by Dean Backes
Special to The Leaven
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Whether it’s a wedding anniversary, birthday, work anniversary or recognition of the day you first met your soulmate, everybody celebrates anniversaries with gifts these days.
Various companies have even come up with traditional anniversary gift lists for every anniversary under the moon. So, why not celebrate parish anniversaries the same way? With gift-giving.
Terri Lynn is answering that call. Through her work as the associate director of planned giving for the office of stewardship and development in the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas, Lynn has been busy visiting pastors and parishioners alike, creating legacy societies for their parishes.
Although the archdiocese has had its own legacy society for about 20 years, Lynn said that some parishes have shown an interest in starting their own legacy gift enrollment page.
“A legacy society is like a basket,” Lynn said. “Throughout your life, your seeds are sown and you begin to bear fruit in your life. Then, there is a harvest.
“[The priest] helps water your seeds through his homilies. And hopefully, people will make a grateful response in gratitude for the abundant gifts God has given them in their life by remembering their parish as a family member and leaving a gift in their will.”
Lynn began meeting with pastors last year when 23 parishes in the archdiocese celebrated anniversaries ranging from five to 155 years. Another 17 parishes will celebrate anniversaries in 2022, including Corpus Christi in Mooney Creek, which is set to celebrate 165 years of baptisms, weddings, first Communions, confirmations and funerals.
The goal is for Lynn to visit with all 40 pastors and pitch the idea of starting a legacy society in their own parishes over the next few weeks. Then, she will rely on the pastor to sell the idea to his congregation ahead of the parish’s anniversary celebration.
But first, the pastor researches which parishioners have already left a legacy gift, since some donors may not be open about a gift they left in their will or trust. For those parishes that do start their own legacy society, an annual Mass remembers and celebrates those members who leave a gift to the parish at the end of their life.
“That’s what the legacy society does,” said Lynn. “It helps a priest know how much his people are giving at death. Are they thinking about the church at death? Are they finishing faithful?”
Father Tim Haberkorn of Sacred Heart-St. Joseph Parish in Topeka and his parishioners celebrated 15 years since the two parishes merged in 2006. Lynn spoke to his congregation during weekend Masses and Father Haberkorn took over from there.
Following words of encouragement from him, the parish agreed to adopt its legacy society and will now celebrate those parishioners that choose to leave a gift.
“One of the benefits of belonging to the legacy society, is having this annual Mass offered up each year for the intentions and the needs of the society members,” Father Haberkorn said. “I think a legacy society is an opportunity for individuals, or couples, to leave a gift to their parish community that will help benefit that community for generations to come.”
Father Barry Clayton is pastor of St. Philip Neri Parish, Osawatomie; Our Lady of Lourdes, La Cygne; and Sacred Heart, Mound City. All three communities celebrated anniversaries last year. At the Mass and reception that followed, Father Clayton talked a little about legacy societies and honored the parishioners that had already signed up.
He also shared some of the history of the three parishes and explained how leaving a gift could help the three communities moving forward.
“People have been giving to these churches and carrying out good works for many years and so we paused and gave thanks to God for that,” said Father Clayton at the presentation following the anniversary Mass. “Then, we invited [parishioners] to find ways in which they could offer support in the years to come. A great way for them to do that is by leaving a legacy gift in their passing.
“While we’re alive, we give a percentage back to God in gratitude and give thanks for all of his blessings. Similarly, in our passing, we can leave behind funds for others in gratitude.”
Father Clayton said parishioners could notify him should they decide to leave a legacy gift upon their passing. He will then include them in the parish’s legacy society book. Those parishioners would then be remembered for their generosity in the years to come through the annual Mass.
Parishioners can contribute to their parish by leaving a gift through their will, a revocable living trust, an IRA or other retirement account, life insurance, charitable remainder trust, donor advised fund, charitable gift annuity, real estate, TOD/POD account, stocks, bonds and a transfer on a death deed.
One of Father Clayton’s parishioners at Sacred Heart in Mound City decided to leave a legacy gift because of the example that was set by some parishioners that came well before this generation.
“They had left a donation that did a lot of good for the parish,” said the donor, who has chosen to remain anonymous. “We had decided then that we’d try to do something, too. I grew up and I was baptized here. I grew up in this parish. This parish has done so much for me and my family.”