James Cardinal Hickey Endowment Fund close to its $1 million goal for St. Brigid School

This is a story about a Cardinal’s commitment to his Catholic school in Midland and the support of the parishioners of St. Brigid of Kildare Parish to carry on his legacy as the school celebrates its 100th anniversary.

Members of St. Brigid’s have raised more than $900,000 for the James Cardinal Hickey Endowment Fund to make sure that St. Brigid School’s operations are supported in perpetuity. The goal is $1 million.

“The campaign is a perfect opportunity to acknowledge the legacy of Cardinal Hickey and do everything we can to preserve it for the future,” said Father Andy Booms, pastor of St. Brigid’s. “Cardinal Hickey was always proud of his heritage growing up in Midland. His life is a great inspiration to never lose hope and faith in Jesus because he raises leaders in all times of the church.”

Cardinal Hickey, referred to by some as St. Brigid’s “Golden Child,” attended grade school at St. Brigid, was ordained in 1946 and became the Auxiliary Bishop of the Saginaw Diocese in 1967. He served as Bishop of Cleveland and was elevated to Archbishop of Washington, D.C. in 1980, and then to Cardinal by Pope John Paul II in 1988. He died in 2004.

Cardinal Hickey himself established the endowment with $50,000 seed money in 1991 and the fund grew to $1 million. In 2010, school trustees decided to use the majority of it to help fund a $3 million school expansion that added a middle school, gymnasium, kitchen, and remodeled the original building.

“We had outgrown the grade school building and needed the expansion to keep the school vital,” Father Andy said. “Our goal now is to restore the endowment for the future.”

Father Andy explained that the leaders were able to draw down the money in the original endowment because the fund was managed privately and there were no restrictions. As of 2011, the endowment has been managed by the Catholic Community Foundation of Mid-Michigan (CCFMM) and only the interest is available on an annual basis.

The current campaign was launched with a sizable gift from the estate of parishioner and school alumnus Therese Nowak. Interest from the endowment will be used exclusively for the school including recruitment, training, programs, improvements and operations.

Another goal of the drive is to have 400 contributors. “Truly we want this to be the work of everyone, not just a few elites,” Father Andy said.

Tom Erickson, co-chair of the Endowment Committee and a nephew of Cardinal Hickey, said St. Brigid’s future is important because it is the only Catholic school that remains in Midland County.

“More than ever today we need Catholic values and Catholic schools,” he said. “They produce strong future citizens.”

Committee member Maureen Becker, who taught at St. Brigid’s for 18 years and was principal for 12 more, said the campaign is essential. “As principal I had the experience of working with very small budgets,” she said. “To know that there will be a dedicated amount for the school each year is huge.”

Becker said she is pleased with the progress of the campaign considering the turbulent economy. “I am seeing parishioners making sacrifices,” she said. “I think people are finally becoming aware of how important this endowment is to the future of our Catholic school.”

St. Brigid School had 135 students K-8 during the past school year. Enrollment is projected between 140 to 150 for the coming school year.

Father Andy is encouraged by the campaign. “The Endowment is a wonderful expression of trust and a way to sustain the life of our school, which is a vital part of our parish mission. We are making a final push to complete the journey.”

Written by Joan Ramm

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