Supporters Like You
The Amazing Impact of Supporters Like You
Meet other supporters like you who are committed to building up and strengthening Catholic faith communities in America’s poorest places.
Coming Full Circle
Loren Schillinger has a unique perspective on Catholic Extension. He was raised in a mission diocese, attending a church that Catholic Extension helped to fund…
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Loren Schillinger has a unique perspective on Catholic Extension. He was raised in a mission diocese, attending a church that Catholic Extension helped to fund. His professional years were spent in cities throughout the United States, finding new churches with each stop, and better grasping Extension’s commitment to build strong and welcoming parishes.
His final job was working in another mission diocese, seeing firsthand the extent of its reliance on Extension and the impact of this funding. When planning for his estate he decided to give back to the organization that he has come to appreciate deeply over his lifetime.
Schillinger grew up attending St. Ann Church in Vida, Montana, in the Diocese of Great Falls-Billings. He recalls his family receiving the monthly Extension magazine and picking up the Extension calendar at the back of the church. But more vividly, he remembers what a special place the church was for his family and neighbors. His grandfather, Joseph, a great grandson of a German immigrant, who homesteaded in Vida in 1913 with a wheat and barley farm, had helped to build the church with a Catholic Extension grant in 1933.
Schillinger’s faith was nurtured at the church. A priest came every two weeks for Mass and on alternate weeks they attended another mission church (15 miles away) or the parish church (30 miles away). During winter the church was heated only on Sundays. While often a cold place for the early morning Mass, for the 50 to 75 parishioners who called it home, St. Ann was the center of their lives.
Finding new churches
At age 18, when Schillinger left the family farm to pursue school and a career, he wanted to stay connected to his faith. Little did he know that this would mean finding several new churches, given how often he moved. With a chemical engineering degree from Montana State University in 1975 and a master of business administration degree from the University of Notre Dame in 1982, he worked in financial positions for FMC Corporation, Eli Lilly & Company and Dow AgroSciences in several places, including Pocatello, Idaho; Philadelphia; Lawrence, Kansas; Lafayette, Indiana; Roanoke, Virginia, and Indianapolis, Indiana. He retired in 2007.
In each location, Schillinger sought out Catholic communities. He experienced the Church in America across diverse urban and rural settings.
Working in a mission diocese
Finishing his first career, he headed back West to Cheyenne, Wyoming to be closer to his ailing father. He heard that the Diocese of Cheyenne needed help with its finances, so he began assisting the diocese’s chief financial officer with accounting, financial planning and budgeting. There he saw the huge role Catholic Extension played in supporting the diocese.
The diocese, which covers the entire state, was founded in 1887. Catholic Extension’s first grant to Cheyenne was in 1909. Over the years, Extension has granted more than $10 million (nearly $18 million in today’s dollars) to the diocese, including 130 grants for building and repairing churches.
In the last five years, Extension’s funding of more than $1.5 million to the diocese has supported seminarian education, campus and young adult ministries, priests’ salaries, Catholic school leadership and Hispanic ministry.
As a businessman, Schillinger saw how Extension guided and empowered the diocese. “The Diocese of Cheyenne would really struggle without Catholic Extension,” he said.
With Extension assistance, Schillinger attended fiscal management conferences for networking and training. In 2010 he became chief financial officer for Cheyenne, a position he held until his second retirement in 2015.
Schillinger moved to Denver and now attends Cure d’Ars Church, a multi-ethnic, inner-city parish, where he is on the finance council.
He recently put together an estate plan and chose three beneficiaries, including Catholic Extension. “For years, I have seen the vital work of Catholic Extension,” he said. “Little parishes wouldn’t exist without Extension’s help. Allowing them to have Mass, even once a month, is so important.”
He’s still grateful for St. Ann Church during his childhood. “Back then, I didn’t understand everything that Catholic Extension did, but I felt its impact every time I went to Mass,” he said. “Now I understand the scope of what it does. It helps in so many places.”
A Drop in the Ocean
Mostly our lives evolve gradually, but sometimes the twists and turns are sharper. Wayne Buchman knows the exact object, the moment in time…
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The object was a poster, hanging on the wall at his college in 1965, his senior year. The poster was calling young people to join Catholic Extension’s new program, Extension Lay Volunteers (ELVs). And the inspiration, he believes, was the Holy Spirit.
Growing up in Carlstadt, New Jersey — a small town that is a 12-minute train ride from Times Square in New York City — Buchman was the only child of a lively Italian mother and a reserved German father. In his early years, he had not ventured much outside of his state. But that poster at St. Peter’s College in Jersey City caught his attention. Adventure. Travel. Service.
