The gift that keeps on giving


RobertWifeMcDevitt Grant program enters second year

By Katherine Long
Sun associate editor

   Father Tom Ryan remembers Robert and Catherine McDevitt fondly. He knew the Binghamton couple well from his many years working in the area and from St. James Church in Johnson City, where he served from 1990 to 2005 and where the McDevitts were parishioners. Like others who knew the McDevitts, Father Ryan recalls them as quiet, kind, caring people.

   “Bob and Kay were deeply devoted Catholics with a great love for the church and its mission,” he said. “They wanted to keep that mission alive and growing.”

   The McDevitts passed away within months of each other in 2008, but they left behind a legacy that is indeed helping to advance the mission of the church they loved: a bequest from their estate to the Diocese of Syracuse with an estimated value of $30 million.

   The McDevitts directed that several specific funds be created; in addition to other areas, the McDevitts directed funds be used for “the purposes, objectives and goals of the diocesan HOPE Appeal.” In 2010 Bishop Robert Cunningham approved use of these funds to support evangelization programs and food pantry/food bank programs.

    In 2011, parishes of the diocese were invited to apply for the inaugural McDevitt Grants. Of the $350,000 available, $100,000 was earmarked for family life evangelization programs, $100,000 for youth evangelization programs and $150,000 for food bank programs. The maximum award amount was $10,000 for each evangelization grant and $7,500 for each food bank grant.

   The grant program was created in an effort “to make sure that the parishes could share in some of the purposes of these funds,” said diocesan director of development Kit Parker. The grant areas were chosen because they reflected needs within the diocese, he said.

   The diocese distributed 54 grants to 43 parishes (some parishes were awarded multiple grants) in 2011, funding a diverse range of initiatives. Among them was St. Paul’s Church in Rome, which received an evangelization grant. They have used their grant to support, among other activities, their “journey group” for young children and a “welcome home” program for adults in partnership with St. Mary-St. Peter’s and St. John’s Churches in Rome. Pastor Father Robert Kelly says that the programs, which aim to bring families into or back to the church, have been successful and that the parish will be applying for a grant again this year in an effort to “keep planting seeds.”

   St. Joseph’s Church in Oswego was also the recipient of an evangelization grant, part of which is being used to build an interactive website for the parish. The website, which was developed from scratch and is almost up and running, will make finding the church and learning more about its programs easier in an increasingly internet-savvy world. Director of faith formation Pat Barnett said that St. Joseph’s would also be applying for another grant this year in hopes of securing a moveable SMART board (an interactive whiteboard) for use in its youth and adult faith formation programs.

   Virtually all parishes that applied last year received a grant, Parker said. This year, however, he is expecting the program to be more competitive.

   “I think [parishes that didn’t apply last year] found that the parishes have done well with providing programs and services, and as a result it’s generated a broader interest in the program,” he said.

   The grant application process is very straightforward. To be eligible for either grant the applicant must be a parish, not a person or a partner organization; to receive an evangelization grant, the applicant parish must also have met or exceeded its most recent HOPE Appeal goal. The parish submits a brief application that describes the project or program, how the project supports the intent of the grant area, what experience the parish has in the described project, what the projected outcomes are, what it will take to make the project self-supporting and plans for increasing outcomes over time. There is also a simple budget worksheet that accompanies the application.

   The applications are reviewed by groups of content experts who have experience in the grant areas. The applications are rank-ordered and sent to the Pastors Advisory Committee for review. Once approved, the committee makes its recommendations to the bishop, who grants final approval for fund distribution.

   The diocesan Office of Stewardship and Development will send detailed information on the grants and the application process to parishes by March 31. Applications will be due April 27, with review beginning May 1. Successful applicants will be notified by June 15 and funds distributed by June 25. Information will also be available on the diocesan website (; click on the HOPE Appeal logo) and by calling the office.

   “I urge all [parishes] to apply,” Parker said. “These are funds that were made available so that parishes could participate in the good works made possible by the McDevitt bequest.”

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