Lilly Endowment Inc. gives $1.25 Million grant for the expansion of Hispanic ministry

The Lilly Endowment Inc. recently donated $1.25 million to the McGrath Institute for Church Life to expand their Holy Family Initiative for Family Catechesis.

Katherine Angulo Valenzuela, Program Director for the Holy Family Initiative, told the Rover in an interview that the initiative’s mission is to “catechize Hispanic parents, re-empowering them as teachers of the faith within their homes.” She continued, “This catechetical program addresses the increasing disaffiliation of young Hispanic people with the Church by creating a culture of affiliation.” 

The McGrath Institute piloted the Holy Family Initiative in 2022 in partnership with the Diocese of San Antonio, Texas. In this initial year, faculty from McGrath visited three select parishes in the diocese, offering bilingual workshops on various topics pertinent to Catholic life such as the importance of looking to Scripture for role models.

Lilly Endowment Inc., the philanthropic organization that granted $1.25 million to the Holy Family Initiative, is a philanthropic foundation based in Indianapolis, Indiana that, according to its website, endeavors to “help individuals reach their full potential, families to thrive, and communities to flourish through grants to a range of charitable organizations.” 

The endowment principally donates to religious organizations of various denominations, community development initiatives, and educational institutions. Notre Dame has received grants from the endowment multiple times in the recent past, such as a $35 million grant last year to fund research to address public health and environmental issues, which will be located in the interdisciplinary research building currently under construction on the east side of campus. 

Angulo Valenzuela said that the recent grant will support the initiative’s expansion to the Diocese of Raleigh, North Carolina. The initiative already had its first workshop at three parishes in this diocese, with about 370 parents in attendance.

In the interview, Angulo Valenzuela noted that the “Hispanic realities”—the lived experience of Hispanics in diverse areas—are vastly different in the two dioceses. In San Antonio, there is a larger variety within the Hispanic community: there are Hispanic families who have been in the United States for up to eight generations and who do not speak Spanish, as well as recently immigrated families that speak Spanish at home. Meanwhile, in Raleigh, the Hispanic community is relatively new and is rapidly growing as more and more Hispanics immigrate to Raleigh.

The Diocese of Raleigh was chosen as the second place for the program to be piloted so that those working in the initiative can better address the particular needs of different Hispanic communities in the future. 

Angulo Valenzuela told the Rover that many families are unable to attend parish programming because of difficulties arranging childcare. She elaborated, saying, “This is even more true for Hispanic parents who are often working schedules where meals may feel rushed.” To alleviate these stresses, the initiative—with the help of the hosting parishes—offers meals and childcare for workshop participants. 

In the workshops, a recurring theme was biblical imagination, which is the idea of modeling our lives on the lives of biblical figures. For example, Dr. Leonard DeLorenzo, Director of Undergraduate Studies for the McGrath Institute recently offered a session on the Holy Family as the exemplar of domestic life.

According to Angulo Valenzuela, the idea of biblical imagination was something new for those to whom the initiative ministered. Despite this, she noted, it seemed to “have helped facilitate reconciliation within families.” She further said that many parents had a negative relationship with their older children and that these sessions, especially a session on the parable of the prodigal son, made them realize the importance of healing these divisions. “By the final session, older teens and young adults were in attendance with their families,” she said.

Angulo Valenzuela hopes that the initiative will help these Hispanic communities, including by helping “parents take charge of passing the faith to the new generations when communication (language) and education has in many cases broken their relationships.” She also hopes that the initiative will aid “parents identify the difference between a good family and a good Catholic family.”

The McGrath Institute plans to open this initiative to all dioceses in the United States after operating in the dioceses of San Antonio and Raleigh for at least three years.

Bartosz Karol Chramiec is a freshman living in the Cinderblock Palace who intends to major in the Program of Liberal Studies. If you know how to befriend a chipmunk without it disappearing immediately, email him at

Photo Credit: The Irish Rover.

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