The Our Lady of Consolation Education Foundation:
A Leap of Faith
Access to Catholic school education and faith formation programs are provided a little differently at Our Lady of Consolation Parish. We believe these vital programs of education and evangelization should be available to anyone who seeks them: children, teens, adults, seniors–regardless of their finances. The Our Lady of Consolation Education Foundation (OLCEF) makes this possible. The Foundation allows us to provide these programs to those who cannot afford to contribute at this time, but who may be in a better financial position to do so in the future.
The OLCEF is designed to be supported by those who see the value of providing quality Catholic school education and faith formation programs for all.
How does it work?
Instead of charging tuition to attend Our Lady of Consolation School or requesting a fee to sign up for faith formation classes or adult education, the parish provides these programs free of charge. The parish simply asks families and individuals to prayerfully consider a tax-deductible contribution to the OLCEF, which makes all of these services possible.
Last year alone, more than 3,500 children and adults participated in programs of education and evangelization offered at OLC. The OLCEF provided $460,000 in funding toward:
- Adult Bible Studies and Book Studies
- Books and CD’s distributed during Lent and Advent
- Early Childhood Faith Formation (Sunday AM nursery, preschool, kindergarten)
- Elementary Faith Formation (Grades 1 – 5)
- Middle School Faith Formation (Grades 6 – 8)
- High School Faith Formation (Grades 9 – 12)
- Our Lady of Consolation School (Grades K – 8)
- Parish Library
- Parish Mission
- RCIA, RCIA Inquiry, RCIC
- Sacramental Preparation
- Young Adult Ministry
- Vacation Bible School
Many ways to contribute:
There are many ways to contribute to the OLCEF:
- If you are interested in making a one-time monetary gift or setting up a weekly, monthly or annual pledge, please contact our parish office at: 616-866-0931 or click here.
- Participate in our annual fundraising event
- Shop with SCRIP Click below for more information about SCRIP
- Matching Gifts – OLCEF qualifies for most companies’ matching gift programs
- Life insurance policy with OLCEF as a beneficiary
- Designate a portion of your estate to the OLCEF
- Contribute stocks, bonds or other assets
The OLCEF is a registered Not-For-Profit Corporation, and as such your gift is totally tax-deductible.
Our Lady of Consolation Education Foundation Board
The OLCEF is operated and maintained by a board of directors. The current board of directors includes:
Chairperson: Bryan Galloway
Trustees: Tim Maczka, Dori Danko
The Creation of the Education Foundation
“For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.” Cor 3:11
The history of the OLC Education Foundation is a story of conversion and laying that “foundation” that the Lord calls us to. During a period from 1985 to 1998, OLC was blessed with a gifted pastor, Bishop Joseph McKinney. He served concurrently as Auxiliary Bishop of Grand Rapids and was a strong, spiritual leader along with being a talented and creative administrator. For much of that time I served on the parish finance council, and Bishop Joe and I became friends.
Our school was facing the usual funding struggles, i.e., battling tuition collection and trying not to drain the parish coffers of funding needed for other ministries. Our financial condition was so desperate that, unknown to anyone but the finance council, Bishop Joe voluntarily took a reduced salary for more than a year to help balance the books.
At some point in about 1988, Bishop Joe challenged us with this: Instead of charging ourselves tuition, what about simply agreeing to donate the costs of operating our school and faith formation programs? If everyone would give an amount proportional to their earnings, then we would not have to hound people about tuition, billing, etc. We would then be basing our religious education and our school funding on a Catholic, Gospel giving model rather than a secular, bill-for-services model. We did not want to be just a private school with crucifixes. We wanted to live the blessings of the faith, not in the drudgery of billing the faithful. Our desire was to live the principles we claimed to believe in.
In addition, many would be able to deduct their giving, whereas tuition is not tax deductible. More importantly, the ability to pay tuition would no longer be a determining factor in admissions. Rather, utilizing the principle of equal sacrifice (not equal amounts), the contributions of those who could pay more would offset the giving of those of lesser means.
This was not merely a scheme to avoid tuition, but an effort to put into practice all that we believe as Catholics – that sacrificial, biblical giving demonstrates our trust in God. In turn, our trust in God brings blessings and spiritual conversion. Furthermore, giving through a foundation becomes a vehicle to attract gifts from the entire parish family (not just parents) and to the community at large. Matching gifts and the like become a reality.
After a lot of prayer, and with trepidation, we decided to take the risk. I believe it was 1989 when the Foundation was born. We held our breath, gave and jumped in – praying that everyone would buy in and do their part. We had payroll to meet and other bills to pay. A lot was at risk as we left our tuition addiction behind. Lo, and behold, God delivered! As we watched with joy and with a certain amount of disbelief, our funding came in without charging anyone. We had taken a great leap of faith, trusting God’s promises, and we were amazed at His miracle. A foundation was born!
Now we find ourselves nearly 30 years later. The model is still working, but we need to be ever vigilant about complacency, be continually renewing our giving challenge. I believe a few principles are central to our success:
1. Consider how much can I give, not what’s the minimum.
2. Gospel, proportional giving is essential to the school and to our spirituality.
3. Giving to the OLCEF has to be a commitment and priority or this won’t work.
4. If we charged tuition, we would have a much different and much smaller school.
5. We owe a legacy to those in the past have made the school available for us today.
6. We owe to future parents and students a healthy Catholic school.
It’s interesting. Even in our success, God has never let us become too confident or arrogant. We have never been more than a hand-to-mouth foundation. In other worlds, there is no endowment, no body of money from which we get income. Almost every dollar we receive goes out for immediate needs. Historically we have never had more than a couple of months’ worth of expenses in the bank. We really still live paycheck to paycheck. Our hope is to pass on how precious this foundation is and the fervor needed to continue it.
Our hope is that putting our faith first, our parents and supporters will continue to make this work. It’s not a perpetual motion machine, but one that needs repeated attention and conversion of hearts. God has greatly blessed our OLCEF. Even more so, God has blessed our parents and students. Few places in the country have been able to make such a thing work.
Sadly, the demise of such foundations has been the result of complacency, lost vision, inattention, and lack of re-commitment. The demise of our foundation would dictate an immediate return to tuition. It would be a very sad day. It will surely come to this if we depend on someone else doing their part.
It always seemed to me that having to collect tuition was a capitulation to our lower nature – a surrender to the notion that Catholics won’t give so we have to bill them. Really, we can’t ask the Catholic faithful to contribute, so we have to enter into legal, enforceable contracts? The stories of parish priests having to go to small claims court to collect tuition seem to me an affront to all we believe. Also an affront to our faith are all the times when a single parent mother or father is in with the school principal, begging for more time to pay or for forgiveness of their tuition bill.
I look back in awe and gratitude to the challenge of living the faith that Bishop Joe brought to us three decades ago. Having made that step into faith as a parish and witnessed the results warms my heart even today. The OLCEF provides the kind of Catholic school funding that the faith calls us to. We do not desire schools for the elite, but for schools to educate and mold all comers. Let us never lose our passion for following Christ’s lead, placing the Kingdom and our faith above all else. In addition, let us pray fervently for our conversion, for the spread of the Gospel, and for the biblical discipleship we are called to live.
Deacon Jim Hessler
July 20, 2016