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Glenda Seipp, Director of Stewardship & Annual Giving Services

The mission and ministry of Stewardship & Annual Giving Services is to help build stewardship as a way of life in the Diocese of Helena. The Stewardship and Annual Giving Services Director directs, plans and coordinates diocesan stewardship projects and programs, including the Annual Catholic Appeal (ACA), Son Light and other major gift development and special needs campaigns.

The director provides resource information, planning and training assistance to parishes to build the concept of stewardship as discipleship and develops stewardship ministry within the diocese. In addition, the director coordinates grant development and administration.

Webpage: Stewardship Services

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Summer Offertory Slump

It’s that time of year again. We have hit the road to attend summer weddings and family reunions as well as seek out waterfront camp grounds and favorite fishing spots. As a result we will most likely visit a neighboring parish for Sunday Liturgy. Choosing to visit a neighboring parish is good news but not attending Mass in our home parish and therefore not placing our gift of treasure into the offertory basket can have financial consequences for our parish’s bottom line.

Our summertime focus should certainly be aimed at enjoying God’s creation in ways that aren’t possible during the darker and colder months of the year. As we make plans to head out of town we double and triple check to be sure our financial obligations to our bank, cable provider, power company, cell phone provider, etc have been handled. What about our parish? It is possible that while we’re away our parish is experiencing a summer offertory slump. Perhaps we’ve left our Pastor in a tight spot. While we are certainly missed during our absence it is likely that our financial support is missed as well. Is there a remedy you ask?

Online giving is one solution that can keep your parish on track financially during your summertime absence. Perhaps your parish is already offering online giving but you haven’t gotten around to signing up. Or maybe your Pastor is hesitant about introducing and implementing such a gift giving option in your parish. There are several companies offering online giving services that can have you giving steady offertory gifts within a couple of weeks of the initial parish inquiry. The most important feature is your ability to protect your credit card or banking information. Companies will require members to set up an online account with a password. This arrangement allows you to access your scheduled gifts at any time to make edits or place a hold on a scheduled gift. Your password is known only to you so you can play in the sun without worrying about the secure nature of your financial information or your gifts of treasure.

A rousing endorsement from a favored Pastor:

“We love online giving because of its convenience for the giver and the parish, but also because it has provided some stability to our offertory. Before we used online giving our summer income decreased significantly.  Online giving frees our parishioners from worrying about supporting their parish when they are gone; their support happens automatically, and we are grateful!” Father Jeff Fleming – Christ the King, Missoula

Many of our parishes lean heavily on the Easter Offertory to get them through the summer slump. At this time the Easter Offertory is only visible in the parish rear view mirror and the Christmas Offertory is far off in the distance. Now is the time to help your parish avoid a summer offertory slump. Make an inquiry with your parish regarding the mutual benefits and convenience of online giving. Let me know if I can assist in any way.

Stewardship Formation – In the Footsteps of Pope Francis

Called, Transformed and Sent to Serve

Over 200 faithful Stewards from all across Region XII in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska recently gathered in Kennewick, WA to discern how we are each called from a variety of circumstances and locations to work together to build the Church, how we are transformed by gratitude and Eucharist and how we are sent to serve for our entire lives as there are no term limits on serving. The gracious words of Bishops Joseph Tyson, Liam Cary and William Skylstad in three keynote presentations highlighted the fact that, as Catholic stewards, the greatest gift we bear is the presence of Christ.

Another opportunity for Stewardship Formation is happening this fall in the windy city of Chicago.

In the Footsteps of Pope Francis

The International Catholic Stewardship Council will hold its annual conference, In the Footsteps of Pope Francis, from October 22 – 25 in Chicago, IL at the Hyatt Regency Hotel downtown. The conference presents an opportunity for those interested in living a life of Stewardship to begin the journey with a good understanding. For those already living as Stewards or working in the area of Stewardship at a parish or diocese the conference offers the chance to further the understanding and practice of Stewardship. Conference sessions include a variety of topics from the spiritual aspects of Stewardship to the practical steps that can be taken in a person’s life, at a parish or in a diocese to further the appropriate use of God’s gifts of time, talent and treasure in the lives of the faithful. Mass is celebrated each day. More information about conference sessions and registration can be obtained at www.catholicstewardship.org Or contact Glenda at gseipp@diocesehelena.org or 406-442-5820 X 35.

Stewardship Prayer

 

Gracious God,

So often you attempt to offer us a peaceful awareness of your presence.

It is always there, but often we do not slow down enough to become aware of it.

Help us to slow down and appreciate the gift of your presence, and come to a deeper

understanding of the movement of your Spirit in our lives.

Help us recognize those moments when you rescued us, healed us, and reconciled us.

Increase our trust in you, and show us how to reach beyond ourselves to minister to others,

and be better stewards and sacraments of your presence each day.

We pray this in Jesus’ name.

Amen.

Accompany

I call it a “golden nugget”. For me a golden nugget is, at the very least, the one piece of solid information that enters my brain and can shape my understanding to the point that my heart is stretched and transformed by this new truth. And for a time my vision is altered as I process the happenings in my life through this new lens of understanding. The nugget might present itself in a book, movie, magazine article, homily or conversation.

I place a value on these golden nuggets based upon how long they remain and how often they leap into my awareness. I judge a movie as worthy of my time if its complexity or message is the first thing on my mind as I awake the next day. Sometimes I have to wrestle with the storyline or characters for several days before they willingly retreat into the background of my consciousness. Am I changed? Most often the answer is yes. Once my new understanding starts to fit and feel like second nature, however, I am less conscious of my new way of being while remaining grateful for my ongoing transformation.

As I speak for myself I am confident that others have the same and/or similar experiences.

Apparently I’m still being transformed by a golden nugget I received several months ago because it just keeps presenting itself. Way back in March I had the privilege and pleasure of meeting Sister Susan Wood, SCL during her visit to our Diocese. Her task was to instruct and inspire some of the dedicated servants of our Diocese and I, as a Chancery employee, was invited to join the gathering. While I can assure you that Sister Susan had many important truths and challenging ideas to share with us that afternoon it is my golden nugget, a transforming and joyful truth that remains. The truth being: We are called to accompany others.

Say it aloud. Accompany. While the dictionary would have us believe that it simply means to go with somebody our faith tells us that it is so much more. Our journey is more about helping others be transformed rather than merely transported. Our willingness to accompany others will bring us so much closer to the heart of God. In the process we will be transformed. Thankfully, I believe that it is the divinely inspired combination of our spiritual and physical presence to others, the accompanying, that brings us joy and transforms us.

We are not meant to live in isolation and although accompanying can sometimes get messy we have the example that God provided for us in Jesus to show us the way. Jesus accompanied a sometimes difficult group. They demanded to sit at the right hand of God, they slept when they should have prayed and they didn’t recognize Him on the road to Emmaus. Perhaps you are accompanying someone who is sometimes difficult, demanding, not on task and unaware of your presence and sacrifice. It might be helpful and reassuring to move along in the story for we know that in the end they, His Disciples, knew Him in the breaking of the bread and committed their lives to spreading the Good News. Jesus gave us the Eucharist to accompany us as we accompany others. For each of us, I find joy in this truth.

Who will you accompany today?

