Catholic Financial Life Blog

Helping Kids Heal After a Loss

Posted by Catholic Financial Life

Mar 31, 2016 4:30:00 PM

kids_coping_with_loss.jpg

Dealing with the death of a loved one is difficult for everyone, but it is especially hard for children. Feelings of sadness and confusion over the matter of death can be overwhelming for kids. As a parent, grandparent, teacher, or other important adult in the life of a child, your openness, mindfulness, and responsiveness to feelings or questions they express can make all the difference in helping them heal after a loss. 

What to say

Children will probably have many questions as they cope with the loss of a loved one. They may be scared or confused, so remind them that there is no "right" or "wrong" way to think about death. Here are some topics to consider discussing with your children, whether they ask them or not.

  • How and why people die
  • What happens when someone dies
  • How the loved one died
  • What will change
  • What will stay the same

What to do

Beyond just thinking or talking about the loss of a loved one, encourage children to participate in any of these activities to feel better. Not all these ideas work for all kids, as each person copes with loss and sadness differently. 

  • Say a prayer coping.jpg
  • Practice something the deceased person taught you, like a card game or family recipe
  • Create a scrapbook about the loved one, filled with stories, pictures, memories, how that person made you feel, how you and that person were similar, how you were different, what the person taught you, and what the person was like.
  • Talk to other loved ones in your life that you turn to when you are sad, like teachers, aunts, uncles, cousins, or friends
  • Talk about all the other people in your life that love you
  • Create a memory box
  • Plant a tree for the deceased person
  • Exercise
  • Play with a friend
  • Sleep
  • Cry
  • Write a story
  • Draw a picture
  • Sit quietly
  • Tell stories about the loved one

Grieving takes a toll on the spirit, mind, and body, so your child may experience stomachaches, headaches, good dreams, bad dreams, or trouble concentrating. With so many family and friends around also going through grief and sadness, children often become even more confused and overwhelmed. Although it's difficult, talking about your feelings with children truly helps them through the healing process. 

 

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Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday): "The greatest free show on Earth"

Posted by Catholic Financial Life

Feb 9, 2016 9:00:00 AM

Mardi_Gras.jpg

Mardi Gras, French for "Fat Tuesday," is known today for large celebrations which often include parades, beads, masks, and King Cake. It occurs every year the day before Ash Wednesday, marking the last day for celebrating and feasting before Lent, 40 days of fasting and sacrifice. For this reason, the roots of the celebration are Roman Catholic, although some historians argue that it was first a pagan ritual before the Church adopted the tradition in order to promote Catholicism. Whether you celebrate in one of the cities that holds the largest Mardi Gras festivals in the world -- New Orleans, Rio de Janeiro, and Venice -- or by sharing a King Cake with family at home, Fat Tuesday is a fun holiday with rich tradition. 

The first recorded Mardi Gras celebrations can be traced back to 17th-century Medieval Europe. By the 1730s, the French had settled in New Orleans, Louisiana, and brought the tradition to the new world. Early celebrations there included elegant society balls put on by the governor of the land. It was not until the 1830s that parades of carriages, horseback riders, decorated floats, and gaslight torches began. 

Decades later, Fat Tuesday had become such a significant day in New Orleans that newspapers began printing "Carnival Editions" to showcase parade float designs in advance. Designers and artists were hired to create the masks, floats, makeup, costumes, and other decorations for the elaborate parades.

The establishment of the Mardi Gras colors -- purple, gold, and green -- ocurred in 1972 when Russian Duke Alexis Romanoff visited the festivities in Louisiana. Those were his official family colors, with purple symbolizing justice, gold symbolizing power, and green symbolizing faith.

The governor of Louisiana in 1875, Henry Warmoth, signed the "Mardi Gras Act," establishing the day as a state holiday. Louisiana is the only state that has this official holiday.

There have been several instances in history when the party in New Orleans was cancelled. For example, this happened during the Civil War, the outbreak of Yellow Fever, World War I, and World War II. 1945 was the last year that the festivities did not take place at all. In 2006, about six months after Hurricane Katrina flooded the Gulf Coast of the city and killed nearly 2,000 citizens, the city held much smaller Mardi Gras celebrations.

