A Catholic Philanthropic Response to the COVID-19 Crisis

Written by Mary Frances Myler

It goes without saying that the events of this year were unexpected. 2020 has been a lesson in uncertainty and hardship, and everyone has felt the impact of the past months. Times are tough, and need is great. But, in the midst of this ongoing crisis, we have good news! 

The Northern Michigan Catholic Foundation has established a COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund to address the financial burden caused by the pandemic. The Relief Fund has since distributed $12,750 in unrestricted grants to Catholic schools and parishes across the region, which have enabled them to continue their work amidst the uncertainty of this crisis. 

Along with other parishes and schools, Divine Mercy Parish in Manistee received a grant from the Relief Fund. “This grant helped us to restart the Mass. We needed to buy equipment to disinfect the church and provide protection for employees – like a glass protection screen for the secretary,” said pastor Rev. Zeljko Guberovic. Divine Mercy has used the grant to alleviate the additional costs inherent in a safe and healthy return to mass for parishioners. 

The COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund resulted from the combination of the NMCF’s Cornerstone Fund (NMCF’s endowment fund) and the generosity of regional donors, many of whom are NMCF board members. The board decided to allocate money from the Cornerstone Fund, which can be freely directed towards any internal or external cause, into the Relief Fund.. The work carried out by local parishes and schools plays a crucial role in shaping the future of the Church, and the NMCF is committed to supporting their work through this time of hardship. 

The support the COVID-19 Emergency Relief fund received from individuals attests to the selflessness of our regional Catholic community, which responded with generosity in a time of great need and uncertainty. These contributions have helped to mitigate the impact of the economic downturn on Catholic parishes and schools in Northern Michigan. This is, indeed, good news — in hard times, generosity abounds.

But the good news doesn’t stop there! In fact, as Christians, we are a people of perpetual Good News — we are Gospel people. As we explore the uncertainties of the future, we cling to the stability of our faith. Although much remains out of our control, Christ and his Church offer us companionship and consolation as we live through hardship, and we remain steadfast in the enduring hope of the Gospel. 

While all of the virtues remain timelessly applicable in our lives, three virtues in particular offer notable guidance as we navigate the uncertainty of the future. Love, prudence, and hope offer good news for both today and tomorrow. 

Love is, as always, the greatest virtue. In tough times, love becomes even more necessary, for it allows us to approach each person and situation as Christ would. Love is an act of selfless gift, but rather than diminishing the giver, the cloak-off-the-back gestures of love enrich both the recipient and the giver. God is love, and when we love others, we draw on his infinite wellspring of love. Love never lessens, but always builds and strengthens both people. St. Therese of Lisieux writes, “Our Lord does not so much look at the greatness of our actions, or even at their difficulty, as at the love with which we do them.” He looks at our loving response to the needs of others rather than the size of our gift. 

In its fullness, love remains prudent. Prudence is, after all, a cardinal virtue, and is often referred to as the “mold and mother of all virtue.” This virtue of good judgement must inform our acts of love, for our generosity should remain responsible and sustainable. In the midst of a pandemic, we rely especially on prudence. We must thoughtfully consider our capacity to give, and prudence allows us to sacrifice well, to understand our situation, and to respond to the needs of others with an appropriate and loving generosity. 

In addition to our personal calls to generous, prudent love, hope informs the object of our generosity. Hope draws our attention towards the future. Because of our faith in Christ, we joyfully consider the future of our souls and the future of the Church. The parishes, schools, and organizations supported by the NMCF directly shape the future of our Church and enable individual spiritual growth. Generosity to these causes manifests hope for the future of our Church and our communities. A gift through the NMCF becomes an investment in the future — an investment with a meaningful impact. 

Despite the hardships caused by the unexpected events of this year, we always turn to the good news in our world —  the Good News of our faith. The Church endures throughout trial, and hard times often bring out the best in humanity, emphasizing the innate generosity, love, and selflessness of our fellow man. We are not alone. Through Christ and his Church, we can find comfort in witnesses of love, prudence, and hope from which to draw inspiration as we forge ahead with faith and trust.