Carol Zimmermann, Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Msgr. Kieran Harrington, vicar of communications for the Diocese of Brooklyn, New York, has been named national director of the Pontifical Mission Societies in the United States.

The five-year appointment was announced April 14 by Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, prefect of the Vatican Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, which oversees the work of more than 120 national mission societies around the world.

Msgr. Harrington succeeds Oblate Father Andrew Small, who is completing his second five-year term as the national director of the four organizations that make up the Pontifical Mission Societies in the United States.

“I am humbled by the trust placed in me to serve the Church in this most important area of missionary evangelization,” said Msgr. Harrington, who added that he looks forward to “working with the bishops and dioceses to support the pastoral work of the pontifical missions.”

Brooklyn Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio said in a statement the selection of Msgr. Harrington for this position “is the absolute right choice.” He noted that there has “always been an extraordinary desire within him to bring the good news of Jesus Christ, and the Christian faith, to the people not only of his parish, but throughout the world.”

He said the priest brings to the role a “deep faith and motivation to evangelize” and that the Church will benefit because of his “devotion to Our Lord, and to the people the Catholic Church is called to serve.”

On July 1, Father Small will officially continue his work as president and CEO of Missio Invest, a group he founded in 2014 to help fund the social service efforts of the Catholic Church in Africa through Missio Invest Social Impact Fund.

He said he has gotten to know Msgr. Harrington in the past 10 years and is “delighted that someone of such ability and passion has been chosen as the next national director of the Holy Father’s mission societies.”

Msgr. Harrington was ordained in 2001 and has been vicar of communications for the Diocese of Brooklyn since 2006.

As vicar, he has been responsible for overseeing the diocesan public information and affairs office and its government affairs and public policy office as well as supervising NET, the diocese’s cable station, and The Tablet, the diocesan newspaper. The priest also is rector of the Co-Cathedral of St. Joseph in Brooklyn.

He told Catholic News Service April 13 he was very grateful for the opportunity “to be involved in this important ministry in the life of the Church” noting that the “missionary impulse” is at the heart of the baptismal call for all Catholics and that the Pontifical Mission Societies aims to “awaken that missionary spirit.”

His own sense of the missionary role of the Church goes back to when he was young and his Irish immigrant parents in New York had visiting Irish Holy Ghost Fathers come to the house, where they would celebrate Mass and take up a collection for the church in Biafra, which at the time was a secessionist state in West Africa and today is part of Nigeria.

He said these priests made a big impression on him just by their “essence of missionary spirit.”

And now, as he prepares to follow a missionary outreach, Msgr. Harrington said he hopes to be able to discuss with the nation’s bishops and diocesan directors of the Pontifical Mission Societies the best ways to continue to tell the story of the Church’s outreach around the world.

“Amazing things are being done,” he said, noting the Church’s mission work is not just about humanitarian projects but also about communicating the Faith.

A key part of continuing this work, he added, is to help Catholics in developing nations or struggling areas to know “they are not alone: The whole Church is praying with them, walking with them.”

Father Small similarly stressed the Church’s mission work was one of solidarity with the Church around the world and said the work of the Pontifical Mission Societies has done just that from its founding in 1916 to now.

“It is as important as ever to lift the voices no one has access to … the Church no one sees,” he told CNS.

And over the years, the Pontifical Mission Societies has found news ways to communicate its message, from the television work of Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen — who was its national director from 1950 to 1966 and is a sainthood candidate who has been declared “Venerable” — to the digital outreach under Father Small’s direction.

The Oblate priest has overseen the group’s online curriculum in mission theology and its creation of the Missio USA “MassBot” which enabled users to request the offering of a Mass for their intentions and receive messages from the missionary priest who celebrated the Mass as well as online updates of global missionary work.

Father Andrew said in his 10 years with Pontifical Mission Societies, the organization focused on new ways to communicate the Gospel message by hiring people with backgrounds in youth and young adult ministries and also by providing more bilingual materials.

He is particularly proud of the work of Missio Invest, initially formed under the umbrella of the Pontifical Mission Societies in the United States until it became separately incorporated in 2018.

He said the group pursues the same goals as the pope’s missionary groups but in different ways which he said was like “the new kid on the missionary block.”

Missio Invest has already provided 40 loans of $4.5 million to agriculture, businesses, schools and microfinance institutions owned and operated by the Catholic Church in several African countries.

The Pontifical Mission Societies includes the Society for the Propagation of the Faith, the Holy Childhood Association, the Society of St. Peter Apostle, and the Missionary Union of Priests and Religious.

