By ANDREW NELSON, Staff Writer | Published October 11, 2012
Increasing numbers of local Catholics are leaving a legacy for their faith communities.
Membership in the Deo Gratias Society, sponsored by the Catholic Foundation of North Georgia to recognize those who leave a bequest to the Church, grew in the past year from 142 to 214 people.
Members of the Founders Society of the Catholic Foundation of North Georgia and the Deo Gratias Society attended Mass with Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory on Saturday, Sept. 29, at Holy Spirit Church, Atlanta. The Mass was followed by a special luncheon for nearly 90 people.
The foundation has grown its holdings to $38 million, said William Rich, the chairman of the Catholic Foundation. Rich said the Catholic community benefits because the foundation can make larger grants to support parish projects as the endowment grows. In 2011, the endowment was $33 million.
After the Deo Gratias Mass, attendees gathered for a luncheon and speaker. The Deo Gratias Society is a planned giving legacy society for people who have made a bequest to the Catholic Foundation.
The foundation is proud to be a “very vibrant part of the very alive archdiocese,” said Rich, a partner at the Holland & Knight law firm.
The Deo Gratias Society is the planned giving legacy society for people who have made a bequest to the foundation or to any of its funds, including funds for any parish, mission, school or the archdiocese. The Latin title means “Thanks be to God.” The Founders Society is comprised of the original members of the organization, as well as people who give at least $5,000 to the Catholic Foundation Operating Endowment Fund.
The celebration began with Mass in St. Mary’s Chapel. Music was provided by the Holy Spirit Church Choir, directed by Albert Ahlstrom, the parish director of music. More than a dozen priests concelebrated the Mass with Archbishop Gregory.
The day was the Feast of the Archangels Gabriel, Michael and Raphael, and the archbishop reminded the people in the crowded chapel, “We all need angels.”
“Fortunately, this local church has been blessed with a good number of angels,” he said. “We have angels who work hard at their parishes giving of themselves selflessly.”
Archbishop Gregory said the morning celebration is a “way of recognizing some of our angels and—as the Latin says—offer thanks to God for the many acts of goodness that they have provided us.”
A feature of angels is how they shy away from the spotlight and don’t take credit for what they have accomplished, he said. Instead, they know “God is the source of all goodness and life,” he said.
“This local church knows much more about God because of the kindness of our own angels. They remind us that God is more generous and loving than any of us can ever imagine,” he said.
“Blessed angels can be found everywhere—even here in North Georgia—to God be the glory—Amen!”
At the luncheon in McDonough Hall, the members listened to William Sessions, a retired Georgia State University English professor, talk about Catholic author Flannery O’Connor. A leading O’Connor scholar as well as a friend, Sessions wrote her authorized biography. He shared his insights on a prayer dear to O’Connor. The prayer is to St. Raphael, “O Raphael, lead us towards those we are waiting for, those who are waiting for us! Raphael, Angel of Happy Meetings, lead us by the hand towards those we are looking for! May all our movements, all their movements, be guided by your Light and transfigured by your Joy.”
The Catholic Foundation had a special recognition for two former members of the board, Michael Trapp and Msgr. Edward Dillon, pastor of Holy Spirit Church, for their years of service. Also the organization thanked Archbishop Gregory for providing all of the new funds to the Catholic Foundation from the Joseph Mitchell estate, the multimillion estate from “Gone With the Wind” left to the archdiocese by the nephew of Margaret Mitchell. The archbishop directed that $10,000 be given from the bequest for every parish, mission and Catholic school in the archdiocese, either to create an endowment fund or to build up an endowment fund if a parish or school already had one. Ninety-four new funds were created.
Nancy Coveny, the foundation executive director, said the goal is to grow the Deo Gratias Society so more people remember their parish or Catholic organizations in their estate planning. If all Catholics left a legacy to the church, she said, there would be many resources to enrich the faith life of future generations.
“It’s very moving to see the commitment of people there,” she said about the luncheon.