February 26, 2021

Investing with Faith / Fr. Clement Davis

Planned giving, estate planning help parishes in times of need

Fr. Clement DavisGreetings friends! This winter is providing us with an unaccustomed taste of cold, snow and ice, and it’s on one of those unfriendly days that I am holed up in my apartment, keeping warm. So, it’s a good time for me to share some thoughts about planned giving.

Chris Hirschfeld and I, who serve as co-chairpersons of the archdiocesan Catholic Community Foundation (CCF) Planned Giving Committee, have been asked to share our perspectives with you.

Mine on planned giving has been largely formed through pastoring two parishes for more than 36 years. During that time, I was blessed to have ministered to and worked side-by-side with amazing men and women of faith and of generosity.

Both parishes faced the daunting prospect of building churches to accommodate actual and anticipated growth, and to do so while maintaining all the parish ministries with their regular expenses. Great generosity was called for, and in both cases the challenges were met and our goals were exceeded. We kept the lights on and staff members continued to collect their salaries.

I’ve experienced how energy develops around the idea of growth and the wonder of seeing a parish community unite around a shared vision of what we can be, what we can do, together.

There is clearly excitement when a new building will result from these efforts, but the needs of a parish community are more frequently less dramatic and less obvious than a building site. The task of planned giving efforts in the Church is to raise and keep alive the awareness that every parishioner counts, and that everyone’s gift—no matter the size—contributes to the spread of the Gospel.

While a building campaign brings financial needs to center stage in a parish, the fact is a parish will often be dealing with regular needs that expand and grow.

The St. Bartholomew School and Religious Education ministries in Columbus have benefitted from a Sesquicentennial Memorial Educational Endowment Fund established back in 1993, and those benefits have helped our catechetical ministries year after year.

Planned giving goes beyond the annual stewardship campaign. Estate planning is becoming a more common reality, not just for the rich and famous. All of us do well to look beyond our present needs to plan for the day we are no longer here to make day-to-day financial decisions.

Sometimes our parishioners inform us of their plans to remember the parish in their wills. Sometimes we receive a happy surprise. Such was the case when, just a year ago, we were faced with a pressing need for a technology upgrade for which we hadn’t planned.

It had been the topic of a couple pastoral team meetings, with no solution in sight. Then a letter arrived with a “no-strings” gift from a parishioner who, without having informed us, had included the parish in her will.

A year or so prior, an air handler serving the church sanctuary was plagued with a failing compressor. Technicians from the manufacturer assured us there was no easy or quick fix. Equipment would need to be replaced at the cost of $65,000 to $70,000 that was not in the budget. We would have to raid the savings account or borrow the money. Before that step could be taken, the postman brought the notification that a parishioner who had died months earlier had included

St. Bartholomew Parish in their will. The $80,000 check was a totally unforeseen solution to our compressor problem.

These good people, who had served the Church and community so generously while they lived in our midst, had also planned for the time when they would not be with us. And due to their planning and loving generosity, we have been blessed to be able to devote ourselves to sharing the Good News of our Savior Jesus Christ.

(Retired Father Clement Davis, who serves on the Catholic Community Foundation Advisory Board of Directors, is senior parochial vicar at St. Bartholomew Parish in Columbus. Tax or legal information provided herein is not intended as tax or legal advice. Always check with your legal, tax or financial advisors before implementing any gift plan.)

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