By GRETCHEN KEISER, Staff Writer | Published August 16, 2012
What may be the largest bequest ever given to the Archdiocese of Atlanta is going to impact over 100 parishes, schools and Catholic agencies for years to come through endowment funds.
“The first thing I would like to say is how extremely grateful Catholic Charities Atlanta is,” said Joseph Krygiel, chief executive officer. “This gift will allow Catholic Charities to expand our services to new communities throughout North Georgia (and) increase our long-term sustainability.”
Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory directed $3.5 million from the Joseph Mitchell bequest to CCA; $1.5 million will be used for immediate needs, while $2 million was used to establish an endowment fund for the agency at the Catholic Foundation of North Georgia. The principal will be preserved, but annual investment income from it will help to fund CCA.
Krygiel said the agency will use some immediate funds to modernize services, including installing a web-based client database system and replacing a number of aged vans and trucks that staff use in their refugee program, meeting refugees at the airport when they arrive and driving them to appointments as they find housing, jobs, schools and medical care, as well as picking up and moving donated goods.
“We’ll be in a position to purchase some equipment we desperately needed for the last few years that will allow us to catch up to the industry,” he said.
The unexpected bequest has come at a time when other donations and grants are down, Krygiel said.
“We have been a little bit on the ropes the last few years,” he said. “This is a real shot in the arm. It really helps sustain us. It gives us a lot of hope in the future that we will be able to collaborate with partners in different parts of the city.”
It is the agency’s first significant endowment fund, and it comes as they mark 60 years of ministry in 2013. Other people can add to the fund, he pointed out. “It will give donors the opportunity to add to that Mitchell family endowment for Catholic Charities, to grow our financial resources so we have the funds in the future to deliver the programs for the archdiocese.”
When Archbishop Gregory pulled him aside to tell him the agency would receive several million dollars, Krygiel thought he misspoke. The archbishop said from the “substantial amount of money” left to the archdiocese by Joseph Mitchell, “he wanted Catholic Charities Atlanta to receive a fair share that reflects the desire of Mr. Mitchell.”
“For the first time in our 60-year history we now have the opportunity to strategically meet our long-term needs and match them with long-term funding,” Krygiel said.
The notification of the bequest first came to vicar general Msgr. Joe Corbett, who said he found it almost unbelievable.
“I received a call from the bank to inform the archbishop that the archdiocese had been remembered in a will—that of Mr. Joe Mitchell. As the call progressed, the bankers shared the background, then the wishes of Mr. Mitchell and then an estimated dollar amount. On hearing the dollar amount, I double-checked the caller ID on the phone to be sure it was a call from the bank and not a prank call. They confirmed the amount for me a second time, and after sharing contact information we ended the call.”
“Then thinking there was still the small chance that this might be someone playing a joke on me, I waited for someone—I had a few people in mind—to come running into my office laughing. But they didn’t,” Msgr. Corbett continued.
“So I called the bank and told the bankers I’ve never had a call like this so I’m just double-checking. They laughed and said we might have done the same. Then I called the archbishop with the news—and said a prayer for Mr. Mitchell.”
The bequest impacts every parish, mission and Catholic school of the archdiocese, by creating an individual endowment fund for each or building up their existing fund.
Archbishop Gregory directed that $10,000 per entity be used as seed money to create an endowment fund in their name at the Catholic Foundation of North Georgia. Most archdiocesan entities did not have one; the bequest created 94 new funds.
Ten thousand dollars was added to the endowment fund of any parish, mission or school that already had one there. In all, 118 Catholic entities benefited from $1,170,000 from the Mitchell bequest used for this purpose.
Nancy Coveny, executive director of the Catholic Foundation, said it has been a dream of the archbishop to see each entity have its own endowment fund.
“With this gift from Joseph Mitchell, the archbishop was able to make that happen,” she said.
“It is a great vision for the future of the church. It is an investment for a future generation. Over time endowments grow and create gifts in perpetuity. Providing the seed money is starting a fund that other Catholics will add to and generations to come will see the distributions from that fund,” she said.
“All the gifts to the endowment are never spent. They are invested and the fund grows over time and it produces distributions for the purposes for which it was set up. … Our hope is that this will grow over time as parishioners learn of the fund for their particular parish and school. They can give gifts in their lifetime and in their will.”
She said the Joseph Mitchell bequest is remarkable, both for its size and the freedom given to the archbishop to direct it to a wide variety of Catholic needs.
“Joseph Mitchell has left the most significant Catholic legacy in the history of our archdiocese,” she said.
“He is an example of someone who was true to his faith and used what he had to benefit Catholics in the future. That is what we need to do.”
“I had one pastor ask me who to thank for the gift. I said he should thank the archbishop and offer up Masses for Joseph Mitchell. Many people who don’t have family when they die, they give these gifts to the church. I did not know him, but I certainly appreciate his commitment to his faith,” she said.
“We hope it inspires others. All of us can leave something. … One of the best ways is to leave something for all of these new funds that have been established,” Coveny said.