Wisconsin’s Diocese of Fond du Lac receives $7.9 million gift from the Sisterhood of the Holy Nativity

By ENS Staff
Posted Apr 26, 2024

Fond du Lac Bishop Matthew Gunter, shown here during a 2019 Eucharistic Festival at the Cathedral of St. Paul in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, announced on April 25 that the diocese has received a gift of $7.9 million from the Sisterhood of the Holy Nativity, a religious order for women in Fond du Lac. Photo: ENS file photo

[Episcopal News Service] The Episcopal Diocese of Fond du Lac in Wisconsin has received a gift of $7.9 million from the Sisterhood of the Holy Nativity, an Episcopal women’s religious order founded in 1882 in Boston, Massachusetts. The order moved to the city of Fond du Lac in 1905.

The diocese’s Cathedral Church of Saint Paul in Fond du Lac, as well as St. Peter’s in Ripon, also received gifts from the order, but information about those had not yet been made available, according to an April 25 announcement on the diocese’s website.

Fond du Lac Bishop Matthew Gunter, who also serves the order as their bishop visitor, shared the news with the diocesan Board of Trustees at its meeting on April 17. He said that the sisters directed that $6.9 million to be used for congregational development and the remaining $1 million for theological education. “These purposes reflect the historic work of the order and their deep, historic connection to the Diocese of Fond du Lac,” Gunter told the trustees.

An ad hoc committee of diocesan leaders presented options to the trustees for the use of the gift, and four were adopted at the April 17 meeting:

  • Nearly $500,000 will be shared with congregations by funding their 2024 pledges to the diocese. Payments for the remainder of the year will end, and payments already received will be returned.
  • $2 million will be invested to provide grants to 11 congregations that will see an increased assessment if the three Wisconsin dioceses reunite.
  • A “Sisters of the Holy Nativity Permanent Endowment” will be funded by over $2.2 million. The principal is retained, with earnings distributed to a diocesan budget for congregational development.
  • A “Sisters of the Holy Nativity Congregational Development Fund” will invest over $2.2 million. The principal will be available for congregational development initiative projects, and earnings will be distributed to a diocesan budget for congregational development.

As fewer women were entering religious orders in the latter part of the 20th century, the order stopped accepting novices in the early 2000s. In recent years the remaining sisters began “end of life” planning, the news release said. Gifts of its financial assets for ongoing ministry, like those announced by the Diocese of Fond du Lac, were part of that planning, the news release said.

The Sisterhood of the Holy Nativity is one of a number religious orders for men and women recognized in The Episcopal Church.

Fond du Lac is one of three Episcopal dioceses in Wisconsin, along with Eau Claire and Milwaukee. Members of the three dioceses will meet in a special convention on May 4 to vote on reunion, which would create a new, unified Diocese of Wisconsin. The move would require final approval by The Episcopal Church’s 81st General Convention when it meets June 23-28 in Louisville, Kentucky.