But it also filled him with uncertainty. “I had no idea what to expect. I didn’t know how it would turn out. In the healthiest sense of the word, I had to ‘surrender’ to let God lead me,” he said.
After an orientation at Extension’s headquarters in Chicago, Buchman was assigned to work in campus ministry at St. Thomas More Chapel at the University of Oklahoma in Norman. As he arrived nervously, Father Bill Ross, the pastor, greeted him and said, “Love has brought you to Oklahoma!”
The Extension Lay Volunteers initiative began in 1960 as the Catholic Church was promoting the importance of lay workers. For 11 years more than 2,000 volunteers dedicated at least one year to working in mission dioceses across America.
Buchman had many responsibilities as a campus minister. He held faith formation meetings, coordinated retreats and knocked on dorm room doors to tell students, “Mass is Sunday at 9 a.m.”
“Campus ministry is an invitation to young people to become active Catholics,” he said. “It’s a really critical time in their lives. They need guidance and camaraderie.”
It turns out that year of service was an important time in Buchman’s life, too. He realized how important service was, how important his faith was and he fell in love with Oklahoma.
He did graduate studies at the University of Oklahoma and joined the faculty of Rose State University in Midwest City, Oklahoma. After 34 years of teaching English — a joyful, fulfilling career — he retired in 2006.
He now spends time renovating his home, reading and reflecting. “I think about my ELV experience all the time,” he said. “It was such a pivotal year for me. It changed my perspective. It changed my whole life.”
“We were doing something important with Catholic Extension. We were opening up opportunities for people. We were showing them new possibilities.”
Buchman recently reconnected with some fellow ELVs and with Catholic Extension. He generously made a gift to Extension from his parent’s estate and named Catholic Extension as a beneficiary of his estate.
“I want to make sure that the work of Catholic Extension carries on,” he said. “It impacted me so greatly, it impacted the people we served and it continues to impact people today.”
“Mother Teresa said, ‘We know what we’re doing is only a drop in the ocean. But without that drop, the ocean would be missing something.’ I couldn’t agree more.
In so many small ways, Catholic Extension is changing lives. Without it, something would be missing.”
The poster that Buchman saw 51 years ago was one of hundreds fastened to the hallways of St. Peter’s College. But that simple invitation and his willingness to accept made a lifetime of difference.
Mother Teresa said, ‘We know what we’re doing is only a drop in the ocean. But without that drop, the ocean would be missing something.’ I couldn’t agree more. In so many small ways, Catholic Extension is changing lives. Without it, something would be missing.
Donor Honors the Love that He Lost
John Kniola, a man of vast and colorful interests, donates to two places: his local church and Catholic Extension…
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John chose Catholic Extension because he believes the organization functions like he does – focusing on the basics and keeping it simple.
Hailing from northern Indiana, John attended Ray–Vogue School of Fine Arts and became a photographer. In Chicago he worked for a newspaper, took industrial photos for Pullman Company and did corporate and food photography.
But John craved a slower and quieter lifestyle. In 1987, he bought a farm in southern Indiana, in a town of 1,400 called Vevay along the Ohio River. The farm includes a beautiful log house heated by wood, a barn and a creek. Wild turkey, deer and coyote wander about and eagles soar above.
A few years later, he married Antoinette, nicknamed Toni and fondly called “Sweetie.” She was warm, fun–loving and active in the arts, serving as president of the board at Vevay’s historic Hoosier Theatre. “She was a peach,” he said.
As they happily settled into marriage, John pursued another career — in cooking — and became head chef for Archbishop Pilarczyk of Cincinnati, making the 58–mile commute each way to Cincinnati.
At age 56, John retired to concentrate on his other interests, including antique cars — he owns four and attends several car shows nationally every year — and to spend more time with Toni and riding his bike.
It was during a bicycling trip together in 2014 that his beloved wife of 22 years, fell off her bike and lost her life.
In his shock and grief, he searched for ways to find solace and to celebrate the legacy of his wife. In particular, John had received income from Toni’s family business and wanted to use it in a special way.
He had sent donations to Catholic Extension in previous years and always reads Extension magazine. When another Extension mailing arrived, he realized that this was the perfect partner. With Toni’s estate, he bought a charitable gift annuity.
“I have always liked Catholic Extension. The money goes directly to projects — without any waste – and helps in very simple but powerful ways,” he said. “It helps small parishes who are struggling. No one else does that.”
John appreciates Catholic Extension’s basic support, such as educating seminarians and subsidizing the salaries of priests and sisters.
