A Lasting Solution Leads to a Lasting Legacy

When families at St. Croix Catholic School learned their beloved principal would be reassigned at the end of the school year, they found the perfect way to honor her. During her six-year tenure at the Stillwater elementary school, Sr. Mary Juliana Cox placed a high priority on establishing an endowment that would provide tuition assistance in perpetuity. Her commitment served as the inspiration for a covert campaign to raise money for an endowment gift in Sr. Mary Juliana’s name, to honor the Dominican Sister’s service to the school.

St. Croix Catholic’s development director, Camille Kiolbasa, led the effort. “I just sent out a note to some families letting them know that Sister had been reassigned and to see who would like to make a gift in her honor,” Camille explained. “The initial thought was to raise $1,000 but within hours we had gone far beyond that.”

Under Sr. Mary Juliana’s leadership, the school partnered with the Catholic Community Foundation (CCF) to convert their investment account into a permanent endowment. When Camille informed CCF about how they planned to honor Sister, the Foundation was happy to help. “Sr. Juliana was always a champion for the endowment,” said Bill Marsella, Director of Partner Relations for CCF. “I thought it was a wonderful gesture.”

Students flocked to give Sr. Mary Juliana parting hugs at the last day of school Mass.

To spur donations, CCF offered a $10,000 matching gift. Camille happily spread the word. “When we let people know that the Foundation would match up to $10,000, things really took off,” she said. “By the end of the week we had raised about $40,000.” Additionally, Camille reported a single family made a five-year pledge of $10,000 a year, bringing the total to $80,000.”

Making sure that a quality Catholic education is available to everyone who seeks it is a guiding principle for Sr. Mary Juliana. She points out that Catholic schools in the U.S. were founded by nuns to educate the children of poor immigrants and they shouldn’t become institutions accessible only to the elite. “Families who are unable to pay tuition have much more to give beyond money,” she said. “Their faith and gratitude permeates the whole school. That really opens people up to the work of God.”

Camille says that some people are surprised to learn that that the need for assistance in their community is strong. “About one third of our school families receive some level of assistance,” she said, “Sister really believed in the endowment fund as a lasting solution and this gift was a way for people to show they shared Sister’s vision.”

On the last day of school at the end of the all school Mass, Sr. Mary Juliana was called up to the altar where students presented her with cards and gifts they’d made themselves. Then she was presented with the $40,000 endowment gift that had been made in her honor. Camille described a scene filled with hugs and tears. “It was bittersweet in that she touched so many lives in such a short period of time,” Camille said. “We know that we’ll meet again someday but it’s hard to say goodbye.”

“It’s obvious that the students love her and she loves them,” remarked Bill Marsella, who participated in the presentation that day. “Through her efforts to establish the endowment, Sister will have an even bigger impact on future generations.”

For her part, Sr. Mary Juliana said she can’t imagine a better gift. “It’s brilliant because it continues on here at school. That’s where my heart is, here with the kids.”

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