Cares – New Coronavirus Stimulus Package May Affect Your Giving: The CARES Act

New Coronavirus Stimulus Package May Affect Your Giving: The CARES Act

We recognize with the constantly changing COVID-19 situation around the world, this is an unprecedented time for everyone — a time, for many, that is filled with uncertainty. Our prayers go out to each of you. The Friars are grateful for your generous support of our ministries over the years. As we adapt to our new reality, we would like to bring to your attention new tax rules for charitable giving. In times like these, we believe it is important to provide you with helpful information about how you can help ensure the friars’ ministry will continue far into the future.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) was enacted on March 27, 2020. The Cares Act contains incentives that encourage continued charitable contributions in 2020. Below, we offer a few key points to consider as you plan your continued support and make plans to reach out to your financial advisor.

Like you, the Province of Our Lady of Consolation is adapting and changing in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and accompanying economic uncertainty. With your help the friars can continue to improve lives in the face of the coronavirus crisis and beyond.

Please consult your financial advisor before making any tax, legal, financial planning or investment decisions.

Thank you for all you do to support the ministries of the friars in this ever-changing world.

Peace be with you,

Shaunna Graf, Director of Major Gifts and Planned Giving

(812) 923-5250

Key Points of The CARES Act for Giving Charitable Gifts

  • Deduct up to $300 ($600 per couple) from your Adjusted Gross Income (AGI), whether or not you itemize deductions.

Example: When they filed their 2019 tax returns, Robert and Mary were not able to take a tax deduction for the $600 donation they made to the Student Friars Fund in 2019. When Robert and Mary make their $600 donation to the Student Friars Fund in 2020, even though they will take the standard deduction rather than itemizing, they can now receive an above the line “ income deduction” which reduces their taxable income by $600.


  • Deduct up to 100% of your AGI for the year 2020 when you make a cash gift

Example: Karen wants to donate to the Alpha and Omega Fund for Senior Friars and Student Friars. Karen has $80,000 of AGI for 2020 and would like to give the friars $10,000. For this year only, the CARES Act allows a 100% charitable contribution deduction for Karen’s $10,000. Karen can also increase her AGI by converting her traditional IRA to a Roth IRA. This conversion allows Karen to accomplish two goals at the same time: get an even larger charitable contribution deduction in 2020 and pay no federal income tax on the Roth IRA conversion.


  • Corporations’ 10% Giving Limit Increased to 25% for 2020

Example: Delicious Chicken restaurant makes donations of their delicious chicken to the Franciscan Kitchen in Louisville, Kentucky providing for the nourishment of the 400 daily hungry guests who are in need. In 2020, Delicious Chicken will be able to donate and take a deduction for 15% more of their Delicious Chicken in 2020.


  • Required Minimum Distributions from your IRA will be waived for 2020

In 2020, you can still donate up to $100,000 from your IRA to the friars’ ministry without reporting the distribution as income.

Laudato Sí – A Call To Revisit Pope Francis’s Gift To Us And Mother Earth On The 5th Anniversary

By Friar Wayne Hellmann OFM Conv.

An examination of conscience is appropriate on this fifth anniversary, May 24th, 2020. Remember the excitement after Pope Francis’ election? At least some friars spoke that the Franciscan Moment had arrived. Then, two years later, he handed that moment to us on a platter, the gift of Laudato Sí.

Not only was that social encyclical the longest and most comprehensive of any other encyclical in modern time, but it was also the first to draw in a pronounced way from Franciscan sources (Francis and Bonaventure). Little did St. Francis know his hymn to Brother Sun would enter papal magisterium.

Pope Francis addressed his message to every human person on the planet. During the last five years, it has been the most widely read and most often quoted papal document in history. Far beyond the Catholic world and deep into the global Catholic world, it has been enthusiastically received. There is a notable exception: North American Catholics. Is this hesitancy, I wonder, also the reality among us North American Friars, even after the pope later declared care of creation as the eighth work of mercy?

Institutionally, we have made progress with solar panels and geothermal heating/cooling. Yet, it is now time to ask ourselves how deeply and effectively this Magisterial teaching seeps into the practical consciousness of our own personal lives. As Pope Francis later commented: “Civilization requires energy, but energy must not destroy civilization.”

During these spring days of sheltered silence here at the Mount, I wake up to the singing of birds. By an evening walk in the forest, full concert swells. Last year I did not notice. Maybe during these stay at home days, our winged brothers and sisters enjoy a fresher breath of air. Would that we could completely cease our addictive chain smoking of CO2 and diesel fumes. As we celebrate the days of Easter and Pentecost, let us ponder the beauty and sacredness of “the fruit of the earth.”, as we pray during the offertory of the Mass.

If you have not read Laudato Sí, I encourage you to do so. If you have read it, give it a second read. Pope Francis’s gift to us and the planet we inhabit remains more relevant than ever.

We gave away over 400 trees at our Franciscan Earth Care Intiative/Laudato Sí Tree Give-away!

Prophets of a Future Not Our Own

By Friar Pedro Lopez OFM Conv.