Copyright © 2021 Catholic News Service Used with permission of CNS.

Dennis Sadowksi, Catholic News Service

CLEVELAND (CNS) — A $20 million loan from the U.S. international development bank will allow a program started by the Pontifical Mission Societies in the United States to expand social-impact investing in enterprises operated by the Catholic Church in Africa.

The loan from the International Development Finance Corporation to the Missio Invest Social Impact Fund will be used over four years to support agricultural, health, education and financial inclusion institutions with church ties in the sub-Saharan region.

Known as MISIF, the fund will funnel money to small and medium enterprises that have no access to investments from traditional sources, Oblate Father Andrew Small, national director of the Pontifical Missions Societies, told Catholic News Service.

“No one is doing this level of funding. It’s too risky,” Father Small said.

The fund’s loans — ranging from $50,000 to $1 million — are financing church-led initiatives that large-scale investors routinely bypass, he said. Other benefits for recipients include low interest rates and no requirement for collateral.

MISIF also provides ongoing training and technical assistance throughout the life of the loan and beyond.

The people benefiting from the loans will be “agents of change” in the developing world as their income is stabilized, leading to reduced poverty, the priest said.

Through 2020, MISIF’s loans totaled nearly $4.5 million. Father Small said 98% of the portfolio is current on repayments and four loans have been completely paid off.

Among the first loans issued in 2016 was one to St. Mathias Mulumba Seminary Farm in Eldoret in Kenya. This year, their loan will be repaid in full. The farm uses an integrated farming approach: biogas has reduced seminary’s firewood consumption by 40%, and there’s the planting of seven acres of trees. For the surrounding community, the farm is a source of milk and maize, as well as a source of local employment.

Loans have been made to 38 agribusinesses, two microfinance institutions and one school spread across six countries: Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia. Borrowers have included congregations of women and men religious and priests, dioceses, seminaries, financial institutions and parishes.

“We started with agriculture because it has the biggest payoff in terms of reduced poverty,” Father Small said, adding that a wider array of health care, education and financial institutions will be sought as the loan program expands.

The Banyatereza Sisters in Fort Portal, Uganda, received a loan in October 2017, making their recent payment a month early. The Sisters are bee farmers, have dairy cows, and grow bananas, coffee and sugar cane. Profits from the farm support the Sisters’ 6 schools and 4 healthcare facilities, educating 5,500 students and serving 8,640 patients annually.

A school expansion in northern Tanzania for Masai children, a coffee farm in Kenya and a church-based financial institution in Nigeria have been among the early participants in the loan program.

Overall, the enterprises receiving loans have provided 2,000 jobs and $3 million in income to local economies and trained 4,500 farmers in sustainable practices in farm management, according to Missio Invest.

Father Small said the $20 million U.S. loan will allow MISIF to reach hundreds of other church-based enterprises in up to a dozen more countries. The loan must be paid back, with interest, usually within six years.

MISIF was created in 2019 by Missio Invest, which the Pontifical Mission Societies formed in 2014 to work with church-owned enterprises.

The philosophy behind forming the loan program is based on connecting investors with communities that are carrying out the missionary work of the church as envisioned by Pope Francis, Father Small said.

The priest originally set out to establish such a fund through which investors would provide “real money” to grassroots enterprises working in local communities rather than depending on donors who contribute from their pool of earnings obtained through traditional high rate-of-return investment tools.

Such social-impact investing will foster what Father Small described as more sustainable development and lead to more long-lasting relationships that the pope has encouraged the church to initiate and maintain.

“Unless we build meaningful relationships based not on vague notions of concern and donations but of concrete and identifiable forms of mutual concern, then we will continue to stifle the agency of the poor,” he said.

He compared the thinking behind MISIF to Jesus’ parable of the widow’s mite in which the elderly woman’s small donation is described as greater than any donation from the rich person who contributes from their excess holdings.

“It’s about giving until it really matters to you, until it makes a difference to your own well-being,” he explained. “The widow is expressing that she feels dependent on God and others for her future well-being. Unless we do that with the massive investment portfolios that we have amassed, it’s hard to see how we create the type of interdependence and unity God offers for our happiness.”

Church-based investors in MISIF include the Sisters of St. Louis; the U.S. Midwest province of the Society of Jesus; the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate; the archdioceses of Milwaukee and Miami; the Royal English College of St. Alban in Spain; the Vatican Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples; and the Pontifical Missionary Societies of the U.S.

