Friday, January 17, 2020
Jim Davis - Florida Catholic
MIAMI | She lived a simple life in rented rooms. She spoke softly and dressed conservatively. But through her quiet generosity, amounting to millions, the late Patricia Van Busch will minister to generations.
Gifts by Van Busch, a member of a wealthy family, have helped a church and a music school for Haitian children. And most recently, a bequest from her estate provided $8 million for a mission to migrants and the needs of priests.
"She was a true Catholic, a true witness of the Word of God," said Father Reginald Jean-Mary of Notre Dame d'Haiti Mission in Miami, which Van Busch befriended. "Her simplicity and the love in her heart for people touched me. She is engraved in our hearts."
The $8 million came from the sale of Van Busch land in Vero Beach that she left to the archdiocese upon her passing. Of that amount, $5.5 million will be directed to St. Ann Mission in Homestead.
The mission, which mainly serves Mexican farm workers in south Miami-Dade, needs a full campus renovation, according to Sister Elizabeth Worley, archdiocesan chancellor for administration. A new church building is planned, as well as a new ministries building.
The rest of the total benefited a fund to support archdiocesan priests, primarily priests from Redemptoris Mater Seminary, who are available to be sent by the archbishop to serve in the foreign missions where this extra support would be needed, Sister Elizabeth said.
This bequest wasn't the first time Van Busch had helped the archdiocese. She donated a little more than $100,000 to St. Kieran Parish, in the Brickell area of Miami. She also gave about $1.4 million to Notre Dame d'Haiti.
Her relationship with the Haitian mission began in 2006, when she called and asked how she could help. "She said she'd gone on honeymoon in Haiti and had developed a heart for Haitian children," said Father Jean-Mary.
They decided on music education, which she supported with a $200,000 gift. The mission used the sum to buy instruments and to hire instructors from the Miami-Dade School of Music.
Thereafter, she began visiting the mission regularly, bringing music reference books and talking with the children. As their friendship grew, Father Jean-Mary asked for help with building a church.
She said she would look into it, but she developed walking problems and eventually stopped coming. In 2014, when he called to invite her to the dedication of the new church building, she had already died, he said.
A few months later, though, he learned she had left $1.2 million to Notre Dame d'Haiti. Even though the church was built, the gift still helped, Father Jean-Mary said: He applied it to the building loan and to paying down a debt to the archdiocese.
Years later, he remembers Van Busch with gratitude. "These days, there is so much talking and bragging. But to see how she helped in such a pragmatic way, that was powerful. To me, it's a great testimony of what a Christian is called to be."
Despite her wealth, Van Busch was anything but showy. Friends said she lived in a two-bedroom apartment in the Brickell area. She likewise dressed simply, dignified, traditionally.
She also volunteered at Mercy Hospital, visiting patients and assisting in fundraising concerts and tennis tournaments. That's where she became friends in the 1980s with Ana Maria Fusté, who directed special events for the hospital.
"Low-key, friendly, always willing to help," is how Fusté remembers Van Busch. "She spoke softly and didn’t call attention to herself. No one could tell she had the fortune she had.
"I get goosebumps talking about her. You don’t see people like that anymore."
Gifts like Van Busch's — including wills, trusts, bequests, annuities, life insurance — provide for the Church of the future, said Katie Blanco Bourdeau, director of development for the archdiocese.
"Estate plans are anticipatory — they help sustain the life of the archdiocese through time," Bourdeau said. She gave several examples: tuition endowments, renovation of chapels and rectories, seminary education, charities for needy families and the homeless.
"They leave an exponential legacy long after the donor is gone," she said. "Ms. Van Busch's work will have incredible results."
Corrected Jan. 29, 2020: The correct dollar amount budgeted for St. Ann Mission is $5.5 million, not $6 million as originally stated. More specifically, the work to be done at the mission includes building a new church and a new ministries building. Also, the $2 million "endowment" for priests should have been better described as a "fund" set aside to support archdiocesan priests sent to foreign missions; specifically, priests who studied at Redemptoris Mater Seminary, the Neocatechumenal seminary in Hialeah.