Endowing Faith Along with Dollars
Immaculate Heart Church in Crosslake, MN is a small Catholic community located on the Whitefish Chain of lakes in northern Minnesota. The parish has grown steadily since it was founded in 1955, and every summer, membership swells with seasonal visitors who head north to spend time at their cabins.
This year the parish began to raise money for an endowment to secure the future of the parish. Immaculate Heart’s pastor, Fr. Ryan Moravitz, along with a team of parishioners, began working with the Catholic Community Foundation (CCF) to introduce the idea to the church members and begin the process of raising funds. “Parishes do these things together,” said Fr. Ryan. “This is a community that walks forward together.”
Planning Starts with People
The chairperson of the endowment committee is Jim Lee. Twenty-six years ago Jim, along with his wife, Diane, began attending Immaculate Heart after they bought a cabin and began bringing their children up for the summer. They cherished their time in Crosslake so much that after retiring last year, the couple decided to live there nearly year round. Jim welcomed the opportunity for deeper involvement at Immaculate Heart. “I used to get these phone calls, asking if I could help out with one thing or another and I’d say, ‘Father, I’d like to but I’m on a plane in New York right now,’” he recalled. “After that I got lots of calls asking, ‘Have you retired yet?’”
Jim believes Fr. Ryan has done a great job of pulling together a group of people for the endowment committee that reflects the diverse parish community. One of those people is Helen Fraser, a charter member of the parish. When she married her high school sweetheart in 1957, hers was the first wedding to be held in the church. “It was brand new,” Helen recalled. “It didn’t even have pews yet.”
A few years ago, that original church was replaced by a much larger structure to make room for the growing membership. Helen and her husband, who is now deceased, contributed generously over the years to support the church as it expanded, but she takes a very practical view of things. “Buildings do not make a church,” she stated when talking about the importance of an endowment fund. “We need to prepare for future needs that might arise – repairs, maybe support a future seminarian, and more projects for kids. We have a very active youth group.”
With the help of CCF, the parish kicked off the campaign with a free informational dinner last year that explained how endowments work and how the money will be used. Since then, a popular parish fundraiser called the Wild Game Dinner, has been recast as the Wild Endowment Dinner. Last year’s event raised over $50,000.
Passing on a Legacy of Faith
Fr. Ryan is happy about the early fundraising success, but he’s quick to point out, it’s not all about money. He wants to create a spiritual endowment for future generations as well, by inviting church members to share their faith through something he calls Legacy Letters.
With each gift to the endowment, people are invited to write a letter that talks about why their faith is important. All of the letters will then be collected and published in a book. “Letters in Christianity are huge. We wouldn’t have half the new testament if Paul hadn’t written letters.” said Fr. Ryan. “Letters are good guides – they inspire us and help us fight the good fight.”
Along with a gift to the endowment, the donor is invited to submit a Legacy Letter, but Jim emphasizes getting people to think about their faith life and share it with others is far more important than dollars raised. “It doesn’t matter whether you give $10 or $10,000. It’s not about the amount,” explained Jim. “It’s about writing a legacy with your heart and sharing that with future generations.”
“I think it’s wonderful,” said Helen. “The theme of my letter is ‘Be True.’ That’s what I’ve always tried to do – be true to myself, my family and my community.”
Fr. Ryan describes his vision with what he calls, the 100-year plan. “Picture this – when Jim and Diane’s great grandkids come to the family cabin and go to church at Immaculate Heart, they can read the letters their great grandparents wrote,” he explained. “That’s more precious and special than a little bit of money. That’s going to feed the faith of future generations.”
The fund is off to a good start. At the end of their first year, the committee expects to have raised $250,000, far ahead of where they thought they’d be. “We’re trying to do God’s work,” Jim said. “Building community is the real goal. If we do that right, the money will follow.”
Above: Families of the Immaculate Heart Church Endowment Committee
Immaculate Heart Church Endowment Committee:
JP Elsenpeter, Jo C Elsenpeter, Jeanne Keiffer, Tony Coffey, Helen Fraser, Bev Fussy, Diane Lee, Jim Lee, and Father Ryan Moravitz.