Mildred Patt Brown, a lifelong dedicated member of Sacred Heart Parish in Loretto, “loved to dedicate her time, talents and treasures” to her church, according to her niece Amy Brown.
Although Mildred Brown died over a year ago, her treasure will sustain Sacred Heart far into the future. The disbursement of Brown’s estate was recently finalized, and that included a nearly $191,000 donation to pay down the Sacred Heart Building Fund, leaving the parish with only about $10,000 left on its loan payment.
“Thanks to Mildred’s very generous donation, the debt owed on the Parish Life Center is basically gone,” said Father Lukas Arulappa, MSFS, pastor of Sacred Heart and St. Joseph parishes in Lawrence County.
Brown’s donation to Sacred Heart, a small parish located in the rural southern tip of the Diocese of Nashville, was welcomed and celebrated by pastor and parishioners alike. Father Arulappa honored Brown with a special Mass on Nov. 22, with many family and friends in attendance. “She was totally committed to the church…a very practicing Catholic who attended Mass daily,” said Father Arulappa. “She was so honest and sincere.”
When Mildred Brown died, her family “lost our matriarch, genealogist, family historian, beloved aunt, sister and friend,” said Amy Brown, one of her 24 nieces and nephews. “We are very honored to have had her in our lives and to have shared her with everyone at Sacred Heart.”
“Mildred wasn’t just a co-worker, she was my best friend, a shoulder to cry on when things got hard, and a great advisor, a confidant, and a fill-in if I was off,” said Donna Hindman, who worked with Brown in the Sacred Heart church office for more than a decade. Brown spent countless hours volunteering at the church, motivated by “her love for her church,” Hindman said. It was “her way she could give back.”
Brown, a native of Lawrence County, was born May 31, 1935, and baptized at Sacred Heart when she was just a few days old. She received all of her sacraments at Sacred Heart and stood in the church many times as godmother, confirmation sponsor and witness at numerous weddings, according to her niece Amy Brown.
“Sacred Heart was a major part of her life, it was really her second home,” she said.
Brown, a retired vice president of the local SunTrust Bank, where she worked for more than 40 years, was a member of the Sacred Heart altar society, choir, parish council and finance board. Many Sacred Heart parishioners and Lawrence County residents remember her from serving as cashier and accountant at various parish events, especially the annual Fourth of July picnic.
“It was no surprise to her family that she left this parish half of her estate,” Amy Brown said.
Hindman recalls that Brown was “very meticulous in her accounting. She kept a ledger with every person that gave, no matter how small or large.” She also assisted with counting the Sunday Mass collections and school receipts. Even as her eyesight and overall health began to fail in recent years, Brown still wanted to help with the accounting work in the church office. She trained a new volunteer so she could step away from the daily demands of the position.
For her years of dedicated service to Sacred Heart Parish, Brown was recognized as the 2007 Volunteer of the Year, and a plaque and a photo of her still hangs in the church office.
“Mildred will always be part of the Sacred Heart Church office,” said Hindman.
Brown was also very proud of living with and managing her diabetes for more than five decades. She received a medal from the Joslin Diabetes Center at Harvard Medical School for surviving the disease for 50 years. “She was very proud of the medal,” Amy Brown said.
“Aunt Mildred” shared her generosity with her family and her parish, but she is also remembered for sharing much more than that. “She taught many of us to pray the rosary and the importance of Jesus in our lives,” said Amy Brown. She shared her talents of playing the piano, knitting, crocheting and quilting and passed along her love of genealogy, photography, puzzles and reading to many family members, Brown added.
Hindman noted that Brown “always had a smile on her face.” If there was ever a stranger at Mass, she went out of her way to welcome them. “She touched the lives of everyone she knew.”
Leaving a legacy behind to support church ministries
From staff reports
The late Margaret Patt Brown’s $191,000 donation to Sacred Heart Church in Loretto was an extremely generous gift from a parishioner who worked hard, lived frugally, and saved money for decades, planning for a sizeable portion of her estate to go to her beloved church.
High dollar donations from individuals like Brown to parishes in the Diocese of Nashville are rare, according to Ron Szejner, executive director of the Catholic Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee. “We’re trying to change that,” he said. “We would like more people to think about leaving a legacy to a parish.”
Brown did not go through the Catholic Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee to make her donation; it is still a fairly new option for members of the diocese to pre-plan their estates. In his role with the CCFMT, Szejner works to spread the word about how individuals can plan their giving to support their chosen ministries and institutions in the most effective way possible.
The Foundation works with donors to capitalize on the benefits of charitable planned giving, with the ability to reduce their taxes and leave a legacy for future generations. Working through the Foundation can offer advantages to the donor during their lifetime, as well as ensuring their funds are disbursed as planned after their death, Szejner said. “We offer a range of solutions to support people whose philanthropy is church.”
The Catholic Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee is a non-profit, independent charitable organization that supports the religious, education and philanthropic objectives of the Diocese of Nashville. It serves the needs of individuals and families who wish to make a lasting, growing contribution to the advancement of Catholic values and to benefit their charitable objectives at any level. The Foundation helps to sustain the works of parishes, schools, agencies and outreach programs in the Diocese of Nashville and Middle Tennessee.
As more people become aware of the Foundation and “prayerfully consider growing the good things that are happening in the diocese,” Szejner said, he is confident that more people will consider following the generous lead of Mildred Brown and others who have chosen to leave a legacy to their church.
For more information, visit the Foundation’s website at www.ccfmtn.org.