While in Postulancy, before knowing who St. Oscar Romero was, I had heard of an Archbishop martyred in Central America. However, I didn’t know who he was nor what he did. Years later, not only have I had the opportunity to visit his tomb at the Cathedral in downtown San Salvador, El Salvador, but I also call San Salvador home. It is where I live in one of our friaries and attend the University of Central America.

Now, the month of March reminds me very much of the life of San Oscar Romero. Since his martyrdom on March 24, 1980, this month has become, year after year, a space for meditation, contemplation, reflection, remembrance, and enlightenment of the martyred Archbishop’s life for myself and many of those familiar with his story. His legacy is rich in implications of many kinds: socio-political, historical, educational, and moral.

His moral legacy, in particular, has become an essential foundation of my beliefs. It gives me an awareness and clarity to the simple fact; our commitment to others is vital. Having a clear understanding that we are committed to others and their problems, losses, needs, sufferings, joys, laughter, and victories is of considerable significance to humanity and one of his values I hold most close. His legacy has taught me many values. These values are a matter of conscience, and bring a better understanding of what is good or bad, human or merciless.

My time in CPE and Mt. Carmel in El Paso, TX, provided me the privilege to be close with the sick. Now in El Salvador, I have been able to again be close and experience something Romero called “el sentir con la gente” (to feel with the people). Through my experiences, I have found a more profound identification and closeness with the sick and all those who suffer. Within a new context in which I live, I’m connecting my beliefs with the people of God.

Another phrase from Monseñor Romero that captivates me is “Si me matan, resucitaré en el pueblo…” (“If they kill me, I will be reborn...”) This goes hand in hand with John’s scripture passage, “unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit.” Monseñor Romero’s legacy continues alive in the people of El Salvador. The work he did while alive continues through the people of today. I see how the people in our Conventual parish “Jesus of the Merciful” come together to help those in need. I see the people show solidarity and union. I see Romero’s fallen seed in full bloom.

Romero’s Prayer

This prayer was first presented by Cardinal Dearden in 1979 and quoted by Pope Francis in 2015.

It helps, now and then, to step back and take a long view.
The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts, it is even beyond our vision.
We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work. Nothing we do is complete, which is a way of saying that the Kingdom always lies beyond us.
No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith.
No confession brings perfection.
No pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No program accomplishes the Church’s mission.
No set of goals and objectives includes everything.
This is what we are about.
We plant the seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces far beyond our capabilities.
We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.
This enables us to do something, and to do it very well.
It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest.
We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker.
We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs.
We are prophets of a future not our own.

Reaping the Harvest

The Franciscan Kitchen Celebrates It's 40th Anniversary

In February, we celebrated four decades of feeding the hungry throughout the Louisville, KY community at the 40th Anniversary of the Franciscan Kitchen (formerly Franciscan Shelter House).
Friar James Fields began a ministry intent on helping those in need and fed seven meals the first day they served lunch at the shelter house. Inspired by Brother Jim’s compassion, an extraordinary group of generous volunteers(including at least one of our friars most days) carry on his ministry, serving on average 400 meals daily. It, like many of our friar’s ministries, started small and was nurtured by the friars and their supporters. Now fully matured, it supports itself and works as its own, individual, organization.

The celebration included a citation of appreciation from State Representative Attica Scott and the Kentucky House of Representatives, the dedication and blessing of the dining room in memory of Brother Jim, and shared memories with those who have volunteered over the years. What an honor and a privilege to serve those in need then, now, and in the future.

Reflections From the Greenhouse

As I reflect on the concluding stages of my initial formation in the novitiate, I can’t help but think of how God always manages to surprise us. “Why not have everyone in the world share this experience of novitiate with you, even if it is just for some months?” During this time of self-isolation from our day to day activities, I would like to share my experience and reflections in this, and hopefully share my positive outlook during this “world-wide time out.”

When I first started my novitiate, I was pretty overwhelmed by the amount of time I could sit in the silence and how long it seemed, I remember that one single day would feel like two. Housework and personal hobbies kept me busy. Having a proper diet and developing an exercise routine certainly helped pass the time. However, as much as we would like to fill our day with an endless combination of housework and hobbies, let us not forget, this opens up a window to elevate our prayer life and to be thankful. Through my experience, I have grown to admire and respect those who willingly choose this isolated way of life.

My hope for myself and others is when we feel hopeless and gloominess that can radiate from our day to day let us look toward the tree of life, the one that created it all and admit that we are afraid. Let us make this reality our own Gethsemane, going to God in our distress for fear of what would happen but openness to the Father’s will.

Cultivating the Seed

As young friars progress in their journey from vocation to formation. Formation directors friar Gary Johnson OFM Conv. and friar Paul Schloemer OFM Conv. share what they do and their experiences tending to young friars as they watch them grow and mature.

By Friar Gary Johnson OFM Conv.

