Written by Mary Frances Myler
Nestled on the shores of Lake Huron are two parishes who share more in common than just their pastor — both Sacred Heart in Oscoda and Holy Family in East Tawas have established multiple endowment funds with NMCF. Holy Family holds three funds with the NMCF (the Cicinelli Fund, the Holy Family Cemetery Fund, and the Tawas Educational Family Fund), and Sacred Heart holds two funds (the Fr. Mikulski Fund and the Sacred Heart Cemetery Fund). Each fund is unique in its origin and purpose, yet each designed to support and sustain the parishes forever. Fr. Charlie Donajkowski serves as pastor for both parishes and has worked with the Northern Michigan Catholic Foundation to create these endowment funds.
Endowment funds ensure that a principal amount of money continues to generate an annual income for the organization. Once the principal amount is invested, earnings are returned to the organization in the form of annual disbursements. Endowment funds are particularly effective because they provide organizations with a source of income into perpetuity.
The Cicinelli Fund originated at a planned giving workshop in 2008, which was led by Fr. Charlie Donajkowski for Holy Family Parish. After this workshop, the Cicinelli family decided to include the parish and school in their will and estate plans. By taking initiative and starting intentional conversations with parishioners about Catholic legacies at the parish level, Holy Family has begun to plant important seeds, which have since grown into a fruitful endowment. Upon receiving the estate gift, Holy Family chose to partner with the Northern Michigan Catholic Foundation by creating the Cicinelli Family Endowment Fund, honoring the intentions of the Cicinelli family in perpetuity
“NMCF is the best place to make the money grow and stay true to the gift of the Cicinelli family. We’ve put the money in an endowment, seen the fruits, and made it grow with the NMCF annual earnings. The Cicinelli family opened up this new chapter of endowment giving for us, and other people have since added to the fund,” said Fr. Donajkowski.
After partnering with the NMCF to establish the Cicinelli Fund, Holy Family saw the benefits of working with the NMCF and having access to their professional advisors and foundation staff. This led the nearby Sacred Heart Parish to start the Fr. Mikulski Fund with an estate gift received from Fr. Isadore Mikulski, a previous Sacred Heart pastor.
“These funds are an amazing tool because they offer additional stability and another source of income for the parish. The Northern Michigan Catholic Foundation isn’t only growing the legacy gift, but we’re also able to receive some of it as it grows,” said Fr. Donajkowski. The annual disbursements from these endowment funds have given these parishes greater financial security, especially when unexpected hardships arise.
Fr. Donajkowski reflected, “This year, with the downturn of the economy, the annual disbursement from the endowment was exactly the deficit at Holy Family. It covered our needs almost to the exact dollar.”
This year, Covid-19 dictated the use of revenue from the fund, but Fr. Donajkowski hopes to use future disbursements to improve parish signage at Holy Family and restore the steeple at Sacred Heart.
Fr. Donajkowski referred to the NMCF funds as a “third leg of support for the parish” in addition to regular contributions from parishioners and fundraising revenue. In addition to the parish funds, Sacred Heart and Holy Family hold endowment funds associated with their respective cemeteries, which otherwise would rely mainly on the sale of burial plots to cover maintenance costs. However, the funds invested with the NMCF provide annual disbursements, which cover operating costs and grant additional security for the longevity of the cemeteries.
Additionally, the Tawas Educational Fund supports faith-based educational opportunities for children within the county. The fund primarily assists Holy Family School, but also supports religious education classes for students who do not attend the Catholic school, ensuring that all students can learn and grow in the faith.
For Fr. Donajkowski, the greatest benefits of the partnership with NMCF are long-term financial stability and the appeal to donors. “Pastors and pastoral council members change, but this partnership between the parish and the NMCF is focused on staying true to our donor’s intentions for their money,” he said, “Donors can choose to support specific missions — education, the cemeteries, or the parishes — and when we put the money into these funds, it will be used as the donors intend. When the next pastor comes, the funds will already be set up. It gives clarity for the future.”
At the end of the day, the Holy Family and Sacred Heart endowment funds held at NMCF offer stability and longevity to the parishes, cemeteries, and school. Fr. Donajkowski said, “It’s good financial planning. It takes a lot of faith to put the money in, but then the money is always there. The beautiful thing is that these funds bear fruit, and they bear it all over again year after year. It’s a tremendous gift for someone to support the work of the church into the future like that.”