After hundreds of years, private societies and clubs of New Orleans still fund the extravagant parades and festivities, which is why the people of the city dub it, "the greatest free show on Earth."

 

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Why Gratitude is Good for You

Posted by Catholic Financial Life

Jan 13, 2016 6:30:00 PM

gratefulness.jpgThe so-called Season of Gratitude is behind us, but giving thanks shouldn’t happen just on the fourth Thursday of November. With Christmas parties among friends and family, gift exchanges, warm homes and hugs, and holiday cookies, December, too, is an easy time to be thankful.

Feelings of gratefulness have been proven to increase your happiness and your health. Make 2016 – all 366 days – your year of gratitude. Let it become a daily habit to consider consciously and give thanks for life’s blessings.

 

Physical Benefits

Giving thanks, even in small ways, can improve your quality of life. A study conducted a few years ago in the U.S. required participants to keep a daily gratitude journal. At the end of each day they wrote down a list of the things they were thankful for that day. One of the results was that most participants experienced better sleep. In a similar study, people who practiced daily gratitude felt fewer aches and pains.

Mental Benefits

The previously mentioned studies also proved that daily, even weekly, expressions of thankfulness reduced levels of stress, anxiety, and depression. Researchers found that feelings of gratefulness help people deal with daily problems. As they reminded their participants, it’s important to note that gratitude is not a comparison – what you have versus what others don’t. Rather, gratitude is a recognition and appreciation of the positive aspects of your circumstance.

Spiritual Benefits

Gratitude is a virtue. That means it’s not sufficient just to say thanks, we have to do it, live it. Gratitude requires mutual respect and reverence. Our inherent gratefulness, what drives us to say “Thank you” when we receive a present we love or when someone holds the door for us, draws us to God. When we embrace significant blessings in our life, we embrace the love of God. Taking time to recognize this every day can strengthen our spiritual lives.

Get started today on your way to a happier and healthier year! Before you fall asleep tonight, write down the things for which you felt grateful today.

 

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Making Resolutions You'll Actually Keep

Posted by Catholic Financial Life

Jan 1, 2016 10:12:00 AM

Happy New Year! Today is the first of the year -- time to make a 2016 new year's resolution plan.

resolutions.jpg

Every year we make a promise to ourselves: lose weight, spend less money, eat healthy, pray more, spend more time with family. Come December, how many of us are actually satisfied with what we have accomplished?

New year's resolutions are a great form of goal setting that can lead to self-improvement in many ways -- in our health, faith, family, career or community. Resolutions give us hope and optimism for the year ahead. This year, let's make sure those feelings don't fade away by February.

Have you ever heard of SMART goal setting? It's way to set yourself up for success in achieving your goal. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-bound, and it's a perfect method to use for your new year's resolution.

  • Specific - The more exact your goal is, the better. Assign times, dates or amounts. For example, don't plan to lose weight. Rather, plan to lose 15 pounds. Don't just say you'll pray more with your family -- actually make a plan to gather after dinner every Monday, for example, for prayer. This way, you will know exactly what you need to do to achieve your resolution.
  • Measurable - Building off of the importance of having a "Specific" goal, make sure that come December, you will have a clear way of knowing whether or not you have achieved your resolution. Step on the scale; did you lose that weight? Check your calendar; how many Monday evenings did you gather to pray?
  • Attainable - Be realistic with what you know you can accomplish. If you haven't finished a book in years, don't tell yourself you'll read 20 novels in 2016. Shoot for 6, instead. If you want to pick up running, train for a five-mile race rather than a marathon.
  • Realistic - After you have identified your goal and the steps you'll take to reach it, ask yourself, "Is this really something I am willing and able to work toward this year?" When you make sure that this goal is a top-priority, you will have more motivation and energy in working to keep your resolution.
  • Time-bound - For a new year's resolution, the timing is simple: December 31, 2016 is your deadline. But don't wait until then to check up on yourself. Make a note to think of your resolution every month or two, and set smaller goals throughout the year. A clear timeline like this will improve your committment to your resolution.

Now that you've read these tips, does your resolution need a few changes? Preparation is key. Write down your plan of action to achieve your SMART goal, and get to work!

Stay tuned to our Facebook and Twitter posts throughout January. We'll be giving you 16 new year's resolution ideas for 2016!

