Winter 2013

The Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Join RCIF

RCIF would like to welcome and acknowledge the generous investment of the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary (BVM).

Ariel View of the BVM Motherhouse in Dubuque, Iowa.

The BVMs first established their own community development loan fund back in the early 1980s. “We were doing very local things then,” explains Sr. Anne Marie McKenna, BVM, of Burlingame, California. “We invested in community development banks in areas where our sisters served. We also gave small loans to our own employees, and sometimes to parishioners—a man might have needed to buy barber tools, for example, to set up shop.” Over time, the fund went through many transitions and its current partnership with RCIF is an example of its evolution. “As our numbers and our energy decrease,” adds Sr. Anne Marie, “working with RCIF is a way for us to broaden our movement for justice and freedom. It’s a very logical extension of what religious women have always done.”

BVMs Mary McCauley (left) and Judy Callahan (right) pray with a mother from Guatemala who was granted a visa to re-enter the United States to be reunited with her family following the Postville, Iowa, immigration raid in 2008. The prayer service was held to encourage Immigration reform in the U.S.

While searching for organizations to work with in the area of community development, the BVMs discovered RCIF in the directory of the Resource Center for Religious Institutes (RCRI). “Its philosophy statement resonated with us and we felt is was a good match,” says Sr. Laura Reicks, RSM, who chairs a committee that oversees the BVM’s socially responsible investments for the Community Development Loan Fund. “We appreciate that RCIF is a collaborative project sponsored by other religious orders.”

The congregation’s history goes back nearly 180 years when four young women, led by Mary Frances Clarke, arrived in Philadelphia from Dublin, Ireland and started a school for immigrant children. Within months, working with Father T.J. Donaghoe, the women made an Act of Consecration and officially created the BVM community. In 1843, the Sisters moved to the Diocese of Dubuque in Iowa where they established a boarding school that is now Clarke University. Today, BVMs minister in 23 states and three countries and focus on core values of education, charity, justice and freedom. “Wherever BVMs happen to be,” Sr. Laura states, “they are about making the lives of people better.”


RCIF Investment Highlight: The Disability Opportunity Fund

Constellation Cooperative Housing, purchased with a $225,000 DOF loan, is designed and managed by a group of parents for their adult children with Autism.

When a group of parents came up with the idea of creating a cooperatively run residence for their adult children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, they approached the Disability Opportunity Fund (DOF) with their plan and received a $225,000 loan to purchase and upgrade a Boston area home. The newly renovated property, now called Constellation Cooperative Housing, opened its doors in October of 2012.  The parent-inspired facility exemplifies the type of grassroots projects the DOF wishes to promote. “We created the DOF to explore new models,” explains Charles D. Hammerman, President & CEO. “We are giving parents, service organizations and local governments the palette to create their own ‘masterpieces.’”

Imagine Academy for Autism, founded by parents, received a $250,000 loan from The DOF to improve campus facilities in Brooklyn, NY.

Hammerman, a former attorney and father of seven (one with cerebral palsy), founded and runs the organization along with his wife, Nanci Freiman. Hammerman’s late uncle, Dr. Burton Blatt, also played an influential role—his 1966 photographic essay, Christmas in Purgatory, publicly exposed the abuse of mentally retarded patients in institutions throughout the country. His work helped to create the programs we see today that strive to integrate those with disabilities into mainstream society.

The DOF has approximately 20 active loans and a pipeline of about $6,000,000 in requested project financing. “In the four years we’ve been lending,” says Hammerman, “we’ve never had a default and we’ve never had a delinquency.” RCIF recently invested $100,000 in the organization.

The Clarkin family home opening ceremony. The DOF’s President & CEO, Charles Hammerman, shown second from right.

Other innovative DOF loans include a $50,000 line of credit for building materials (in collaboration with a $150,000 federal grant) to the Clarkin family in Mineola, New York that allowed six mildly developmentally disabled adult siblings to remain together in their childhood home. A loan of $250,000 to the Imagine Academy for Autism in Brooklyn enabled the school, founded by parents, to expand student capacity and improve building facilities. “We are out there to support projects, support deals, support knowledge-based technical assistance,” Hammerman adds. “We help by providing the financing and the ability to get it done.”


RCIF Welcomes New Board Member

Sojeila Maria Silva, COO TransForm California

RCIF welcomes Sojeila Maria Silva to its board of directors.

“It’s an honor and a privilege to work with RCIF,” says Silva. “As a layperson, I find the Sisters’ equanimity and commitment to social justice empowering. I look forward to sitting at the same table with them!”

Silva’s career in finance and management spans over 30 years and she’s experienced first-hand the critical role Catholic financing has had on the development of multiple nonprofit organizations. As CEO of the Los Angeles-based SEED Loan Fund in the early 1990s, for example, Silva received financial support from the Catholic Archdiocese and other Catholic groups. “We wouldn’t have been able to attain any scale of lending or follow-up investors without the pivotal early investments and great terms of the initial Catholic funds,” Silva explains.

Today, Silva is Chief Operating Officer of TransForm California, an advocacy group working to create world-class public transportation and walkable communities in the San Francisco Bay Area. Silva also recently served as Senior Managing Consultant at the Northern California Community Loan Fund where she provided training on strategic budgeting and monitoring to other nonprofits.

Silva now looks forward to contributing her expertise to RCIF and helping the fund grow. “RCIF is a trendsetter in social investment and offers congregations a great opportunity for impact.”


RCIF Winter 2013 Newsletter in PDF

By Liana S. Mortazavi