Saint Meinrad Archabbey and School of Theology (Indiana) is the recipient of bequests totaling nearly $27 million, resulting from longtime relationships with two wonderfully generous benefactors — Virginia Basso and Bernice Davey.

“These gifts demonstrate the importance of both patience and persistence in working with friends of the institution,” Dan Schipp, vice president at the school, stated. “We are committed to staying the course as we seek to match the needs of Saint Meinrad with the hearts of donors.”

Mrs. Basso became involved with Saint Meinrad more than twenty-five years ago, when she visited to find out more about the seminary that was educating priests for her late husband Raymond’s home diocese of Belleville, Illinois. Over the years, she visited often. “Mr. and Mrs. Basso always hoped to have a son who would become a priest,” Archabbot Lambert Reilly, OSB explained. “God never blessed them with children. Now their legacy will help prepare future priests for the Church for generations to come.” Mrs. Basso became good friends with several of the monks, finding Saint Meinrad a place of spiritual renewal and enrichment. She referred to Saint Meinrad as “my family.”

Mrs. Davey’s relationship with Saint Meinrad began in the early 1970s, when she and her husband, William, came for a retreat. Before long, she was visiting regularly, even after her husband died. Like Mrs. Basso, she became a member of Saint Meinrad’s two donor-recognition societies, The Einsiedeln Society and the Abbot Martin Marty Guild, often attending their special events and visiting with particular monks that she came to know. In addition, she was a twelve-year member of the Oblates of St. Benedict. She particularly enjoyed coming to Saint Meinrad during the Holy Week before Easter. She described Saint Meinrad as “my home away from home.”

“These gracious, faith-filled ladies gave generously to Saint Meinrad throughout their lives and now their charitable spirits will live on through these gifts. Their bequests will allow Saint Meinrad to continue and strengthen its work and ministry for the Catholic Church, which is what Virginia Basso and Bernice Davey wanted,” Archabbot Reilly stated.


Trading Hands

There has been a lot of talk in recent years about the $43.5 trillion that Center on Wealth and Philanthropy (CWP) researchers John Havens and Paul Schervish have predicted will pass between generations by the middle of this century. Less discussed, however, is the form that much of that wealth takes.

Planned-giving officers report that non-cash gifts are increasing because of donors’ efforts to counter stock-market losses of the past few years, the creativity of financial planners who see the value of these assets, and increased knowledge among the older population. Gifts of real estate are particularly popular among lower and intermediate level donors (net worth of less than $1 million).


Into the Mainstream

A survey conducted by the Washington, D.C.-based firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research found that the majority of U.S. evangelicals identify themselves as part of mainstream America while at the same time feeling they are “under siege.” The study was conducted for Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly, the PBS television program, and U.S.News & World Report and explored the ethnic, religious, and racial diversity among evangelicals, as well as their beliefs, values, and behaviors. For more about the survey and the Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly four-part series on evangelicals, go to the Religion and Ethics web site.

A study titled “Canadian Religious Beliefs and Practices” uncovered findings similar to the U.S. survey. The perception among evangelicals of “a general bias in Canadian society against the viewpoints that are held by committed Christians” is deeply entrenched. An amazing 74 percent of evangelical Protestants believe such a bias exists. For evangelical Catholics the figure drops somewhat to 64 percent and for all other Canadians it stands at 48 percent.


Suit Against Trinity Lutheran Seminary Settled in Texas

Insurance carriers for Trinity Lutheran Seminary have settled a long-standing civil suit filed against the school (John Doe vs. the ELCA et al). Trinity was one of five defendants in the case related to the sexual misconduct of Gerald Patrick Thomas, Jr., a graduate of the Columbus, Ohio, seminary and pastor at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Marshall, Texas, from 1999 to May 2001. The seminary’s portion of what the attorney for the victims labeled as the largest per-capita award per victim in any previous clergy sexual abuse case in the country’s history was $22 million.

The civil suit alleged that seminary officials did not respond to warning signs about Thomas when he was a student at Trinity and while he was on internship in 1996 in Wilson, Texas. From the point of Thomas’s arrest in 2001, seminary officials cooperated fully with law enforcement officials and the legal process, providing all files and information that were requested.