Sound The Retreat

In ancient times and in more recent history, yesterday for me, a person in a position of leadership knew when the battle was lost or reinforcement was needed and their only option was to sound the retreat. In our contemporary world the pace of keeping up with all our blessings can sometimes be overwhelming. From time to time a break from the rhythm and responsibilities of everyday life will bring us the soul nourishing that we need for ourselves and subsequently for those we love. Every now and then we each may benefit from a loud and clear sound the retreat!

With that in mind all ladies are invited to a 25 hour retreat, Making All Things New ~ Letting God Transform Us, at Legendary Lodge on Salmon Lake. Our retreat director is Sister Noreen Walter, SCL.

Sr. Noreen stewardhsip blog

S. Noreen Walter, SCL is the director of Marillac Center. She has given retreats and workshops in the United States and Canada. Sister Noreen’s sense of humor and delight in life encourage others to live life to the fullest. She inspires others with stories and examples from life! Her fifteen years in secondary education, along with her work in pastoral ministry and vocation ministry have led others to live in-spired lives with purposeful living. Sister Noreen holds a master’s degree in Pastoral Studies from Loyola Marymount University.

You will come across the water with your sleeping bag, pillow, swim suit and towel, shower towel, bible and prayerful spirit! We’ll get started Friday, July 17, 2015 at 4 PM and end Saturday, July 18, 2015 at 5 PM. Only 80 women age 21 and over can be accommodated. The cost is $100/person and your registration is transferable but not refundable if you should need to change your plans at the last minute.

Visit www.showmyevent.com to register. Any questions or concerns may be directed to me, Glenda, at gseipp@diocesehelena.org or 406-442-5820 X 35.

If what you’re presently needing is some time for transformation I encourage you to sound the retreat and join me and other Catholic women of faith in a soul nourishing time of renewal.

Words to Live By

Ash Wednesday seems like a long time ago but the words I heard in the homily that evening remain fresh in my mind and a challenge to my heart. The homilist at St. Joseph in Scottsdale, AZ gave me insight into three practices to aid my Lenten journey and I believe, as a Christian and faithful steward, the very least I should do throughout my life. I believe these three practices can enable me and you, if you also need assistance, to be a giver of the finest gifts.

Fasten your seatbelt. First Strategy: Don’t be a jerk. Second Strategy: Honor the absent. Third Strategy: Give the benefit of the doubt. Words so simple and yet so powerful I have not been able to forget them mostly due to the fact that I failed on each account at least once during my Lenten journey.

Don’t be a jerk. I may as well start out where I failed the greatest. The woman I offended is out there. I hope she will return my phone calls so I can offer an apology. Have you ever misunderstood the urgency in someone’s voice? I did. I heard accusation instead of concern. I heard anger instead of desperation. I was a jerk. My response was ineffective and isolating. This fine woman volunteers as the president of her parish’s Pastoral Council. I am confident that she does a good job, looking out for the needs of her parish as if they were her own. I know that because, upon reflection, I realize I heard it in her voice. If I had listened more closely I could have easily offered her the kindness she needed. Next time. It is a priceless gift to offer someone kindness.

Honor the absent. Each of us struggles with the temptation to gossip from time to time. We live in a world with vast amounts of information, easy access to personal data and the misconception that we’re entitled to know everything and obligated to share details that belong to someone else. In my own struggle to retain some privacy around medical issues I came to a very clear understanding of how we actually honor others by accepting that their story is their story to tell, in their own time. Now, when I’m tempted to pass along even a morsel of someone else’s story I ask myself, “Whose story is it to tell?” If I have to ask myself the question I easily know the answer, “not mine”. A lesson well learned. It is a priceless gift to honor the absent.

Give the benefit of the doubt. As I began to write this blog I received an email from a parish secretary. She was inquiring about a member of her parish that had supposedly given a gift to the 2014 ACA but the parish had no record of it and she was conducting a thorough follow-up with those who had not yet made a gift to this year’s appeal. She asked me to check their gift record. Perhaps the gift had been credited to a different parish. “After all,” she stated, “I want to give them the benefit of the doubt.” It appeared effortless for her to offer the benefit of the doubt. I admire her willingness to accept their word and then correct the placement of the gift to accurately reflect their parish membership. With practice it will become more natural for me, too. It is a priceless gift to give the benefit of the doubt to another.

The ashes once placed on my forehead in the sign of the cross as I began my Lenten journey are long gone. I walked, sometimes stumbled, with Jesus for 40 days. I cried, like I always do, as members of my parish humbly allowed Father Bart to wash their foot on Holy Thursday just as Jesus and his disciples did as a model for all of us. I imagined the garden of Gethsemane and knew that I would have been among those who had fallen asleep. I gathered before the cross with my faith community to venerate not just the cross but the life and sacrifice of Christ. I read at the Easter Vigil from the Book of Exodus about God rescuing the Israelites from the Egyptians through the Red Sea on dry land. So many miracles and so much mystery. I heard the bells ring. From darkness I emerged.

The days of Easter are here. Christ is risen from the tomb. These fifty joyful days will bring us to Pentecost, the coming of the Holy Spirit. For these fifty days and beyond I trust that I will have many opportunities to offer to others the priceless gifts of kindness, honor and respect knowing that with God all things are possible. And with the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit, the kindness of friends and strangers, the example of others, the words of scripture and my unique gifts I can live the life I am called to live!

Easter blessings!

Region XII 10th Northwest Catholic Stewardship Conference

Adult Formation Opportunity – Region XII 10th Northwest Catholic Stewardship Conference

Once every two to three years the leadership of Region XII invites the faithful to gather, at a somewhat central northwestern location, to further understanding and the subsequent practice of Stewardship in the lives of disciples from 8 mission dioceses and 1 mission Archdiocese as far east as Montana, as far south as Idaho, as far west as Oregon and as far north as Alaska and the 2 non-mission Archdioceses of our region, Seattle and Portland.

This 2015 adult formation opportunity will be offered on June 26th and 27th at St. Joseph Parish in Kennewick, WA. Complete details are available at http://www.yakimadiocese.org/stewardship-conference

Among the very talented speakers is a colleague of mine with a keen eye for seeing God’s stewarding presence in each happening of the day. Jane Rutter serves as the Diocese of Jefferson City Stewardship and Development Director and she writes a weekly blog that is both insightful and enjoyable. You will have a chance to meet and learn from Jane at the Stewardship Conference, as she will be speaking on the spiritual journey of the individual and then on the spiritual journey of an entire parish community. Jane’s blog, On the Spiritual Journey, can be experienced at: http://www.diojeffcity.org/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&layout=item&id=242&Itemid=447 Whether or not the timing of the conference works for you I do recommend that you sign up to benefit from Jane’s weekly blog. She offers consistent manna for the journey.

Other practices that will be explored are included on the attached schedule. Our own Doug Tooke, Formation Services Director, will be assisting us with insights for successful collaboration among our committees, ministries and especially involving our youth. Honoring each other’s gifts is definitely good stewardship! How do you know what your gifts are? Our own Kirsten Hangas of Christ the King Parish in Missoula will be helping to lead an entire track devoted to Engaged Communities and Strengths Development. If you’ve heard the “buzz” about engagement and strengths and wondered what all the fuss is about this is your opportunity to participate in six sessions, from introductory to team-building, that will leave you informed and inspired.

