The Catholic Foundation names new president
By Jean Torkelson
The Catholic Foundation of Northern Colorado, the indispensible financial steward in the Denver Archdiocese, has chosen as its new president and CEO a leader who combines the experience of a corporate financial executive with a calling to serve the Church.
Deacon Steve Stemper, who takes over Nov. 1, has 31 years’ experience in leadership and management for private sector companies, and served most recently as interim CFO for the Archdiocese of Denver. He also is a permanent deacon at St. Thomas More Parish in Centennial. He and his wife, Cathy, have four children.
“Steve’s talents have helped him to serve well as a deacon and as a leader in business, and they make him ideal for this role,” Archbishop Samuel Aquila said, praising the choice.
Deacon Stemper, 54, succeeds Gerald “Bud” Laber, who is retiring after five years as head of the foundation. Laber, 69, is widely recognized for building the foundation’s solid financial platform, which provides millions of donation dollars to Catholic parishes, schools, the seminaries and for humanitarian organizations and other ministries of the Church throughout northern Colorado.
The Catholic Foundation, an independent Colorado nonprofit organization, was formed in 1998 to raise, manage and distribute funding to programs, agencies and parishes that serve the Catholic Church in northern Colorado. (See accompanying story on Page 16.)
For Deacon Stemper, the opportunity to combine faith and work is the opportunity to build bridges between the foundation’s two invaluable constituents—those who give and those who receive. During recent interviews with the Denver Catholic Register, both Deacon Stemper and Laber pointed out that the two constituencies serve each other in profound ways, both practical and spiritual.
“Those who provide the help will be blessed, and those who receive the help will be blessed too—because God will not be outdone in generosity,” Deacon Stemper said.
But how best to express that crucial mission to the world? One day, as he was sitting in a business forum, a light went on.
“I was sitting in a meeting when it came to me—‘Helping populate heaven.’ That’s what The Catholic Foundation is all about! And that’s what my ministry is about, and what my life is about.”
Helping people connect
Still, Deacon Stemper had to resolve a major question before he decided to take on leadership of the foundation: “Do I want my ministry to be my job?”
He already had a full diaconal ministry. It had grown out of a personal faith journey that began in earnest when his wife, Cathy, converted in 1991 and the couple went on a pilgrimage to Medjugorje. Ordained in 2000, the challenge of balancing family and ministry helped define his own diaconal calling. Today, he concentrates on helping with the needs of couples and youths, as well as in men’s ministry and faith education.
After much prayer—and the arrival of Archbishop Aquila, a man he already deeply respected—Deacon Stemper saw how his experience in ministry and as a strategic planner worked together.
“The Archdiocese of Denver could not do the ministries it’s doing today without the work of The Catholic Foundation,” Deacon Stemper said. “I’m so grateful to our donors who contributed in such a way that the foundation has in excess of $120 million in assets to provide for the needs of the archdiocese.”
Noting that each year the foundation funds parishes and countless programs large and small, he added: “I think people will naturally want to be part of that mission. And I think my role is about helping connect people to the Church.”
Deacon Stemper also wants to inspire people to think of the foundation as they plan their gift giving.
“People naturally think of their colleges and universities as places to give substantial gifts and that’s great for worldly learning,” he said. “But we would like them to also think about giving to The Catholic Foundation, which is about helping to populate heaven. Think what a long-lasting benefit that is … it’s about the vision of the Church, to build the body of Christ.”
On to the future
In 2008, Catholic leaders, including Archbishop Charles Chaput, who was key to the foundation’s launch, encouraged Laber to become president.
The Catholic Foundation, which in terms of assets was the third largest of its kind in the nation when Laber assumed the reins, has remained so and has realized additional growth under his leadership. Laber stressed that the foundation has been a collaborative effort with the board of trustees and staff, “to put faith in action.”
Laber hopes the foundation continues to build awareness of its planned-giving program by showing Catholics the value of expressing their generosity to the Church through gifts by wills, trusts, annuities, life insurance and other gifts.
The foundation is also open and eager to hear donor ideas, and to link organizations with the appropriate donors. For example, a donor proposal to support the needs of retired priests has been implemented.
Then there is the foundation’s ongoing goal of strengthening its relationship with parishes, which Laber relished: “I have really enjoyed working with pastors and other members of the clergy.”
As Deacon Stemper put it, “This is really about living out a spirit of gratitude for all the gifts God has given us—and then returning a portion of that to God.”
Jean Torkelson: 303-715-3122; www.twitter.com/DCRegister