Catholic Foundation celebrates 50 years of community service and vision for the future

By Joanna Puddister King

JACKSON – In 1973, Bishop Joseph Brunini called a group of community leaders together from across the diocese to form The Catholic Foundation. Fifty years later, on Tuesday, Oct. 24, the Foundation gathered for its golden anniversary celebration and annual membership meeting at the Country Club of Jackson. The event celebrated half a century of community service and included heartfelt tributes to key figures who played pivotal roles in the Catholic Foundation’s journey.

Among those acknowledged was Msgr. Thaddeus Harkins, who worked closely with Bishop Brunini in shaping the Foundation during its early years. Joe Rice, president of the Catholic Foundation, acknowledged Msgr. Harkins, stating, “Msgr. Harkins was the self-proclaimed historian of the Foundation. He understood and appreciated the mission from the outset.”

Another remarkable figure celebrated during the event was Jack Geary, the founding president of the Catholic Foundation for the Diocese of Jackson. Geary, who passed away in the week before the anniversary celebration, served as chairman of the investment committee and was a member of the executive committee. Rice made special mention of Geary’s significant contributions, saying, “he was a mentor to many of us. We learned so much from Jack. We learned not only a lot about the securities industry but more importantly, how it pertained to doing the Lord’s work.”

Unable to attend the event was Lewis Mallory, the last living member of the original group that created the Foundation with Bishop Brunini. Rice said that Mallory’s perspective on the growth of the Foundation is unique and inspiring; calling him one of the biggest influencers in his adult life.

“He’s just been a wonderful inspiration both professionally and spiritually; and I’m eternally greatful to know him,” said Rice.

JACKSON – Joe Rice, president of The Catholic Foundation, leads a toast in celebration of 50 years of service at the annual foundation membership meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 24 at the Country Club of Jackson. (Photos by Joanna King)

As the anniversary event unfolded, Rice shared his vision for the Foundation’s future. Reflecting on the incredible growth and progress over the last 50 years, he stated, “I think the Foundation has evolved and, God willing, will continue to evolve in years to come. We have grown in ways that Bishop Brunni and Msgr. Harkins could never have imagined in the 1970s.”

Indeed, the Foundation’s transformation from its humble beginnings into a force for community support with over $56 million in assets and 400 trusts is a testament to the tireless efforts of its founders and over 600 dedicated members.

This forward-looking perspective underscores the Catholic Foundation’s commitment to adapt to the changing needs of the community and the evolving landscape of Catholic ministries. As the Foundation continues to serve the community and support the mission of the church, its ability to embrace change and innovate will be vital in ensuring its continued success.

Chuck Adams, who served on the executive committee of the Catholic Foundation in the early to mid-1980s and as president for over 20 years, provided a valuable insight into the Foundation’s early years and its remarkable journey.

Reflecting on his time in service, Adams shared his memories of the Foundation’s early days. He emphasized, “At first, there was no real staff. It was all about trying to come up with a vision for how a foundation would work in a mission diocese.”

In those formative years, the Catholic Foundation faced unique challenges, including limited resources and a mission-driven approach to serving the community. Adams highlighted the importance of laying the groundwork, stating, “The first 18 years laid the foundation. We didn’t have a lot of money, but it planted all the seeds that are bearing fruit today. At the end of those first 18 years, we had $2 million in assets.”

This period of growth and development set the stage for the Catholic Foundation’s remarkable journey over the last five decades. Adams expressed his sentiments about his long-lasting involvement, saying, “It’s been a pleasure to be associated with the Catholic Foundation as long as I have.”

His enduring commitment to the Foundation, along with the dedication of others like Lewis Mallory, has been instrumental in shaping the organization into what it is today – a pillar of community support benefiting numerous parishes, schools and Catholic ministries.

As the Catholic Foundation celebrates its 50th anniversary, it stands as a testament to the dedication and vision of individuals like Bishop Brunini, Msgr. Harkins and Jack Geary, who laid the foundation for the organization’s mission-driven success. The Catholic Foundation’s journey from vision to fruition is a remarkable testament to the power of perseverance, community support and a strong commitment to the values and mission of the Catholic Church.

Chancery staff members stand for recognition for their contributions to various ministries across the diocese at the Catholic Foundation’s 50th anniversary celebration and membership meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 24.

Bishop Joseph Kopacz offered his words of encouragement during the celebration. He emphasized, “It takes many people to make this work … Again, the promise of the future is there before us. … As long as we seek the Kingdom of God first, everything else will follow.” He expressed his gratitude by saying, “I’m grateful to be here for this milestone.”

Bishop Kopacz’s presence and inspirational words reaffirm the Catholic Foundation’s mission and its dedication to serving the community. As the Foundation celebrates 50 years of community service and looks ahead to the future it does so with the blessings and encouragement of the church’s leadership, including the chancery staff of the diocese, and especially, executive director of the Catholic Foundation and Stewardship and Development director of the diocese, Rebecca Harris, said Bishop Kopacz.

“The Catholic Foundation’s 50th anniversary celebration is not just a reflection on its remarkable history but also a promise of an even brighter future, built on the legacy of dedicated individuals, visionary leaders and a commitment to making a positive impact on the lives of those it serves,” said Harris.

(If you would like to learn more about the Catholic Foundation and become a member contact Rebecca Harris at or call (601) 969-1880. Membership fees and fundraisers aid in covering administrative costs of the Catholic Foundation Office and allows 100% of the annual distributions to go directly to beneficiaries – schools, parishes and Catholic ministries.)