I will promise you that your journey to Kennewick and your investment in the conference will bear much fruit for you and your parish. It causes me to smile when I consider the wisdom that this parish had to include a coffee shop, Holy Grounds, into their parish hall design. I hope we’ll have a chance to grab a cup together at the conference.

I am anticipating some scholarship funds being available for folks traveling from our Diocese to Kennewick. Please contact me if you are considering attending and I’ll see how I may assist you with travel costs.

The Conference Schedule can be found HERE.

Bless the Lord, All You Works of the Lord, Alleluia!

Recent warm weather meant that our favorite trail in the BLM land near our home would be in decent shape for our Sunday afternoon walk with our two chocolate Labrador Retrievers, Lucy and Hazel. We quickly discovered that a thin layer of snow covered the crusty snow and ice making it difficult to determine the best course to traverse to retain our footing. The dogs’ tails wagged happily as they ran ahead and then circled back to see what was delaying us – caution and trepidation. And that was before we reached our turn-around mark 30 minutes away from our home and realized the fresh tracks in the snow along the trail were those of a mountain lion.

Just a few hours earlier our Sunday Morning Prayer from The Liturgy of the Hours Week 4 had included Antiphon Two; Alleluia! Bless the Lord, all you works of the Lord, alleluia!. My rhythm with the familiar prayer had been thrown off as I stopped to consider in a new and more meaningful way that I am included as a work of the Lord. While my study of stewardship has shaped my understanding of stewarding God’s creation and recognizing everything as an incredible gift I had not taken the time to think about God’s effort to create me and was taken aback by the depth of my gratitude for His gift of life. This inspiring scripture, which gives us the directive to bless the Lord, comes from the Book of Daniel in the Old Testament. We’re all familiar with Daniel mostly due to the great stories of his faith and God’s faithfulness during Daniel’s trials with King Nebuchadnezzar. You will recall he was once thrown into a pit… with lions. Oh my.

Turning back towards our home seemed to give the dogs comfort as they settled in on the path with a renewed sense of purpose. We had most likely misinterpreted their nervousness as exuberance on the first half of our adventure. Our footsteps quickened as our eyes surveyed the tall grass covering the meadows and explored the depths of the landscape between the trees on the mountainside. We wondered aloud if a mountain lion would reveal itself to us. I fell only once as my unspoken prayers for courage and safety rose to the One who had given me life. Daniel had faced the lions and been unharmed. We didn’t need or want to see the mountain lion that had moved quickly through the woods so close to our home and I prayed it didn’t want to encounter us.

As children of God, we are each called to equip ourselves with something to fall back on both in times of joy and in times of distress. Our loving God, inspiring the work of many human hands and hearts, has given us the Word of God in the Bible. As Catholics we also have the traditions and practices of our faith to help us bring words to our celebrations and our longings. Like Daniel in the lion’s den and the disciples on the road to Emmaus, we don’t have to look far to recognize the presence of God in our midst. But we do have to look. When we seek to know God it becomes a much more natural response to reach out to Him as a companion on our journey. God desires a relationship with each member of creation. Like me, if you’ve fallen lately, you need only ask God to give you what you need so that you can pick yourself up and continue your journey home.

The final intercessions for week four in the Liturgy of the Hours speak of God’s attentiveness and our response. “As we celebrate the resurrection of your beloved Son, help us to spend this day in the spirit of joy. Give to your faithful, O Lord, a prayerful spirit of gratitude, that we may thank you for all your gifts.”

God gives us the prayerful spirit that enables us to recognize and express gratitude for all of God’s gifts. On this day I am most grateful for the gift of life, which may include snow crusted trails and mountain lions. Bless the Lord, all you works of the Lord, alleluia!

Matt photo

Matthew Brower, Executive Director of the Montana Catholic Conference

The Montana Catholic Conference serves as the public policy branch of the Catholic Church in Montana, and the liaison for Montana’s Roman Catholic Bishops with state and federal government. Inspired by Scripture and Catholic social teaching, the conference seeks to advocate for the weak and vulnerable and act as a catalyst for the transformation of society.

Website: www.montanacc.org

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Fortnight for Freedom: Freedom to Bear Witness

Recently the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) announced the fourth “Fortnight for Freedom” will be observed June 21-July 4, 2015. The purpose of the Fortnight is to raise awareness of the concerns related to religious freedom in the United States and around the world. The theme for this year’s celebration is “Freedom to Bear Witness,” and it is meant to highlight the integral connection between religious liberty and the call to bear witness to the truth of the gospel.

A simple review of news headlines from around the world makes it clear that religious freedom is seriously threatened both here and abroad. The Fortnight provides us with an excellent opportunity to reflect on the nature and purpose of freedom including religious liberty.

True freedom is the power and right to do that which is right and good and is an essential requirement of human dignity.

Regarding freedom, the Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “Freedom is the power, rooted in reason and will, to act or not to act, to do this or that, and so to perform deliberate actions on one’s own responsibility. By free will one shapes one’s own life. Human freedom is a force for growth and maturity in truth and goodness; it attains its perfection when directed toward God, our beatitude” (CCC, 1731).

We become increasingly free to the extent that we turn away from sin and choose instead to direct our lives toward God in service to one another doing what we ought rather than merely what we want. Again, theCatechism states, “The more one does what is good, the freer one becomes. There is no true freedom except in the service of what is good and just. The choice to disobey and do evil is an abuse of freedom and leads to ‘the slavery of sin’” (CCC, 1733). And Saint Paul wrote, “For freedom Christ set us free; so stand firm and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery. . . For you were called for freedom, brothers. But do not use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh; rather, serve one another through love” (Galatians 5:1, 13).

It is the duty of civil authorities to protect the rights of all to choose that which is good. However, such protection does not mean granting persons license to do what whatever they choose. The Catechism reminds us that “the exercise of freedom does not imply a right to say or do everything” (CCC, 1740). Nevertheless, it appears that at times we are inching ever closer to an understanding of freedom that is, in fact, a perversion of freedom and an effective weapon in the destruction of the foundations of a free society.

Seemingly, many embrace a concept of freedom that lacks reference to objective moral truth instead elevating personal autonomy as the greatest good. While it is true that few advocate for a society with no legal boundaries, the movement away from recognition of an objective and knowable truth has set in motion a cultural acceptance of a “freedom” that allows one to do simply what one chooses rather than what is good.

The caveat that such freedom should be limited to the extent that what one does ought not harm another is of limited value when the human person is no longer understood as social by nature and truth has been deemed relative. Freedom then becomes simply defined by the boundaries imposed by those exercising power, not necessarily reflecting a reasoned understanding of the “good” but rather echoing in law what the majority (or powerful minority) value.

As we reflect on religious liberty in our country, perhaps it is also wise to consider the Declaration of Independence and the window it provides into the minds of our founders at the birth of our nation. The oft recited words ring in our ears in a special way this time of year: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Is there any question that our founders recognized the existence of a Natural Law and objective truth?

Without the limits imposed by these, freedom can devolve into license and erode the very foundations of a free society. The result is a society that invokes “freedom” as the basis for permitting and advocating for the social weaponry that seeks to destroy authentic freedom.