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Topics: Catholic Values in Action, Family, Our Catholic Faith

Welcome to the Year of Mercy

Posted by Catholic Financial Life

Dec 9, 2015 6:00:00 PM

Pope Francis announced the Jubilee Year of Mercy will take place from December 8, 2015, to November 20, 2016. How can we accept the mercy of God and show that mercy to others? That is the question of the year.

The following quote is taken from the Pope's official statement:

"Dear brothers and sisters, I have often thought of how the Church may render more clear her mission to be a witness to mercy;

and we have to make this journey. It is a journey which begins with spiritual conversion. Therefore, I have decided to announce an Extraordinary Jubilee which has at its centre the mercy of God. It will be a Holy Year of Mercy. We want to live in the light of the word of the Lord: “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful” (cf. Lk 6:36). And this especially applies to confessors! So much mercy!

...

I am confident that the whole Church, which is in such need of mercy for we are sinners, will be able to find in this Jubilee the joy of rediscovering and rendering fruitful God’s mercy, with which we are all called to give comfort to every man and every woman of our time. Do not forget that God forgives all, and God forgives always. Let us never tire of asking forgiveness. Let us henceforth entrust this Year to the Mother of Mercy, that she turn her gaze upon us and watch over our journey: our penitential journey, our year-long journey with an open heart, to receive the indulgence of God, to receive the mercy of God."

Each month of this special year will focus on a different Corporal or Spriritual Work of Mercy -- specific actions of charity -- all Catholics can do to take part.

year_of_mercy.jpegCorporal Works of Mercy  

  • Feed the hungry
  • Give drink to the thirsty
  • Clothe the naked
  • Shelter the homeless
  • Visit the sick
  • Visit the imprisoned
  • Bury the dead

Spiritual Works of Mercy

  • Instruct the ignorant
  • Counsel the doubtful
  • Admonish sinners
  • Bear wrongs patiently
  • Forgive offenses willingly
  • Comfort the afflicted
  • Pray for the living and the dead

 

The focus for this month, December 2015, is "Instruct the Ignorant." Who around you is misinformed or confused about the faith?

The command to "instruct the ignorant" does not mean we have to stand on street corners with a bullhorn passing out flyers to innocent pedestrians; there are easier and better ways of spreading the truth of our Catholic faith. When a cousin starts to voice complaints about the Church at the family Christmas party, offer your opinion: Yes, many people, even Catholics, disagree on the several rules and customs, but we can all appreciate the general mission and values of love, charity and social justice. If your son or daughter has stopped going to Mass on Sundays because it's "too"boring," they "don't have enough time to go," or they "don't get anything out of it," share a story of when you faced that difficulty in your faith life and how you overcame it.

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Topics: Catholic Values in Action, events, Our Catholic Faith

7 Ways to Enrich Your Advent Experience

Posted by Catholic Financial Life

Nov 19, 2015 6:00:00 PM

Advent is a season of joyful anticipation for the birth of our Savior, Jesus. In the midst of all your holiday shopping, cookie baking, and home decorating, reflect on the waiting. What do you usually do when you're waiting -- waiting for the arrival of a new baby or for a guest at your home? When we think about Advent this way, we can understand why it's important to focus so much time and energy on our preparations for the coming of Jesus. Here are seven tips to inspire you throughout the upcoming Advent and keep you motivated in your anticipation of Christmas.

1. Sing

This seems like an obvious one, because music is all around us in Advent -- in Church, in school, on the radio -- but singing is one of the easiest ways to spread the joy of the Advent season. The word "carol" means a joyful dance that is set to music. You can even spread this joy by visiting hospitals and nursing homes and singing Christmas carols to the patients and residents. Focus on songs of waiting, like "O Come O Come Emmanuel" and "O Come All Ye Faithful."

2. Decorate

In the Bible, Jesus is called "the living light of Christ," and so we bring this light to our homes every year. On the night of his birth in Bethlehem, the bright star in the sky which led the three kings to Jesus's manger is the inspiration for Christmas lights decorations and the most magnificent of all the lights. Put up lights inside and outside your home to signify your anticipation of Jesus.

