International parish twinning provides an opportunity for a parish to develop a relationship with a “sister parish” in a foreign country. The relationship is two-way as both parishes grow through the sharing of experiences and faith. Our archdiocesan experience reflects what the U.S. bishops wrote about twinning: “These bridges of faith offer as much to U.S. parishes as to their partners. We are evangelized and changed as we help other communities of faith” (USCCB, Called to Global Solidarity: International Challenges for U.S. Parishes, 1997).
Twinning Opportunities in Haiti
Several archdiocesan parishes have long-standing twinning relationships with parishes in Haiti. Haiti is the poorest country in the western hemisphere, with an average annual household income of about $350 US. Haiti is overwhelmingly Catholic (80%), and the Catholic Church in Haiti is a powerful influence. Many Haitians have come to the Washington area to live and form a vibrant community here. These various factors have made Haiti a natural international twinning opportunity for archdiocesan parishes.
In 2006, in order to further support twinning in Haiti, the archdiocese began a twinning relationship with the Diocese of Jérémie. Seven archdiocesan parishes now twin with parishes in that diocese, while another eleven twin in other areas of Haiti. We continue to encourage twinning with the Diocese of Jérémie and elsewhere in Haiti, as well as with other areas outside the U.S. that parishes have chosen based on their own connections and desires.
The archdiocesan Haiti Twinning Committee meets monthly to support parishes with twins in Haiti. They can help you with information and support as you consider establishing a twinning relationship with Haiti. Please contact Cynthia Bowie.
Twinning Opportunities Elsewhere
A number of archdiocesan parishes are involved in twinning relationships in Latin American and Africa, such as Costa Rica, Guatemala, Belize, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Ghana and Togo. These often stem from relationships that a pastor or parishioners have with people or communities in these places. If such relationships already exist, they can be the basis for the establishment of a twinning relationship. Keep in mind that these twinning relationships should be embraced by the parish and not be the special project of only one or several people. For a twinning relationship to be enduring and most effective, it needs to go beyond just a few people in the parish.
Opportunities in Russia
A new twinning opportunity has recently opened up in Russia with the Archdiocese of the Mother of God in Moscow. There is a great need there, and we especially want to encourage parishes to consider twinning there to help the Latin Church rebuild its parishes and diocesan facilities after decades of suppression under communism. Only 1 percent of Russia’s 150 million inhabitants are Roman Catholics, so there is great need for help from outside the country to help rebuild the Church there.
The Archdiocese of the Mother of God in Moscow serves Catholics in the 1,015, 451 square miles spanning the region between the Polish border and the Ural Mountains, Ukraine and the Arctic Circle. Their seminary is reopened and has been educating priests since 1994. Local Catholics are not yet able to support their own priests and parishes.
Parishes can help in a number of ways, such as support for a priest or helping to rebuild facilities. For example, $5,000 will help support one priest for a year and $10,000 will support a parish for a year. Funds are also needed to help rebuild the seminary that was closed during the time of Soviet suppression.
Getting Started and Some Guidelines
Parish twinning is a wonderful way for a parish to respond to Christ’s call to be at service to the least of these in our midst. Guidelines to help you get started with an international twinning relationship in your parish follow. A number of dioceses in the U.S. follow these guidelines.
- Form a parish Twinning Committee.
This committee will nourish, foster and oversee the twinning relationship. The committee is in charge of raising awareness and funds in the parish, planning and leading mission trips, and exercising financial oversight of all the funds donated. The parish twining relationship should not be the personal project of one or two parishioners.
- Listen to the people and support a project.
Projects in which archdiocesan parishes are currently engaged include sponsoring feeding programs, building high schools, sponsoring children for school, supporting clinics, running medical missions, building churches, etc. For the sake of financial transparency and accountability, parishes should not simply give a check to the twinned parish, trusting that it will be put to good use. Rather, parishes should engage in an ongoing dialogue with the priest, pastoral counsel, leaders in the community and parishioners at their sister parish about their needs and the projects that they would prioritize. The people in countries like Haiti know far better their needs than we do. Listening must come first.
- Establish Bishop-to-Bishop accountability.
The Department for Charity and Justice is coordinating international twinning arrangements. Please notify the department about any twinning relationship you wish to begin. The department will inform Cardinal Wuerl about the arrangement so that he can consider the proposal and notify the bishop in the diocese where the twin project is located about the arrangement. That bishop has the prerogative to accept, change or reject the proposal depending on his assessment of the local situation. If this is the case, the local parish will be notified and can make changes if needed. This process has been requested by the local bishops to help them keep tack of the activities in their dioceses.
- Request a budget.
Once a project has been decided upon, ask for a budget and then for regular financial reports from the local pastor, until the completion of the project.
- Ask for receipts for all purchases over $100.
The Archdiocese of Washington seeks financial accountability at home and in its work abroad. International twinning experience here and in other dioceses has shown the importance of financial accountability. It is for this reason that we ask parishes to be open with their twin about their need for accountability and assure that their donations are being used for the intended purposes.Archdiocesan parishes twinned in the Diocese of Jérémie will be asked in the future to submit a short, annual financial report to the Archdiocese of Washington summarizing the contributions they have given and for what purposes. These parish reports will be compiled into a report which will be submitted each year to the Bishop of Jérémie.