Many Ministries, One Heart


Cardinal Sarah explores role of Catholic foundations

CHICAGO — The Pontifical Council Cor Unum (One Heart) invited Catholic foundations from dioceses across the United States to a three-day meeting on the foundations’ role in the service of charity. Cor Unum coordinates the charitable activity of the universal Church and its president, Cardinal Robert Sarah, gave the conference’s keynote address May 6.

Cardinal Robert Sarah, president of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, gave a talk May 6 to representatives of Catholic foundations from U.S. dioceses. Posing with Cardinal Sarah are left, Molly O’Meara Schnell and right, Sister Laura Goedken, OP, both of the Diocese of Davenport.

Cardinal Francis George, leader of the Archdiocese of Chicago, welcomed conference participants. The cardinal was visibly weakened by cancer but spoke with a strong voice of the important role of Catholic foundations in the Church, noted Sister Laura Goedken, OP, development director for the Davenport Diocese. She attended the conference with Molly O’Meara Schnell, a member of The Catholic Foundation for the Diocese of Davenport.

The theme of Cardinal Sarah’s May 6 presentation was “Many Ministries, One Heart: Defining our ministry in the Universal Church.” Reflecting on that theme, the cardinal spoke eloquently on Pope Benedict XVI’s apostolic letter entitled “The Church’s Deepest Nature – On the Service of Charity,” Sr. Goedken said.


“Catholic organizations should not limit themselves merely to collecting and distributing funds, but should show special concern for individuals in need and exercise a valuable educational function with the Christian community, helping people to appreciate the importance of sharing, respect and love in the spirit of the Gospel of Christ.”

That quote from the apostolic letter will serve as a basis for growth for The Catholic Foundation for the Diocese of Davenport now that the initial purpose of managing the capital campaign is almost completed, Sr. Goedken said.

Cardinal Sarah observed that the apostles were dedicated to the service of promoting unity of heart of the Church in her mission of charity to the poor. “The service of charity is a universal commandment to live our faith and to enable our humanity to grow with the help of the Gospel.” Pope Francis “continuously invites the whole Church to be dedicated to the service of the poor and needy,” the cardinal said. “The service of charity becomes an integral part of missionary activity.”

Catholic foundations, first and foremost, must be about the Gospel of Jesus, Cardinal Sarah said. Attendees focused on how this directs their daily work. They discussed structure under civil law and the protection of assets. What defines foundations is not the structure, but the ministry of the foundation. The foundation board has a fiduciary responsibility to manage its assets in accord with the teachings of the Church.

“That is why The Catholic Foundation for the Diocese of Davenport has selected Christian Brothers Investment Services as its investment advisor; they use the socially responsible investment guidelines from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops,” Sr. Goedken said.

In conversation with foundation directors and board members, participants heard what others are doing to further the Gospel message. One foundation director said God made us for one another. Grace allows us to attend to the needs of those who suffer. The love and generosity of donors connects to the poor and the vulnerable.

She noted that “The Catholic Foundation for the Diocese of Davenport is now in a position to offer designated endowments, field of interest endowments, and donor advised funds. There are many ways our donors can give, including outright gifts, creating donor advised funds, wills and bequests, estate planning for charitable trusts and establishing an endowment.”

Schnell commented: “Participating in a conference with so many quality people, ready to assist us in furthering the mutual goal of serving the directives of our Catholic faith was an unbelievable experience. The presence of Cardinal Robert Sarah and Father Peter Dai Bui of Cor Unum really validated the importance of our ministry and the appreciation they have for our continued works.”

History of Cor Unum

The Pontifical Council Cor Unum was established by Pope Paul VI through the Apostolic Letter “Amoris Officio” on July 15, 1971. To quote this document:” Cor Unum means one heart, a heart that beats in rhythm with the heart of Christ, whose pity for the hungry multitudes reaches them even in their spiritual hunger.” This expresses the care of the Catholic Church for the needy, thereby encouraging human fellowship and making manifest the charity of Christ. This office is the agency of the Holy See responsible for orienting and coordinating the organizations and charitable activities promoted by the Catholic Church.

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