September 16, 2005

Catechetical leader establishes endowments for archdiocesan ministries

By Sean Gallagher

For 25 years, Mary Margaret Lynch has been a good steward in the Church, serving for many years as a volunteer catechist and for the past five years as the coordinator of religious education at St. Michael Parish in Brookville.

In a recent gift she made to the Catholic Community Foundation (CCF), Lynch hopes to support several ministries in the archdiocese for years to come.

She donated 45 acres of farmland in Ripley County that she and her husband, John, who died in 2000, purchased in 1970 for what Lynch described as a “dirt cheap” price. Years later, its value increased greatly when State Road 129 was built through the middle of it.

The proceeds from the sale of the land given to the CCF totaled more than $170,000.

Lynch also donated another tract of land to the Congregation of the Sisters of the Third Order of St. Francis in Oldenburg.

The CCF, working to fulfill Lynch’s wishes for the use of the gift, has used part of the proceeds to establish several endowments that will build up retreat, educational, catechetical and other lay ministries throughout the archdiocese.

While she is glad that her donation will continue to support the Church in central and southern Indiana after she has died, Lynch wanted to give it now so that she could see its effects.

“I could live another 30 years,” she said. “I don’t want to wait that long. I want to share it now.”

James Wathen, director of gift planning for the Catholic Community Foundation, assisted Lynch with her donation and said that the CCF is “ideally suited” to help a donor’s gift have a positive impact over “an extended period of time.”

This happens through wise and morally-conscious investment of the gift and careful record-keeping of the donor’s desire for the use of donation.

“With the Catholic Community Foundation, the files are kept current, accurate and up-to-date forever,” Wathen said. “… That gift is going to go where that donor wanted it to go.”

One of the most important places that Lynch wanted her gift to go was to Our Lady of Fatima Retreat House in Indianapolis.

It was there that she participated in a retreat in the late 1970s led by Father James Farrell, now pastor of St. Barnabas Parish in Indianapolis.

Lynch credits this retreat for inspiring her involvement in catechetical ministry.

“I tell you, the Spirit just came over me at that retreat,” she said. “That started me on the road to Church ministry and to giving back.”

And so when Lynch learned a couple of years ago about the financial difficulties that Fatima was experiencing at the time, her desire to make a gift to the archdiocese quickly gained a focus.

When trying to determine how to go about making the gift, Lynch turned to Father Farrell for advice, the same priest who had inspired her ministry and stewardship so long ago.

Father Farrell said that over the nearly 30 years that he has known Lynch, he has been enriched by her consistent and deliberate dedication to living out her faith.

“It isn’t a seasonal thing,” he said. “It isn’t a sporadic attentiveness. She is always asking the question, ‘What more can I do? How best can I love the Lord?’ ”

According to Lynch, Father Farrell discussed the matter with her and helped her discern how she wanted her gift to be used. He then referred her to Wathen.

But after discussing her wishes with her, Wathen was concerned for Lynch’s financial security and suggested that a portion of her gift be made in the form of a charitable gift annuity.

In this arrangement, part of Lynch’s donation will be invested and during her lifetime she will receive regular payments that are equal to a small percentage of the overall gift.

Lynch, who was unaware of such an annuity before Wathen explained it to her, agreed to it, explaining later that it increased her confidence about her decision to donate the land.

Wathen said that a charitable gift annuity can be a way for many Catholics to support the Church on a long-term basis and in a financially secure way.

“Many of our Catholic constituents [are] not in a position to give up their assets because they are relying on it for support,” he said. “This is a way they can be assured that the gift is going to be made. And they can have a little security in knowing that no matter what happens in the marketplace, they’re going to get this income.”

But the way in which Lynch made her gift to the CCF will not only provide security for her, but also to the ministries which will benefit from it.

Rick Wagner, director of Our Lady of Fatima Retreat House, said that Lynch’s gift to the retreat center comes at a good time, right when it is starting a capital campaign which will fund the installation of an elevator, the replacement of heating and cooling systems, and the renovation of some guest rooms.

“The fact that we’re getting this amount of money right now will allow us to perhaps get started on some of that work earlier than we might have been able to before,” Wagner said.

Ultimately, Lynch recognized a deep connection between her many years of catechetical ministry and the gift that she recently made. In both, she sees herself participating in the mission of the Church.

“As I live my life and work in my occupation, I am hopefully able to bring the face of Jesus to many people whose lives I touch through some type of interaction and education,” she said. “Being able to give this acreage gives me the ability to reach out to people I do not know and who don’t know me.”

(Anyone interested in donating real estate to the Catholic Community Foundation should contact James Wathen at 800-382-9836, ext. 1427, 317-236-1427, or by e-mail at †

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