At their May 2004 meeting, Trinity’s board of directors discussed with faculty representatives and President Mark Ramseth whether seminary officials could have foreseen the criminal behavior of the former student. According to a news release circulated by the seminary, “The lawsuit has also prompted seminary personnel and the board to examine existing policies related to the review of incoming students and to issues of misconduct by students. While such policies have guided the seminary in making informed and faithful disciplinary decisions in the past, the school is committed to a rigorous updating and review process so that its policies will continue to serve the seminary and the church well in the future.”

The board of directors supported Ramseth’s expression of deep concern and empathy for those who suffered abuse by Thomas. Guided by this concern and compassion, the board voiced support for the seminary administration’s decision to direct its insurance carriers to settle the civil suit with the plaintiffs and avoid putting the plaintiffs and their families through a lengthy jury trial.

Referencing a complex procedure for examining and approving candidates for ministry that includes seminaries, synods, the church-wide structures of the ELCA, candidacy committees, and internship supervisors, Ramseth noted that the school “is in a partnership that makes us all vulnerable. Any system isn’t always going to serve the way we want. A system meant to be faithful failed,” he said. “Redemption, in part, can occur by having conversations with each other in a manner that is trusting and extends our understanding of God’s grace.”

Throughout the time of the lawsuit, the seminary administration, staff, and board held the victims of abuse in prayer. As Ramseth maintained, “Trinity Lutheran Seminary continues in its commitment that the school be a safe place for all persons.”


Changes at the Top

With her appointment in late fall 2003, Leah Gaskin Fitchue became the first woman to serve as president of Payne Theological Seminary (Wilberforce, Ohio), a 160-year-old institution sponsored by the African Methodist Episcopal Church. Prior to assuming the Payne presidency, she was president of the Gaskin Fitchue Group, a consulting firm specializing in leadership development and organizational and community transformation for church- and faith-based organizations.

The Board of Trustees at Asbury Theological Seminary (Wilmore, Kentucky) has tapped Jeffrey E. Greenway, District Superintendent of the Pittsburgh East District of the Western Pennsylvania Conference of the United Methodist Church since 1999 and a member of the seminary board, as the school’s next president. Greenway succeeds Maxie Dunnam, who is transitioning into the roles of chancellor and ambassador-at-large for the seminary following a decade in the presidency.

At its meeting in early February, the Board of Trustees at Evangelical School of Theology (Myerstown, Pennsylvania) named the successor to outgoing president Kirby N. Keller. The seminary’s fifth president will be Dennis Hollinger, who currently serves as vice provost, college pastor, and professor of Christian ethics at Messiah College in Grantham, Pennsylvania.

In late fall, Jim Holm was named president of Mennonite Brethren Biblical Seminary (Fresno, California), following a short stint as the school’s interim president. His predecessor Henry Schmidt has been named president emeritus of MBBS.

James McCrossen, an American Baptist minister and member of the board of directors at Central Baptist Theological Seminary (Kansas City, Kansas), is serving as interim president at the school. He follows Thomas E. Clifton, who announced his retirement in August 2003.

Dean K. Thompson, pastor of the 1,600-member First Presbyterian Church in Charleston, West Virginia, has been named the eighth president of Louisville (Kentucky) Presbyterian Theological Seminary. His appointment follows a more than eighteen-month search that began following the resignation of John M. Mulder.

The Board of Trustees of Princeton (New Jersey) Theological Seminary has named Iain R. Torrance as the institution’s sixth president. Torrance, currently moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, dean of the Faculty of Arts & Divinity at the University of Aberdeen, and master of Christ’s College, Aberdeen, succeeds Thomas W. Gillespie, who will retire on June 30 following a twenty-one-year presidency.

The inauguration of Jerry McLain Wallace as the fourth president of Campbell University and Divinity School (Buies Creek, North Carolina) took place on April 2. A longtime member of the Campbell faculty and administration, Wallace served most recently as the James R. Coates Professor of Religion and Society at the Campbell Divinity School and as special assistant to outgoing president Norman A. Wiggins, who continues at the University as chancellor and professor of law.

Following many years on the faculties of several law schools, Reginald Whitt, OP, joined the Pontifical Faculty at the Dominican House of Studies (Washington, D.C.) as its president in the fall of 2003. He replaces Thomas McCreesh, OP.

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