My co-director friar Andy Martinez is known for saying that in his experience, “Formation works.” Formation is the ministry that we’ve been called to, helping new members of our community in their vocational and ministerial discernment of our life. He’s mentioned this in several homilies here at our formation house, San Damiano Friary here in San Antonio, Texas. He’ll begin with how he noticed this growth taking place when he was a friar student years ago. He develops this concept with an invitation to us, his gathered listeners, to patience and perseverance in the process of our own continued growth and discernment.

Both Andy and I look back upon our gradual growth as friars, to remind ourselves that it was over time, and in response to God’s call in conjunction with the ministry of our formation directors, and their patience with us and challenges to us, that we moved to greater maturity as friars. We see this same process taking place in the men to whom we minister. Whether it be the greater openness that one of our friars in Formation begins to reveal by going deeper during faith sharing. Or, the greater sense of self-less giving of one brother to another in service while the other is in need, these men in our formation process give us hope. While there comes a time for decision making, vocational discernment indeed takes time; it cannot and must not be rushed. Our ministry as formation directors calls us always to find a balancing between encouraging our friar students toward a more formal commitment to our lives and giving them the space to grow in adult maturity as a reply to God’s call.

It is, indeed, a privilege for us to minister to these men sensing a call to our life. They give us hope great hope.

By Friar Paul Schloemer OFM Conv.

Peace and all good! When I was the Vocation Director for the Province, people used to ask me what exactly a vocation director did. I would even get this question from Diocesan priests who were the vocation directors for their diocese because their model of handling vocations tended to be quite different. They would generally accompany their seminarians from the moment they expressed interest in their eventual ordinations. I, on the other hand, would glibly respond (and if you know me, most of my responses tend toward the glib), “I just bring ‘em in and hand ‘em off.” And the Friar to whom I would “hand ‘em off” was the Formation Director.

Now, I am that guy that gets the handoff. And I love it.

All of us, beginning with good Catholic families, to good parishes and the excellent examples of many priests and religious, and through the work of the Vocation Director, are involved in the “planting” of the seeds of a vocation to ministry in the Church. But once that person (young man in the case of the Conventual Franciscans) makes that leap into the Call, it is the Formation Director that is primarily responsible for cultivating that seed. Through classes, mentoring, correction, and mostly example, that tiny whisper that the Lord uses to call us, can be formed into a conviction of a Gospel life as a Friar.

As the budding of new flowers belies the current Covid-19 pandemic and gives us Easter hope that life will always triumph over death, the fine young men I have the privilege to form also are a great sign of hope. They certainly have their challenges. They, like all of us, struggle to find their way in the world. But, like the other signs of Spring giving testimony to the presence of our Creating God, they continuously grow toward the light of Christ and offer themselves over and over to that light. Perhaps not all of them will end up as solemnly professed Franciscans. Perhaps, God will call them to some other way of life. But I, as should we all, thank God that their willingness to say yes, is proof that Christ is still active in our Church, and hope “Springs” eternal!

Seeds of Hope

By Friar Mario Serrano OFM Conv.

Come, Holy Spirit, come and make us notice Spring and Resurrection.

Spring has arrived, and God once again is revealing love and resurrection. We cannot ignore that we are living in a unique time. Lent is over, and we are making our way through Easter Season towards Pentecost, yet we are still required to make the sacrifice of remaining physically distant from one another and sheltered in place. We have experienced a sudden halt. No longer do we find ourselves teaching, learning, running, administering, in the routine we have called life. Often, we found ourselves with little time and not enough energy for awareness. Let us not be caught unaware of Spring and Resurrection. As we are now being forced to see life through a new lens and rely on our creativity and our imaginations, let us not forget to see the gifts of the Holy Spirit. The same Spirit that transformed death into Resurrected Life and empowered the disciples.

Fr. Mario Serrano celebrates Mass at Ysleta Mission Church in El Paso, TX Photo Credit: Al Baeza

I am always excited to hear about the early Christian community during the Easter Season being so bold as they go and proclaim the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Yet, we cannot overlook that our early Christian brothers and sisters also found themselves “behind closed doors” (John 20). In the upper room with locked doors, they too most likely sat in doubt, despair, and disappointment feeling exhausted after witnessing the condemnation, cruelty, and crucifixion. A mental and emotional shutdown, as hope has been hijacked by havoc and fear and has frozen their lives. Nevertheless, the unimaginable happens, Jesus Christ, the Resurrected One, appears in their midst and says: “Peace be with you.”

Fear kept the early disciples behind closed doors as safety has kept us behind our closed doors. But even within our sheltering in place for the sake of safety, this doesn’t mean that we are to lounge around and wait with our thoughts and emotions. God is whispering new life inside of us, but we must let go of our preoccupations and obsessions. We must trust! The Risen One is desiring an encounter with us and is also lovingly saying to us, “Peace be with you.” May these words give us great comfort and allow us to breathe in the Spirit of New Life. May you and I join the hope-filled voices of our ancestors of faith and the voices of our friars as we are continuing to find bold ways of singing our anthem, Jesus Christ is Risen, Alleluia, Alleluia!