Estate Planning

TORONTO - Quentin Schesnuik was visiting St. Cecilia’s Church for an estate planning presentation when he spotted a little girl giving a leaf to the pastor. Fr. Joseph Tap Van Tran thanked her for the leaf, blessed her and kept the gift.

“At the moment she gave it to him, she meant it with all sincerity,” said Schesnuik, manager of planned giving and personal gifts for ShareLife, the charitable fundraising arm of the archdiocese of Toronto.

Similarly, whenever somebody puts the Church in their will, they should mirror this sincerity, he said.

“At the end of the day, it should be about how you make that gift… A lot of times people use their will to make the gift they always wanted to in life but just never thought they could.”

Any gift left to ShareLife in a will is turned into cash which lands in the ShareLife Legacy for Life Endowment Fund, said Schesnuik.

“An endowment is an investment that’s set aside for the long-term support of ShareLife,” he said. “Within the endowment, the principle is protected… And the principle is used to generate income to fund ShareLife programs.”
As the endowment grows, it strengthens the ShareLife allocations as a whole, he adds.

“The income that the endowment generates goes into general funding, so in a very real sense, the money is used to help fund all ShareLife agencies and grant recipients.”

The endowment fund currently sits at $2.8 million. Last year, it generated about $80,000 in income, said Schesnuik.

“Sometimes you could have a will where someone says, ‘I have a Harley Davidson and I want it to go to ShareLife.’ In that case, the estate trustee would contact us and we’d work with them, take possession of the Harley Davidson, sell it and use the proceeds to put in the endowment.”

When a person decides they’d like to donate to ShareLife, their lawyer contacts ShareLife and asks for their legal title, said Schesnuik.

“Knowing the proper legal title is really important because the law is all about language and the interpretation of language,” he said. By knowing this, the lawyer knows exactly where to direct the funds. ShareLife’s legal title is The ShareLife Trust.

One hundred per cent of the proceeds bequeathed to ShareLife support ShareLife, adds Schesnuik.

But your estate doesn’t just mean your house, it means your total assets.

“It’s your assets minus your liabilities,” said Schesnuik. “If somebody has more liabilities than assets, there won’t be anything left to distribute.”

He emphasizes that it’s not necessarily about the amount left behind.

“God loves a cheerful giver, and so, it’s in that spirit I think that person should make a cheerful gift.”

Shepherd’s Trust cares for the priests that cared for us


TORONTO - A stack of Monopoly money sits on Marisa Rogucki’s desk, but she isn’t preparing for board game domination. Rogucki plans on taking the colourful bills to one of her clients, an elderly priest suffering from dementia.

When he was younger, the priest would carry money in his pocket, readily available to be given to those he thought were more in need than himself, said Rogucki.

“At this point in his life, he can only remember things that he has done in the past.”

So now, to provide him with a sense of security in the long-term care facility where he resides, she’s bringing the priest the fake money so that he may share it with the staff and residents at the facility.

“It might actually make him feel a little bit better about himself because now he doesn’t have any money in his pocket,” she said.

As the priest’s power of attorney, Rogucki “tries as much as possible to give him a semblance of a life that he’s had before.” Rogucki co-ordinates the care of the 83 retired priests under the The Shepherds’ Trust, a retirement fund for priests of the archdiocese of Toronto. According to Rogucki, the plan is for the fund to be self-sufficient within seven to eight years.

“This money will protect those retired now and those in the future for whatever they may need, whether it’s housing (or) health care,” she said.

“My role as co-ordinator for the retired priests, for the archdiocese, is to care for their well-being, emotionally, physically, mentally, spiritually.”

Rogucki has power of attorney for priests when they have no family or no family close by. She’s been taking care of priests up to and at the time of their death for the past eight years. About six years ago, she recalls her first death experience with one of the priests. Rogucki was travelling back and forth to his home.

“We had just finished saying the rosary when he passed away. We all watched him just take his last breath,” she said. “Having had the opportunity to be by his side was very momentous, was very touching, something that I’ll never forget.”

But priests are living longer, says Msgr. Ken Robitaille.

“It’s important to always tell people that priests never retire,” he said. “We’re priests for life.”

Robitaille was ordained at age 23 and retired in 2001. When priests retire, he said, they leave behind administration work. If they’re healthy enough, they will continue to do parish work, like helping out on weekends, which Robitaille has been doing for years.

The monsignor, now 82, lives on his own and receives a monthly pension from The Shepherds’ Trust, but the organization is much more than a distributor of cheques. The trust keeps track of all the retired priests’ needs. It also helps priests find homes. There is no specific Shepherds’ Trust residence, so priests can live in different locations across the city and Canada or move back to their homelands. Some live with family or in facilities that care for those who need extra help.

In Robitaille’s case, he lives in his own apartment.

“Marisa helps us to find a place when we retire, nursing homes and things like that,” he said. “I’m looking after myself, but it’s more and more difficult because I have arthritis now.”

Robitaille remembers a time years ago when there was no retirement support system and no pension fund for priests.

“Before the (Second) Vatican Council, priests didn’t retire, they stayed on in the rectory until they died,” he said, because there was nowhere else to go. Younger, healthier priests would run the parish.

“But after the Vatican Council, two things happened: priests are living longer and then all the social systems have changed with pensions and health plans,” said Robitaille. “Also after the Vatican Council, all priests and bishops had to retire at the age of 75.”

