Written by David Brooks
I write this reflection during the Lenten season in which the Church calls us to prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. I particularly want to reflect on almsgiving as a spiritual exercise in my life.
As I look back on my faith journey, I have come to see that almsgiving began many years ago for me, when I first started to tithe, giving 10 percent of my gross income to support my parish and charities that were meaningful to me.
My almsgiving has since taken many forms — from a career as a hospice chaplain, serving those at the end of of their lives and the families and friends who grieve them, to service to the poor and marginalized through my work with the Ignatian Volunteer Corps in New England.
I serve on staff at My Brother’s Keeper in Easton, Mass. We provide food, furniture and Christmas assistance to all families who need it. No questions asked. Three times a week, I drive a van with two or three volunteers aboard, and deliver food and goods to people who really need the help.
Often I am asked to pray with the many Cape Verdean families who receive the food, so my involvement as the leader of English-speaking charismatic prayer groups in the Archdiocese of Boston comes in handy.
All of this I see as part of almsgiving. Giving back — time, treasure, talent. So when my parents passed away recently and left me and my four siblings an inheritance, I didn’t think twice about sharing their gift as alms to organizations that do good for others, and have done good for me.
I wanted to be a responsible steward of this gift from my parents. That’s when the idea of a charitable annuity came to me very naturally as a way to give back to institutions or causes I believed in and loved. I wanted these institutions to keep going and growing, because they had been so important in my life. So I established three annuities. The first was with my school of theology, for which I am so grateful. It is because of my theological education and experience that a whole new world of ministry and service opened up for me.
The second annuity went to the Connecticut Community Foundation in Waterbury, Conn., with which our family had established a family fund in honor of my parents.
The third annuity I opened in February this year with IVC. Why? Out of gratitude and love for the program. My retirement out of hospice chaplaincy was seamlessly followed by service with IVC thanks to a parish with active Ignatian volunteers. Since I began with IVC, it has become a foundation for my life, a bedrock. Establishing the annuity for IVC is a form of almsgiving, if you will. A way of giving back.
The concept of the annuity is quite simple. In each case, I donated $25,000 to the institutions. In turn I receive from each of the three institutions a yearly return of approximately 5.8 percent, based on age, for the duration of my life. And when I die, the institutions keep the original $25,000 I donated.
It’s a win-win situation. I have a guaranteed investment income for life, and the institutions keep the original investment, which I would have donated to them anyway in my will.
I am grateful to be able to expand my almsgiving to giving financially in a whole new way. In this reflection on almsgiving, it is my hope that others in the IVC community may be spurred on to give back financially to an organization that we love and believe in.
Blessings to all,
David Brooks is serving his fifth year as an Ignatian volunteer. He is the first person to establish an annuity with the Ignatian Volunteer Corps. He obtained a Master of Divinity from Weston Jesuit School of Theology (now Boston College School of Theology and Ministry) and served 18 years as a hospice chaplain in the Boston area.