Loretto: Making a Difference, One Loan at a Time
Like many religious communities, Loretto has an Investment Committee. Started in the 1970s, the committee supports Loretto values by working for justice and acting for peace. Its original mandate was shareholder activism. Loretto, along with dozens of other religious communities with similar investment committees, exercises its shareholder rights to seek changes in companies that are in conflict with Loretto values.
The second type of work the Investment Committee does is to make low- and no-interest loans to nonprofits organizations doing social service and social justice work. Around 1980, committee members realized Loretto could make a significant difference in the life of nonprofits working for social change by loaning them money at very low or no interest in capital projects. While a wide array of organizations have benefitted from Loretto’s loan program, the committee’s efforts largely have focused on low-income housing and credit unions.
On behalf of Loretto and those who support Loretto, the Investment Committee has loaned money to dozens of organizations. In its 40-plus-year history, it has a 99 percent payback rate! The loans went to a variety of places and causes — from housing to credit unions to helping a small town keep its nonprofit movie theater alive. Loans have been made in more than 20 states and have helped support Fonkoze Bank in Haiti. One of the committee’s most recent loans was made in 2021 to a low-income and affordable housing land trust in Marin County, Calif.
Do we take a risk in giving? Yes, we do. I Am the Way, Loretto’s Constitutions, #77, gives us this instruction to live out: “We commit ourselves to careful listening, cooperative action, personal (and corporate) initiative and generous love.”
Where are the people who are waiting for us to reach out to them? Look around. People struggle with poverty everywhere. Keep listening to their voices, and keep listening to the heartfelt desire of the non-profit agencies and organizations Loretto supports that can help them. It is Gospel work. It is Loretto work. It is the work of us all, together.