By NICHOLE GOLDEN, Staff Writer | Published October 24, 2013
ATLANTA—The Catholic Foundation of North Georgia featured Jeremiah 29:11’s message of building a “future of hope” as an awareness campaign theme last fall. The foundation and its donors—both new and longtime contributors—are clearly helping to build such a future for generations to come.
The Catholic Foundation’s annual Deo Gratias Mass and luncheon, celebrated Sept. 28 at Our Lady of the Assumption Church in Atlanta, honored all who support the work of the foundation.
Principal celebrant and homilist was Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory.
“I so look forward to it. It’s always very, very nice,” said Gloria Nelson, who has attended the event for a few years. Gloria and her husband, Neil, are members of the Deo Gratias Society and have been parishioners of St. Peter Chanel Church in Roswell for 13 years.
The Deo Gratias Society’s name comes from the Latin title “Thanks be to God,” and its members include those who have made a planned bequest to the Catholic Foundation or to any of its funds, or a parish endowment fund, a school endowment fund or the archdiocese.
The Nelsons made the decision to leave something to the church about three years ago and discussed it with Msgr. Peter Rau, their pastor. It was then they learned of the Catholic Foundation.
Neil said that the decision to make a bequest is a way to give back.
“We both love our church, our faith, our parish. The church has been good to us,” he said.
“It doesn’t have to be a lot,” said Gloria about donating. She noted that small amounts when added together can do a lot of good.
Neil, a convert to Catholicism and teacher at the independent Catholic school, Pinecrest Academy, said he and his wife have really “grown” together in faith with the help of their church. He encourages others to give, especially “if the church has meant anything” in your life.
“They are all great. They do a super job,” said Gloria of the foundation’s staff.
Diane Kohl, a retired University of Georgia professor, learned about the Catholic Foundation while reading The Georgia Bulletin.
Kohl recently worked with the foundation to set up a charitable gift annuity, which will go to her parish’s endowment fund at the Catholic Foundation. She decided that at age 75 it was time to make those plans.
Kohl learned about giving from her late mother, Mary.
“I remember my mother leaving something to the church,” she said.
Mary was a Wisconsin native and lived three blocks from church, attended daily Mass and ensured her children received the sacraments. “She was a single parent,” said Kohl.
A professor of early childhood development, Kohl called the gift a “win-win” for her parish, St. Joseph Church in Athens.
In 2012, the estate of Joseph Mitchell, nephew of “Gone With the Wind” author Margaret Mitchell, left a substantial gift to the Archdiocese of Atlanta. Archbishop Gregory in turn asked the Catholic Foundation to create an endowment fund for each parish, mission and Catholic school of the archdiocese with a $10,000 gift apiece from the Mitchell estate, totaling more than $1 million.
Kohl knows that it can be hard for people to make wills. She encourages early planning.
“Then you have your wishes known and carried out,” she said.
Diane Duquette, director of gift planning at the foundation, traveled to Athens to meet with Kohl. Duquette even arranged for Kohl, who doesn’t drive in Atlanta, to ride with a friend to the Deo Gratias Mass.
Kohl had not originally planned to attend.
“That was wonderful. I was really glad I did. It’s a nice Mass,” she said.
Kohl was especially happy to receive a Deo Gratias pin, blessed by the archbishop. She plans to help advertise the work of the foundation by wearing the pin back home.
William Rich, chairman of the foundation’s board of directors, spoke at the luncheon. Rich said that in 2013 the foundation made grants totaling $1.1 million.
A former schoolmate of Rich’s, who serves on the board of the Atlanta Mission, recently thanked him in person for a grant the shelter program received.
“He couldn’t have been more appreciative,” said Rich.
Atlanta Mission received a $2,500 grant in the spring to provide support for its emergency shelter and residential programs for homeless men, women and children.
Rich also highlighted the foundation’s growth since its creation in 1992 by Archbishop James P. Lyke, OFM, and Msgr. Edward Dillon. In 1994, the foundation had assets worth $2.1 million, and now it is worth more than $42 million at a growth of 10.5 percent from the previous year.
Membership in the Deo Gratias Society rose last year from 214 to 287.
Rich said despite being a “fledgling” organization in terms of the age of other Catholic foundations in the country, the foundation is strong.
“It’s had healthy growth,” he said.
The mission of the Catholic Foundation, Rich told the luncheon guests, is to support the ministries of the Catholic community and the causes of this archdiocese.
The Catholic Foundation is separately incorporated from the archdiocese and manages funds for many different purposes. The types of funds include organization endowments, designated or named endowments, field-of-interest endowments, unrestricted funds, donor-advised funds, and donor-advised endowment funds. Foundation staff members will meet with Catholics to help them direct their gifts in a way that fulfills their wishes; they also help Catholic entities by providing a place where endowments can be professionally managed in a cost-efficient way. Catholic foundations ensure that a donor’s intent is always honored and that the principal of the endowment created by the donor is preserved into perpetuity.
Rich said the reinvigoration of the foundation in the last five years, in addition to significant bequests from several families, has caused the organization to “grow and prosper.”
The Mass and luncheon also honored the members of the Founders Society, the original donors to the foundation and those who give at least $5,000 to the Catholic Foundation Operating Endowment Fund.
Nancy Coveny, executive director of the foundation, said the annual event really focuses on “all the good that people can do.”
In her address to luncheon guests, Coveny reflected on where she would be without her church or faith.
“It was the prodigal son weekend, and I was thinking that we are all sinners, but He is always there waiting for us. When I struggle or sin, let people down, feel betrayed, worry about someone I love, need strength, feel joy, my God, and my church, are there for me,” said Coveny. “I suspect this is what our donors recognize too—the commitment of God we experience through our church. It makes us want to give back and as you will see, many do make plans to give back to the Lord from all he has given to us.”