When Jesus told Peter the gates of hell would not prevail against His Church, he was assuring the great apostle the Church would last down through the ages. There was no such assurance given to dioceses. Take Arath, Antigonea, Scillium, Milasa, Cardi, Aquae Alba and Volsinium.

These are all extinct dioceses assigned as titular dioceses to past bishops of Philadelphia. Certainly it has been many years since they existed, but what about Bardstown, Kentucky, which was founded in 1808 and suppressed in 1841? That’s the titular diocese of Auxiliary Bishop Daniel Thomas.

The Diocese of Philadelphia was also erected in 1808, and that explains why the 1808 Society was recently established — to help ensure that it will be viable and financially healthy in the years and centuries to come.

The 1808 Society, with its motto “Serving God by Serving One Another,” targets older Catholics who might wish to leave a bequest in their will, set up a charitable trust or charitable gift to benefit the Archdiocese or any of its entities — perhaps a parish, a school, the Catholic Charities Appeal or a facility for the young or the aged.

“With thoughtful planning, you can help preserve the things you love about your faith for those yet to be born,” Archbishop Chaput wrote in an introductory letter. “Gifts such as bequests, charitable trusts or charitable gift annuities can make a profoundly positive difference for the Catholic community in years to come.”

“It’s important that we leave a lasting legacy,” said Mary-Helen McCulloch, director of planned giving for the Office for Stewardship and Development for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. “Despite our recent challenges, there is a strong history of faith and commitment in the community that we need to make sure that for the next 200 years we are to self-sustain ourselves.”

Planned giving differs from a campaign or an appeal because it mostly deals with future giving – perhaps designating a legacy paid after your death or even all or part of the proceeds of an insurance policy.

Legacies have always been gratefully accepted by the Archdiocese but it has been many years since there has been a concerted push to obtain them. During the Cardinal Dennis Dougherty era (1918-1951) the unfortunately now-defunct Catholic Standard and Times had a consistent box on the front page, gently urging the faithful to consider the Archdiocese in their wills.

Making such a bequest does have benefits. You retain control of your assets during your life, and the bequest can be modified or even cancelled by you at any time if you feel your circumstances have changed. Unlike bequests to individuals which may be taxed, bequests to charitable institutions will not be taxed.

Leaving money in one’s will is just one option.

You can at any time give a gift of appreciated assets such as stocks, bonds or a mutual fund to your designated charity. The advantage to this is you do not have to pay taxes on the appreciated value, but you can take the entire sum as a charitable deduction on your taxes.

In all cases you can either make an unrestricted gift allowing the charity to decide how best it should be used, or restricted to a specific use, for example child care, school support or elder care.

There is also Charitable Gift Annuities (CGA). Under a CGA you turn over all or part of the nest egg you have saved for your old age to a charity, and in return you receive a lifetime income with the remainder going to the charity.

The amount of your payout depends on your life expectancy at the time you begin taking payments. The older you are, naturally the greater the annual return will be.

It doesn’t much matter whether you take a CGA through the Archdiocese or another charity, because practically all of them, including the Archdiocese, use standard rates set by the American Council of Gift Annuities, McCulloch explained.
“People need to know what is possible, and we can let them know how to do it and discuss the options,” she said. “Many people hold Catholic entities close to their heart, and this is a wonderful way to say ‘thank you’ which maybe they couldn’t do with an immediate cash gift.”

She recalls one woman who told her she already planned to make provisions for her parish in her will, but wanted to know what other entities might be important. McCulloch mentioned entities that work with the elderly, or with immigrants or the homeless or with children. The donor ultimately settled upon at-risk children for her legacy.

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McCulloch’s office offers to send representatives to interested parishes that might want to have a speaker to explain the topic more fully. For more information contact Mary-Helen McCulloch or Leigh Lingle at 215-587-5650 or visit the Planned Giving website here.

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Lou Baldwin is a freelance writer in Philadelphia.