Stewards for Tomorrow campaign of the mid-1990s has provided unprecedented aid for thousands of local Catholic families

DETROIT — Thanks to the Archdiocese of Detroit Endowment Foundation, more than 75,000 students who otherwise wouldn’t have been able to afford a Catholic education in southeast Michigan have received one.

And that’s just the beginning.

Since it was established in 1994 as a result of the highly successful Stewards for Tomorrow capital campaign, the endowment has provided more than $78.3 million in tuition assistance for Catholic school families, as well as support for the education of seminarians and lay ministers, aid for retired priests and a host of other Catholic causes and charities.

Twenty-five years later, the endowment continues to be one of the brightest examples of financial stewardship in the Archdiocese of Detroit’s 82-year history, Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron said in recent message thanking donors on the 25th anniversary of its establishment.

“Most of the earnings of the endowment have supported tuition assistance so that families that otherwise wouldn’t be able to have their children in our schools are able to have that opportunity for their children,” Archbishop Vigneron said. “Besides my gratitude, I want to assure everyone who has contributed to the endowment that they have my prayers — my prayers for them, and my prayers for those they love.”

Students walk the halls at Bishop Foley High School in Madison Heights. Since 1994, more than 75,000 students have benefited from tuition assistance grants through the Archdiocese of Detroit Endowment Foundation. (Marek Dziekonski | Special to Detroit Catholic)

During the three-year Stewards for Tomorrow fundraising campaign in the mid-1990s, donors gave more than $84.4 million, the majority of which — $65.2 million — was used to support the creation of an income-producing endowment for the archdiocese.

The effort was an unprecedented act of faith on the part of Cardinal Adam J. Maida, as well as a testament to the generosity of Metro Detroit’s Catholics, said Mike Timmis, chairman of the Archdiocese of Detroit Endowment Foundation for the past 25 years.

“(Stewards for Tomorrow) was a tremendous success, and it really enabled us to get money to the schools, to the seminary and to the retired priests that was so desperately needed,” Timmis told Detroit Catholic

Apart from the annual Catholic Services Appeal, the archdiocese had never before conducted a large-scale fundraising campaign, Timmis said. 

“Dioceses weren’t doing this. Maybe one or two had done it, but this was a ton of money,” Timmis said. “It demonstrated the commitment of Catholics in the archdiocese. They had never been asked before to step up, and many people of means stepped up. Every parish had an amount they had to raise, and the poorest parishes were the ones that raised it first.”

Since 1994, more than $73.4 million has been allocated to the Archdiocese of Detroit Endowment Foundation, which supports four priorities:

  • Tuition assistance for Catholic school students (62.5 percent). Each year, the endowment distributes more than $1 million in grants to families for K-12 Catholic education, with 1,085 families receiving $1,787,300 in aid during the 2018-19 school year. Since 1994, the endowment has granted more than $49.2 million in tuition assistance to local Catholic families.
  • An endowment fund for Sacred Heart Major Seminary (6.25 percent), which helps support seminarian education for the Archdiocese of Detroit. Since 1994, it has granted more than $4.8 million.
  • Educational opportunities for those engaged in youth and family ministry, as well as directors of religious education (6.25 percent). Since 1994, it has granted more than $4.8 million to lay students and family ministers, many of whom studied at Sacred Heart.
  • The Archbishop’s Stewardship Fund (25 percent), which provides resources to assist programs and individuals offering aid to the poor and vulnerable, to respond to catastrophes and natural disasters both in the archdiocese and around the world, and to provide living assistance to retired priests. This fund has provided more than $19.4 million in grants since 1994. Over the past year, Archbishop Vigneron made a total of $839,741 in distributions to help support 18 Catholic organizations including St. Aloysius Church, Loyola High School, Senior Clergy Village, Guest House, PIME Missionaries and the Catholic Youth Organization.

A portion of the money collected from the Stewards for Tomorrow campaign, $19.3 million, was also returned to parishes for their own priorities.

Through the foundation, the endowment’s principal balance is invested each year, and the fund produces an annual return. The investment and distribution formula ensures the fund continues to grow while providing grants each year to Catholic schools, students, ministries and programs, Timmis said.

“We are charged to be stewards, and to use the corpus as a tool indefinitely to fund education, the seminary and other priorities,” Timmis said.

Students work on assignments at John Paul II Classical School in Lincoln Park. Almost two-thirds of the grants provided by the Archdiocese of Detroit Endowment Foundation go toward tuition assistance, almost $50 million since 1994. (Naomi Vrazo | Detroit Catholic)

In 2018-19, the foundation’s investments earned a 9.01 percent return, with an average annual return of about 7 percent since the endowment’s establishment.

Through its investments, the endowment’s original value has grown to $153.2 million (as of June 2019), which includes $68.6 million in individual endowment funds for 77 parishes, schools and other Catholic organizations.

Grants to local Catholic schools include those like what Guardian Angels School in Clawson received to fund its new science curriculum. Stephen Turk, principal of Guardian Angels, said the K-8 Catholic school would not have been able to afford to invest in new tools and programs except for a grant from the endowment foundation.

“The Stewards for Tomorrow grant has greatly enhanced our educational offerings at Guardian Angels,” Turk said. “We had been moving toward becoming a STEM school, and when the grant came through, we were able to purchase 20 new Chrome books for the school, along with a K-5 science curriculum that is very hands-on and STEM-focused.”

The Clawson school was also able to expand its early childhood curriculum, offering religious education for 3- and 4-year-olds in its pre-kindergarten program, “which is booming,” Turk said.

The endowment also has helped those like Patty Breen, a pastoral associate at St. Michael the Archangel Parish in Livonia, who earned her master’s degree in pastoral studies from Sacred Heart Major Seminary thanks in part to a scholarship grant.

Patty Breen, pastoral associate at St. Michael the Archangel Parish in Livonia, is one of countless lay ministers who have benefited from financial aid through the archdiocese's endowment foundation. Breen earned her master's degree in pastoral ministry from Sacred Heart Major Seminary, which helps her minister to those in difficult family situations. (Archdiocese of Detroit photo)

Breen, who helps advocate for people seeking annulments, said her degree helped her learn the ins and outs of canon law so she could be better prepared to answer questions and accompany families in difficult circumstances.

“The degree I got is really helpful in a parish because it gives you a lot of practical things to learn in how to navigate and work with people in certain pastoral situations,” Breen said.

Breen said her degree makes her better prepared to support those dealing with tough times, which wouldn’t have been easy without the support from the endowment foundation.

“(My education) gives me a greater compassion for people when they’re going through painful, messy things in their own lives, and it makes me more equipped to walk with them and accompany them in something that’s difficult in their own life,” Breen said.

For Timmis, the legacy of the Stewards for Tomorrow campaign continues to be seen in the countless students, priests, seminarians and charities who benefit year after year.

“I think we’ve never really explained how important this was, how generous it was of the Catholics of Detroit, how important it was to them, and how much we accomplished in stabilizing the schools and parishes as well as the seminary,” Timmis said.

“One thing I would love to see is for people to make a specific bequest to the Archdiocese of Detroit in their wills or estate plans, to continue to ensure the stability and growth of our archdiocese,” Timmis added. “We can honor the commitment of the past by contributing toward the future.”

Archdiocese of Detroit Endowment Foundation

To learn more about how Stewards for Tomorrow and the Archdiocese of Detroit Endowment Foundation continue to fund Catholic ministries, grants and charities, click here.