By ANDREW NELSON, Staff Writer | Published October 15, 2015
ATLANTA—John Shadix lived a simple life. He found fulfillment in serving others.
“That was his passion in life, to help people,” said a longtime friend.
Shadix died in 2014 at the age of 71. But with the help of the Catholic Foundation of North Georgia, his estate will help people important to him: the homeless.
“You don’t have to be wealthy to make a difference,” said Nancy Coveny, the executive director of the foundation. Almost everyone can leave a portion of some asset “to benefit what they care about,” she said.
The Catholic Foundation of North Georgia on Saturday, Sept. 19, hosted its annual Deo Gratias Mass and luncheon for its supporters. The philanthropic organization in the past year distributed to charities, parishes and schools approximately $1.5 million.
Shadix, an Atlanta native, was raised by his mother, who was an office worker. He worked most of his life in the insurance business as an underwriter. He lived so simply the one gift he bought himself was a Mustang sports car in his 60s. He never married and had no survivors.
Diane Long met him in the mid-1960s when she was a teen. They worked at Continental National American Group. She was a clerk and he was an underwriter. Their friendship continued after he left the company. They were a regular presence in each other’s lives, never a hint of romance, but friends in time of need and celebration. They’d meet during the holidays and he’d join her and her husband for dinner. They consoled each other when loved ones died, first his mother, then her husband.
Long said her friend was soft-spoken and very kind. She recalled how he’d clean houses for people who were elderly without charge. He helped her father when he lost his sight. He served people who were homeless he befriended at Atlanta homeless shelters, taking them to medical appointments, to the pharmacy, doing what he could do for them, Long said.
“He just seemed to enjoy doing that,” she said.
Shadix never wanted to draw attention to himself, even declining to have an obituary written for him. But through his financial gift, his legacy will continue to care for men and women living on the streets.
Shadix left most of his estate to the Archdiocese of Atlanta to “assist the homeless in the manner determined by the archdiocese.” The archdiocese created two endowments at the Catholic Foundation: the John W. Shadix Endowment Fund, which received $100,000, will provide grants to nonprofits serving the homeless; and the St. Marianne Cope Fund for the Homeless, which received $413,000, will help archdiocesan entities serving the homeless. St. Marianne is known as the “beloved mother of outcasts.”
The Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, which is part of the Central Night Shelter and operates St. Francis Table soup kitchen, and the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, both in Atlanta, received $50,000 each for their ministries to the homeless.
“Here was a guy who believes in a church of the poor for the poor, just like Pope Francis is telling us,” said David Spotanski, the chief operating officer of the archdiocese. He wanted his money to serve those on the streets, Spotanski said.
God is extravagant in giving
The annual Mass and luncheon for the Catholic Foundation at the Cathedral of Christ the King drew nearly 80 people who have already left assets to their parishes or to ministries dear to them.
Hearing the St. Luke’s Gospel story about the sower of seeds, Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory said as a city boy he was unfamiliar with the life of a farmer. But when he was bishop in southern Illinois in the Diocese of Belleville, he quickly learned of the wisdom of farmers. They keep their seeds until it is optimum time to plant to reap a good harvest, he said.
In contrast, St. Luke’s story shows how God distributes his word “with abandon,” letting it fall and seeing what grows.
Whatever the soil—whether ready to receive God’s word or not—God does not withhold his affection, he said. “That is how God plants the seed of his word in our lives,” he said. God is willing to risk that his word may not take root or that something good may come out of it, he said.
“God allows us to take his word and allows it to grow in our hearts,” he said.
Archbishop Gregory said the benefactors with the Catholic Foundation of North Georgia are proof of God’s word taking root. These women and men acknowledge they are blessed by God and want to do good by contributing to worthy causes, he said.
Later at the luncheon, the members of the Founders and Deo Gratias societies received pins blessed by the archbishop.
“It is a time each year where we come together to recognize and to thank those who have made estate plans to leave something to benefit the Catholic community. We pray for and remember those who have passed on, and we celebrate the commitment of those who are able to attend,” said Coveny.
There are 30 new Deo Gratias Society members. Of the 21 living couples and individuals, three created new endowment funds, while others established charitable gift annuities and the rest made estate plans to leave something to an existing endowment held at the Catholic Foundation, such as their parish endowment fund.
Mark Christopher, the chairman of the CFNGA board of directors, said the foundation’s endowments have grown to $52 million, which has allowed the foundation to distribute grants last year to nearly 180 organizations totaling $1.5 million. Since 2008, some $6 million has been distributed from income generated by the endowment funds.
“This money has made a real impact in the Archdiocese of Atlanta. … There’s always more need than dollars,” Christopher said.
Another accomplishment was embarking on an update to the foundation’s strategic plan. The 2009 blueprint highlighted the need to raise its profile in the Catholic community, starting with clergy. Coveny said promotion remains a priority, in addition to ensuring that the organization’s services and technology match the best practices of charitable giving organizations.