by Joe Bollig
KANSAS CITY, Kan. – One of the saddest things Father Pete O’Sullivan witnessed as a priest occurred soon after his ordination.
Thirty years ago, while at his first assignment at Christ the King Parish in Kansas City, Kan., Father O’Sullivan celebrated one of his first nursing home Masses.
One lady wept during the entire Mass.
“I went over and asked her, ‘Are you OK?’” said Father O’Sullivan, now pastor of Queen of the Holy Rosary in Overland Park.
She told the priest she was afraid to die, and Father O’Sullivan did his best to reassure her about God’s mercy. Finally, she said this: “Father, I’m afraid that when I die, nobody is going to remember me.”
There is, however, a very practical way not to be forgotten and to do some good long after one has departed this mortal coil, said Father O’Sullivan.
The answer is to leave an endowment through the Catholic Foundation of Northeast Kansas to help the church and its various institutions and ministries, he told guests at the CFNEK annual Deo Gratias dinner, held Nov. 7 at Savior Pastoral Center in Kansas City, Kan.
Father O’Sullivan was the keynote speaker at the dinner because of his leadership in establishing endowments while pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in Emporia.
“An endowment can become the vehicle by which people can make a lasting mark on the church, the parish and the school they love,” said Father O’Sullivan. “It gives people an opportunity to be immortal.”
In that same vein, the advantage of establishing an endowment to the church is that the church has permanency.
“Will they be here next year? Is this going to last?” he said. “The church is always going to be here.”
Endowments are also an outward demonstration of love and respect for the church.
“You wouldn’t be here tonight if you didn’t love and respect the church,” said Father O’Sullivan.
The constant challenge facing the church is how this generation of believers can pass the faith on to future generations. Endowments can help, he said. Too often, those involved in church fundraising are looking for that grand-slam big donation — the “lightning in the bottle.”
It happens, but rarely. It’s far better to encourage something small, but consistent.
“One thing that works — I’ve done it in Emporia and [in] parishes I’ve been since — is the Mass stipend,” said Father O’Sullivan. “It’s a couple of hundred dollars a week. It’s not something you budget. Each month, we took the Mass stipend money and put it in the endowment.”
Another thing that has worked is appealing to young adults to take out life insurance policies with the church as the beneficiary.
“Somewhere down the road that will be a great benefit,” he said.
Finally, there is something Christians should always keep in mind when making financial gifts to support the church, he concluded. God cannot be outdone in generosity.