Alma St. Mary’s Challenge
Went Over the Top!
It is pretty evident that supporters of St. Mary’s School in Alma were up for a challenge this spring.
They raised $30,000 during their annual Mardi Gras Auction, nearly doubling the $16,000 donation that three organizations challenged them to match.
“Many thanks to Jolt Credit Union, the Warner Family Advised Endowment Fund of the Catholic Community Foundation of Mid-Michigan and Lux Funeral Home,” said Nancy Schultz, school business manager at Nativity of the Lord Parish in Alma. “Because of their challenge to match their combined $16,000 donation, St. Mary’s community rallied to raise $30,000 for a total auction profit of $46,000.” The money will be used for tuition scholarships.
Schultz said COVID restrictions forced the school to abandon their annual fundraising party and in-person auction. They replaced it with a week-long online auction. She said things got interesting Saturday night when larger items were on the auction block and friends were texting each other pushing up the bids.
“Our goal was to match the $16,000 challenge and raise $32,000,” she said. “But the audience topped the challenge for a great cause.”
Schultz said contributors believe in St. Mary’s school and trust in the administrators, faculty and staff. “They have supported all that we have done,” she said, adding that contributions from members of Nativity of the Lord parish were strong. “Parishioners know that the Catholic school is important to the future of the Church and our faith. It’s where it starts.”
Parents are in the process of applying for 2021-2022 tuition assistance. Schultz said the school expects an enrollment of 87 students in Young Fives to 6th grade and 60 preschoolers, double the enrollment of five years ago. For the first time next fall, individual classes are expected to replace split classes in first and second grades.
Although COVID has challenged all aspects of school operations, classes have remained face to face during the entire current school year.
“COVID has actually built our program because parents trust us and know that their children are safe here,” Schultz said. “They know our kids come first.”
Although the new online format was successful, the business manager said she is looking forwarding to returning to an in-person Mardi Gras Fundraiser next year. “We all missed having a party.”
Written by Joan Ramm
Golden Girls with Golden Hearts:
CCFMM’s First Major Donors
They lived frugally, with a noble end-goal in sight. Two of the three sisters never married. They saved and dreamed of how they could help the poor and the Catholic Church they so loved. The Koncavich (Kun-ca’-vich) sisters—Stella, Mary, and Helen, at their deaths, left a nearly $1 million estate to the Catholic Community Foundation of Mid-Michigan (CCFMM) in 2010. The CCFMM Koncavich Fund was created as a living legacy to these three special sisters.
Lovingly named the “Golden Girls” by the Bay City parishioners of Saint Stanislaus Kostka Church, these remarkable Polish women were born in Mullan, Idaho, to parents Alexander and Agnes (Rzesutkow) Koncavich: Mary, born in 1913; Helen, 1914; and Stella,1917. Blessed with longevity, the Koncavich sisters lived very modestly for decades so they could donate the money they saved to serve the poor and needy in the Saginaw Catholic Diocese.
Pat Ueberroth, a parishioner at St. Stan’s (now part of Our Lady of Czestochowa Parish), remembers that any time an appeal was made for the missions or other worthy causes, the Koncavich donation was always on the large end. She adds that the three sisters were “funny, sweet, and real ladies.”
Close in age and life-long Catholics, the Koncavich Golden Girls must have had a remarkable upbringing for the way they lived out their faith. According to Fr. Bill Rutkowski, who knew the sisters well, “Their Catholic faith was very serious to them—it was the heart of their lives.”
Mary, the oldest of the sisters, born in 1913, was 89 when she passed away in 2002 after a long life of service to parish and community. She was especially devoted to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and belonged to Bay City’s St. Stanislaus Kostka Church, where she was a member of the Rosary/Altar Sodality #6, St. Anne’s Society, and Golden Horizons. Fr. Bill notes that “Mary was the quiet one, and she had a wonderful smile!”
