April 1, 2023 | Local News
Fr. Stephen Van Lal Than

​Several parishes of the Bowling Green Deanery are represented during the Feb. 24, 2023 presentation of the Team Kentucky Nonprofit Assistance Fund award. (Left to right) Joann Franssen-Gilliam, a finance council member of Sacred Heart Parish in Russellville; Fr. Ken Mikulcik, pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in Russellville; María Molina, Hispanic/Latino minister for St. Mary Parish in Franklin; Fr. Tom Buckman, pastor of St. Mary Parish in Franklin and Christ the King Parish in Scottsville; and Kentucky governor Andy Beshear. COURTESY OF ST. MARY PARISH

A $4 million gift: Parishes, others, receive ‘windfall’ from state’s nonprofit assistance fund


Seventy-nine parishes and diocesan entities within the Diocese of Owensboro recently received a total of about $4 million from the Team Kentucky Nonprofit Assistance Fund, which distributed monies leftover from COVID-19 pandemic assistance for the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

In fall 2022, Molly Thompson, a data system coordinator for the diocese, had learned of this program while routinely researching grants.

“Molly saw it looked promising, so she sent it to me,” said Ray Purk, the diocese’s chief financial officer.

In researching, Purk and his office found that the Kentucky General Assembly had set aside $75 million to be distributed to non-profit organizations across the state. The $75 million, called the Team Kentucky Nonprofit Assistance Fund, represented some funding still flowing from federal dollars appropriated during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Michelle Roberts, the manager of internal audit and accounting systems for the diocese, told The Western Kentucky Catholic that the criteria for the program fit well into the mission of the diocese’s various ministries.

The applicants had to serve the citizens of the Commonwealth, and either had to be an arts organization or had to serve one of the following populations: people living at or below the federal poverty level; people experiencing homelessness; communities of color; minimum or low-wage employees displaced by business closures; older adults living at/below the federal poverty level; people who are immunocompromised or fragile; immigrant and refugee communities; people with limited English proficiency; people with disabilities; people without health insurance; victims of domestic violence or child abuse; children in need of services; or workers without access to paid sick leave.

The state would review applications on a first-come, first-served basis, so time was of the essence.

Purk reached out to the parishes and other entities, alerting them to the opportunity so that they could send necessary paperwork to the finance office. The decision was also made that despite filing on behalf of the parishes and entities, the diocese would not assess any of these dollars.

Fr. Emmanuel Udoh, pastor of Rosary Chapel in Paducah and St. Mary Parish in La Center, speaks during the Jan. 27, 2023 presentation of the Team Kentucky Nonprofit Assistance Fund award to his community. COURTESY OF FR. EMMANUEL UDOH

After receiving the needed paperwork, the finance office finished filing for the program by the Oct. 1 deadline.

Bishop William F. Medley submitted a letter to accompany the applications, in which he wrote of the diocese’s mission “to continue the work begun by Jesus Christ: to preach the Gospel of love and mercy, to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, welcome the immigrant, to ease suffering whenever possible and to provide for those who are most vulnerable.”

He went on to credit the selfless work of many, including that of Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Owensboro, Gasper River Catholic Youth Camp and Retreat Center, and Resurrection Cemetery – whose services include assisting low-income families and those who have suffered the loss of an infant.

“I am proud to say that the services we provide are not limited by creed or color,” wrote the bishop. “Our goal is always to minister to those who are in the greatest need.”

A few months later, Purk’s team learned that their hard work had paid off.

On Dec. 9, 2022 – the anniversary of the founding of the Diocese of Owensboro in 1937 – Purk emailed the parish and diocesan entity leaders that their checks were in the mail.

The timing was a happy coincidence; Purk said he did not recall at the time that it was the diocese’s birthday.

“Given the small filing window of only two months, we knew we had to gather the information in an organized and efficient manner,” he told the WKC. “After establishing a contact within the Public Protection Cabinet, the state entity charged with administering the program, we were able to submit all 79 applications and gain 100% approval before the funds ran out.”

In a letter to the pastors of parishes receiving a check, Bishop Medley wrote that “for all our parishes this represents an unexpected windfall. If your parish is still catching up from the effects of the pandemic, then I am pleased this can help you balance things.”

For parishes who were not financially struggling, the bishop offered some suggestions.

One recommendation was sharing their gift with Catholic Charities’ recovery work in rebuilding homes lost in the December 2021 tornadoes. Another suggestion was to work with other parishes to create a fund for future use when a parish might face an extraordinary need or declining demographics.

All of these choices, however, were left up to the recipients.

Roberts is pleased that these efforts have been able to help the people of the Diocese of Owensboro.

“Each of the 79 parishes and diocesan entities that we applied for received a check,” she said. “Twenty-nine percent of them received the highest amount available, which was $100,000.”

Originally printed in the April 2023 issue of The Western Kentucky Catholic.

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