January 27, 2017

2017 Catholic Schools Week Supplement

School bequest is an ‘investment in the future’

The late Joy and Paul Buchanan of Prince of Peace Parish in Madison left a legacy to Catholic education at Prince of Peace Schools through a bequest to Friends of Shawe and Pope John Schools, Inc., a unique nonprofit created to financially benefit the two Madison Catholic schools. (Submitted photo)

The late Joy and Paul Buchanan of Prince of Peace Parish in Madison left a legacy to Catholic education at Prince of Peace Schools through a bequest to Friends of Shawe and Pope John Schools, Inc., a unique nonprofit created to financially benefit the two Madison Catholic schools. (Submitted photo)

By Natalie Hoefer

As the Ohio River meanders along the southern border of Indiana, its waters reflect the hilly town of Madison. There, in 1837, Father Michael Shawe started the area’s first Catholic school.

Now, 180 years later, Father Michael Shawe Memorial Jr./Sr. High School and Pope John XXIII School continue the legacy of Catholic education in Madison. It’s a legacy the institutions are proud of.

They are also proud of the fact that together as Prince of Peace Schools—named for Madison’s sole parish—the school system is one of only two in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis that is supported by a single parish.

So Prince of Peace Schools’ president Phillip Kahn says it was a “huge benefit” 30 years ago when a small group—mostly Madison Catholic school alumni—created Friends of Shawe and Pope John Schools, Inc. (Friends), a nonprofit organization that established an endowment to support the long-term needs of the schools.

“The schools were doing no fundraising back then,” says Robert Barlow, Friends co-founder, current president and a graduate of Shawe Memorial Jr./Sr. High School. “The idea was, and still is, to supplement the Catholic school experience and what the teachers could do.

“Friends is unique. With the [school administration] model now with a principal and president, most [schools] are doing their own development. If it was that way 30 years ago when we formed Friends, Friends might never have come into existence.”

Kahn, who helps oversee development efforts for the two schools, is grateful for the assistance.

“Most Catholic schools operate on tuition, which is the staple of everything, and then donations from community members or alumni throughout the country,” he says.

“More and more Catholic schools try to make a bigger pool of money through donations. That’s why we’re so lucky to have Friends, where people can leave a bequest which impacts the yearly gift Friends gives us.”

The endowment started by the Friends founders in 1986 was $500,000. Barlow recalls the early days of the organization, when funds were used to fulfill “specific teacher requests, like going on a field trip to the state museum and funding [projects] at $500 or $1,000.”

Through their efforts and the generosity of the community and alumni of the schools, the endowment had grown to $3 million—until recently.

Julie Berry, a Friends board member, describes Joy and Paul Buchanan as a “humble, unassuming couple.” They married in 1981 and had been members of Prince of Peace Parish. The couple had no children together, and Joy, a widow when she married Paul, had sent her son to a public school. She died in February 2012, and Paul died in November 2014.

Despite the lack of connection to the Madison Catholic schools other than through their parish, the Buchanans wanted to support the continuation of Catholic education in the area. So they left a bequest for Friends in their will—for $1.2 million, believed to be the largest bequest in the organization’s history.

“I was really astounded, knowing what it would mean to our school in the short and long term,” says Kahn.

With the bequest, an annual tuition scholarship of $2,500 in the Buchanans’ name was created for a student wishing to attend one of the Prince of Peace schools.

The board also set up a teachers’ fund of $10,000 per year. The fund will help finance teachers’ projects that benefit students and staff that are not covered by the annual budget, such as field trips, faculty workshops or academic competitions.

“We have challenges in keeping a good school system going” in Madison, Berry says. “Certainly this is not a high-income area. … But our children are entitled to a good Catholic education. So bequests like this are really great for our cause. It’s incalculable what their gift will give through the years for our endowment.”

Having received eight years of Catholic education in Madison, fellow Friends board member Rick Grote appreciates the benefits of attending a Catholic school.

“I think there’s a set of morals you get from Catholic education,” he says. “It helps you keep God in front of everything you do—he’s here, he’s alive and he’s around. You have friends with similar morals and principles. That helps create a support system, a Catholic support system.”

Berry says the bequest—and any donation to Catholic schools—is an “investment in the future.”

“I think it’s important to support Catholic education in any way you can, through volunteering or donating,” she says.

“I hope [the Buchanans] will inspire people to think about what they can do. Maybe they can’t give a million, but I hope that somebody reads this and thinks, ‘Hey, I can do something like that.’ ”
 

(For more information on Friends of Shawe and Pope John Schools, Inc., log onto friendsofshawepj.org.)

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