| By Darci Swisher

Endowed fund supports school — now and in the future

Thanks to interest earned from an endowment trust established 30 years ago, St. Joseph Catholic School’s
operating expenses are offset each year.

“The driving force behind the original endowment was to have financial support for the school to ensure it would survive any financial crisis and still be able to provide a Catholic education in our community,” said Julia Mishler, principal of both the elementary and secondary campuses in Bryan.

St. Joseph’s endowment trust came about when a former St. Joseph pastor sold stock shares he had received for the required initial investment. Even with regular distributions for operating expenses and “exceptional” expenditures, with the permission of Bishop Joe Vásquez and the Catholic Foundation Board, the trust has grown from $800,000 to $1.9 million.

“The endowment has allowed us to stay competitive with teacher salaries over the last few years,” Mishler said. “As we strive to retain and recruit high-quality teachers, we are able to use the funds from the endowment to increase our teacher salaries and show how much we appreciate the work they do every day to achieve our goal of courageously developing disciples for the 21st century.” 

Income from the endowment also covered the financial shortfall from the 2020-2021 school year due to the pandemic.

Recognizing that more interest will accrue if more funds are invested in the endowed account, the school has hired a development director to promote the endowment trust as a way for alumni to give back to St. Joseph, especially through their estate plans. 

“Our hope is to raise the fund to at least $10 million over the next few years,” Mishler said. “With this financial foundation, we will be able to provide a rigorous and fulfilling Catholic education to students in our community at a very affordable tuition rate.” 

At $50 million, the endowment would fund the school’s entire operating budget each year on the interest alone. “That means, we could offer a Catholic education to any student interested at almost no cost at all,” she said.

Endowed funds like St. Joseph’s in the Catholic Foundation – Diocese of Austin are truly “gifts that keep on giving,” said Scott Whitaker, executive director.

“What makes an endowment unique is that its annual income is distributed for whatever purpose that fund was set up for, but its principal remains intact,” Whitaker said. “This means that an endowment can then keep generating more income to be distributed for years to come.”

The opportunity to establish an endowment — and take advantage of the diocese’s larger investment pool and professional fund management — is available to all parishes, schools, agencies and organizations in the diocese with an initial gift of at least $10,000. Distributions can begin once their value reaches $25,000. It is important to note that the Catholic Foundation – Diocese of Austin is separately incorporated and does not invest in companies or funds that are exploitative in nature, derive income from the destruction of human life or hold values in conflict with those of the Catholic Church.

Individuals can also set up their own separate named endowments with an initial gift of $25,000 or more, as long as they support the mission and ministries of the Diocese of Austin or its parishes, schools, agencies and organizations.

For information on how to contribute, or to set up a named endowment fund through the Catholic Foundation – Diocese of Austin, please contact Scott Whitaker at scott-whitaker@austindiocese.org or Dan Wierzbowski at dan-wierzbowski@austindiocese.org.

Darci Swisher is a freelance writer who has worked with the Catholic Spirit for the last three years. She and her husband live in Michigan.