The Catholic Foundation helps parishes get extra $1 million-plus

Roxanne King

Parishioners from 39 churches in the Archdiocese of Denver took advantage of a financial opportunity over the past year by digging deeper into their wallets and now their parishes have more than $1 million to use for such needs as a church remodeling, an altar replacement and new widows for a parish school.

The Catholic Foundation of Northern Colorado agreed to match up to $10,000 if parishes raised money outside of the weekly offertory collections. Through June, the parishes raised $652,214 and the foundation added the $390,000 matching funds.

One parishioner at St. Michael the Archangel in Aurora personally met the match with a $10,000 donation after listening to Deacon Steve Stemper, CEO and president of the foundation, explain the program.

“I think that we probably would not have gotten that $10,000 donation if Deacon Steve had not spoken at the church about the matching funds,” said Pastor Father Terry Kissell.

Other parishioners also have made donations, Father Kissell said, and the money is being put into an endowment fund for future uses.

“The response has been fantastic,” Deacon Stemper told the Denver Catholic Register. “We’re offering parishioners an opportunity to help their parish and in the process double the money. The weekly offering helps the parishes keep the lights on and keep the programs in place running. This money allows them to go over and above those basic needs.”

The program will run at least through 2014 with a possible extension into 2015 and other parishes still can take advantage of the matching funds, Deacon Stemper said. The money comes from the foundation’s Bridge Fund, which benefits a variety of Catholic ministries through grants determined by the board of trustees.

Each parish determines how the matching money will be used. For St. Mark in Westminster the money allows the parish to begin a long-needed remodel project for the church and offices, said Father Ken Koehler.

“People here really have been generous,” Father Koehler said. “They listened to how the program would work and how we could get the remodel project.”

Father Koehler hopes the building improvements will help attract more young families to the parish, which has an older congregation.

St. Peter Parish in Greeley with the help of the local Knights of Columbus was able to raise the matching funds and replaced its aging tabernacle altar with a new tabernacle and a high altar from Spain. Additionally, the church plans to use part of the money to help an orphanage in Ghana, said Father Matt Hartley.

“When we told our parishioners about the matches they did the rest,” he said.

Other projects among parishes that met the matching funds, include: Sts. Peter and Paul in Wheat Ridge plans to use the money for new windows and air conditioning primarily at its parish school; St. Nicholas in Platteville plans an addition of classrooms for religious education; and St. John the Baptist in Johnstown wants to eventually build a new church.

The Catholic Foundation, a nonprofit agency founded in 1998, oversees the matching funds for the parishes. The foundation provides financial guidance for the parishes and legal protection so that the money is used solely for the parish.

In addition to the matching fund program, Deacon Stemper also has asked parishioners to consider remembering their churches in their wills. Unlike other nonprofits or universities, the Catholic Church has not historically asked for parishes to be beneficiaries, Deacon Stemper said. Any financial gift, including designating the Church as the beneficiary on 401-K or bank accounts, would benefit the designated parish, he said.

“The most significant gift can be made at the end of one’s life and the most worthy recipient is the Church,” Deacon Stemper said.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

COMING UP: Carmelite lived the cloistered life ‘to the full’

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In 1950, at the ripe age of 18, Sister Mona Claire of Our Lady entered religious life as a Carmelite of the Holy Spirit. For the next 67 years, she went on to live a cloistered life away from the world in deep prayer.

It would seem it was no coincidence, then, that she passed away on May 20 — the feast of Pentecost.

“For her to die on the feast of Pentecost — it’s our biggest solemnity next to Christmas because we’re the Carmel of the Holy Spirit,” said Mother Mary of Jesus, prioress of the discalced Carmelite nuns of Littleton. “Our blessed Lord really favored her, I think.”

Over 20 of Sister Mona’s 67 years as a Carmelite were spent as a secretary answering phone calls and responding to requests for prayers and Mass offerings. Sister Mona was also a talented seamstress and spent much of her time making clothes for the Sisters and altar linens.

Sister Mona’s most unique job was perhaps taking care of sheep, which the monastery had up until the 1980s, and her most beautiful work was likely her profound prayer life.

“She always prayed,” said Mother Mary. “Even in her last few days, if she said anything, it was a prayer.”

Mother Mary recalled that the doctor who attended to Sister Mona at the hospital after she experienced a fall shortly before she passed asked her to open her eyes, and she was unable to follow his commands.

“But I would say a prayer, and she’d finish it for me,” said Mother Mary. “I would say, ‘Praise be Jesus Christ,’ and she would say, ‘Now and forever.’ I think her last words were ‘Now and forever.’”

Mother Mary admired Sister Mona for her patience and efforts to please God, as well as her positive attitude in all circumstances.

“I noticed that even in the pain she was in when she was dying, she never moaned or anything,” said Mother Mary. “She never complained one little bit.”

Mother Mary believes it was a blessing that Sister Mona was able to remain so close to God even during her final days — a grace that likely stemmed from the consistent efforts she made to be close to him throughout her life.

“If you’re constantly corresponding with grace and praying, it’s going to come to you in those last moments,” said Mother Mary. “It will strengthen you for the journey. I think that’s what happened.”

Mother Mary witnessed graces showering down during on Sister Mona even during her funeral, particularly when Bishop Jorge Rodriguez blessed her coffin before it was lowered into the ground.

“There were turtle doves. You could hear turtle doves cooing,” not back and forth, but in unison, Mother Mary said. It reminded those in attendance of Song of Solomon 2, which mentions the voice of a turtledove in a chapter about the love of a bride groom.

The beauty of the moment didn’t go unnoticed, much like Sister Mona’s life of service.

“She was the loving and praying heart of the Church and the Carmel [community] here for almost 68 years,” said Mother Mary. “Everything she did was for souls and for our dear Lord’s greater glory and honor,” she said.

Mother Mary believes Sister Mona had a profound impact on the world, even though she had little contact with it.

“Having been in the convent as long as she was, she really impacted the diocese and the world with her ever-flowing prayers,” said Mother Mary. “It’s just the nature of cloistered life — and she lived it to the full.”