“We need leaders to run the Church,” he added. “We must have people coming down the pipeline to keep the Church going.”
In addition, John is thankful for Catholic Extension’s efforts – in all of its ministries – to inspire new vocations. “It’s important to have priests and sisters around because if you never meet one, you’re not likely to become one.”
In addition to his generous donation, he has also named Catholic Extension as a beneficiary in his own will.
John remains active in Vevay, serving on three boards, kayaking and reading four books a week — but he misses his Sweetie.
He is grateful to honor her through Catholic Extension by assisting those in need. Her joyful and caring spirit continues.
A Donor Shares the Missionary Spirit of Catholic Extension
Long-time Catholic Extension donor and Legacy Club member Robert Buckley turned 80 years old on Palm Sunday…
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Long-time Catholic Extension donor and Legacy Club member Robert Buckley turned 80 years old on Palm Sunday. Just as Jesus entered into the city of Jerusalem on that holy day, Mr. Buckley has been contemplating entering the gates of heaven himself.
“I have been very fortunate all my life; I have lived my life to the best of my ability,” he says. “And I know that when I am called home to heaven, I can’t take my worldly possessions with me.”
A lifelong Catholic, Robert grew up in humble circumstances as the son of an Aurora, Illinois, fireman and a nurse. From 1962 to 1976, he was co-owner of the Aurora Cycle & Hobby Center, but he sold the store in his 40s and has been retired ever since in Big Rock, Illinois.
Robert first learned of Catholic Extension through Extension magazine. The work of Catholic Extension immediately resonated with him. Earlier in his life, he had considered becoming a missionary himself, but he was concerned that the challenges of that life were too much for him. However, Robert knew he wanted to do something to give back and to serve the needs of others. Catholic Extension was the perfect fit.
He believes strongly in Catholic Extension’s mission to assist Catholics living in remote areas, who struggle financially but who are deeply committed to their faith.
“I enjoy supporting efforts to maintain the infrastructure of the Catholic Church across the United States,” Robert says.
“Some of our rural parishes in Alaska might need roof repairs or four-wheel drive vehicles to make their rounds. Also, some of our Native American mission churches are the poorest in the country. They need our help and I am happy to help support the efforts to uplift them through Catholic Extension.”
In addition, Robert is interested in seminarians. He appreciates Catholic Extension’s Seminarian Endowment Challenge Initiative that helps mission dioceses expand their long-term financial capacity to fund seminarian education. “It is so important to have young, dedicated men who want to serve the church for the rest of their lives – they are the future of the Catholic Church. But often their background makes it difficult for them to afford the education. Catholic Extension provides assistance to them, and I enjoy being a part of that.”
A writer and poet as well as a lifelong fisherman, Robert enjoys fishing on land he owns in the Arkansas Ozarks as well as traveling to Hawaii, Mexico, Panama, Alaska and all around the United States and Canada. He also loves to camp and for many years was an Explorer Scout leader known for his campfire storytelling. As an adventurer, he is touched by the stories he reads in Extension magazine — of people living on the margins, in the hidden corners of our country, and making the best of their lives under difficult circumstances. His heart is with them.
Robert Buckley is grateful to the staff at Catholic Extension for helping him with his planned giving efforts. “They arranged the whole process and were simply wonderful,” he says.
It is so important to have young, dedicated men who want to serve the church for the rest of their lives – they are the future of the Catholic Church. But often their background makes it difficult for them to afford the education. Catholic Extension provides assistance to them, and I enjoy being a part of that.
She Volunteered to Help Others and Her Own Life Was Transformed
In 1965, when college senior Eleanor Rowe signed up to be an Extension Lay Volunteer, she had no idea what the future held…
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But she was interested in turning her faith into action. “This was the mid-’60s, and ‘lay apostolate’ was a big word then,” she said. Young people wanted to get involved and give back.
The Extension Lay Volunteer (ELV) program, which Catholic Extension ran from 1960 to 1971, provided an opportunity to do just that, sending young people to serve in mission dioceses across the country.
“When I look back, I can’t believe I signed up to go somewhere far away,” said Eleanor. She had grown up in a tiny town in upstate New York and attended college in nearby Albany. Becoming an ELV was a “big step for a small-town girl,” she said.
After ELV orientation in Chicago, Eleanor was sent to Rock Springs, Wyoming, then a town of about 10,000. Its residents included many second generation Eastern Europeans who had immigrated to Wyoming to work in the coal mines.