Father Small said he sees the program expanding to South Asia by 2025 as new investors join MISIF. Projections call for loans to approach $80 million by 2030.

“We’ve got to ask how we can reconceive our interdependence in a way that we lay claim to a legitimate future together because we need each other in the future as we do today. I think the pandemic has shown us that,” the priest said.

“If we can share our bank balance as well as profits, we’re going to get closer to an interdependent world.”

Copyright © 2021 Catholic News Service Used with permission of CNS.

This article appeared in The Independent, a news magazine published in Kampala, Uganda.

New York, US | THE INDEPENDENT | Missio Invest, an impact investor that provides loans and technical assistance to social enterprises operated by the Catholic Church in Africa, has secured a $20 million loan facility from the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC).

Missio Invest, through Missio Invest Social Impact Fund (MISIF), has developed a unique model to drive change via the Church’s vast network of already  existing social service organizations, the land attached to those organizations, and the people who run them in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Read more…

Missio Invest President and CEO Father Andrew Small, OMI talks with Bloomberg TV’s Jason Kelly on Bloomberg Quicktake about Missio Invest’s $20M loan facility from the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation.

Missio Invest Missio Invest provides financing for entrepreneurial development initiatives operated by the Catholic Church.

NEW YORK – MARCH 22, 2021 – Missio Corp. (dba Missio Invest), an investment fund manager for impact investments in social service institutions operated by the Catholic Church, announced today that Reverend Andrew Small, OMI has been appointed as its President in addition to his current role as Chief Executive Officer.

Fr. Small founded Missio Corp. in 2014 as the Church’s own social impact fund designed to implement an innovative blended financing approach to financing social service efforts operated by the Catholic Church in Africa.

“Fr. Small is someone I’ve known well and worked closely with for the past 10 years,” said Chairman of the Board of Missio Corp., Reverend Monsignor Robert J. Fuhrman. “Anyone who has witnessed how he has managed to grow this new form of financial support for many thousands of our brothers and sisters in need can attest to why many have placed their trust in his ongoing leadership. The investment by the United States International Development Finance Corporation of $20M in addition to other private investors demonstrates a confirmation of this new form of blended financing that will support the life-saving and life-giving work of the Church throughout Africa and beyond. Fr. Small is the right person to take Missio Invest to the next level,” said Msgr. Fuhrman.

Fr. Small has served for 10 years as the National Director of the Pontifical Mission Societies. Appointed to that position by the Vatican, Fr. Small directs the network of mission offices across the United States in their work to support the Church’s efforts at human and spiritual promotion in more than 1,110 dioceses around the world. Central to his tenure has been an updating of the Church’s mission presence in the digital sphere. He led the creation of the first Catholic-only peer-to-peer crowdfunding platform for mission support ( as well as a state-of-the-art online curriculum in mission theology. Aimed at reaching people in their daily lives, he conceived and oversaw the creation of the Missio USA “MassBot” allowing users to request the offering of a Mass for their intentions and receiving curated messages from the missionary priest offering the Mass.

After serving as the U.S. Bishops’ policy advisor for international economic development from 2004 to 2009, Fr. Small coordinated Church recovery efforts following the earthquake in Haiti in 2010. He taught international trade law as an adjunct professor at Georgetown University Law Center from 2006-2009. He holds law degrees from Sheffield University, England (LL.B.) and Georgetown University Law Center, USA (LL.M.) and earned his doctorate in systematic theology (S.Th.D.) from the Catholic University of America. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

“I feel blessed and honored by this appointment. It is further confirmation of the good work being carried out by Missio Invest and all its collaborators across the globe,” said Fr. Small. “With more than $4.5 million already invested, Missio Invest plans to deploy a total of $40 million across the Church’s extensive infrastructure of agriculture, healthcare and education by 2025. This is an exciting challenge, but one built on solid foundations,” he noted. “Pope Francis has warned us against turning the Church into a museum, but to have the audacity to bring life to old structures using the new means available to us. Missio Invest is part of what’s next.”


About Missio Invest
Missio is an investment management group incubated inside the Pontifical Mission Societies in the United States (TPMS-US) until being separately incorporated in 2018; it maintains a strategic relationship agreement with TPMS-US. Currently, Missio Invest has provided 40 loans totaling $4.5 million to agriculture businesses, schools and microfinance institutions owned and operated by the Catholic Church in Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia. Missio Invest expects to lend to at least 200 enterprises, mostly agricultural, over the next five years, for a total loan portfolio of some $40 million.

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