In mid-March when the COVID-19 pandemic hit Minnesota, our daily routines were upended. All corners of the economy were impacted. And in the midst of rapid change and increasing uncertainty, our parishes — the places we turn for comfort, hope, and community — were forced to close their doors to keep staff and parishioners safe.
But church never ceased.
Rather, our parish and school leaders found themselves working around the clock to meet the needs of their communities. They swiftly put in place the technology and systems necessary to safely hold Mass and livestream for parishioner participation. They delivered materials to students’ homes to ensure everyone had what they needed for distance learning. They creatively adjusted ministries and sacraments, creating drivethrough confessionals and parking lot Adoration.
Despite the added efforts, many parishes experienced early declines in offertory giving as much as 60 percent. Many parents of school families lost jobs, and the money they normally set aside for tuition payments was needed instead to pay for rent and groceries.
Catholic Community Foundation of Minnesota (CCF) President Anne Cullen Miller knew something had to be done. “Some parishes were well-positioned financially to weather this storm,” says Anne, “but others were not so fortunate. We knew this would need to be a community response.”
And so, CCF — in partnership with Most Reverend Bernard A. Hebda, Archbishop of Saint Paul and Minneapolis — established the Minnesota Catholic Relief Fund (MCRF) to contribute to operational stability for Catholic parishes and schools during the COVID-19 pandemic. CCF seeded the fund with $50,000 in grants and shifted the focus of several staff members to raise awareness and funds for the MCRF. Our community responded quickly. Within one week, the fund held more than $500,000 thanks to 45 individual donors.
And CCF partners generously offered in-kind support for the fund. The Catholic Services Appeal Foundation sent a letter to their mailing list soliciting support, and Relevant Radio allocated extra advertising time at no cost to the MCRF.
“This is the Church,” says Anne. “Our community of believers with generous hearts.”
An advisory committee composed of lay and religious leaders formed to guide the grantmaking process for the MCRF. Each committee member holds considerable financial and grantmaking expertise and is well-connected in the archdiocese. Together, they developed an application process and guidelines for grant allocation and are now in the process of distributing funds.
The MCRF has been a true community effort. As of now, 706 donors have contributed to the fund. The fund totals $1,286,584 and has granted $649,400 to the parishes and Catholic schools most in need.
This article was published on May 18, 2020. For the latest information about the MCRF and grants distributed, visit www.ccf-mn.org/relief.