Letting Their Light Shine

“I was at loose ends,” is how Julie Craven puts it. She and her husband, Doug, had retired from their corporate jobs at Hormel Foods in Austin and moved to Minneapolis to be near their two adult children. Julie had been Hormel’s chief communications officer while Doug had managed logistics for the company. As retirees, both were fairly active volunteers. Plus, Julie taught a class at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management. Still, something was missing.

The Cravens attended Mass at Our Lady of Lourdes in Minneapolis — an easy walk from their condo — so Julie signed up to be a Eucharistic minister. When she mentioned it to the pastor, Father Daniel Griffith, he asked what her job had been before retiring. “When I told him, he said, ‘I have other plans for you.’”

Instead of a Eucharistic minister, Julie became the volunteer director of communications and strategic initiatives for Our Lady of Lourdes. She quickly whipped the parish website into shape and implemented a social media strategy that would be the envy of a Fortune 500 CEO. In 2018, Julie brought national attention to the parish with a humorous Facebook post about the Minnesota Miracle — the famed final Vikings catch against the New Orleans Saints — that went viral.

Doug contributes his significant talents to the parish, as well, pointing out the couple is just as likely to work on a capital campaign as they are to clean out the parish house basement. “We’re on a short list of key volunteers that can help out anywhere,” Doug explains.

Father Griffith describes Julie and Doug’s decision to get involved at Our Lady of Lourdes as a gift. “Their generosity of spirit in so many ways has been inspiring, humbling, and effective in advancing the mission of the parish.”

When it comes to Our Lady of Lourdes, the Cravens are all in, and their service has given them a renewed sense of purpose and fulfillment. “People tell us it’s great that we help out, but what we get out of it is so much more than we put in,” Julie says emphatically. “The more we got involved with Lourdes, the more we became part of a network of other like-minded folks doing good things.”

The Family That Gives Together

It was through the Cravens’ new network that Doug and Julie learned about the Catholic Community Foundation of Minnesota (CCF). They’d already begun researching options for opening a donor advised fund, and after attending CCF’s 25th anniversary event, the choice was simple. CCF aligned with the Craven’s giving priorities, which were based on their faith, and they could be confident that their charitable investments would be consistent with Church  teaching. Another advantage was that CCF made it easy to set up their donor advised fund with the ultimate goal of passing it along to their children: Maggie, 29, and Sean, 28.

“The fund reflects the values of the whole family,” says Julie. “Our daughter, Maggie, her husband, Matt, and our son, Sean, will be able to run with it after we’re long gone. It feels like a wonderful way to hand something off to them.”

The Cravens appreciate the opportunity they’ve had in retirement to be intentional with their charitable giving. “We were so busy building our careers and raising kids, that we didn’t take a deep look at philanthropy, and it warrants a deep look,” says Julie.

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Cravens know their financial gifts will be more crucial than ever. “I’ve already heard from other folks in the parish that weekly giving is down, even with online giving,” says Doug. “Once we get this behind us, all of our parishes are going to need our support.”

Even as the Cravens share their concerns, they are full of gratitude for the opportunity to play an active role in their faith community. “We always tried to teach the kids to never forget that our main priority in life is to always give back what God gives you,” says Doug.

Julie agrees, adding, “For us, that’s supporting the institutions that help support our faith.”