ARLINGTON, Va. -- The Roman Catholic Diocese of Arlington is launching a five-year, $75 million fund-raising campaign to fund new schools and services for Northern Virginia's growing Catholic population.

The number of Catholics in the diocese's 21 Northern and Central Virginia counties increased by nearly 45 percent over the past 10 years, growing from 250,000 in 1990 to 362,132 in 2000, according to the Northern Virginia Journal. Diocese officials attribute the growth to the area's overall population growth.

Catholic school enrollment at the diocese's 37 schools grew by nearly 300 students in the last seven years to 3,457 this year. Many of the schools are becoming overcrowded and placing prospective students on waiting lists, said Robert Mueller, the diocese's stewardship and development director.

The diocese plans to break ground on two new high schools by 2003, Mueller said. A majority of the funds raised will be used to support the schools, with the remainder used for local church support.

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