3. Remember St. Nicholas

The tradition of gift-giving is so much a part of our Christmas culture today that we usually forget the true meaning behind it. The tradition of giving Christmas presents truly began with St. Nicholas hundreds and hundreds of years ago. His generosity inspired our current customs of leaving out stockings and awaiting the visit of Santa Claus on Christmas night. Test your St. Nicholas knowledge with our trivia quiz.

4. Avoid a Black Friday and Cyber Monday mindset

Focus on care, love, and thoughtfulness, not greed or competition when buying gifts this year. The first Christmas presents were gold, franincense, and myrrh from the Magi to the baby Jesus, and of course, the true gift of the Christmas season is God's gift of his son to the world. Instead of running from store to store in search of the perfect present for your dad, sister, or aunt, take a minute to stop and consider the real meaning behind your gift-giving. The purpose of this tradition is to show care for our loved ones. When we remember this, our mindset toward shopping completely changes.

5. Turn Moments of Frustration into Joyful Anticipation

It's inevitable that we will get frustrated "waiting" in different ways during these next few weeks: waiting in line at the grocery store, waiting for a parking spot at the mall, waiting in traffic. Instead of letting these unavoidable situations get the best of us, avoid anger by taking a moment to relax and reflect on this important Advent theme of waiting. Say a prayer or thank God for all your blessings this year.

6. Start a Family Tradition

Presents are not the only way to show our family members that we love them. The most important Christmas gift is our time. When you dedicate time to spend with family during Advent, you create and continue traditions that make the season so special. Decorating the house, baking, and gift wrapping suddenly become fun activities, not chores, when the whole family gets involved.

7. Have an Advent Wreath

This is another great way to bring the light of God to your home this Advent. An Advent Wreath has four candles that you light every Sunday of Advent. A prayer is said with each one, as well. To learn more about the symbolism of Advent wreaths and how to make your own, check out our previous blog post.

Sign up for our online Advent Calendar

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Topics: Catholic Values in Action, Family, Our Catholic Faith, Advent

November 12: Feast of St. Josaphat

Posted by Catholic Financial Life

Nov 12, 2015 6:00:00 PM

The Basilica of St. Josaphat in Milwaukee, Wis., was built in 1896. Named after St. Josaphat to honor the Polish bishop and martyr, the basilica, at the time of its completion, was the building with the largest dome in the country, second only to the U.S. Capitol building in Washington D.C. 

The Story of St. Josaphat, the Saint at the front lines as a voice of peace and communion during one of the most tumultuous times of our Church's history.

Josaphat was born in 1580 in current-day Ukraine. Events that took place centuries before his brith, however, impacted the religious mission to which he would dedicate, and ulitamtely, sacrifice, his life.

In 1054, the Eastern Church centered in Constantinople split from the Western Church centered in Rome due to conflicts of culture, politics, and theology itself. Five centuries later, from 1595 to 1596 when Josaphat was just a teenager, bishops of the Eastern Church held the Synod of Brest Litovsk where they decided to rejoin the Church of Rome.

Many Eastern Christians did not approve of this decision, and both sides revolted violently against each other in disagreement. As people on both sides lost their lives to the conflicts, Josaphat emerged as a voice of Christian peace. Having joined the monastery in 1604, Josaphat supported the Eastern Christian bishops' decision to reunite with the Roman Catholic Church and worked tirelessly making plans for reform to carry out this idea successfully and peacefully.

By 1617, Josaphat was bishop of Polotsk, a place where the Church was suffering severely. Not only were clergy members slacking on their duties to be models of Christian living, Church buildings were literally falling apart. With determination and hard work, Josaphat rebuilt Polotsk within three years. He held synods, published a catechism, enforced rules of conduct for priests, and perhaps most importantly, visited the needy of the towns preaching and spreading the faith.

Despite all Josaphat's work, the Eastern Orthodox separatists set up their own Church, complete with a bishop, in nearby cities. They gained popularity in their opposition to Josaphat, and even some of his Catholic followers left to join the Orthodox Church.

In attempt to reconcile differences but fully aware of the dangers, Josaphat travelled to Vitebsk, the city where the separatists ruled. They saw this as a chance to kill Josaphat, and tensions grew as neither side wanted to incite the violence. As conflicts of speech grew and grew, both sides finally lashed out against each other resulting in mob violence, and Josaphat was killed November 12, 1623. 