As is always the case for the Christian, there is hope and the promise of a life lived in the true freedom of Christ. For many the sacrifice has been great. This is true for members of civil society as well as members of the Church. We have countless martyrs who have given their very lives in service of the gospel. Notably, during the Fortnight our liturgical calendar celebrates a series of great martyrs who remained faithful in the face of persecution by political powers—St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher, St. John the Baptist, SS. Peter and Paul, and the First Martyrs of the Church of Rome.

We know that there is no substitute for prayer and it is essential for the preservation of freedom and the cultural reform our nation and world so desperately need.

Hand in hand with a deepening commitment to prayer is our call to evangelize. We have been entrusted to one another and as Christians have vowed to bring Jesus Christ to the rest of the world. It is a mission for which, by God’s grace, we are well-equipped and the Fortnight provides each of us with an opportunity to respond in prayer and service.

I encourage you to find some way to participate in this year’s “Fortnight for Freedom.” Parishes can find a list of 14 ways to celebrate the Fortnight by visiting http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/religious-liberty/fortnight-for-freedom/upload/Fortnight-for-Freedom-Parish-Ideas.pdf. You’ll also find a variety of prayer resources at http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/religious-liberty/fortnight-for-freedom/fortnight-freedom-prayer-resources.cfm, including suggested Prayers of the Faithful, a Prayer for the Protection of Religious Liberty and a Holy Hour Template.

For more information and additional resources I encourage you to visit www.fortnight4freedom.org and take a look at the materials the USCCB has made available to help individuals and parishes participate in this year’s “Fortnight for Freedom.” Please continue to check the Fortnight website, www.fortnight4freedom.org, which will be updated with new content, such as videos, over the coming weeks. Once again, USCCB staff will be posting ideas from various dioceses on the Fortnight Diocesan Activities page so take a moment to see what others are doing to celebrate the Fortnight.

Thank you for your support of this year’s Fortnight for Freedom!

2015 Legislative Session Review

Montana’s 64th legislative session has drawn to a close with much good accomplished over the past four months. Among the highlights were passage of a bill to address the serious problem of human trafficking (HB 89) and defeat of a bill which would have made physician-assisted suicide legal in Montana (SB 202). Additionally, though the bill to abolish the death penalty (HB 370) ultimately failed to make it through the House, we again made significant progress and saw it pass out of the House Judiciary Committee for the first time ever!

A number of bills of interest to the Montana Catholic Conference failed to pass out of the legislature. In fact, many of them failed to make it out of committee. However, some good bills did make it through the gauntlet that is the legislative process and a few have even been signed into law.

The following is a review of some of the bills the Montana Catholic Conference worked on during this past session that passed out of the legislature.

HB 479-“Revise laws regarding fetal surgery”
Sponsored by: Rep. Albert Olszewski
Status: This bill was vetoed by Governor Bullock. To read the veto text, please click here.
Bill history: To hear audio of the hearing in the House Human Services Committee, please click here. To see video of the debate and second reading vote on the House floor, please click here. To see video of the hearing in the Senate Public Health, Welfare and Safety Committee, please click here. To see video of the debate and vote on second reading in the Senate, please click here.

The Montana Catholic Conference SUPPORTED this bill and testified in support.

This bill required, except in the case of medical emergency or the refusal of a woman to provide informed consent, anesthesia to be administered to any unborn child from the point of 20 weeks on when any medical procedure capable of causing physical pain and suffering is being performed on the child.

HB 587-“Requiring physical presence of practitioners when performing abortion services”
Sponsored by: Rep. Keith Regier
Status: This bill was vetoed by Governor Bullock. To read the veto text, please click here.
Bill history: To see video of the hearing in the House Judiciary Committee, please click here. To see video of the debate and second reading vote on the House floor, please click here. To see video of the hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee, please click here. To see video of the debate and vote on second reading in the Senate, please click here.

The Montana Catholic Conference SUPPORTED this bill and testified in support.

This bill required that medical practitioners be physically present when performing or providing certain abortion services (e.g., prescribing, administer, or dispensing a drug/device to induce a chemical abortion).

SB 349-“Allow for options in health insurance coverage of abortion services”
Sponsored by: Sen. Cary Smith
Status: This bill was vetoed by Governor Bullock. To read the veto text, please click here.
Bill history: To hear audio of the hearing in the Senate Public Health, Welfare, and Safety Committee, please click here. To see video of the Senate floor debate and vote on second reading, please click here. To see video of the hearing in the House Human Services Committee, please click here. To see video of the House floor debate and vote on second reading, please click here.

The Montana Catholic Conference SUPPORTED this bill and testified in support.

This bill required an issuer who offers health insurance coverage that includes elective abortion coverage to also offer coverage that does not include elective abortion. It also required that the issuer of the health coverage and those who assist individuals in using an exchange provide notice regarding whether or not a health care plan includes coverage for elective abortion.

HB 89 “Generally revise human trafficking laws”
Sponsored by: Rep. Kimberly Dudik
Status: This bill was signed by Governor Bullock.
Bill history: To see video of the hearing in the House Judiciary Committee, please click here. To see video of the discussion and second reading vote on the House floor, please click here. To see video of the hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee, please click here. To see video of the Senate floor debate and vote on second reading, please click here.

The Montana Catholic Conference SUPPORTED this bill and testified in support.

This bill deals with many aspects of human trafficking. Notably, this bill, in applicable situations, furthers a fundamental shift under the law from categorizing individuals charged with prostitution or promoting it, specifically those who are themselves victims of human/sex trafficking, as criminals to more appropriately recognizing and treating them as victims.

HB 197-“Provide for an enhanced sentence for assault on a pregnant woman”
Sponsored by: Rep. Keith Regier
Status: This bill was signed by Governor Bullock.
Bill history: To see video of the hearing in the House Judiciary Committee, please click here. To see video of the hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee, please click here.

The Montana Catholic Conference SUPPORTED this bill and testified in support.

This bill provides for an enhanced sentence for a person convicted of a forcible felony against a pregnant woman.

2015 Legislative Session Update #2

It’s difficult to believe there are only 6 weeks remainingin Montana’s 64th legislative session. In light of the number of bills still working their way through the committees and the two chambers, these upcomingweeks are shaping up to be very busy and intense.

Although a number of the bills the Montana Catholic Conference has been involved with or following have failed to meet the transmittal deadline and are likely dead, there are still a handful of important bills of interest to MCC that continue forward. The following is an update on some of those bills.

Physician-assisted Suicide/Euthanasia:

 

  • HB 477—“Clarify offense of aiding or soliciting suicide”

Sponsored by Rep. Jerry Bennett (R) HD 1

Status: The billpassed out of the House Judiciary Committee. To see video of the hearing, please click here. It was then debated on the House floor and passed second reading. To see video of the House floor debate please click here. On the third reading vote, the bill failed with a 50-50 vote. However, the next day the bill’s sponsor brought a motion to reconsider the third reading vote. The motion passed and the bill then passed the House on third reading. It has beentransmitted to the Senate and referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

 

The Montana Catholic Conference SUPPORTS this bill and provided testimony in support.

This bill clarifies that physician-assisted suicide is against the public policy of Montana and that it is illegal in our state.

