By JEAN DRISKELL, Special to the Bulletin | Published October 19, 2018
ATLANTA—The 2018 Deo Gratias Mass and brunch honoring the members of the Deo Gratias and Founders Society of the Catholic Foundation of North Georgia was held at the Cathedral of Christ the King, Atlanta, Aug. 25. The gathering spotlights ordinary people who are helping to ensure that the church in the archdiocese continues to thrive in the future.
Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory celebrated the Mass with Msgr. Francis McNamee, cathedral rector, and other priests as concelebrants.
Archbishop Gregory spoke about the Gospel reading of the day from Matthew 23, which was a warning against hypocrisy by religious leaders. In light of the church scandal over sexual abuse, Archbishop Gregory said the words, “Today I feel like the scribes and Pharisees because everything the Gospel describes of the scribes and Pharisees has come to bear on the college of bishops,” Archbishop Gregory said.
“So I stand before you as a scribe and Pharisee, hopefully a repentant scribe and Pharisee,” he said.
He humbly thanked those at the Mass because they have chosen to give generously “to this local church, and in a special way to the (Catholic) Foundation, which is established to carry on the legacy, faith and generosity of the church.”
“You still believe in the church in spite of the scribes and Pharisees. Deo gratias: Thanks be to God!” he said.
Two laymen honored
The Deo Gratias members are those who have made plans in their will or other estate gifts to the Catholic Foundation, the archdiocese, a parish or a Catholic school or a Catholic charity, said Juliet Greco, director of major and planned giving for the foundation. The society also includes those who, during their lifetime, have given $5,000 or more to an existing or newly created endowment fund.
The Founders Society honors the formation committee members, donors and original board members of the Catholic Foundation, Greco said, “whose leadership, hard work and donations made this organization possible.”
At the brunch, Nancy Coveny, executive director of the foundation, gave tributes to three recently deceased Catholic Foundation leaders: Timothy J. Cambias Sr., who chaired the development committee; William M. Rich, board member and past chairman; and Msgr. Stephen T. Churchwell, who served on the board’s investment committee.
Greco recognized 60 previous Deo Gratias Society honorees and then the new members for 2018. Each one received a pin blessed by Archbishop Gregory.
Cambias was “a true Catholic leader who left quite a legacy in our community,” Coveny said.
He served at his parish, the Cathedral of Christ the King, and at Marist School, which his children attended and his grandchildren now attend. Cambias served as chairman of the Mercy Care Foundation extending health services to the poor in metro Atlanta and assisted with the founding of Cristo Rey Atlanta Jesuit High School on its initial board.
While they were re-forming the Catholic Foundation ministry a number of years ago, Cambias “asked the questions that needed to be asked and his humor and forthrightness shone through,” Coveny said.
“I appreciated the fact that he was both reverent and irreverent at the same time,” Coveny said. “He loved the church but saw the humanness in it too. He was an incredible role model of someone who gave both his time and his resources back to God and did so generously.”
“Not only was he greatly generous during his lifetime,” Coveny said, “but many Catholic institutions have benefited from the planning he did to provide generous gifts at his death, including the Cathedral of Christ the King, Marist School and Mercy Care. I know that he touched many people’s lives, and I am grateful that he touched mine too.”
“Bill Rich was a devout Catholic who raised his four children at St. Jude and sent them to Marist School where he ended up receiving the Father Hartnett Service Award,” Coveny said in her tribute to Rich.
He and his wife, Carol, were lay cooperators with the Society of Mary.
“Much of Bill’s service at the church was behind the scenes, including helping with annulments for Cathedral parishioners and serving with Carol as a pre-Cana facilitator for young engaged couples,” Coveny said.
Rich was “especially devoted to Catholic Charities,” she said. “He served on the board for more than 30 years, including three consecutive terms of three years each as chair of the board.”
Priest had financial savvy
Msgr. Churchwell converted to Catholicism at 17, entered the seminary right out of high school and was ordained a priest in 1976, she said.
He served as a parochial vicar at several parishes, including the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, Atlanta, before being named pastor there in 1994.
“He loved Sacred Heart,” she said. “A highlight of his time there was when he was called on to host Mother Teresa, now St. Teresa, in 1995 with only six days’ notice.”
Msgr. Churchwell studied canon law at The Catholic University of America and worked with the Metropolitan Tribunal and the Provincial Court of Appeals.
He also used his intellect in matters related to finance. He was a founding member of the Catholic Credit Union board of directors, which merged into the Georgia United Credit Union. He remained on that board until his death and “had great pride” in its help for local Catholics, Coveny said.
Msgr. Churchwell served as manager of the Priests Assistance Fund for more than 20 years and the Priests Retirement Committee. He was appointed vicar for senior priests in 2010, Coveny said. “Monsignor greatly enjoyed being the liaison and minister for priests over the age of 65.”
When he joined the foundation board and served on the investment committee, he “surprised us all with his knowledge of investment vehicles and his astute questions,” Coveny said.
He helped start the Retired Archdiocesan Priests Care Endowment Fund at the Catholic Foundation. He started a personal charitable gift annuity and a donor advised fund, which have both now been moved into the Retired Archdiocesan Priests Care Fund as he so indicated. And he placed the Catholic Foundation as the beneficiary of one of his investment accounts, to be split three ways between the endowments for the retired priests, his beloved Sacred Heart Basilica, and the foundation.