The Shepherds’ Trust money goes directly to the diocesan priests, “and they are responsible for their own needs, whether it’s clothing or housing,” Rogucki said. For their religious order counterparts, the monies raised from religious order parishes is sent to their respective orders for their care.

“We are happy the way we are cared for. And we are grateful for what the people give every year in The Shepherds’ Trust collection to maintain this retirement fund,” said Robitaille.

“Fifty years ago, we didn’t have enough money to save. We weren’t making enough money to become part of the Canada Pension Plan.”

Robitaille wants the laity within the diocese to know “that their priests are happy and being well taken care of.” And as for the younger priests coming into the priesthood, Robitaille said they can expect to be taken care of with a health plan and pension in their senior years.

Still, when asked why people should donate, a question Rogucki has been asked many times over the years, she asks a question in return. “Who is the Church?” Her answer: “We are the Church.”

Catholics look to priests during baptisms, communion, confirmation, marriage and death, she said.

“So we have to put back into the Church what we got out of it when we needed it.”

Being with the priests makes Rogucki happy. She organizes monthly luncheons and help for the priests for everyday things, including setting up utility bills and the Internet.

Your faith can guide you in estate planning


What is the difference between a Catholic estate plan and a purely secular estate plan? The answer is simple: a Catholic estate plan is one that takes our Catholic faith into account when making decisions surrounding end-of-life issues.

Here are just a few examples of how our faith can come into effect:

o Living Wills — Power of Attorney (POA) for Personal Care: this allows us to appoint someone to make decisions for us with respect to life support, artificial feeding and other medical measures in the unfortunate event that we become incapacitated. When creating a POA for personal care we should do our best to ensure it adheres to Church teaching on end-of-life issues. Do your research before you see your lawyer so you can instruct him/ her properly as to what you are trying to achieve. If you have any questions, you can consult your priest, the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the Canadian Catholic Bioethics Institute (CCBI). CCBI is affiliated with the University of St. Michael’s College and seeks to promote and protect the dignity of the human person through ethics research and education in health care and the life sciences. The institute is a wonderful resource you can use to explore the Catholic Church’s position on everything from organ donation, assisted suicide and other end-of-life issues (

o Having a Funeral Mass: The sad truth is that there are many children who are no longer practising the faith. Many practising Catholics assume that when they pass away that non-practising family and friends will know to have a funeral Mass celebrated for them. Unfortunately this is not always the case. The best way to ensure that you have a funeral Mass is to make your wishes known.

o Masses in your Will: Many people don’t know this, but you can put it into your Will to have a Mass said for the repose of your soul. The Development Office of the Archdiocese of Toronto has the wording you can share with your lawyer.

o Using Catholic Advisors: Lawyers, accountants and financial advisors are kneeling in the pews beside us every Sunday and we just don’t know it. As Catholics, we are used to saying, “Peace be with you” and then leaving our parish as soon as Mass is over. The archdiocese of Toronto has spent the last five years building a list of advisors that you can access. If you would like assistance in finding a lawyer to help you with your Will and POA preparation, contact the Development Office.

o Estate Planning Checklists: Have you ever wished that you could find a simple tool to guide you through everything you need to do in your Will preparation and estate trustee selection? The archdiocese of Toronto has Will planning and estate trustees’ checklists that you can use. And best of all they were written with our Catholic faith in mind. Catholic action items include: suggesting that you put in your Will a request of the guardian of your children that they receive all of their sacraments as well as prompting your estate trustee to contact your parish when you pass away to request that they update the parish records. If you would like the checklists, contact the Development Office.

o Burial Preparations: In the early days of the Church we used to bury our dead in catacombs. As time went on, we began burying our dead beside our parishes — as is the case with the quaint country parishes we drive by in rural areas with small cemeteries beside them. As cities grew, parish burial was no longer feasible due to space constraints. We began to have centralized locations that serviced multiple parishes — as is the case today with Catholic Cemeteries. A Catholic cemetery is much more than just a geographical location. It is consecrated ground and in a very real sense, a part of our parish. It has been set aside for God. Have you pre-planned your funeral arrangements with Catholic Cemeteries? If not, consider contacting them. They can answer any questions you may have, including ones surrounding cremation.

o Where do we recognize Christ: An elderly woman once shared that when she was a little girl during the Great Depression her father lost his job just before Christmas. When Christmas day came, there was no dinner and no presents. This must have been very hard on her father. A knock came at the door and when her father answered it, there was a man with Christmas dinner and a shoebox gift for all the children. When she opened her shoebox she found a pair of red mitts inside. It was especially cold that winter and her exact words were that she thought they were a gift from heaven. She swore to herself that when the day came that she was able to give back to someone else, she would. It was at that moment that she recognized Christ.

All of us can ask ourselves where in our lives we have recognized Christ. It is a very personal question and one that is best left to prayer. Your Will could be your opportunity to make that gift you always wanted to, but never thought you could.

Perhaps you have been at your parish for over 30 years and want to remember your parish in your Will. Or perhaps there was a special priest who visited you or a loved one while sick and you want to honour that act of kindness with a gift to the seminary or The Shepherds’ Trust. You may want to help support people in need with a gift to ShareLife.

There is no right or wrong answer. Pray about where the Lord has touched you in your life and direct your gift there.

Ask God. He will never steer you wrong.

The Development Office of the Archdiocese of Toronto has a free Catholic estate planning kit as a service to parishioners. To receive yours call (416) 934-3411 or e-mail