Local Ministries Parishes

Couple’s endowment supports youth formation at three parishes

by Jill Ragar Esfeld

SABETHA — In the words of Father Greg Hammes, Kent and Donna Saylor have “definitely put their money where their mouths are.”

Father Hammes is outgoing pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in Sabetha, St. Augustine in Fidelity and St. James in Wetmore.

For some time the Saylors, parishioners at Sacred Heart, have known they wanted to make a special bequest to their Catholic community.

But brick-and-mortar legacies aren’t their style.

“Less tangible things are harder for people to see,” acknowledged Donna Saylor. “Sometimes they want to see the bell tower.”

“But that’s not me,” said her husband. “I want my grandchildren to have a good CCD program.

“I want them to fall in love with their religion and live it.”

With that in mind, the Saylors have seeded a large endowment for Sacred Heart Parish, and smaller endowments for St. Augustine and St. James, with the purpose of providing annual income to help support faith formation at each.

A permanent director of faith formation, who will serve all three parishes, has been hired and will arrive this month.

“We applied for the Future Full of Hope Lay Ministry Formation Grant to get this started,” said Father Hammes. “And in the meantime, we wanted to try to build up these endowments.”

The grant is limited in time, but will temporarily help with the director’s salary.

An appeal has gone out for donations to build up the endowments so they can pay a significant portion of the salary once the grant runs out.

A letter Father Hammes recently sent to all parishioners said: “I write today to tell you of a great and exciting work newly begun in our parish: the establishment of the Sacred Heart Catholic Church Faith Formation Endowment.”

In the letter, Father Hammes explained that the principal of the endowment, built by donors, is permanent and not available for withdrawal. Only its income, or the interest on the principal, will be spent.

Because the endowment has been designated for faith formation, the interest also cannot be spent on anything else.

That means donors can give to the endowment, and their donation will remain in the fund forever to support faith formation.

The Saylors have four daughters that went through the CCD program at Sacred Heart.

Donna Saylor has an education degree and volunteered with the program, teaching CCD classes for 25 years.

“The spirit up here is everybody chipping in, volunteering, so all of our CCD programs are volunteer-based,” said Father Hammes.

Since Many rural communities don’t have Catholic schools, a strong faith formation program for youth and adults is vitally important.

In the Saylors’ opinion, one of the most important aspects of a successful program is continuity.

“But it’s been hard for the parishes to have good continuity because the priests rotate through every few years,” said Kent Saylor.

“Every two years, we get a new priest,” his wife agreed. “That’s just the way it is.

“And so in the rural parishes, there has to be a foundation that runs [the faith formation program].”

The Saylors hope the endowments they’ve seeded will allow for a permanent director who can establish that continuity, regardless of other changes in the administration.

“It means,” explained Kent Saylor, “as opposed to saying, ‘What are you going to do, Father?’ we’ll be saying ‘We have this structure here.’”

“The endowment is such a blessing to all three of our parishes,” said Sacred Heart parishioner Mary Funk who is temporarily volunteering as director of religious education for the three parishes.

“It’s going to allow us to expand what we’ve been able to do for our youth and for our adults,” she said.
“And if the fund grows large enough, said Father Hammes, “it can provide assistance for youth events.”

Those youth events are important. It’s been frustrating for parents in this community because their children want to attend the only available youth activities — at local Protestant churches.

“They get CCD September though May for an hour a week,” said Funk. “It would be nice to be able to bring them more throughout the year.

“There are churches around here that have places for their youth to go outside their Sunday school.

“That’s something our youth definitely want.”

With four grown children, Donna Saylor knows how important that is.

“If you get the youth before they go to college,” she said, “then they draw on that when they’re out on their own.”

The Sacred Heart Catholic Church Faith Formation Endowment will ensure solid faith formation for youth and continuing formation for adults.

“We want to make sure that the faith will remain here, that there are opportunities for our youth for the future, and that the church be strong in rural areas,” said Father Hammes.

Supporting the Catholic faith in this rural community is a dream Kent and Donna Saylor are happy to be able to help fulfill.

“We’re lucky to be blessed,” said Kent Saylor. “A lot of hard work has paid well and so we’re able to do these things, and we want to do more.

“You want to leave legacies.

“This is a way maybe of leaving a living legacy.”

Learn more about endowments

An endowment is a fund where the principal (monetary gifts) given by donors is retained permanently and is not available for withdrawal. Only the income (interest) is spent for a specific purpose.

The Catholic Foundation of Northeast Kansas is an organization formed by the archdiocese to work with donors, parishes and schools with the legal and financial aspects of creating an endowment.

To learn more, go to the website at: www.cfnek.org.

About the author

Jill Esfeld

Jill Ragar Esfeld received a degree in Writing from Missouri State University and started her profession as a magazine feature writer, but quickly transitioned to technical/instructional writing where she had a successful career spanning more than 20 years. She returned to feature writing when she began freelancing for The Leaven in 2004. Her articles have won several awards from the Catholic Press Association. Jill grew up in Christ the King parish in Kansas City, Missouri; and has been a member of Holy Trinity Parish in Lenexa, Kansas, for 35 years.

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