She spent two years in Rock Springs as a parish worker (“jack of all trades”), embedding herself in the community, working closely with the beloved parish priest and marveling at the landscape, from barren sand and sagebrush to the majestic Teton Mountains. “Neither were like the round, green mountains of upstate New York,” she said.
During this time, Eleanor also met her husband, Ray, who was from Rock Springs. They married in 1969 and lived all over the world while he served in the U.S. Army.
As an Army wife, Eleanor continued to live out her faith and volunteer in a variety of capacities. “I volunteered to be an ELV, and I’ve been volunteering ever since,” she said with a chuckle.
Whether they were living in Europe, Korea or the Middle East, Eleanor always found a church and got involved. “I’m still involved in the Military Council of Catholic Women,” she noted.
Throughout her globetrotting existence, Eleanor also maintained her relationship with Catholic Extension, financially supporting its ministries and, more recently, becoming a member of Catholic Extension’s Legacy Club. “People think of mission work as Africa or China. They don’t think of the U.S. What impresses me most is that we’re taking care of our own, and Catholic Extension has been leading the way for more than a century,” she said.
Eleanor also values Catholic Extension’s commitment to servicemen and women and their families. “Every year on Catholic Extension’s Christmas Wish List there’s something for the military, and we like to give to that,” she said.
Eleanor and Ray have finally made a permanent home in Colorado, but reflecting on the last 50 years, Eleanor is amazed at her journey. “It’s unbelievable,” she said. “You just don’t know where a path will lead. Being an ELV changed my life.”
Finding God Outdoors – Spiritual Awareness Through Nature’s Gifts
Jeanne Bereza’s email address is revealing. It has the words “bike” and “ski” combined…
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Jeanne Bereza’s email address is revealing. It has the words “bike” and “ski” combined. Whatever the season, she spends hours each week bicycling or cross-country skiing.
For 50 years, she has belonged to a sporting club, now called the Fox Valley Bicycle and Ski Club, near her house in St. Charles, Illinois. The club organized bike and ski adventures and social events. Jeanne is a part of its leadership.
“I love being outdoors, feeling the wind and hearing the birds,” she said. “It clears my mind, and I feel refreshed.”
The other benefit of her sporty life is that it helps her spiritual life. When she is outside, soaking in the elements, she reflects and prays. “How can one see all of nature’s beautiful creations and not believe in God?” she asked.
“I find inspiration from St Francis of Assisi, Pope John Paul II and Blessed Pier Giorgio – who all drew close to God in the outdoors,” she added.
She was raised in a Catholic family, was the oldest of four children and attended grade school at St. Patrick Parish, where she still belongs. Her parents both came from small farms and were hardworking and practical. Her father was a carpenter, and her mother was a teacher and master of the household.
After years of Girl Scout and 4-H activities while growing up, Bereza became a clinical lab technician. She worked at Advocate Sherman Hospital in Elgin for 40 years.
She first heard of Catholic Extension from her mother, who was a donor and an annuitant. Bereza remembers seeing Extension magazine and wanting to join, so in 1996 she became a donor as well.
“After reading stories of men from small towns and poor areas who felt a vocational call but couldn’t afford to attend seminary, I especially want to help seminarians,” she said. “It’s so hard to imagine a financial barrier to their calling.”
After retiring, Bereza met with a financial advisor to discuss her future. She decided to include Catholic Extension in her will and became a Catholic Extension Legacy Club member in 2017.
“When we reflect on the many blessings God gives to our lives, we realize how precious the gift of faith is. Our thankfulness leads us to share by witness, prayer, service and, when possibly, financially,” she said.
“I want to invest in the Church, which has played such a big role in my life,” she said. “With Catholic Extension we extend the outreach of the Church by supporting seminarians, priests and religious who serve in mission parishes – often covering many miles – and by encouraging small congregations who need a hand.”
“Additionally, Catholic Extension provides assistance for those affected by fire, flood, and hurricanes – including rebuilding churches, she said.
She appreciates Catholic Extension’s longevity. “Catholic Extension is tried and true, uses its financial resources wisely and will be there in the future. We can help mission dioceses now in this present time and after we leave our ‘earthly home’. It is a lasting investment,” she said.
“And the process to join is simple,” she added.
With financial plans wrapped up, Bereza enjoys her freedom. She is active at St. Patrick Church as a lector, eucharistic minister and member of the choir, a group she has served for more than 20 years. And she is always ready to take on an open road or field – by snowshoe, ski or bicycle.
With Catholic Extension we extend the outreach of the Church by supporting seminarians, priests and religious who serve in mission parishes – often covering many miles – and by encouraging small congregations who need a hand.
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