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Money for Mission: When Will We Spend It?

Posted on November 1, 2016, by Mary Ann McGivern SL

At out Zoom Assembly in September, the Finance Committee asked us how we would like to spend money for mission. There was a splendid array of creative answers, all heartfelt responses to human need and care of the earth, including that corner of the earth owned by Loretto.

At my table, we said, “Spend down now.” Our view was that the needs are urgent and we should get on with the happy task of sharing what we have sooner rather than later.

Some tables took the view that instead of spending now we should establish foundations and endowments to fund future scholarships, care for the Motherhouse and maintain the ability to respond to future needs. I have two big problems with this perspective.

My first difficulty is that people need the money now. Workers need higher wages now. It’s up to them to decide whether to buy a house or send a child to college or pay for dental work. A retirement fund is not a bad thing, but I would urge that we give the money now.

Secondly, I question Loretto’s being in the position to finance other people’s needs out of our wealth. Loretto established Special Needs because we wanted to tithe and we needed an orderly way to distribute a share of the current year’s income. That is sharing, not funding out of accumulated wealth the way George Soros, the Koch brothers, Bill and Melinda Gates, the Clintons and Warren Buffet pick and choose. They alleviate the social ills they see as ills and support what they deem to be social benefits. I think their wealth should be taxed, and government should make the decisions on how to promote the common good, not individuals.

So I don’t want Loretto to be like the big foundations, accumulating wealth and deciding who gets it. We have some money for mission. Let’s move it on out.

My third difficulty has to do with how wealth is accumulated. Our Loretto General Fund and Charitable Trust Fund have grown because we have invested in corporations. Many of these corporations — perhaps most or even all of them — engage in practices that pollute, pay low wages, discriminate, bust unions, inflate prices, evade taxes, undercut small businesses to destroy them. … And I haven’t even gotten to ways capitalism takes advantage of the developing world or its destructive farming and mining practices or how corporations use water.

There aren’t any clean investments. But foundations and endowments depend on playing the stock market. That’s how money grows. I understand why Loretto has chosen to participate in the capitalist economy. We are a part of the prevailing culture, and we have needed money to build our academies and colleges and to prepare for our retirement.

But now, as we consider how to spend down our wealth, we can choose to resist capitalism by giving money away now instead of setting it aside for the poor of the future.

You, too, may have thoughts about this happy problem of where and how to spend our money for mission. A recent Interchange evaluation by Forum and CPC members urged more exchange of views among us. Send your letter or essay about your vision of ways to share Loretto wealth to Interchange c/o me.


Mary Ann McGivern SL

Mary Ann recently moved from St. Louis to the Loretto Motherhouse in Kentucky. She is searching for entry points into Marian County, Ky., civic life — funding the day care center, improving jail services, helping stop a pipeline through Bernheim Forest. She is on the roster of homilists at Loretto Chapel’s Sunday Communion service. Mary Ann has been a Sister of Loretto since 1960.
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