Helen (Crevia), born a year after Mary, in 1914, was the only one of the three girls to marry. She married Leo Maxwell Crevia on September 14, 1935, and they were married nearly 50 years until his death in 1985. They had no children. Helen died in 2007, at age 93, and was a member of St. Stanislaus Kostka Church, Legion of Mary, the Rosary/Altar Sodality #6, and St. Anne’s Society. Like her sisters, Helen was very devoted to her church and faith, and she cherished the opportunity to take Communion to the homebound for many years.
Stella, who lived to age 91, was the last of the sisters to pass away in 2008, at her residence in Bay City, Michigan. Stella worked for the State of Michigan Employment Security Commission (MESC) for 48 years. She started there as a clerk/typist, but worked her way up to the position of manager for the MESC Bay City branch. Stella was well-liked and respected by her coworkers, and the Bay MESC received numerous job placement awards from the State of Michigan while Stella was at the helm.
In 1968, Stella earned a Master’s Degree in guidance and counseling from the University of Michigan by attending evening classes. A 2008 St. Stan’s bulletin memorial announcement indicates Stella was also a commissioned Lay Minister, active with the Legion of Mary, and visited the hospital and homebound with Holy Communion every Sunday. Of all Stella’s awards and accomplishments, the one she valued most was a Papal Blessing she received. According to Stella’s friend and neighbor, Marge Luczak, “Stella received this award upon her retirement, in recognition of the exemplary life she led.”
Father Bill has fond memories of the Koncavich sisters: “They were always together, and Stella was the leader of the ladies, their caretaker. If you saw them enter a room or church, they were always in the same order, with Stella leading. The girls were always all-smiles when you saw them. They were humble and drove a simple older car and lived in a simple ranch-style house in the south-end of Bay City. The interior of the home was also simple, with older furniture that they were quite content with.”
According to Fr. Bill, “Mary and Helen had grey hair and wore everyday clothing; Stella had red hair and was always dressed professionally. She was bright, classy, and a real go-getter. Stella was also one of the first Commissioned Lay Ministers in the Saginaw Diocese. She was well-known in the community and loved ministering to the sick and home-bound.”
Marge Kuczak remembers the strong work ethic of all the Koncavich sisters. She points out that they lived through the Great Depression, and thus took nothing for granted. They lived frugally, prayed the Rosary together, and channeled their time and energies into service to St. Stan’s church and the community. Marge adds that the sisters loved animals, especially their little dog Benji. Another friend of the family, Frank Dudak, who brought Stella Communion when she could no longer attend Mass, also recalls the sisters’ great work ethic, their kindness, and how beloved Benji was to the family.
Ever devoted to Mary, the Koncavich sisters were very active in the Legion of Mary. Through this organization, they visited the sick in hospitals, took Holy Communion to the home-bound and those in nursing homes, and prayed the Rosary. The girls were at the heart of the St. Stan’s Legion of Mary, which was interconnected with other Legion of Mary groups. Fr. Bill recalls one final Legion of Mary service which brought together Legion members from all over the state. “Archbishop Carlson presided at this event, to acknowledge and show his appreciation for all the good Legion of Mary members did,” he said.
The Koncavich sisters beautifully lived out their faith, says Fr. Bill. He adds that this Bible verse comes to mind when he thinks about them:
For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you made me feel welcome…Matthew 25:35
“The Koncavich sisters emulated the living out of this gospel, of their Catholic faith,”adds Fr. Bill, “and they not only did it while they were living, but beyond, through their CCFMM trust. Because of the Golden Girls’ simple lifestyle, it was surprising to many that they left such a large bequest to CCFMM, to help the poor and needy.”
The CCFMM Koncavich Fund was created in 2010 as a living legacy to these three special sisters. This fund fulfills the mission of the “Golden Girls,” as it disperses money each year to multiple organizations, such as homeless shelters, food pantries, rescue missions, etc. “As that money is feeding and helping the poor, it’s as if Stella, Helen, and Mary are still here doing the work of the Lord,” says Fr. Bill Rutkowski.
Written by Mary Beth Looby
Nouvel Students Benefit from Generosity and Good Fortune
The Catholic Community Foundation of Mid-Michigan endowment for Barbara Shaffran began with a stroke of luck.
