Estate gift is largest in the history of the Catholic Church in North Carolina
An unexpected windfall has come to St. Barnabas Church through the generosity of a couple that quietly left the parish $3.6 million after their deaths. It is the single largest estate gift in the history of the Catholic Church in North Carolina.
Dennis Kushler passed away last October at the age of 84. He and his wife Mary had been members of the Arden parish since retiring to the area in 2003. Mary Kushler died in 2014, and after Dennis Kushler’s death, the parish learned that the Kushlers had made arrangements in their will to leave an endowment of more than $3.6 million to the church they called home.
It is the largest estate gift in either the Diocese
of Charlotte or the Diocese of Raleigh, according to diocesan officials – including any gifts to the dioceses or any diocesan entity.
The Kushlers’ endowment will provide the parish with an estimated $175,000 annual income initially, and it will grow over time.
It is a general purpose endowment, so the money can be used to help in whatever way the parish decides.
Not much is known about the Kushlers, as they came to St. Barnabas Church in their retirement years after having been registered members of Immaculate Conception Church in Hendersonville. They had no children and had been married for 20 years.
Father Adrian Porras, pastor of St. Barnabas Church, celebrated both Kushlers’ funeral Masses at St. Barnabas Church.
“We at St. Barnabas are so fortunate to receive such a significant endowment from the Kushlers,” Father Porras said. “Dennis and his wife Mary were members of St. Barnabas for some time. Unfortunately, because of health reasons they were not very active in the parish when I arrived in 2008. Nevertheless, their amazing generosity to our parish is deeply appreciated.”
Jim Kelley, director of development for the Charlotte diocese, is grateful for the Kushlers’ unexpected gift to the parish of nearly 1,000 registered households in the Asheville metro area.
“We’ve known since 1998 that the Kushlers were going to do something for the Church with their estate, but we didn’t know exactly what they were going to do,” Kelley said. “We are so grateful for this transformative gift.”
The endowment will be administered through the Diocese of Charlotte Foundation. Established in 1994, the foundation has grown to encompass 243 endowments and more than $39 million in total assets.
To date, more than 900 people have indicated that they are making gifts to the Church in their estates, anywhere from the thousands to the millions of dollars, Kelley said.
“We are finding more and more people in the diocese are remembering the Church and the diocese in their estates,” he said. “They want to leave a legacy to their faith.”
Endowments, he noted, provide an ongoing source of support, as the principal funds remain intact and the recipient entity receives funds from the income.
“What Mr. and Mrs. Kushler did will have an impact on that parish forever,” he said.
“We encourage people to commit to stewardship as a way of life. It involves people giving their time, their talents and their treasure in service to the Church. An estate gift enables people to give of their treasure after their death,” Kelley said.