Eddie and Kathleen Pearson were at Mass one Sunday listening to the Gospel reading taken from St. Matthew 25:35-40. It is the passage in which Christ speaks of feeding the hungry, welcoming the stranger, visiting the prisoner and finally says, “Whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.”
“It just really spoke to me and my wife,” said Pearson.
He had been thinking of setting up a donor advised fund through the Diocese of Nashville’s Catholic Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee and decided that would be the right tool to help parishes, churches and ministries that serve the poor and needy.
“I really believe it can make a big impact and help a variety of organizations,” said Pearson, the chief operating officer of Healthstream and a member of the CCFMTN board of directors.
The Pearsons’ decision to set up the Pearson Family Matthew 25:35-40 Fund, and a second fund established by a Hendersonville family to honor their late brother, are two examples of how the Catholic Community Foundation can help people with estate planning while providing help to the ministries they are most passionate about, said Ron Szejner, executive director of the CCFMTN.
Both funds were established late last year, Szejner said. “They came out of nowhere, which is terrific.”
The foundation offers a variety of tools for estate planning that gives donors tax advantages while also allowing them to stipulate which parish, institution or ministry they want to support, even beyond their death.
The individual funds can be large or small, Szejner said. “Most people still think what we do is only for wealthy people,” he said. “Even a small gift can be helpful.”
The CCFMTN pools all the funds and invests them, which means the fees for managing the funds are less, Szejner explained. Less money spent on fees means more money is available to help the ministries that mean so much to the donors, he added.
With their donor advised fund, the Pearson family will tell the CCFMTN board of directors which parishes and ministries they want to receive a grant. “We indicate where we want the money to go and they take care of all the paperwork and all the administration,” said Pearson, which makes it much easier on his family than if they were administering the fund themselves.
The first two grants from the Pearson Family fund were to their parish, Christ the King Church in Nashville, and to the Good Samaritan Fund at Fairfield United Methodist Church in northern Sumner County, where Eddie Pearson’s parents are members.
“I wanted to give back to the place where I was raised and (honor) the influence of the people who shaped me a long time ago,” Pearson said.
And by being able to designate what kind of ministries they want to support, Pearson said, he and his wife can pass along to their three daughters and their families the value they place on “giving back to the community that’s provided a lot for us.”
A variety of options
Richard Russo was a parishioner at Our Lady of the Lake Church in Hendersonville. During his life, he was heavily involved in the parish’s Room In The Inn ministry and helping the homeless.
After he died last year, he left a modest estate to his family. His brother, Dr. Donald Russo, and other members of the family decided to use the estate to honor Richard by establishing an endowment to support the Room In The Inn ministry at Our Lady of the Lake through the CCFMTN.
Dr. Russo shared the family’s plans with friends and relatives, and they have responded by making their own donations to the endowment, Szejner said.
“I’m getting checks from all kinds of places,” Szejner said. The amounts vary from $100 to $1,000 or more, he added.
The Pearson and Russo funds are just two ways the CCFMTN can help people support the ministries they care the most about. Currently the foundation has just under $7 million in assets, Szejner said, and the funds support a variety of ministries, including Catholic Charities of Tennessee, institutions that help abused women and expectant mothers; and various parish ministries.
“We can help people whatever their passion is about the Church,” Szejner said. “We can help them do it the way they want to do it.”
“We were able to design our fund based on how we want it to impact” the community, Pearson said. “Somebody else could set it up to support Catholic schools or the elderly or the hungry or whatever cause they find important to them.”
The CCFMTN offers a variety of investment tools, Szejner said. “There are so many ways to do it. We can do it in a way to honor their intent but in a way that is tax advantaged, given their unique circumstances.”
The goal of the foundation is to build an endowment that will support the ministries in the diocese. “We obviously need to build endowment to support ministries in our diocese,” Szejner said. “Our diocese is growing; our needs are growing.”
For more information about the foundation contact Szejner at (615) 783-0278 or firstname.lastname@example.org for visit its website at