“Msgr. Churchwell was a true Deo Gratias member who utilized our services and shared their value with his fellow priests,” she said.
After each tribute a grey stone sculpted crucifix was given, respectively, to Kelly Cambias Miles, Cambias’ daughter; to Carol Rich; and to physician Bobby Bloodworth, a friend of Msgr. Churchwell.
Bloodworth said he met the priest when he was a newly ordained transitional deacon. “We both loved church history, especially Byzantine history. We started meeting regularly, in those days at McDonald’s, talking about history.”
“He was a financial genius. He saw the foundation as the future for preserving the churches in North Georgia,” Bloodworth said.
“We want to give back”
Jaime Lanier Jr., who chairs the foundation’s board of directors, spoke on the importance of relationships, trust, and impact with the foundation.
Lanier, parishioner of St. Joseph Church, Marietta, had three sons attend St. Joseph School and Marist School and said that he and his wife, Mary Anne, “have truly been blessed to serve in the archdiocese and Marist communities and feel we have received more from these relationships than we have given.”
He said that he got involved with the Catholic Foundation when he received an inheritance from his mother.
“I knew that for my legacy to have the greatest impact required my prayerful consideration of the many opportunities available,” Lanier said. “I prayed that God would lead me to the organizations that best matched my talent and interests.”
He received the foundation annual report, read it, and liked what he read. He knew Coveny and her husband, Mike. He called her and told her he was including the foundation in his estate plan.
“Relationships frequently make things happen at the Catholic Foundation,” Lanier said.
“More importantly,” he continued, “we all know that our relationship with our Lord is the primary reason we are all here today. He has given us so much in our lives, and we want to give back in thanksgiving. It’s truly as simple as that.”
Lanier said that in addition to the trust he had in individual board members, “I trusted the work of the foundation because of the transparency with which they approach their work.”
“I have seen the diligence,” he said. “I have seen the policies, the checks and balances, the audits, and the work of the board members. I have seen how the wishes of the donors are documented and followed.”
Lanier continued, “Your money goes where you want it to go. It is as simple as that. I am proud of the staff and the board for ensuring that what we give to help our church and its people is stewarded so well.”
Giving to endowment funds—whether in your estate or during your lifetime—means that the gift will keep on giving, he said, because the principal is protected while the income funds grants.
“The gifts are invested forever and produce grants and distributions to help what we want to help,” Lanier said. “In this past fiscal year, $1.89 million went to help our Catholic community through our competitive grants program, our donor advised fund grants, and the endowment distribution annual grants.”
“Relationships, trust, impact,” he said. “If you have not made your own plans, perhaps now is a good time to reflect on what you want your own Catholic legacy to be. Where would you like to express to God your own thankfulness?”
Fritz and Mary Jo Holzgrefe established the Holzgrefe Family Fund, a donor advised fund, to support the Catholic community with an emphasis on supporting Catholic education.
Fritz Holzgrefe said while he was looking for ways to contribute financially to a Catholic organization, the late Bill Rich suggested the Catholic Foundation could use his experience and that is how he got involved and became a board member.
What he likes about the Catholic Foundation is that “it is a professionally run organization with professional money managers. It is done in a cost-effective manner with the right kind of professional oversight.”
“I think it’s a way to really make a positive impact both for the church and the Catholic community,” Holzgrefe said.
St. Pius X parishioner Mimi Soileau said, “I knew I wanted to give 10 percent (of my estate) back to the church. I wanted to divide it up for different ministries that I’m interested in.”
After talking to Father John Kieran, former pastor of St. Pius X, Soileau said she decided to give some funds to the Catholic Foundation “since it would help many ministries and not just one.” She was sent the packet and read the booklet.
“It inspired me enough to want to distribute what I was giving to the most beneficial ones. I put it in their hands and in God’s hands,” she said.
Soileau said she has always been active in ministries such as the St. Vincent de Paul Society and helped start the garden ministry to take care of the parish grounds and grow seasonal produce for SVdP to distribute.
“As long as I’m taking money in, I want to share it,” she said. “I wanted it to be more personal and also more connected with the church. The Catholic Foundation can use the money where they see fit—supporting churches being built or parishes that are having difficulty. They give to different organizations that need it. It seems very well managed.”
St. Pius X Church “was one of the first parishes to sign up,” Father Kieran said about getting involved with the Catholic Foundation.
In addition to the parish endowment fund, he and his late brother, Father Richard Kieran, also created an endowment within the Catholic Foundation in their names to be used for the future needs of the local church.
“The whole idea of investing for the church of the future appealed to me as the right thing to do and I was glad we had an organization to initiate this move and to give parishes the opportunity to invest for the future of the church in Georgia,” he said.
Father Kieran said that in establishing the parish endowment he put in an initial amount of $5,000, considered seed money, to start the investment.
“Then you would add to it and get parishioners to continue to build a portfolio with the foundation which would fund that seed money for parishes throughout the archdiocese,” Father Kieran said. “It is run very, very well.”
“I think it is a wonderful idea and God has blessed us with the growth of it,” he said.
For information, visit www.cfnga.org.