In 1867, Josaphat was officially canonized as a saint by Rome, becoming the first saint of the Eastern church.

 

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Topics: Our Catholic Faith, Feast Day

All Saints, All Souls, and Day of the Dead: the different meanings of these fall celebrations

Posted by Catholic Financial Life

Oct 31, 2015 3:30:00 PM

All Saints' Day, November 1

  • Official name: Solemnity of All Saints
  • Catholics celebrate All Saints' Day annually, and so do members of the Eastern Orthodox Church as well as some protestant churches.
  • A Holy Day of Obligation for Catholics in the U.S. except when it falls on a Saturday or Monday
  • Focuses on well-known, beatified saints of the Church
  • With the secular holiday Halloween just one day before, the religious significance and customs of All Saints' Day is usually overshadowed in the U.S.
  • In Europe, All Saints' Day is commonly celebrated by placing flowers or candles on the graves of loved ones who have passed away
  • In Portugal, Spain, and Mexico, offerings to lost family and friends are made on this day.

All Souls' Day, November 2

  • Very similar to All Saints' Day, All Souls' Day remembers those who have died, but not souls in Heaven, souls in purgatory.
  • The Church believes that it is a place souls in a state of venial sin (lesser than mortal sin) go after death on Earth.
  • On this day, Catholics, and members of some Protestant religions, pray for the souls in purgatory that they might enter Heaven soon.
  • Americans usually recognize this special Church day by saying extra prayers or lighting candles for the deceased.
  • In Latin America, many people visit graves and leave offerings for the departed.

Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos), October 31-November 2

  • Mostly a Mexican holiday, but is celebrated in other traditions and cultures, as well
  • Split up into two parts: Dia de los Inocentes on November 1 for children who have passed away and Dia de los Muertos on November 2 for all the deceased
  • The majority of the Mexican population is historically and traditionally Catholic, so like All Souls' Day, it is a time to pray for the souls in purgatory.
  • Altars are decorated with offerings of candles, pictures, flowers, and food, and family members of the deceased pray and play music.
  • Skulls are the main symbol for this holiday. People who celebrate Day of the Dead decorate sugar skulls and paint skulls on their faces to represent the transition from life to death.
  • With the growing Mexican influence in the United States, Day of the Dead is a widely celebrated holiday in this country, too.

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Topics: Our Catholic Faith

3 Easy Ways to Pray With Your Family

Posted by Catholic Financial Life

Oct 7, 2015 5:00:00 PM

We often find ourselves so caught up in the hustle and bustle and routine of our everyday lives that we forget about the most important part of our lives -- our relationship with God!

Between back-to-school meetings and soccer games this fall, refocus some of your energy on prayer and thank God for all your blessings.

Prayer is one of the most important aspects of our Catholic faith. Here are three fun and easy ways you and your family can create new traditions of prayer.

1. The Rosary

This prayer is easy to learn and fun to do with a large group of people. Devoted to the Virgin Mary, the Rosary is a sequence of mysteries and decades recalling important events in the life of Jesus. The Hail Mary is recited over and over again along with other common prayers like the Our Father and Glory Be.family_prayer_rosary

So pull out those old Rosary beads your aunt gave you for your First Communion and give it a try. If you have never prayed the Rosary before, or if it has been a while since the last time you did, you can look up directions.

Why not invite neighbors, family, and friends to your house one evening per week to pray the Rosary together? Pass out copies of the prayers and share dessert afterward. This is a great way to spend time with loved ones, and there’s nothing like the power of a large-group prayer.

2. Pope Francis’s Five Finger Prayer

This prayer is simple yet powerful because it reminds us of those in the world who need our prayers the most. All you need are your hands!

Back when he was an Archbishop in Argentina, Pope Francis created this prayer that reflects his selflessness and compassion.

family_prayer_5_fingers

 

Here are the five steps of the prayer, according to Catholic Online:

  • Start with the thumb. It is closest to us, so it reminds us to pray for the people in our lives who are closest to us.
  • The index finger is next. Pray for the people who instruct, teach, and heal us like teachers, doctors, and mentors.
  • The middle finger is the tallest. This reminds us to pray for those who have authority, such as church and government leaders.
  • The fourth finger, the ring finger, is the weakest. We pray for the weak, sick, poor and vulnerable people of the world.
  • The last finger is the smallest, and it reminds us to pray for ourselves. Once we have finished praying for others, we can more clearly understand our own needs.