 

 

Beginning-of-life Issues:

 HB 479—“Revise laws regarding fetal surgery”

Sponsored by Rep. Albert Olszewski (R) HD 11

Status: The bill has passed as amended out ofthe House Human Services Committee and now awaits debate and vote on the House floor. To hear audio of the hearing, please click here.

 

The Montana Catholic Conference SUPPORTS this bill and testified in support.

 

This bill requires anesthesia to be administered to any unborn child from the point of 20 weeks on when any medical procedure capable of causing physical pain and suffering is being performed on the child.

 

 

  • HB 587—“Requiring physical presence of practitioners when performing abortion services”

Sponsored by Rep. Keith Regier (R) HD 4

Status: The bill passed out of the House Judiciary Committee. To see video of the hearing, please click here. The bill was then debated on the House floor and passed. To see video of the debate, please click here. The bill has been transmitted to the Senate.

 

The Montana Catholic Conference SUPPORTS this bill and testified in support.

 

This bill requires that medical practitioners be physically present when performing or providing certain abortion services (e.g., prescribing, administering, or dispensing a drug to induce a chemical abortion).

 

Religious freedom/Conscience rights

 

  • SB 349—“Allow for options in health insurance coverage of abortion services”

Sponsored by Sen. Cary Smith (R) SD 27

Status: This bill passed in the Senate and has been transmitted to the House. A hearing is scheduled for March 23rd in the House Human Services Committee. To hear audio of the hearing in the Senate Public Health, Welfare, and Safety Committee click here. To see video of the Senate floor debate click here.

 

The Montana Catholic Conference SUPPORTS this bill and testified in support.

This bill requires an issuer who offers health insurance coverage that includes abortion coverage to also offer coverage that does not include abortion. It also requires that the issuer and those who assist individuals in using an exchange provide notice regarding whether or not a health coverage plan includes coverage for abortion.

Other: 

  • HB 89“Generally revise human trafficking laws”

Sponsored by Rep. Kimberly Dudik (D) HD 94

Status: The bill passed as amended out of the House Judiciary Committee. To see video of the hearing in the House Judiciary Committee please click here. It was then debated on the House floor and passed second reading. To see video of the discussion and vote on the House floor, please click here. The bill was then re-referred to the House Appropriations Committee where it passed as amended. It was then sent back to the full House where it again passed. The bill has been transmitted to the Senate and a hearing is scheduled for March 31st in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

 

The Montana Catholic Conference SUPPORTS this bill and testified in support.

This bill addresses many aspects of human trafficking. Pope Francis has called great attention to the evil of human trafficking and its widespread scourge on society. Among many other elements, this bill, in applicable situations, moves from viewing and treating trafficking victims (e.g., prostitutes) as criminals to more appropriately treating them as victims.

 

  • HB 197—“Provide for an enhanced sentence for assault on a pregnant woman”

Sponsored by Rep. Keith Regier (R) HD 4

Status: This bill was concurred by the Senate after passing the House. It has been enrolled to be sent to Governor Bullock. To see video of the hearing in the House Judiciary Committee click here. To see video of the hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee click here.

 

The Montana Catholic Conference SUPPORTS this bill and testified in support.

This bill provides for an enhanced sentence for a person convicted of a forcible felony against a pregnant woman.

64th Legislative Session Update

The 64th Montana Legislative Session has now been in session for just over four weeks and things have really started to pick up after a relatively quiet first couple of weeks.
There are a number of bills that have emerged in the past few weeks with more to come later this month. The following is an update on some of the bills of interest to the Montana Catholic Conference.

 

Physician-assisted suicide:

SB 202-“Establish guidelines and immunities for physicians who provide end of life care”
Sponsored by Sen. Dick Barrett (D) SD 45
Status: This bill is scheduled for a hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee on February 10, 2015 at 9:00 a.m.
The Montana Catholic Conference OPPOSES this bill.

This bill would legalize physician-assisted suicide and open the door for abuse against the elderly, disabled and others who are vulnerable.

Death penalty:
HB 370-“Generally revise death penalty laws”
Sponsored by Rep. David (Doc) Moore (R) HD 92
Status: This bill is scheduled for a hearing in the House Judiciary Committee on February 13, 2015.
The Montana Catholic Conference SUPPORTS this bill

This bill would abolish the death penalty in Montana and replace it with life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.

Religious freedom/Conscience rights:

SB 179-“Prohibit discrimination of gender identity/expression and sexual orientation”
Sponsored by Sen. Christine Kaufmann (D) SD 40
Status: This bill has been tabled in committee. It was heard in the Senate Judiciary Committee on January 30, 2015. To see video of the hearing please click here.
The Montana Catholic Conference OPPOSES this bill and provided testimony in opposition.

This bill seeks to prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity/expression and sexual orientation. We believe this bill fails to provide adequate protections for those who might object to celebrating, by their actions, situations that run contrary to their deeply held beliefs (e.g., the wedding photographer refusing to take photos at a same-sex wedding ceremony due to beliefs regarding the nature of marriage).

Same-sex “marriage”:

HB 282-“Repeal statutory prohibitions regarding same sex marriage”
Sponsored by Rep. Bryce Bennett (D) HD 91
Status: This bill was heard in the House Judiciary Committee on January 30, 2015 and has been tabled in committee. To see video of the hearing please click here.
The Montana Catholic Conference OPPOSES this bill and testified in opposition.

This bill seeks to repeal statutory prohibitions regarding same-sex “marriage” currently found in the Montana Code. It redefines marriage in statute as between “two persons” rather than between “a man and a woman.”

Other:

HB 89 “Generally revise human trafficking laws”
Sponsored by Rep. Kimberly Dudik (D) HD 94
Status: This bill was heard in the House Judiciary Committee on February 2, 2015. To see video of the hearing please click here.
The Montana Catholic Conference SUPPORTS this bill and testified in support.

This deals with many aspects of human trafficking. Pope Francis himself has called great attention to the evil of human trafficking and its widespread scourge on society. Among many other elements, this bill, in applicable situations, moves from viewing and treating trafficking victims (e.g., prostitutes) as criminals to more appropriately treating them as victims.

HB 197-“Provide for an enhanced sentence for assault on a pregnant woman”
Sponsored by Rep. Keith Regier (R) HD 4
Status: On January 31, 2015 this bill passed third reading in the House 94-3. To see video of the hearing in the House Judiciary Committee click here. The bill has been transmitted to the Senate.
The Montana Catholic Conference SUPPORTS this bill.

This bill provides for an enhanced sentence for a person convicted of a forcible felony against a pregnant woman.

HB 138Consider housing needs in discharge plans from mental health facilities”
Sponsored by Rep. Ellie Hill (D) HD 90
Status: This bill passed second reading 92-8 and has been re-referred to the House Appropriations Committee. To see video of the hearing in the House Human Services Committee click here.
The Montana Catholic Conference SUPPORTS this bill.

The bill would require that when patients are admitted to a mental health facility their housing needs upon discharge be addressed as part of the discharge plan. It also prohibits such a person from being discharged to a homeless situation.

HB 137 “Address homeless prevention for people under dept. of corrections supervision”
Sponsored by Rep. Ellie Hill (D) HD 90
Status: This bill has been tabled in committee. A hearing was held on 1/21/2015 in the House Judiciary Committee. To hear audio of the hearing click here.
The Montana Catholic Conference SUPPORTS this bill.

