Endowing for Unforeseen Challenges

Father Joah Ellis baptizes an infant. He and the other adults are wearing face masks over their mouths and noses.

Our Lady of Peace Catholic Church and School (OLP) has been a beacon of hope to parishioners and the residents of South Minneapolis since its founding — but never more so than in 2020. The weekend in March that the state’s stay-at-home order went into effect, OLP launched livestream Masses online. Shortly afterwards, OLP pastor Father Joah Ellis began offering drive-through confession in the parish parking lot. School staff worked tirelessly to meet the needs of students and families after a quick shift to distance learning.

The ability to adapt and respond was the product of financial prudence in years prior. In 1991, when the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport purchased the property where the Church of St. Kevin sat, two South Minneapolis parishes merged to form OLP. The Church of the Resurrection property provided a new home for OLP, while proceeds from the sale of St. Kevin’s gave the parish a financial safety net as it established its roots.

And, endowments established by foresighted parishioners ensured OLP had a stable source of income to sustain its faith community and ministries when faced with the unforeseen challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Generous Parishioners Sharing Their Blessings

Harry and Jan Sweere came to OLP from the Church of St. Kevin, where three of their four children attended school. They enjoyed tremendous business success with a company they founded together — but more important to them was their faith and the OLP faith community.

“They saw themselves as blessed,” says Pam Sweere, daughter-in-law to Harry and Jan. “They wanted to bless others in perpetuity.”

Before Harry died in 2005, he and Jan made plans to provide a significant gift to OLP upon the sale of their company. After Harry died, Jan remained active and involved in the OLP community. She found comfort there. She established an endowment with the Catholic Community Foundation of Minnesota (CCF) to perpetually support the OLP school. And when she sold the family business in 2010, Jan carried out the plan she and Harry had made several years before. She endowed proceeds from the sale, ensuring that the community that had cared so well for her family over the years would be forever cared for financially.

Distributions to OLP from endowments they funded have exceeded $8 million since their inception — with the church and school gratefully receiving more than $1 million in 2020 alone.

“They couldn’t possibly have foreseen just how much it would be needed this year — but they knew establishing an endowment was better than giving the money all at once,” says Pam.

Financial Stability — Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow

Wanting to ensure that the financial safety net created in 1991 would continue to grow in perpetuity and provide a source of stable, consistent, annual revenue, OLP turned to CCF to establish a permanent endowment.

“In times like these, income from a permanent endowment can be used to meet urgent needs without putting the principal at risk,” explains CCF Vice President of Development and Donor Engagement Chris Nelson. “There’s comfort in giving everything you can today without sacrificing the good that will be done by and for generations to come.”

“The permanent endowment also gives parish families a way to support Our Lady of Peace in perpetuity,” says Father Ellis. “They can be confident the gifts made in their estate plans will have lasting impact.”

Back to School and More

In preparing to reopen school in the fall, OLP drew on endowment income to invest in an air-purifying ionization unit for the school’s HVAC system, smart cameras for remote learning (should that be required), Chromebooks for every student, and extensive COVID-19 mitigation plans.

As a result, OLP was able to not just welcome back its entire student body, but also welcome 22 new families and 57 new students.

Father Ellis concludes, “We certainly were more confident making those investments in the school knowing we could count on future endowment distributions and the assistance of CCF.”

View More Stories