other founding principles included providing donors with accountability, creating connections with the priests, sisters and lay leaders serving the poor, he says. 
“Hence, from the beginning, we’ve always let donors give to specific needs and specific projects,” Cavnar explains, also providing donors with “detailed reports on how their money was used and the impact they have made in the lives of real people.”
Ensuring a positive impact, he adds, means forming long-term relationships with partner ministries to allow programs to continue and thrive. Sustainable, long-term transformation of poor communities is the hope and goal.
Cross Catholic Outreach seeks missions “that are not only effective in alleviating the material poverty of the poor,” Cavnar says, “but are also effective in bringing about spiritual transformation.”
He notes online about his visit to a Catholic ministry in the Philippines that has transformed large areas of the slums in Manila. The ministry’s head noted, “we can build beautiful new homes for them, but it will all become a slum again in two years. Only Jesus can change hearts.”
To that end, homes were built, but occupants also were invited to prayer meetings, retreats, and to be part of home groups for faith sharing. One participant told Cavnar that before, “it was dog-eat-dog … no one cared for anyone else. Now we are a community that helps one another, works together and cares for one another.”
Those kinds of experiences helped Cavnar and Schutt create the Cross Catholic Outreach’s mission statement: “We mobilize the global Catholic Church to transform the poor and their communities materially and spiritually for the glory of Jesus Christ.”
In the two decades since its founding, Cross Catholic Outreach has grown to be represented in a greater number of countries (30+) and in the amount of aid provided (more than $3.3 billion). In 2003 the ministry extended into Africa and Southeast Asia; and in 2006 into Latin America.
Cross Catholic Outreach is a 501(c)(3) official Catholic ministry registered with the Diocese of Palm Beach and listed in that diocese in the Official Catholic Directory. Partnering with bishops, priests, religious and lay workers, the agency provides food, water, housing, education, orphan support, medical care, microenterprise and disaster relief through those partners’ grassroots connections in direct service to the poor of their communities.
Collaborations are with aid partners that are community oriented and that strive to increase the self-sufficiency of the men, women and children they serve. Additionally, it provides financial monitoring, reporting and accountability for the larger and more advanced of those church-based ministries and other faith-based organizations.
“There’s still more to do,” says Cavnar, “but the idea that birthed Cross Catholic Outreach — the idea that God can work through us to bring about lasting, transformative change — is as true today as it was 20 years ago when this ministry was founded.”
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