The Sisters of St. Joseph have historically, provided financial support to a variety of worthy causes. These have included educational bursaries as well as donations to charitable organizations and projects around the world. The Sisters’ vow of poverty mandates that they do not have personal ownership to distribute congregational funds, and therefore committees were established to assist in the allocation of charitable resources. The congregation seeks to support groups that work in the area of systemic change, which means groups that are about changing the whole way of “doing business” in our world, whether that be in the area of human rights, getting at the root causes of poverty, environmental justice, small projects in the developing world that foster self-sufficiency, or initiatives that address the position of women amongst the most poor.
The London Foundation was created to provide charitable receipts to donors to the congregation. Later, a sum of money was put into the Foundation so that the Sisters could disburse charitable donations from that fund. Prior to 2000, charitable giving was overseen by the General Treasurer, while a Bursary Committee handled educational grants.
The Sisters of St. Joseph Donations Committee was proposed by Sister Margo Ritchie in October 1999 and approved by the General Council in November 1999, to research, assess, and ultimately decide which requests for charitable financial aid would be supported by the Sisters. The Committee first met in January 2000. It has had a steady membership of Sisters, who served (starting in 2002) for a three-year term with possible renewal. The Sisters sitting on the committee in 2000 established guidelines for the decision-making process. These included favoring long-term projects for systemic change, groups that worked well with others, using annual reports to monitor the use of congregational-donated funds, not serving as the major financial support of any group, reconsidering each request annually, and favoring groups without a great deal of public funding or high levels of public awareness. These were grouped under five categories for reporting purposes, with targets for the allocation of available funds to each: child poverty (20%), women (15%), emergency relief (5%), Third World projects (20%), and Canada (40%). The committee met five times a year, alternating between Windsor and London. They made recommendations to the Leadership for final approval.
In 2009, the Sisters invited six members from the wider community to review the process of their annual donations. These six individuals possessed both knowledge of the congregation and experience in seeking or granting funds. Following this process, updated priorities and selection criteria for funding were established and shared with those seeking funding, and these guidelines remained in place until 2017.
The Children’s Aid Society (CAS) Bursary program was created in 2002 at the request of the CAS for a bursary to support the post-secondary education of youth in care (who lacked familial financial support). Beginning with four grants in 2002, the program grew to more than 28 grants in 2007, and The Sisters of St. Joseph were joined by other funding partners in providing financial support.
In 2009, Sisters Caroline Bering and Loretta Manzara proposed, and successfully executed, the first Pipe Organ Bursary, continuing a longstanding tradition of support for musical education by the Sisters. This bursary provided $1,000 to pay for 12 one-hour lessons on the pipe organ with supplementary instruction in Catholic liturgical music resources, over the course of one year. Eligible candidates had a minimum grade nine piano certification and completed an interview and audition process. The bursary was advertised within London parishes, the University of Western Ontario, and to London-area piano and organ teachers, and the candidates were adjudicated by the two founding Sisters. The bursary was sufficiently successful in its first two years to be awarded once again in 2013.
From at least 1998 onward, the Bursary Committee (later renamed the Educational Bursary Committee) of the Sisters of St. Joseph provided varying amounts of financial support (often in the range of $1,000-$2,000) for male and female lay persons attending ministry-related graduate programs at a variety of institutions of higher education in Canada and abroad. The committee was chaired by the General Treasurer of the religious community, who handled much of the correspondence relating to applications for funding. The programs pursued by students included fields such as practical nursing, business administration, and social work, as well as ministry and spirituality, but all applicants identified a desire to pursue these fields in conjunction with ministry-related purposes.
The Sisters of St. Joseph Bursary at St. Clair College in Windsor, Ontario was created in the early 2000s with a portion of a bequest left to the Sisters with instructions that it be used to alleviate child poverty. The portion of the bequest set aside for a college bursary was augmented with money received from the sale of the Sisters’ Queens Avenue property, making a total $100,000 donation which was matched by St. Clair College. The interest on the $200,000 fund allowed for a bursary of $500-$1,000 to be given each year. The bursary was awarded to single mothers studying at St. Clair College, and applied toward their tuition costs in the upcoming semester. A small committee of Sisters sat on the selection committee.
In 2012, four formerly separate congregations in Hamilton, London, Peterborough and Pembroke, amalgamated to form one new congregation. After amalgamation, the congregation moved to consolidated financial statements, one budget timeline, a common chart of accounts, and one charity returns form. Since amalgamation, the original London Donation Committee was maintained. This committee continued to review applications from groups which carried out work locally, nationally and globally, and made recommendations to Leadership for the distribution of funds specifically set aside in the London Foundation to be donated. Bursaries continued to be administered separately.
A donations review committee was set up in 2014 which met four times to discuss how to make donations in a unified manner. The review committee made recommendations that were approved at the Congregational Leadership Circle (CLC) meeting in November 2014. The CLC established a Central Funding Committee (CFC) for donations. The committee was composed of two members from each of the four originally separate congregations, as well as the General Treasurer and two members of the CLC as ex-officio members. The CFC’s mandate was to review requests for larger local donations and all national or international grant applications in keeping with the Constitutions, the call of the Gospel, and the objectives of the congregation. Funding requests were supported in keeping with established priorities and Canada Revenue Agency guidelines. Local Donation Committees were established in London, Hamilton, Peterborough and Pembroke comprised of at least three Sisters as well as an Associate/Companion. These committees meet at least twice a year to review requests for local donations. Their mandate includes support of the poor, women and children in need, food banks, and housing for people in need. Donations included funding from the congregation and through the Luke 4 Foundation with initial capital from the former Peterborough congregation.
In 2015, a committee was established which met in June, October and November to create the terms of reference for the Central Funding Committee (CFC) and the Local Donation Committees. Following the election of the CLC in 2016, the CFC welcomed the participation of an Associate/Companion.
Between 2015-2016, most national funding was allocated to address issues concerning poverty, Indigenous peoples, and the environment. Global funding was allocated in the areas of women’s issues.
A meeting at the Hamilton site in October 2017 was held to review CFC processes and priorities. This meeting resulted in changes to the funding structure and funding level ranges for grants were introduced. National priorities were determined to be poverty reduction, reconciliation with Indigenous peoples, and environmental action, with international priorities continuing to be empowerment of women.
Beginning in 2017, the London Donations Committee mandate was redefined to focus its donations primarily on groups within its geographical area. National and international grant applications were now the work of the Central Funding Committee. The London Donations Committee considered applications from groups in the London area and in areas in the west and north of Canada where the Sisters ministered. The London Donations Committee decreased its funding level range and revised its three previous priorities to target people in need and the care of the earth. The committee also outlined its expectations for grantees. The committee wanted to fund projects that built and sustained relationships; promoted systemic change; sought funds in conjunction with other funders; built on community input and needs assessment; demonstrated achievable outcomes; and required minimal administrative costs.