This bill is meant to address the issue of homelessness and housing stability among a very vulnerable population. This bill would also require reporting by registration agencies when certain sexual offenders indicate they are staying at a homeless shelter or in a homeless situation.

Rules and the Common Good

The 64th session of the Montana Legislature gets underway this week but for months the papers have been filled with stories about the issues sure to generate much interest between now and the end of April. Medicaid expansion, same-sex “marriage”, physician-assisted suicide, and a variety of other issues have made headlines and will continue to do so. However, there is another issue that rarely generates much interest or discussion except among the most diehard followers of politics.

Legislatures operate under sets of rules that are meant to govern the processes and procedures by which our law making bodies operate. These rules, and the processes by which they are crafted, though not nearly as headline-grabbing as the multitude of moral issues we often hear about are nonetheless important as they set the framework and foundation for our policy making.

The nature of our political structure is such that at any given time one party will almost always enjoy a greater amount of power than the others and an ability to exercise that power in a way different than if they were in the minority. This isn’t necessarily unfair or “against the rules” because with a majority comes a certain privilege of position. However, that privilege must not be unhinged from the requirements of justice. With privilege and power comes great responsibility.

Jesus had much to say about the proper exercise of authority. For example, recall when the mother of James and John approached Jesus asking that he command that her sons sit one at His right and one at His left in His kingdom and how the other ten apostles became indignant. He summoned them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and the great ones make their authority over them felt. But it shall not be so among you. Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant” (Mt 20:25-26). Jesus provides the perfect example of how authority is properly exercised in serving others.

The rules which our legislators help construct and under which our state legislature operates ought to help remind policy makers of their responsibility to work for the common good not simply self-interest or the interest of the powerful. The rules themselves and the process by which they are developed and enacted should reflect the basic requirements of justice and help instill in the citizens they represent confidence in the legislative process and trust in their elected representatives desire and willingness to pursue the good.

Please pray for our elected officials and all who advocate for public policies that safeguard the most vulnerable among us and advance the good of all. Please pray, too, that our legislative session will be marked by the profound respect and civility befitting this very important process and the dignity of the offices held by our legislators and other government officials.

Catholic Social Teaching and the 64th Legislative Session

It seems hard to believe that the start of the 64th session of the Montana Legislature is just a few short weeks away. As has been the case since our founding in 1969, we at the Montana Catholic Conference will be present in the public policy debates and discussions advocating for the poor, vulnerable and marginalized of our society and seeking to infuse into those conversations an understanding of the authentic requirements of justice. This has been our mission from the beginning and will continue to be so.

For many years now, beginning-of-life issues have assumed a most prominent place in the Church’s policy efforts. This will no doubt continue as we keep watch for legislative efforts both at the state and federal level to further maximize and mainstream abortion and impede the good work of many who seek to provide an alternative to the tired and destructive “options” offered by those who champion abortion “rights.”

However, it is not only the unborn that are under attack. We have seen consistent and vigorous attempts to legalize physician-assisted suicide across the country and in our own state. This often misunderstood issue requires our full attention as this most serious offense against human dignity poses an imminent threat to not only our elderly and disabled but to all of society.

We have seen slow but steady progress in our efforts to abolish the death penalty in Montana and it is clear that the momentum is on our side. We will continue this important work and strive to proclaim the sacredness of each and every human life. As the U.S. Bishops have stated, “We oppose capital punishment not just for what it does to those guilty of horrible crimes but for what it does to all of us as a society. Increasing reliance on the death penalty diminishes all of us and is a sign of growing disrespect for human life” (Statement of the Administrative Committee of the United States Catholic Conference, March 24, 1999.)

The issue of same-sex “marriage” will continue to work its way through the courts over the coming months, perhaps even years. Regardless of the legal outcome, the Church will continue to proclaim the beautiful truth about the nature of marriage and family. Moreover, with same-sex “marriage” now deemed legal in Montana, a host of issues related to religious freedom and conscience protection are quite likely to emerge during the coming legislative session.

In addition to these hot-button issues, we will also be monitoring policy efforts to respond to the scourge of human trafficking, ensure affordable health care, address poverty and child welfare matters, attend to the needs of immigrants in a manner that respects the intrinsic value of every person and promotes the common good, and a host of other subjects about which the Catholic Church has wisdom to share.

As we prepare for the upcoming legislative session, the Montana Catholic Conference is building a network of interested and committed Catholics to be mobilized when important issues arise. To find out how you can get involved with the work of the Montana Catholic Conference, please contact me at director@montanacc.org or Jean Saye, Executive Assistant, at jean@montanacc.org. Or, feel free to call me at 406-442-5761.

In addition, stay up to date on all the latest news about our policy efforts by visiting our website (www.montanacc.org) and contacting us to sign up for our Alert Network. Also, please “like” the Montana Catholic Conference on Facebook to view articles and updates we post on a daily basis (www.facebook.com/MTCatholicConference).

Lastly, I ask that you please keep our bishops, priests, politicians, government officials and the work of our conference in your prayers.

Abortion and the Affordable Care Act (ACA) / Election Day 2014

Abortion and the Affordable Care Act (ACA):

On September 15 the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a report confirming a longstanding concern the U.S. bishops’ have had about abortion coverage in the ACA. In response to the GAO report, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a press release stating, in part:

Despite repeated claims by President Obama and other supporters that the ACA would not promote abortion, the report identified over a thousand health plans eligible for federal premium subsidies that cover elective abortions. On five state exchanges, every plan covers such abortions in 2014; in another three large states, 95 to 98 percent of the plans do so. The Act’s alleged requirements regulating abortion coverage do not exist or are widely ignored. Many health plans do not inform enrollees about their inclusion of abortion coverage; they do not tell them how much they are being charged for such coverage; and they do not charge a “separate payment” for abortions that is distinct from the premium payment eligible for federal tax subsidies.

Cardinal Sean O’Malley, Chairman of the USCCB Committee on Pro-Life Activities, added:

The only adequate solution to this problem is the one the Catholic bishops advocated from the beginning of the health care reform debate in Congress: Bring the Affordable Care Act into compliance with the Hyde amendment and every other federal law on abortion funding, by excluding elective abortions from health plans subsidized with federal funds. At a minimum, Congress should not delay in enacting a law to require full disclosure of abortion coverage and abortion premiums to Americans purchasing health plans.

This current situation is clearly unacceptable and requires action on the part of Congress to address these failings with the ACA. Following the elections, the Senate will be in session beginning November 12. I urge all of you to contact Senators Jon Tester and John Walsh and request that they co-sponsor and support the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion” and “Abortion Insurance Full Disclosure Acts.” Cardinal O’Malley has previously issued letters to Congress endorsing both of these Acts. Those letters can be found athttp://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/abortion/index.cfm.

 

One way to contact Senators Tester and Walsh regarding this issue is via the National Committee for a Human Life Amendment website. If you use the following link (https://www.votervoice.net/NCHLA/campaigns/34206/respond) you can enter some simple information and generate an email that will be sent to both senators requesting they co-sponsor and support these two very important pieces of legislation.

