In the early days of our Province (1940’s), most of our men were involved in school work. In fact, the faculties in our schools were composed primarily of Augustinians. Generally speaking, those Augustinians were young men in a new Province.
The priests went out each weekday to celebrate Mass in nearby parishes and helped with confessions and Sunday Masses on the weekends. From that parish income, the monasteries were able to make ends meet financially and salaries were not required from their school work. At the end of each year, the school communities would send their surplus funds to the Provincial to build new schools and seminaries, to finance the cost of seminary formation, and to provide for our missionaries in foreign countries.
Because the membership of the Province was young and because in those days there were many incoming vocations, employment benefits were of little concern. In fact, in those days religious were not allowed to participate in the social security system.
In time, President Nixon provided for the admission of religious to the social security system and the Province began to experience the beginning of aging and serious illness.
Father Ryan, during his time as Provincial, sold our property at Holland, Michigan, and set aside that money for the future care of aged and sick friars. In addition the Province entered the social security system, but the primary benefit of that system was Medicare -- not money, because we had entered the system at a very basic level.
During my time as Provincial, we established three trust funds:
- The Journey of a Lifetime Trust for the care of the sick and elderly,
- The Mother of Good Counsel Trust for the operational support of the Province, and
- The Father John McKniff Fund for the support of the missions in Peru.
Income from the sale of properties and donations provided the basic funds for these trusts.
Approximately twenty years ago we also established a major campaign to augment the Journey and the Mother of Good Counsel trusts. That campaign reaped strong support from some segments of our Province’s service. And in other areas the support was disappointing. But the three trust funds were firmly established.
As we look at the Province finances today, we see that there will be unfunded liabilities in the future, especially for the care of the sick and elderly and for the support of seminary formation. Father Bernie has wisely inaugurated a new capital campaign to beef up The Journey of a Lifetime Trust and to establish the new Father Ray Ryan, O.S.A. Trust for seminary support. We Augustinians of the Midwest have come a long way from the days of no salaries, no benefits, and no social security. We need all of these things today. We have left behind those years of unreasonably extensive giving as we have aged and as times have changed. We have to provide for our future needs. The current campaign is a “thank you” from you to the Province for the past and a commitment to careful provision for the future. It will help provide for those who have given their all to our institutions and provide for those who will take our places in the future.
Rev. David L. Brecht, O.S.A., Ph.D., served as Prior Provincial of the Province of Our Mother of Good Counsel for three four-year terms. He is on the Augustinian Executive Committee for the Continuing Our Journey of Faith capital campaign