Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta


Catholic Credit Union Group Committed To Serving

Published February 15, 2007

At a special Mass of dedication for the Catholic division of the Georgia Federal Credit Union, members and employees honored the history of the organization while looking ahead to its bright future.

Held Feb. 2 at Immaculate Heart of Mary Church, the Mass was celebrated by Archbishop-emeritus John F. Donoghue and concelebrated by Msgr. Stephen Churchwell, head of the Catholic Advisory Board for GFCU.

It was a small, intimate Mass, appropriate for the familial atmosphere the GFCU hopes to create among its members. Also significant was the day the Mass was celebrated—the feast of the Presentation—Archbishop Donoghue said in his homily.

“As the Catholic community of Georgia Federal, we do not believe that we have sole possession of the altruistic motives that inspire people to be credit union members,” he said. “But we do believe that the motives that inspire us are intimately bound to our Faith, and to the morality and ethics of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”

“And we believe, that like the rite of presentation, we present to the world this paramount understanding: that our union, dedicated to the fiscal benefit of the members, can arise from motives greater than financial gain or the accumulation of economic power—we believe that we present to the world this truth: that viable economic initiatives and solutions can exist based on the supreme law of the Christian ethic: ‘to love your neighbor as yourself.’”

Credit union members were gathered at the Mass to reaffirm that commandment, the archbishop said, and to find ways to help and to serve others, especially with “two critical needs of today’s society.”

“First is the need to educate people about money, about finances, about financial institutions and programs, and how they may be used ethically and beneficially; we presume that everyone is as knowledgeable as we are—but this isn’t the case, until we make it the case,” he said. “Let us renew our efforts to inform even as we renew our efforts to serve.”

The second, the archbishop said, is the need associated with the influx of immigrants.

“For even as we struggle with the troubles associated with immigration, we still must remain true to our Christian Faith, and support initiatives that reach out to immigrant communities, providing them with financial services at a decent cost.”

Finally, the archbishop said, above all, God must be thanked for his goodness.

“Today we thank God for giving us these special opportunities to help our neighbor, and for awakening in our hearts, the desire and the energy to carry out all works of neighborly love through our participation in the credit unions.”

The Mass marked the second anniversary of the Catholic division of GFCU.

The Greater Atlanta Catholic Federal Credit Union (GA Catholic FCU) was founded in 1971 as the Immaculate Heart of Mary Credit Union, functioning as a small financial cooperative open to eight other Atlanta parishes as well as to members of the St. Vincent de Paul Society. In October 2004, GA Catholic FCU merged with the Georgia Federal Credit Union, and membership was offered to members of one parish at a time.

One of the last actions Archbishop Donoghue completed before his retirement in late 2004 was to petition the National Credit Union Administration to offer credit union service to all members of the Archdiocese of Atlanta, and in February 2005 the field of membership was expanded to include all Catholics within the 69 counties of the Archdiocese of Atlanta.

The Mass concluded with a prayer of consecration to Jesus through Mary, which seemed fitting given the feast day, said Leigh Gant, part-time Catholic community coordinator.

“Just as Our Lady presented Jesus to the whole world, we likewise present ourselves and all of our efforts to Mary, to be delivered to her Son as an offering to use in whatever way God sees fit,” she said.

Msgr. Churchwell, administrator of Christ Redeemer Mission in Dawsonville, said that the Mass was an important time in the credit union’s history.

“(It is) a significant moment to acknowledge our achievements in the Catholic credit union movement and to dedicate ourselves and our mission of providing the means for the successful stewardship of personal finances for the people of the Atlanta Archdiocese,” he said.

And celebrating the Mass at IHM was especially significant, since “this is where it all started.”

“Today we look a little wistfully at our past, but as the hymn says, we are ‘marching to our future with God,’” Msgr. Churchwell said.

Gant said that since the 2005 merger and subsequent membership expansion, the Catholic division of the GFCU has been able to serve more Catholics than ever before.

There has been a 50 percent increase in membership, and the amount of deposits has doubled. Most importantly, Gant said, loan payouts have tripled. Since 2006, over $2 million in loans have been given out, and over $100,000 in interest has been paid to credit union members, she said.

“That’s the most important thing because it shows we’re helping people,” Gant said.

Gant and Hilda Zamora, full-time Catholic community coordinator, spend much of their time visiting parishes and schools to speak on the benefits of the credit union.

“All of this began as a business venture, but for Hilda and me, it’s a ministry, and, really, a vocation,” she said.

The credit union, she said, is about members helping each other.

“Because we’re not for profit, we are not worried about pleasing our stockholders. … This truly is about our members putting their money together to help other members,” she said. “We’re motivated not by helping ourselves, but by people helping people. That’s our mission.”