|Appalachia today stands for poverty, isolation and despair. It is a land in crisis.
As a response to this situation, on March 2, 1988, Pope John Paul II established Lexington, Kentucky as a new diocese. The diocese is made up of 50 counties. It contains 1.4 million people of which 40,000 are Roman Catholic. There are 70 parishes and missions and 64 active diocesan and religious priests.
In Eastern Kentucky, the Mountain Missions contain 30 counties, an area the size of Rhode Island, Delaware, Connecticut and New Jersey. Some 750,000 people call this land their home. There is an average of about one Catholic family for every 400 people.
The most economically depressed of America’s poor now reside in this new diocese. The challenges are monumental and material resources are minimal. There is no money to purchase land in counties in which there are neither priests nor churches; no money to build or expand mission stations or schools to answer the calls of the people who are searching for a fuller life.
One of the poorest areas in modern America calls out to the Church for help, and it would be a great tragedy of unbelievable proportions if we have to say, “No, we have no way to help.”