When her son Paul won $5,000 in the Nouvel Catholic Central Elementary Athletic Association Big Draw raffle years ago, her husband Charles suggested he donate the money to the Foundation in memory of his mother who died in 2012. And Charles matched it.
Since 2013, Charles has made monthly contributions to the Barbara Shaffran Endowment for Nouvel Elementary School (formerly St. Thomas Aquinas Elementary). The fund has grown to nearly $27,000 with annual disbursements starting in 2014.
“My wife was so involved in the church and St. Thomas Aquinas Elementary School when our three children attended there,” Charles Shaffran said. “She was on the school board, participated in all kinds of school projects and fundraisers, and volunteered at the school library. The endowment is a way to help the school now and into the future. There always is a need.”
Charles said he and his wife joined St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in Saginaw Township in 1969. Both came from good Catholic families and both attended Catholic schools. “We felt that it was important for our children to have a background in their faith and a good education. The endowment helps provide the same for other families,” he said.
Phil Strauss, director of finance for Nouvel Catholic Schools, said the annual disbursement provides needed tuition assistance.
“The Barbara Shaffran Endowment Fund helps us fulfill our mission of offering a Catholic education to any family that needs help. We are grateful that we can count on the annual funds,” he said.
Barbara’s daughter Susan Moody said her mother had a servant heart. “Growing up as children we watched her give and volunteer wherever help was needed,” she said. She remembered that her mother would bring loose change to help students pay for overdue books when she volunteered in the student library. A piece of artwork commissioned by Fr. Randy Kelly still hangs in the elementary school library in her honor.
Jill Friebe, Barbara’s older daughter, echoed that her mother was always at the school. She was President of Home and School, a Brownie and Girl Scout leader, homeroom mom and helped deliver hot lunches. She also was the first school nurse. “If the school called and said they needed help, my mom would go,” Jill said.
The daughters agree that they continued their mother’s legacy by sending their own children to Nouvel Catholic Elementary, volunteering on school boards and committees, and at St. Thomas Aquinas Church. “My mother instilled in us the spirit of volunteering our time, talent and treasure, “ Jill said. “That is how we grew up and that is how we were taught.”
Their mother shared her time between her children, the school and her career in nursing. She graduated from St. Mary’s School of Nursing in Saginaw in 1964 and later served as the president of the St. Mary’s School of Nursing Alumnae Association. She began her nursing career at Bay City Mercy Hospital and later at St. Joseph Hospital in Ann Arbor. She spent 30 years on the nursing staff of St. Francis Nursing Home in Saginaw Township, retiring as the director of nursing.
“She really liked working in geriatrics,” Charles said. “So much so that she went back to work after she retired in 2004 and worked an additional year.” Susan said that people still remember her work at St. Francis.
“She touched so many lives. To this day people will share with me the kindness and care she showed the patients and families at St. Francis.”
Barbara and Charles also volunteered at St. Thomas Aquinas Church. Barbara was president of the Parish Council and she and her husband served several terms. Charles also was a lecturer at Mass for 30 years and a regular volunteer at the fish fries.
Charles was in pharmaceutical sales for 30 years and retired in 2006. He worked as a chemist for Chrysler Corp. before that. He moved to Tawas after Barbara’s death and divides his time between his residence there and another in Florida. Their son Paul and his wife Ursula live in Geneva, IL. There are four grandchildren.
Charles said the endowment is a fitting tribute to his wife’s memory. “She was so involved in the school when our children went to St. Thomas Aquinas. It was her love.” Susan added, “I am proud that my mother’s legacy lives on through her endowment.”
Written by Joan Ramm
2021 Committee Meeting Dates:
Board of Trustees
June 08 | September 07 | December 07
May 26 | July 28 | August 25 | October 27 | November 24
May 18 | August 17 | November 09
May 21 | August 13 | November 12
May 12 | August 18 | November 10
May 13 | August 5 | September 9 | October 7 | November 11
**Committee Meeting dates are subject to change