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: Searching for wisdom in a confused world

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Jordan Peterson became an overnight celebrity with the success of his book, 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos (Random House, 2018). A viral interview from January of this year with Kathy Newman of England’s Channel 4 News brought immediate attention to Peterson’s newly released book, which has sold over two million copies since its release. The interview proved emblematic of Peterson’s popularity for attempting to retrieve common sense and to push back against the ideology overtaking our society.

Why has Peterson proved to be so popular?  A clinical psychologist, who teaches psychology at the University of Toronto, Peterson addresses issues that people care about: finding meaning, relationships, parenting, and gender, to name a few. People are looking for a guide, they desire wisdom — knowing how to order and make sense of reality — and Peterson has offered some needed insights. He tells his readers, “Don’t underestimate the power of vision and direction. These are irresistible forces, able to transform what might appear to be unconquerable obstacles into traversable pathways and expanding opportunities. Strengthen the individual. Start with yourself. Take care with yourself. Define who you are. Refine your personality. Choose your destination and articulate your Being” (63).

This quote illuminates both the allure of Peterson’s writing, helping people to seek definition for their lives, but also its limits, as the definition of self he recommends lacks mooring. Writing from the viewpoint of secular psychology, Peterson can help us to reflect, but his 12 Rules for Life can come across as sophisticated self-help devoid of deeper wisdom. He engages the Western tradition, including the Bible, and offers a fresh, but ultimately unsatisfying, reflection of the stories that define our tradition. He does bring needed common sense, such as “stop doing what you know to be wrong,” (which should not even need to be said) but fails to provide answers to the ultimate questions that define meaning and identity (157).

Greater depth and wisdom can be found in Leon Kass’ Leading a Worthy Life: Finding Meaning in Modern Times (Encounter, 2017). Kass, a Jewish medical doctor and bioethicist, draws from his lengthy experience in science and teaching the Great Books at the University of Chicago to take us deeper into the human condition and point us toward a richer understanding of the human person — body, mind and soul. Kass, like Peterson, does not write from a religious perspective, but engages the same general themes and classic works, such as the Bible, though with a more convincing explanation of their meaning.

Kass’ book has four major sections, treating themes of love, human dignity, education and our higher aspirations. Kass guides us to reconsider the importance of the foundational goods of life — finding meaning in work and married life — as well as calling us to “the cultivation in each of us of the disposition actively to seek the truth and to make the truth our own” (256). We pursue this liberation by entering into the great tradition of Western thought, which provides an “education in and for thoughtfulness. It awakens, encourages, and renders habitual thoughtful reflection about weighty human concerns, in quest of what is simply true and good” (ibid.).

The thoughtfulness encouraged by Kass is needed more than ever to address the key concerns he raises: a collapse of courtship and marriage, biomedical challenges to the integrity of human nature, and a decline of citizenship. The first two themes share a common source in the “the rejection of a teleological view of nature,” which finds no intrinsic purpose in the human body or even life itself (54). Speaking of the threat of biotechnology and transhumanism, but in a way applicable to gender as well, he relates that “only if there is a human givenness that is also good and worth respecting — either as we find it or as it could be perfected without ceasing to be itself — does the given serve as a positive guide for choosing what to alter and what to leave alone” (149). We must learn to appreciate and cultivate the good of our nature, rather than manipulating and controlling it to our own demise. The same is true of our nation, as Kass, drawing on Abraham Lincoln, points to the need for “enhancing reverence for the Constitution and its laws” (377), as we appreciate, preserve and advance the heritage of our country.

Kass, drawing on his unique background, guides us through an integrated discovery of the good and points us toward the wisdom we need to live a worthy life.