Election Day 2014

On November 4th Montanans will once again head to the polls to make important choices about those who will represent them in various political and judicial offices. As Catholics, we recognize the duty to promote the common good by faithfully participating in public life and fulfilling our civic responsibility to vote. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) reminds us, “In the Catholic Tradition, responsible citizenship is a virtue, and participation in political life is a moral obligation” (Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship: A Call to Political Responsibility from the Catholic Bishops of the United States, 13).

But, voting alone is not enough. As Catholics, we have a serious obligation to form our conscience in harmony with Church teaching and take that well-formed conscience with us into the voting booth. The USCCB states, “Catholics have a serious and lifelong obligation to form their consciences in accord with human reason and the teaching of the Church” (Ibid., 17).

I encourage you this election season to vote but also to become more familiar with Catholic social teaching so that you’ll possess the tools necessary to vote well.

As always, I ask that you keep the Montana Catholic Conference’s work in your prayers. For more information about us please visit our website at http://www.montanacc.org/.

Jeanne head shot square

 Jeanne Saarinen, Director of the Foundation for the Diocese of Helena.

The Foundation for the Diocese of Helena is an independent, not-for-profit, 501c(3) corporation whose purpose is to promote, expand and strengthen the long-term financial viability of the Diocese of Helena. The Foundation serves as a conduit for individuals and organizations to support the ministries and programs of the Bishop of Helena through outreach; stewardship of endowed and unrestricted funds; and support of projects.

Website: www.fdoh.org

Columns:

In fiscal year 2015 the Foundation distributed over $1 million in endowment earnings and unrestricted resources to support the parishes and ministries of the Diocese of Helena.

The Foundation Board of Trustees recently approved making an additional grant from available unrestricted assets. At its February 4 board meeting, the Foundation Board presented a check to Bishop Thomas for $34,229 (photo) to be used for his ministry and pastoral outreach.  Additionally, the Foundation Board of Trustees approved distributing $57,120 among the 68 parish endowment funds, as follows:

  • $420 will be placed in each of the 68 parish endowment funds (non-parish and specific ministry endowment funds are not eligible) and will be reflected on the 3/31/16 quarterly statement as a contribution from the Foundation.
  • An additional $420 is available as a match to each of the 68 parish endowment funds.  If the parish invests in their fund on or before June 30, 2016 (through a donor gift or using its own money), the Foundation will match that contribution up to $420.

The Foundation for the Diocese of Helena, Inc. recently completed the annual independent audit of its 2015 Financial Statements.  The financial statements and independent auditor’s report is available on the Foundation’s website at www.fdoh.org

The trustees and staff of the Foundation are pleased to report that your Foundation is financially healthy and growing.  Assets at fiscal year-end were nearly $30 million.  Of that, approximately $20 million are permanently restricted endowed funds with most of the remaining being donor-restricted gifts and investment gains to be used in the future. 

To learn more about the Foundation and its endowment funds, contact Foundation Executive Director Jeanne Saarinen at jsaarinen@diocesehelena.org, or (406) 442-5820, ext. 36.

Foundation Awards $50,000 in Grants

One of the many rewarding ways the Foundation serves the parishes and ministries of the Diocese of Helena is through its annual grants program. Each spring the Foundation solicits, reviews, and selects grant proposals from across the diocese, with funds distributed in July.

The grants program began in 2007 to help parishes or programs that did not have the resources to fund specific ministries or projects.  Since 2007 the Foundation has awarded over $500,000 in grants to over 50 parishes and ministries across our diocese.

The grants are funded through our own unrestricted income, the Parish Community Projects Endowment Fund, and a portion of the Alden P. Howell Perpetual Memorial Endowment. We strive to grow our endowments so at some point they will fund the Foundation’s annual grants program in perpetuity.

It warms our hearts to hear the impact our grants make. Here are just a few of the comments we received from last year’s grant recipients.

“I find it extremely rewarding to walk up or down the ramp realizing that there have been hundreds of hours of volunteer work to make the ramp project a success.” Deacon Mike Bloomdahl, Parish Administrator, St. Francis Xavier Parish on the results of the project funded in part by a grant from the Foundation

“I have lived on the Flathead Reservation for 45 years. I have native grandchildren and want to inspire them and teach them more about Kateri and Indian culture.” Linnea Gariepy, one of the five attendees of the Tekakwitha Conference from St. Ignatius Parish and Arlee/Jocko Missions funded by a grant from the Foundation.

Last month the Foundation announced this year’s grant awards, totaling $50,000:

Anaconda Catholic Community
$800 for their homebound outreach ministry

Blessed Trinity (Missoula)
$3,000 for the Making Disciples workshop on the Rites of Christian Initiation

Carroll College Engineers without Borders
$3,000 for the seismic retrofit of the Instituto La Asuncion school in Guatemala

Catholic Youth Rural Outreach (Big Fork, Kalispell, Polson)
$3,000 to provide youth ministry retreats and events, weekly youth group nights, and weekly bible studies

De La Salle Blackfeet School (Browning)
$1,650 for the after school enrichment program

Socially Responsible Investing

Socially responsible investing (SRI) is any investment strategy which seeks to consider both financial return and social good. In 2003, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) released SRI Guidelines as principles for their own investments. We follow these principles carefully at the Foundation for the Diocese of Helena, operating in a fiscally sound, responsible, and accountable manner.

In general, the USCCB investment policies cover the following areas: protecting human life, promoting human dignity, reducing arms production, pursuing economic justice, protecting the environment, and encouraging corporate responsibility. If a corporation activity conflicts with Catholic teaching, stock in that company is not included in the Foundation’s investment portfolio.

The Foundation’s Board of Directors takes investing in adherence to Catholic principals very serious. In 2012 we began having our investment portfolio screened by an independent SRI audit firm, Aquinas Associates, and remain pleased with the work of our investment managers. To quote the initial audit report, “We have reviewed the portfolios of many Catholic organizations and this is the first time that a separate account portfolio was void of excludable companies. Congratulations – this is excellent!”

The introduction of the USCCB SRI guidelines state that as a Catholic organization, USCCB draws the values, directions and criteria which guide its financial choices from the Gospel and universal church teaching. When you make a contribution to your parish’s permanent endowment fund with the Foundation for the Diocese of Helena, rest assured the income produced from the fund and distributed to your parish is from investments that align with Catholic values.

Last year, I explained our SRI policy with a parishioner who started a scholarship endowment fund with the Foundation. Here’s what she had to say upon learning of our SRI policy: “This is so wonderful to know we have our own Socially Responsible Investment Service watching over us. Keeping Catholics aware of what we do as a Church is so important. Thank you!”

To learn more about Catholic socially responsible investing, the full text of the USCCB guidelines can be found on their website – www.usccb.org. For more information about supporting your parish or any Diocesan ministry through a permanent endowment fund, just give me a call. I’d be happy to visit with you.

