Parishioners share the joy, satisfaction of leaving a Catholic legacy

For Isabel Benitez, the decision to name Resurrection Catholic Church, Winter Garden, as a beneficiary of her life insurance policy was one step in a journey that began with a quarter.

As a child she was taught to place that quarter in the offertory basket, so it could help others. It’s a lesson she taught to her two daughters, now in college, and it sparked a lifelong enthusiasm for Christian stewardship.

Isabela is one of three parishioners from the Diocese of Orlando who shared their experiences during a panel discussion that explored how and why faithful Catholics choose to make the Church a part of their legacy plans.  The panel also included Michael Cocco, a parishioner at Corpus Christi Catholic Church in Celebration, and Jane Schatzman, a parishioner at St. Theresa Catholic Church in Belleview.

All three are members of the Vivos Christi Society, a group of faithful Catholics in the Diocese of Orlando who provide for the future of the Church through their wills or other estate gifts.

Featured as part of the International Catholic Stewardship Council’s 2014 Annual Conference on October 7, the presentation drew participants from parishes and dioceses across the United States. All came with the desire to learn new and better ways to inspire legacy gifts within their own Catholic communities.

“It has to start at home very early. With me it started with the quarter I put in the basket. It is something you have to teach,” explained Isabel Benitez.

While legacy or “planned” gifts typically go into effect at the end of a person’s lifetime, the panelists agreed that the process of leaving a Catholic legacy is part of a larger “spirit of sacrifice” that begins in childhood.

“Even my job is a gift from God, so it’s not a stretch for me to give a percentage of my life policy to the Church,” continued Benitez. “It teaches my children that you always give, and even when you are no longer here you can continue to give.”

Mike Cocco and his wife, Elizabeth have five children and feel strongly that their parish will be remembered right along with their children. “It was just second nature to do that. I was taught early on that faith is a priority in everything you do.”

All three panelists also agreed that more Catholics need to be aware of how gratifying – and simple – it can be to make even a modest planned gift.

“Everyone hears about these huge estate gifts and think they have to give a huge amount of money.  It’s not about the big gifts; it’s about making the church a part of your thought process as you are planning your legacy,” explained Cocco.

Isabel Benitez noted that parishioners “need to know that by giving a little, they can give a lot.”

Jane Schatzman, who serves as Chair of her parish chapter of the Vivos Christi Society told participants that she tries to make planned giving “applicable, interesting, and spiritually relevant.”

“We’re not a wealthy parish. The majority of our families are older, but they don’t have a lot of money. I want to help them feel comfortable with whatever they are able to do.”

Like Isabel Benitez, Jane chose to provide for her parish through a life insurance policy, an inexpensive option that has the added benefit of bypassing the probate process associated with wills.

“If more parishioners knew that $20 a month could buy a $200,000 life insurance policy, they might be interested,” said Benitez.

The hour-long discussion was facilitated by Meghan Post, President of The Catholic Foundation of Central Florida, which offers a comprehensive Planned Giving Initiative to parishes, schools and other Catholic ministries within the Diocese of Orlando. Since launching the initiative in the fall of 2012, The Catholic Foundation has worked with more than 250 families to create a Catholic legacy.

“A Catholic legacy communicates your values, the values of the Church, not the world,” said Post. “That’s what makes it so meaningful and so special.”

 For more information on how to include the Church as part of your own legacy, contact us at or visit our website at


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