Regis College at the University of Toronto is one of several institutions that benefitted from John Baycroft’s generosity. Wikipedia

Portrait of a giver … in life and death

By  John McGrath, Catholic Register Special
  • October 31, 2019

There are as many reasons for giving as there are givers. But one commonality is that givers want to help — they want to make a difference. In giving to the Church, it is a way to further the Kingdom of God here on Earth.

Leaving a legacy gift in a Will is a way to make a difference even after death. It is very much a sacrificial gift, given without any fanfare as by the time it is distributed, the donor has already passed.

That’s exactly the type of gift John Baycroft wanted to give. 

A quiet, unassuming, generous, faithful man, Baycroft spent his life in service of others. An accountant by trade, much of his free time was dedicated to helping others and working tirelessly in the background for the Church and doing charitable works. Single when he died at the age of 83 in March 2017, he faithfully left the proceeds of his estate to the Church.

“When I had heard that he left his estate to the Church, I was not surprised at all,” said Fr. Pat O’Dea, pastor at St. Edward the Confessor in Toronto. “It follows the way he led his life. I doubt he would have thought twice about it.”

O’Dea first met Baycroft in 1991 through Baycroft’s work in celebrating and promoting religious vocations with Serra Club. 

“It is a beautiful testament as to how completely he was attached to his faith and the Church,” O’Dea said. “He gave himself totally to the Church in life and then he left his earthly possessions to the Church in death.”

Baycroft spent his whole life in Etobicoke. He was born in 1933 and was a parishioner at St. Teresa Parish. After his retirement as an accountant, he devoted much of his time working within the Church. He had a special passion for encouraging priestly vocations and was involved in the Toronto West Serra Club — never in the forefront, but always in the background.

“We would refer to him as kind of a St. Joseph type,” remembered O’Dea, who presided at Baycroft’s funeral. “He was strong, but always wanting to simply be the helper in a quiet, prayerful way. He was always a pillar of strength without needing to be the centre of attention. He led by example.”

While encouraging and consistently praying for vocations, Baycroft was also very active in accompanying pilgrims on trips to the Holy Land.

“I had the pleasure of meeting John as he was always generous in sharing his time and talents on pilgrimages, some organized by the Archdiocese of Toronto,” said Neil MacCarthy, director of public relations and communications for the Archdiocese of Toronto. “John joyfully lived his faith by welcoming others, supporting things behind the scenes.”

His quiet generous spirit and dedication to his Church was evidenced in death when the archdiocese learned that he had left several bequests to Catholic charities, including ShareLife, Serra Club, Scarboro Missions, Regis College and Good Shepherd Ministries.

“It was a pleasant surprise as we didn’t know in advance that he was leaving this gift,” said Arthur Peters, executive director of ShareLife. “When someone considers a legacy gift to ShareLife they’re supporting the work of our ShareLife agencies today and into the future.” 

Peters said legacy gifts to ShareLife are designated into a special Legacy for Life endowment fund.

“That means the gift will now create a sustainable income for ShareLife over time. Each year, ShareLife receives a percentage of the average of the last three years of the value of the fund to be used for the work of our agencies.”

To leave a legacy gift, Peters said a person should note their intention in their Will. While they can call the ShareLife office for information, he advises consulting a lawyer about how to set it up.

“John loved the Church so much and gave what he could to help it in its mission,” said O’Dea. “My sense is that he always knew where his real treasure was — in Heaven.” 

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