The “low ropes” facility at CYO’s Camp Brebéuf in Rockwood, Ont., was one of the projects funded by the Ex Corde Foundation.

The Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) in Hamilton can’t always account at budget time for all its needs, but when some urgent need arises it’s happy there is an organization like the Ex Corde Foundation that can lend a hand.

“Our requirements and needs as a non-profit are very challenging,” said John Spatazzo, executive director of the CYO, which for more than 60 years has offered children, teens and families in the diocese a chance at success through its programs. “There’s things that we require that quite frankly don’t fall under a budget line or a capital expenditure.”

It might be repairs to the infrastructure at Camp Brebeuf or a new emergency vehicle, Spatazzo said, but there is always something. It’s where the Ex Corde Foundation has often come to the rescue.

As Anne Gibbs acknowledges, there are — and will always be — needs in the individual parishes and charities that support the Catholic Church. It’s those needs that are the driving force behind the foundation, which since 2012 has been helping Catholic parishes and charities within the diocese and beyond. The foundation was set up by Bishop Douglas Crosby with a $20-million donation from the diocese in 2012, said Gibbs, manager of parish finance and administration, and has since helped repair or renovate buildings, maintain religious and devotional artifacts, stained glass windows and other religious art as well as supporting religious education, liturgical resources and pastoral programs in the diocese and beyond.

The next deadline for applications for funds from the Ex Corde Foundation is rapidly approaching, notes Gibbs. Feb. 15 is the deadline for the first cycle of grants, with a second deadline of Aug. 15. Grants are awarded about six weeks after each deadline.

The foundation was born out of Crosby’s belief that as a privileged diocese, it is up to Catholics to support those in need, said Francis Doyle, Hamilton’s director of diocesan charities.

“The bishop really insists on the fact if you’ve been blessed you have to bless others and you have to make sure that gets passed on,” said Doyle.

“There’s always going to be needs. What can the diocese do to lessen that need or take some of the sting off of some of those parishes that are month-to-month on their bills. I think (the bishop’s) hope is that these grants can allow parishes to worry a little less about those finances so they can worry more about serving the community.”

It’s not unlike the massive One Heart One Soul Campaign the diocese is undertaking to raise $35 million to secure the future of the diocese. The campaign launched last year has its similarities to the foundation — ex corde means “from the heart” — in that funds go to sustain the Church and its mission.

Most dispersals go to parishes and charities within Hamilton, but a full 10 per cent is directed to needs across Canada. A recent grant saw $15,000 donated to the Diocese of Whitehorse to replace windows at St. Mary’s Church in Dawson City.

Since its inception more than $5 million has been dispersed, 79 per cent of which went to parishes in the Hamilton diocese. Grants have helped parishes do everything from refurbish stained glass windows to replacing front doors and aging sound systems.

St. Basil’s Parish in Brantford is a recent beneficiary. St. Basil’s is an old building, dating back to the 1800s, said pastor Fr. Kevin D’Souza, and had the acoustic problems that accompany a building of that vintage. D’Souza applied for a grant from the foundation for a new sound system and received $25,000.

“I was able to install the best available, state-of-the-art sound system and the feedback from the congregation was amazing,” D’Souza said. “I am very grateful to the foundation for the good work they do.”

Yield from the endowment relies on the markets and how they are performing, so there have been a few granting cycles where “the markets aren’t holding up their end of the bargain,” said Doyle, and that inevitably affects grants. 

“The directors try their best to take into consideration on a need-to-need basis,” said Gibbs. 

Understandably, the diocese is focused on its One Heart One Soul Campaign at the moment and is not actively seeking to grow the foundation’s base through donations, though they are welcome. 

Doyle said it’s hoped this fund will be perpetual in helping spread the wealth, but it’s not a top priority at the moment. That’s not to say it hasn’t grown. While exact figures weren’t available, Doyle said the initial donation has grown to about $23 million.