Foundation helps people invest in future of the church

By Peggy Moraczewski
Correspondent

The Catholic Foundation – Diocese of Austin recently held its annual meeting and present were Bishops Joe Vásquez and Daniel Garcia, as well as religious and lay leaders from Catholic parishes, schools, agencies and organizations. Guest speaker, Kerry Robinson, Executive Director of the National Leadership Roundtable on Church Management, discussed the state of Catholic philanthropy, giving trends and the value of endowments. 
Robinson’s family has a 70-year history of philanthropy and she learned about stewardship, evangelization and generosity from a young age. She has been involved in serving the Catholic church for her entire life. 
“The qualities that make for successful fundraising in a faith based context are precisely the qualities and the disciplines that we would advocate if we wanted to cultivate an inner life mature faith,” Robinson said. The qualities she spoke of hope, foresight, tenacity, humility, joy, gratitude and prayer, apply to faithful stewards and disciples of Jesus Christ.
When the Catholic Foundation was established eight years ago, it created an opportunity for individuals and organizations, as faithful stewards, to invest in the future of the Catholic church. Endowments are an option to help attain this goal.
An endowment is a permanent fund, so the principal remains intact, while earned income is used for the purpose specified when the endowment is established. It differs from annual or special project funds which may allow for the principal to be used. The Catholic Foundation manages endowments that provide long-term essential funding for numerous Catholic agencies, organizations, parishes and schools.
Holy Cross Father Bill Wack, pastor at St. Ignatius Martyr Parish and School, shared his experience with their Catholic School endowment. 
“When I began my term as pastor of St. Ignatius, I was surprised to discover that our school did not have an endowment. For me, an endowment is tangible proof that we plan on being around and educating our children well into the future. It is a sign and a commitment to our community. Over the last six years we have grown our endowment from zero to $100,000! Not only has this given us an investment in our future; it is a motivation for us to be good stewards with what God has given us today,” he said.
Another “perk” is receiving back nearly 4 percent of the funds every year – funds that go toward current scholarships or special projects, he said.
“Participating in the Catholic Foundation has been a win-win-win for our school, our families, and our community,” Father Wack said. Any parish or school can establish an endowment with a $10,000 donation and make additions to the principal in the future.
“The Catholic Foundation can take the burden of administering a fund for a local parish or school and put it in the hands of experts to manage. This allows the priest, or whoever is administrator, to focus on their parish and primary responsibilities,” said Tom Blair, Catholic Foundation Board President.
Robinson, addressing an audience who ranged in age from recent college graduates to those with decades of wisdom, said, “Catholics have risen to levels of influence and affluence that is staggering ... With that, comes a sophistication and set of expectations before they invest philanthropically. They want to see ... a radical commitment to excellence.”
Participating in an endowment through the Catholic Foundation appealed to David and Cindy Bednar. Drawn to the idea of a long-term sustainable investment and the fact that they could specify how their gift would be used, they chose to support education of seminarians. 
Cindy said, “After all, without priests, we would have no Eucharist ... the source and summit of the Christian life.” 
Robert Suffoletta serves on the Investment Committee for the Catholic Foundation and offered information about the investment strategy and guidelines that are aligned with the foundation’s mission. A professional investment advisory firm guides the investment decisions and the foundation follows socially responsible investing guidelines established by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Financial statements are audited annually and available on the foundation website (www.catholicfdn.org).
“This diocese which is growing extremely fast, needs the Catholic Foundation to help us keep the mission of the church alive and well,” Bishop  Vásquez said.
To learn more about the Catholic Foundation and how to help secure the future of the Diocese of Austin, its parishes, schools and Catholic organizations, contact Scott Whitaker, executive director, at (512) 949-2444, or visit www.catholicfdn.org.