Your Foundation…Building the Future in Faith

You are likely familiar with our mission – to promote, expand, and strengthen the long-term financial viability of the ministries and parishes of the Diocese of Helena, primarily through endowments. Here are some facts about the Foundation that you may not know:

  • The Foundation is an independent, not-for-profit, 501(c)(3) corporation governed by a 18-member volunteer board of trustees.
  • The Foundation serves as a vehicle by which the faithful can endow their Church, and every parish within the Diocese has an endowment fund with the Foundation.
  • We currently manage 125 endowment funds totaling over $20 million. Last fiscal year we distributed over $700,000 in endowment earnings to parishes and ministries within the Diocese of Helena.
  • The Foundation administers nearly 200 charitable gift annuities, a creative way for parishioners to give to the Church and access the Montana Endowment Tax Credit.
  • Since 2007, the Foundation provided nearly $470,000 in grants throughout the Diocese, funding projects ranging from handicap accessibility at St. Teresa of Avila Parish in Whitehall to attendance at the International Catholic Stewardship Conference for Christ the King Parish in Missoula.

Our Board of Trustees includes priests as well as business, finance, investment, and accounting professionals. They come from throughout the geographic boundaries of the Diocese. Bishop Thomas and Vicar General Msgr. Kevin O’Neill both serve as ex officio members.

We are faithful stewards of the funds entrusted to us. The Board and our investment managers are diligent in ensuring the Foundation’s portfolio adheres to the socially responsible investment guidelines set forth by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).

In 2012 the Foundation hired an independent firm, Aquinas Associates, to audit our investment portfolio every six months for adherence to Catholic values and USCCB guidelines. To quote the first audit report, “We have reviewed the portfolios of many Catholic organizations and this is the first time that a separate account portfolio was void of excludable companies. Congratulations – this is excellent!”

Looking to the future, I will be reaching out to schedule basic estate planning classes in parishes throughout the Diocese. If this is of interest to you, please let me or your pastor know. It would also be my pleasure to attend an upcoming parish finance council meeting to discuss your endowment with the Foundation.

Questions, comments, suggestions – we welcome them all. Please feel free to contact me or any of our dedicated board members regarding the Foundation. Also visit our website at www.fdoh.org.

Montana’s Transfer of Wealth and Your Estate

A few years ago a report was released titled “The Montana Transfer of Wealth Study.” The report, sponsored by the Montana Community Foundation, is a fascinating read and provides some interesting points to ponder.

I’d like to share some of these points with you in my column this month. The entire report is available online atwww.mtcf.org.

Over the next 10 years, Montanans will transfer billions of dollars to the next generation. It’s estimated that by the year 2020, Montanans will pass $12 billion from one generation to the next. The question is, how much of that wealth will stay in our local communities and parishes?

If only a small portion of this wealth – say 5% – was protected in permanent charitable endowments, millions of dollars would be available each year to invest in Montana communities, charities, parishes, and ministries that make Montana the place we love to call home.

Montana is an aging state. By 2030, nearly 25% of Montanans will be 65 and older, placing us among the top five states with the most elderly populations. We also have a long history of exporting wealth, as many of the children to be receiving the inheritances no longer live in Montana.

There has never been a wealth transfer this large in our history. That, together with Montana’s unique circumstances – children moving out of state and a rapidly aging population – makes this topic timely.

With planning, we can assure that the fruits of our labor over a lifetime will forever support the communities, causes, parishes and ministries we love.

I’d like to ask you to prayerfully consider including your parish or other Catholic ministry in your estate plan.

Think about what makes your Catholic faith most special to you, and consider directing your planned gift to be permanently endowed for the benefit of that ministry. It could be for the benefit of your local parish, seminarian education, caring for our retired priests, Guatemala Mission, Youth and Young Adult Ministry, or other Diocesan ministry.

Then, learn about the different planned gift options available – the most common being a bequest in a will. There are also other options – beneficiary designations, charitable gift annuities, or charitable trusts to name a few.

The Foundation for the Diocese of Helena has a planning guide to help you understand and choose from the different planned gift options and permanent endowment funds.

Thank you for your prayerful consideration. If you have any questions, or if you would like me to send you a planning guide, please contact me. I would be honored to help you plan your Catholic legacy.

Year-End Giving Tip: Appreciated Stock

Year-End Giving Tip – Appreciated Stock

It’s a season of giving, and it feels good to give – whether it’s participating in a giving tree, buying that special gift for a loved one, or putting coins in bucket next to the jingling bells as we enter the grocery store. In words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’

Here’s a year-end giving tip for you. Most of us typically donate by cash or check. But consider this – donating stocks, bonds, or mutual funds that have appreciated over time has some impressive tax benefits. Sure, we don’t give because of the tax benefits. But if it reduces your tax liability, perhaps you will be able to give more in the coming year!

If you have securities (stocks, bonds, mutual funds) that were purchased over a year ago and have increased in value, you can donate them to your parish, the Diocese, or an endowment within the Foundation for the Diocese of Helena. Doing so allows you to claim the fair market value as an itemized deduction on your tax return—up to 30% of the donor’s adjusted gross income.

Because the securities are donated, not sold, no capital gains taxes are owed. The greater the appreciation, the bigger the tax savings will be.

Take this example. A married couple owns stock they purchased years ago for $20,000, and is now worth $50,000. Assuming a 20% capital gains tax rate, if they sell the stock and donate the proceeds to their parish, they will pay a federal long-term capital gains tax of $6,000 on the $30,000 gain. If, however, they donate the stock directly to the parish, they are not taxed on the gain.

Donating securities is a simple process, whether you are donating to your parish, the Diocese, or an endowment within the Foundation. But don’t delay – your investment manager may require extra time for processing year-end gifts, since so many investors/donors take advantage of this type of charitable giving.

Give me a call or send me an email if you would like stock transfer instructions or if you have questions – (406) 442-5820, ext. 36, or jsaarinen@diocesehelena.org.

May your Christmas season be a blessed one for you and your loved ones!

Charitable Gift Annuities

The Foundation for the Diocese of Helena serves as a vehicle by which the faithful can endow their Church. Through its 126 endowment funds totaling over $20 million, the Foundation distributed over $650,000 in endowment earnings and grants to parishes and ministries in western Montana last year.

Every parish within the Diocese of Helena, regardless of size, has an endowment fund with the Foundation. Local parishes can faithfully rely on the earnings from their endowment to support their operations – expenses that may be hard to fundraise for but are integral to providing ministerial support.

To encourage giving to permanent endowment funds, our state law makes available the Montana Endowment Tax Credit. In order for individuals to qualify for the credit, the endowment gift must be made through a qualified “planned gift.” Businesses can make a direct gift and qualify for the credit.

The most common planned gift used to access the state tax credit is through a deferred charitable gift annuity (CGA). The Foundation owns and manages a CGA program benefitting the parishes and ministries within the Diocese of Helena, and we make the entire process streamlined and easy for you.

Here’s how the CGA program works. A parishioner makes a donation to the Foundation through the CGA. The donor receives income from the annuity during their lifetime pursuant to the annuity agreement (many defer income far into the future). After their lifetime, or upon voluntary early cancellation of the annuity contract, the value of the annuity is placed into the permanent endowment fund at the Foundation as selected by the donor. Here’s a graph of the process:

 

charitable gift annuity graphic

To learn how your parish or cherished diocesan ministry can benefit from your contribution into an endowment fund, and how you can benefit from the Montana Endowment Tax Credit, contact Jeanne Saarinen at the Foundation for the Diocese of Helena – 800-584-8914, or email her at jsaarinen@diocesehelena.org.