 

3. The Labyrinth

Cool and crisp fall is the perfect time to learn to pray the Labyrinth. The Labyrinth is a meditative prayer representing the Christian spiritual journey. Some of the most beautiful and peaceful labyrinths are located outdoors.

The labyrinth is a complex path that resembles a maze, but it is not a maze at all, actually. You cannot get lost on the labyrinth. There is one winding path that leads to the center, and one path that leads back to the outside. As you travel closer and further from the center, reflect on the people and things in your life that bring you closer or pull you away from God.

Find a Catholic church in your area that offers opportunities to pray the Labyrinth and see why so many Catholics find joy and relaxation in this prayer.

family_prayer_labyrinth

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Topics: Parenting, Education, Catholic Values in Action, Family, Our Catholic Faith

Hispanic Heritage Month: Sharing values of
faith and family

Posted by Catholic Financial Life

Sep 16, 2015 4:30:00 PM

Members of the Milwaukee Central Agency Chapter 110 gather for an annual member appreciation picnic each summer.

Members of the Milwaukee Central Agency Chapter 110 gather for an annual member appreciation picnic each summer.

We celebrate growth.

Hispanic Heritage month is a national celebration in the United States that lasts from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15 each year. During this time, we recognize the positive impact the Hispanic population has had on our nation through their strong traditions of faith, family, hard work, and service.

The Hispanic community is important to Catholic Financial Life. Twenty-five percent of all of our new members each year are Spanish-speaking. Seventeen percent of United States citizens identify themselves as Hispanic or Latino, and people of Mexican origin account for two-thirds of these Latino people. Ninety percent of these Mexicans are Catholic. We have adapted to our growing community of members with bilingual associates in all service areas, product materials in Spanish and advisors serving Hispanic communities. The Milwaukee Central Agency and its satellite agency in Chicago have mostly Hispanic members. Rogelio (Ro) Cabral, vice president of sales, said that there has definitely been the most member growth at the Milwaukee Central Agency.

“Ninety percent of the Hispanic community is Catholic,” said Ro. “They’re family-driven, which really reflects our values.”

Eleazar Lopez, Jr., advisor at the Milwaukee Central Agency also stressed the importance of our faith-centered bond with the Catholic Hispanic community.

“It’s natural for us to focus on this Catholic community,” said Eleazar. “They are very family-oriented, and our benefits are catered and geared to families.”

With faith comes success.

Our Hispanic members are young, active, and engaged in their families and Catholic faith. They spread the word about us and participate in chapter events in large numbers. The Milwaukee Central Agency member appreciation picnic is an example of the energy of this community. In 2013, 400-500 members participated. That number grows by over 100 every year, according to Eleazar.

Because this community is of a younger generation than our other members, they revitalize the life insurance aspect of our business.

“At the Milwaukee Central Agency and its satellite agency in Chicago, there is a huge amount of life insurance sales. Unlike other agencies that have recently been focusing on selling investments because their members are getting older, we bring in younger families who will support us for many years to come,” Eleazar said.

Another main difference is the education required at these majority-Hispanic agencies. We host financial workshops and seminars at Catholic schools and parishes to earn the trust of the Hispanic community. They find comfort in the fact that we are not-for-profit and have a strong presence in parishes and schools. Furthermore, we share a commitment to service and the Catholic faith.

Eleazar said that Catholic Financial Life's central values of family and faith at  have brought success. “We are really leading the way with this, which is unusual because we usually aren’t the innovators in this industry. The fact that we are Catholic really earns trust.”

The future is promising.

Catholic Financial Life is working to expand our Hispanic community of members, according to Ro. “We’re really just starting to dig in. The potential is tremendous. I’ve noticed a lot of opportunity out there.”

We are excited about what the future holds and hopeful that this community will continue to have a positive impact on the strength of our Catholic values. “We’re planting seeds right now," said Eleazar. "They will grow into trees which will soon sprout branches.”

hispanic_tree

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