By LINDSAY GLADU, Special to the Bulletin | Published September 18, 2014
ATLANTA—With the help of generous donors, the Catholic Foundation of North Georgia has secured over $50 million to fund endowments benefiting Catholic churches, schools and charities. The foundation’s chair, Mark Christopher, announced this news at the annual Deo Gratias luncheon and Mass on Sept. 13. The event was held at the Cathedral of Christ the King, Atlanta.
“The primary reason we are here is to express our appreciation to you, the donors,” Christopher said to the 100 luncheon attendees. “You serve literally as the foundation of our Catholic Foundation.”
The name Deo Gratias comes from Latin, “Thanks be to God,” and the members of the local society 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.
Donors who attended the Deo Gratias event were honored for their faithful giving, either through charitable annuities or planned gifts to their communities and parishes.
For the donors, the honor takes a back seat to the giving.
St. Brigid parishioners Jake and Linda Hegarty decided to start an endowment fund for their church three years ago.
“We give back to the church because it’s central to our life,” Jake Hegarty said. “I owed it to the Lord because he’s helped me, and we wanted to do something for the church.”
Like so many people, the Hegartys retired and then lost part of their 401K in the 2008 market crash, but their nest egg was restored since then, which led them to want to thank God for his blessings by blessing others.
Through the Hegartys’ charitable annuity contract with the foundation, the couple receives a fixed payment each year for their lifetime.
Donor and retiree Mary Apps also found that by giving to the foundation, she was able to help others at her church, St. Peter Chanel in Roswell, and earn supplemental income through the charitable annuity program.
Apps, who lives at St. George Village, a retirement community near St. Peter Chanel, has become close to the newly ordained priests who visit the community from the parish. She wanted to help fund their ministry.
“Here at St. George, we adopt them as our grandsons,” Apps said. “It has been a wonderful relationship that we’ve developed, and that’s the thing I really appreciate most about the church.”
The Deo Gratias Mass and luncheon was a time for Apps to catch up with some of her friends and visit Christ the King for the first time in a decade. She even had her picture taken with Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory.
“His excellency thanked us all so graciously for our contributions,” Apps said, of the Mass and the archbishop. “It made me feel good.”
As Nancy Coveny, executive director of the Catholic Foundation, explained during the luncheon, the people’s love for God, each other and the church never ends, which is why the foundation has thrived.
“I think that what we see is that for many people, we help them create their own Catholic legacy,” Coveny said in an interview. “We help them figure out what matters to them and then give back to God through the Catholic Foundation so that they can help what matters to them most forever.”
Each year, the Catholic Foundation funds churches, schools and charitable organizations through the endowment gifts their donors provide. Instead of a one-shot infusion of cash, the foundation invests the money given to them and provides an annual supplement from the income to the donor’s organization of choice. Yearly distributions are set at 4 percent of the endowment fund’s total worth.
“The more we are able to build endowments for our ministries, the more we’ll be able to help in the future,” Coveny said.
In the past year, the Catholic Foundation also awarded $175,400 in grants to organizations such as St. John Neumann Regional School in Lilburn, which was given $10,000 to purchase 30 tablets, wireless Internet access and a mobile cart to bring more technology into the classroom.
The variety of endowments is part of the reason many donors choose to give to the Catholic Foundation.
Fran and Ron Wygladalski of Norcross chose to give to the foundation because they were writing several checks to different organizations each month. Instead of keeping up with it themselves, the Catholic Foundation does it for them. Now the Wygladalskis write only one annual check and have one less thing to worry about each month.
Diane Duquette, director of gift planning with the foundation, meets with each donor to discuss the best options and what charitable cause means the most to the donor.
“I let them know all the different ways they can make a difference in this world,” Duquette said.
For the Wygladalski family, just a few of those causes are the Paralyzed Veterans of America, the Daybreak Crisis Pregnancy Center and the Christian Foundation for Children and Aging.
On Sept. 13, Fran Wygladalski attended the Deo Gratias Mass to experience the special Mass held for the honorees.
“It was so spiritual,” she said. “All of the readings were nice and slow, so I could listen to every word. It brings so much to me so I can put back out to the community.”
Archbishop Gregory, also a board member of the Catholic Foundation, blessed commemorative pins during Mass, and later the pins were given to each donor as they were recognized during the event.
“Deo Gratias represents those who have made a significant gift,” Archbishop Gregory said of the event. “It represents good Catholic families who want to provide for those who make good works possible.”
What most people don’t realize is that the Catholic Foundation isn’t just a program—it’s a ministry, Coveny said.
“We’re helping to build a foundation of support for all of our Catholic community in the archdiocese,” she said.
For more information about the Catholic Foundation of North Georgia, visit their website.