Leaders of Catholic community foundations and related special purpose foundations met for the first time at a national convocation in Chicago from May 6-8 to discuss their ministry.
Cardinal Francis George of Chicago told the gathering that Catholic foundations “play a key role in the mission of the Church.”
In his welcoming remarks, the cardinal said he hoped the event would be an opportunity for “fruitful dialogue” among foundation leaders that would “strengthen the partnership between foundations and the Church.”
He emphasized the importance of trust as a central component in successfully managing charitable efforts.
The convocation, titled “Many Ministries – One Heart,” brought together presidents, board chairs and executive directors of 37 Catholic community and special purpose foundations whose ministry includes managing Church funds. Organizers said it was the first gathering of its kind in the U.S.
Most of the organizations present at the meeting are canonically considered “autonomous pious foundations,” making them public juridic persons and consequently independent organizations.
Cardinal Robert Sarah, president of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, praised the work of the foundations.
“Each of you in your own way is dedicated to serving the local Church in different forms as responsible stewards,” he told the foundation leaders in his keynote address.
The gathering had been convened by the Council Cor Unum, which provides papal support for humanitarian relief and promotes projects and initiatives for human development. The council also encourages Catholic initiatives worldwide.
The event was organized by the Christian Brothers Investment Services of Chicago and the Archdiocese of San Antonio’s Catholic Community Foundation / Catholic Fraternity Fund.
The gathering discussed foundational ministry in the context of Pope Benedict XVI’s 2012 apostolic letter “On the Service of Charity.” The letter set the canonical framework for the Church’s charitable works. Its new legislative norms define the structure of Catholic charitable institutions, their operation under canon law, and their accountability to their local bishops.
Operational issues were also a focus, including the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ socially responsible investment norms, the legal structures needed to comply with state and federal law, fiduciary responsibilities and asset protection.
At the gathering, 37 foundation presidents and their board chairs signed a letter to Pope Francis assuring him of their prayers and expressing “our love, support and fidelity along with our most sincere and warmest greeting.”