By KATIE BORKOWSKI
LE MARS – Gehlen Catholic Schools and Gehlen Catholic Schools Endowment Fund launched a $2 million capital campaign during Catholic Schools Week – “We are Many. We are One.”
In a letter to friends of Gehlen, Father Kevin Richter, Gehlen president and pastor of All Saints Parish, explained, “Beginning in 1870, Peter and Catherine Gehlen worked hard and diligently to help establish a Catholic church and school in Le Mars. In April of 1870, the first Mass was celebrated in their home.”
He recently discovered the following testimony in the annals of the parish history:
“In the early spring of 1879, only nine years after he set foot in Le Mars, Peter Gehlen was called from this world. Although he did not live to see many of the fruits of his initiative and courage, the people were not to forget our great debt to Peter Gehlen for his achievements and exemplary image as a generous and devout parishioner. On his funeral day, over one thousand mourners formed a procession that stretched out over half a mile. Church bells tolled, not only at St. Joseph’s, but at the Methodist and Congregational churches as well…”
“Now that is a testimony,” said Father Richter. “It is a similar spirit that has inspired generations of Catholic believers to follow in the footsteps of Peter and Catherine Gehlen.”
The school now has the opportunity to strengthen that legacy for future generations through the “We are Many. We are One.” capital campaign, he continued.
“‘We are Many’ recognizes and celebrates those generations of believers who have carried out the dreams and visions of Peter and Catherine Gehlen,” said Father Richter. “‘We are One’ recognizes and celebrates it is our Catholic faith that unites us and binds us all together.”
The $2 million campaign will address the following needs:
- $590,000 will be used to retire the loan that the school has for the 1998 addition to the school building.
- $410,000 will be used for capital improvements. Renovation of the school kitchen and of the elementary bathrooms are two examples of projects that are currently high on the priority list.
- $1 million will be invested in the Endowment Fund to strengthen the school’s long-term fiscal strength.
“For each of the areas of the campaign, whether it’s the long-term financing or the capital improvement projects or retiring the debt, they are some of the current needs of the school that we would like to continue to address,” Father Richter said. “We are seeking to be proactive in continuing to move forward in what we are doing as a Catholic school.”
The Gehlen Catholic Schools Endowment Fund was established in 1978. The fund’s principal is not spent. The income from investments is used to support Gehlen Catholic School.
“Donations to the Gehlen Catholic School Endowment Fund are perpetual gifts,” said Steve Schuster, chair of the Gehlen Catholic School Endowment Fund and 1977 Gehlen graduate. “Your donation to the ‘We are Many. We are One.’ Campaign through the Endowment Fund leaves a lasting legacy of faith and generosity to Catholic education.”
The endowment, he said, is going to be around for a long time and “support Gehlen.”
“The endowment is currently worth $3 million,” said Schuster. “We want to bump it up at least a million dollars, so we can have more funds flowing to Gehlen annually.”
The school’s president hopes the campaign goal is met and “even more, if possible, and have people continue to bring their support, not only their financial support, but their presence and their spiritual support as well.”
“Participation (in the campaign) demonstrates the same ‘initiative and courage’ evidenced by the Gehlen family,” Father Richter said.
Anyone wishing to make a donation to the capital campaign may contact Lisa Niebuhr at the Gehlen development office at (712) 546-4181. Gifts can be made via cash, commodities, securities, land, life insurance and/or annuities.