Endowing the Heart of a Parish Community

Founded in 1960, the St. Odilia Catholic Community was originally led by the Crosiers, a religious order that believes strongly in lay leadership. At the request of the Archbishop, St. Odilia parishioners worked together to build a school and then a church. Nearly 30 years after the parish was established, parishioners were moved to establish an endowment that could support their parish and school in perpetuity.

The parish community created an Endowment Fund Advisory Committee to oversee the growth and stewardship of the fund. “Long-term successful endowments have lay leaders that champion the efforts,” says Chris Nelson, vice president of development and donor engagement at the Catholic Community Foundation of Minnesota (CCF).

Having researched the successes and failures of the few parishes that had attempted to establish a similar fund, it became immediately clear to the St. Odilia endowment committee that giving an endowment time to grow was essential.

“We decided to make no distributions of any kind until the fund reached $500,000,” says Sharon Hicks, one of the founding members who recently retired from the endowment committee after 25 years. “We’ve been very fortunate to have pastors who’ve been very supportive of our efforts.”


Fundraising with heart

Parish Administrator Jeanne Schaaf says Roger Toogood played a major role in growing the endowment. He was no stranger to fundraising, having served as the executive director of the Children’s Home Society of Minnesota for 27 years — and he knew that nobody gave to the unknown.

“I knew there needed to be a heart connection,” says Roger. “We needed to start by finding out what each potential donor loved about St. Odilia — and, show them how their support could help.”

St. Odilia also allows donors to designate specific ministries or areas they’d like their donations to support. “That’s another way of making that heart connection,” says Roger.

In 1995, management of the endowment fund was transferred to the recently established Catholic Community Foundation. The change not only increased the speed at which the parish’s funds grew, it also minimized the bookkeeping responsibilities of an endowment with multiple sub-funds. “We appreciated how CCF’s faith-consistent stewardship matched our parish’s heart too,” says Jeanne.


Their faith and hard work were rewarded

It took another 10 years for the parish to reach its $500,000 goal and begin making grants to support the work of its various ministries. (The committee had made one $40,000 grant five years before the goal was reached, honoring St. Odilia’s 40th Anniversary.)

Today, St. Odilia’s endowments are valued at more than $2.25 million. Since 2005, more than $936,000 of total distributions have funded projects that met a parish ministry need.


Ministry members provide heartfelt advocacy

To carry out the mission of St. Odilia, there are nine ministry councils: social justice, worship and community life, facilities, Hispanic leadership circle, stewardship, faith formation, finance, pastoral care, and the school advisory council. A representative from each ministry serves on the Parish Leadership Council.

On the third Tuesday of each month, the 90 parishioners who serve on those ministry councils gather for prayer and a simple soup supper. Then they break into separate groups to discuss issues related to their ministry area — and possible uses of endowment funds. The Parish Leadership Council meets immediately afterward.

Word and enthusiasm about proposed initiatives spreads quickly from the ministry councils to the more than 3,000 parish households, a large percentage of which attend the Annual Endowment Mass and Benefactor Recognition Event.

The community’s commitment to and excitement about the endowment made a favorable impression on Fr. Phillip Rask when he came to St. Odilia in 2007, “I was pleased and surprised by how creatively and collaboratively endowment funds were being used.”

Sharon believes St. Odilia is successful because community members share a genuine passion for their faith and their parish. “We want to ensure that this faith community we know and love will continue to thrive long into the future so that others who follow in our footsteps will be nurtured and blessed as we have been.”

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