Seminarian Education and Catholic Social Services Benefit from Substantial Bequest Gift

Seminarian Education and Catholic Social Services Benefit from Substantial Bequest Gift

Seminarian education and the work of Catholic Social Services of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan will be substantially and permanently enhanced due to a $1.2 million bequest divided equally between the two. The gift was received by The U.P. Catholic Foundation, Inc. from the estate of Don Stanley.

In the last 15 years of his life, Don Stanley established a trust to protect his assets and make sure those assets would be distributed according to his wishes. Among his wishes were to honor his Catholic faith by creating a legacy of care for seminarians and social services in the Upper Peninsula.

“I see God’s providence,” adds Father Ben Hasse, director of vocations for the Diocese of Marquette. “This gift is one of two significant bequest gifts that have come into the seminarian endowment since it was started and its really beginning to make an impact on the seminarian situation. Right now, with nine guys studying, our education costs are not an insignificant portion of the annual budget of the diocese. And the beautiful thing is, being an endowment, it’ll benefit them for perpetuity. So, not just this year and next year, but for a long time. A large gift shifts morale and perspective on what’s possible moving forward.”

The gift to Catholic Social Services (CSS) of the Upper Peninsula will establish the ministry’s first ever endowment fund. “This gift will be life-changing to our organization and the people it serves. Not only will the new endowment provide a sizable distribution in its first year and beyond, but also will serve as a new option for donors who want to support the work of CSS long into the future,” said Kyle Rambo, Executive Director of CSS.

Stanley attended Stambaugh Area High School in Iron River, graduating in 1955. He was an excellent student and outstanding athlete. When his parents died during his senior year of high school, Stanley’s future became unclear. One of his teachers, Bill Ribich, saw something in young Stanley and encouraged him to go on to college. Ribich had a strong Catholic faith and may have influenced Stanley’s evolving faith life. Stanley received his degree in education from Northern Michigan University and began his career at Stambaugh Area Schools. He later earned an advanced degree in education and had a long career as a teacher and administrator in both upper and lower Michigan.

In every place he lived, Stanley actively participated in parish life and supported the needs of the Church and the priests alike. He was a gourmet cook and shared his talents with fellow parishioners. In his retirement, Don traveled extensively and attended Mass wherever he went. At one point, he supported a young man attending seminary in Poland, and also a parish in Arizona where he occasionally wintered. He enjoyed visiting the Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity in Manitowoc, Wis. and bringing them gifts. He truly believed that their work was something special.

“He was a true Christian,” said Bill Luoma, a trusted friend and administrator of Stanley’s estate. “He was keen to identify churches, parishes, and priests particularly, that needed some help. He was a true believer in taking care of the congregation.”

Stanley and his former teacher, Ribich, maintained a lifelong friendship and a shared bond of their Catholic faith. Ribbich had attended seminary briefly after high school but was called away during WWII to serve in the U.S. Army. Following the war, he took a different path.

“Everyone has an estate and it just takes a little planning to share your intentions,” said Terri Gadzinski, director of stewardship for the Diocese of Marquette. To start planning a gift, visit or contact Gadzinski at