Catholics find opportunities to invest, contribute for good

| Susan Klemond | February 13, 2017 | 1 Comment

For Larry and Suzanne Vanden Plas, investing for charitable giving is about the corporal works of mercy: They perform the works they can, and they support local organizations to do what they can’t with gifts from their donor-advised fund managed by Catholic Community Foundation of Minnesota.

“When you look at the corporal works of mercy, how would you do that?” asked Larry, who along with Suzanne belongs to St. John the Baptist in New Brighton. “If you limit yourself to only those situations that you personally could do, one to one, you’re going to miss out on most of it … What we can do is support these different activities and actually be personally involved in some of them.”

To receive insights and updates to help them in what is often more long-term stewardship, the Vanden Plases and more than 200 other individual donors, financial advisors, and representatives of parishes and other Catholic organizations attended the St. Paul-based foundation’s 22nd annual investment conference Feb. 8 at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul.

At the conference, CCF provided organizational updates and a market forecast. The Vanden Plases learned that along with choosing the educational, social and spiritual organizations they contribute to through their fund, they soon may be able to grow the fund with investment vehicles that also advance their values and beliefs.

While Catholic charitable investors have been able to exclude from their portfolios companies or funds whose practices are inconsistent with their values and beliefs, they soon will have more options for actively choosing companies or funds that have practices consistent with Church teaching and tradition, said Oblate Father Séamus Finn, chief of faith consistent investment of Washington, D.C.-based OIP Investment Trust, a professionally managed diversified investment fund managing financial resources of more than 200 Catholic organizations.

Such faith-consistent investing that applies social and environmental principles consistent with one’s faith can yield as good a return or better, he said.

Popes and U.S. bishops have long encouraged social responsibility in the economic sphere. For example, Pope Francis has emphasized issues concerning migrants and refugees, the environment and climate change, human trafficking, inequality and greater access to goods, Father Finn said.

The Vatican has encouraged developing new, more universal guidelines for socially responsible investing that builds on previous guidelines and reflect Church teaching, he said.

CCF has 1,049 managed funds, of which 80 percent are invested for long-term goals. They are in the form of: donor-advised funds that allow donors flexibility for when and where they will donate; endowments set up by individuals, parishes and other organizations; a legacy fund allowing the foundation to respond to more immediate needs; and trust and annuities.

Catholic charitable investors may gain greater confidence as the country’s slow, eight-year economic recovery continues as a result of improved U.S. and global growth and other factors, said James Paulsen, chief investment strategist at Wells Capital Management in Minneapolis and a parishioner of Holy Name of Jesus in Medina. The election of President Donald Trump, viewed as pro-business, will play a small role, he said.

Anne Cullen Miller, CCF president and a parishioner at St. Joseph in West St. Paul, said CCF hosts the conference to bring together “Catholics interested in giving and investing with a Catholic heart.”

“We think one of [our] brand differentiators is that we are aligned with our Catholic values in everything we do, so when we invest, we have that front of mind,” she said.

The Catholic Community Foundation was founded in 1992 to financially support the spiritual, educational and social needs of the Minnesota Catholic community. As the largest Catholic foundation of its kind in the United States, it serves thousands of clients and recipient organizations, and counts more than $285 million in charitable dollars.

Matthew Dudley attended the event representing his parish, St. Thomas More in St. Paul, and said it was timely because he and other parish leaders are evaluating ways to keep and grow their CCF-managed endowment.

Dudley said he found Father Finn’s comments about tying Catholic-based investments into a modern portfolio helpful.

“If you’re a person of faith trying to live your life a certain way, [you ask] how can you align your portfolio in a similar way, and I think he gave some really good feedback.”

Tizoc Rosales, associate director of advancement for the St. Paul Seminary School of Divinity and St. John Vianney College Seminary, attended the conference because the seminaries and CCF are partners in mission and said he found the talks informative.

Rosales, a parishioner at St. Joseph in West St. Paul, said Catholics should know that investing can be complex.

“I think it’s best to find trusted individuals that can help you just like in other matters to guide us and help us along the way.”

CCF connects investors to causes they care about by investing dollars according to Church teaching, Miller said. “This is how we strengthen community,” she added. This is how we build the kingdom together right here in our own backyard.”

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