ASHEVILLE — Stewardship is about giving of our time, talent and treasure.
There is an exciting treasure chest in the Diocese of Charlotte and an exemplary steward who is filling it in a unique way. The chest is the Friend to Seminarians program and the steward is George Pfaff of St. Eugene Church in Asheville.
"The Friend to Seminarians program is a way for generous supporters of the diocese to help fund the training and education of our seminarians," explains Armen Boyajian, director of leadership giving for the diocese's Office of Development.
Begun in 1998, the Friend to Seminarians program has garnered $2.5 million to provide for the needs of the 41 seminarians ordained since then. The diocese currently supports 17 seminarians, whose education can cost more than $25,000 per year.
One is invited to become a Friend to Seminarians through a gift of $5,000 or more. Two dinners are held each year in Charlotte and in the Triad area, where potential donors hear from some of the diocese's seminarians.
George Pfaff is one parishioner who recently responded to that invitation. An Asheville resident for seven years, Pfaff initially offered a bequest to the diocese. He then also offered a gift to the Friend to Seminarians program specifically, in the form of a challenge grant: if others will match it with new gifts each year, he will donate $75,000 per year for four years.
"What George has done is wonderful," Boyajian says. "In response to his first $75,000, we have exceeded his challenge by raising another $86,000. And we have three more years to go!"
Pfaff has already given his time, talent and treasure in countless donations and activities, including many board memberships. After an early interest in chemical engineering at the University of Notre Dame, Pfaff entered the world of business. He worked his way through manufacturing, marketing, management consulting and finally banking – reaping the rewards of hard work and shrewd investing.
Pfaff said he and his wife Jane had many discussions about how to invest their savings before she passed away, and they agreed that "the most important thing we could do is fund the education of priests."
They have donated generously to priest-related organizations, including the Catholic Extension in Chicago, a seminary in Florida, and now the Friend to Seminarians program.
Father Christopher Gober, diocesan director of vocations, notes, "The challenge grant demonstrates Mr. Pfaff's commitment to the priesthood and offers an opportunity for others to join him."
Now about to turn 85, Pfaff remains active and enthusiastic in his support of the Church. He is a member of the Order of Malta, an extraordinary minister of holy Communion, and a volunteer in a Christian program for women in the North Carolina prison system.
"I think that the good Lord blesses us with so much, and I've always felt that I would like to be an inspiration to other people. It's a labor of love," he says.
-- Suzanne Konopka, correspondent
Pictured above: A Friend to Seminarians, George Pfaff stands next to his patron, St. Anthony, in his Asheville backyard. With his four-year, $75,000 per year challenge grant, Pfaff has acted on St. Anthony's challenge to ask where our hearts are: fixed on the things of heaven or of this world? (Suzanne Konopka, Catholic News Herald)
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FROM THE PASTORS
Read and listen to homilies posted regularly by pastors at parishes within the Diocese of Charlotte:
- Fr. Frank Cancro at Queen of the Apostles
- Fr. Patrick Earl at St. Peter in Charlotte
- Fr. John Eckert at St. John the Baptist in Tryon
- Fr. Timothy Reid at St. Ann in Charlotte
- Fr. Benjamin Roberts at Our Lady of Lourdes in Monroe
- Fr. Patrick Winslow at St. Thomas Aquinas in Charlotte
- Watch full Masses live and on demand, listen to homilies and reflections from Sacred Heart Church in Salisbury
- Listen to homilies from St. William Catholic Church in Murphy