Legacy Society members speak out

My Legacy: Elizabeth "Betty" Wheeler

A life as grand and generous as that of Betty Wheeler, longtime supporter of Mount Angel Abbey and many Catholic charities, is difficult to summarize. Fr. Edmund Smith, OSB, who preached at her funeral mass on March 27 in St. Thomas More Church, Portland, attempted to capture some of Betty’s vibrant personality with a story.

He relates how their mutual friend, Monsignor James Ribble, onetime President-Rector of Mount Angel Seminary, was driving Betty to her parish in Portland’s West Hills. On the long, twisting road, she announced that he was driving too slowly. Asked him to stop, and switched places so she could “put the pedal to the metal” up the hill to the church. Fr. Edmund comments that she was not a woman to live life in first gear.

For many years, the Abbey has been a recipient of major gifts from Betty Wheeler. Through her final years, Betty remained a member of St. Joseph’s Circle, those with a high level of commitment to the Abbey Foundation, and she was a member of the Legacy Society.

Betty, whose long life included graduate-level study of art, support of symphonic music, hospital work and outreach to the poor, could delight in many things. Something as simple as pure, white flowers would bring her delight. Did she glimpse in them the church’s celebration of the Resurrection? - or simply marvel at their brightness?

Her friends, including those of us associated with the Abbey, will cherish the image of Betty, returned to her home church, her casket covered with white roses, and commend to God a life fully-lived and unselfishly given to others.


My Legacy: Through Thick and Thin

In 1958, Timothy Rolfe enrolled as a junior at Mount Angel Seminary High School. Three years later, he knew he wanted to join the monastic community. He made his simple profession and earned his bachelor’s of philosophy in 1963. With the guidance of Abbot Damian, he discerned his place was not as a monk, and he departed to join the Air Force.

He was encouraged to enroll in Officer’s Training School, although he “wasn’t sure about going from humble junior monk to leader of men.” After serving for 4½ years, he deployed his GI education benefits, earning a BS degree in chemistry, mathematics and computer science from the University of Oregon. This was followed by graduate degrees in theoretical physical chemistry and computer science at the University of Chicago and the University of Minnesota respectively. The studies, he said, “kept the cobwebs out.”

His career included teaching and computer lab positions at MIT, Gonzaga University, Dakota State University, and, finally, Eastern Washington University, where he retired as a full professor. His studies in the sciences make him disagree with those who insist they can fully understand God. If even the specialists cannot fully understand creation, how can anyone pretend to understand the creator?

Tim has remained loyal to Mount Angel Abbey through thick and thin. His will states that his financial estate, including what remains of his supplemental retirement account (his “mad” money), will go to the Abbey. At the Hilltop this July for the Abbey Bach Festival, he visited the workmen’s cemetery where he will be buried one day, near the monks he has known since he first arrived as a 15-year-old eager to learn, work and pray.

My Legacy: Leola Bowerman

When seminarian Daniel Steele, studying pre-theology, called Leola Bowerman during the spring phonathon, he didn't expect the call to result in a visit to an attorney. “He ought to give lessons in fundraising,” she said later. “He was so precious and pastoral.”

Dan, who hails from the Yakima Diocese, learned that Leola is retired and living on a fixed income. What’s more, she had just had her identity stolen and her computer had crashed. After listening carefully, he said he wouldn't expect her to give anything, but even a gift of $10 would help the Seminary.

His sympathy made a difference. Although Leola pledged a generous monthly gift, she said she “felt guilty” after the call. It had been the most pleasant conversation of her day and she had received 10 fundraising calls! The next day she arranged to meet her attorney so she could change her will to include Mount Angel Seminary.

Leola was pleased to report her decision to Dan and Lynn Jones, her good friends and fellow parishioners at St. Pius (Lynn is the current president of the Abbey Foundation of Oregon). And when Leola received a fundraising call from another organization, she told the caller they should take lessons from the future priests at Mount Angel Seminary.



My Legacy: Rosmarie Furrer

The monks of Mount Angel helped my ancestors when they first came to the Northwest in the 1920s. They made it possible for my family members to receive food and shelter when no one else would. While I have always appreciated the work of the Benedictines and the priests who received training at Mount Angel Seminary, I felt a debt of gratitude to Mount Angel Abbey. For these reasons, I have decided to leave my home to The Abbey Foundation to provide a future source of funding for the education of monks and seminarians. Thank you Mount Angel for being there for my family.”

My Legacy: Arlene Harris Smit

It seems I have always known of Mount Angel Abbey. St. Benedict's simple phrase, Ora et Labora (Work and Prayer) capture the essence of Benedictine Life. Their work and prayer life, and their hospitality, motivated me to become a Benedictine Oblate in 1959 to unite myself more closely with them.

After 50 years of association with the Benedictines, I decided to leave a legacy for the education of future priests. By naming the Abbey Foundation of Oregon as a beneficiary of my estate in appreciation for the outstanding work the monks do, I can be a part of the future of the Catholic Church in many parts of the world.

My Legacy: Les Fahey

Until 6 years ago I knew very little about Mount Angel Abbey, even though I grew up as a practicing Catholic in the Portland Archdiocese. I knew they had a Seminary, but I had no idea how significant it was and the impact Mount Angel Abbey has on our Catholic Community. Over the years I participated in prayers for religious vocations, but took no other actions to help build vocations.

I was introduced to Mount Angel Abbey at the Seminary Benefit Dinner. I was very impressed and shortly thereafter accepted an offer to join the Foundation Board. This has been a very gratifying experience for me. I have learned that the Abbey is a resource for our Catholic Community - from its unparalleled library, spiritually rewarding retreats, spiritual guidance, and the top notch Seminary. Currently there are 180 seminarians enrolled including 24 from the Archdiocese of Portland.

Supporting the Seminary is especially appealing for my wife, Nancy and me, and we do this in various ways including sponsorships of the Seminary Dinner, Festival of Arts & Wine and other special appeals.

We wanted to leave a legacy gift for the Seminary, so we made the Seminary a secondary beneficiary on some of our IRA funds. This allows us to endow a seminary scholarship fund that is a significant need at the Abbey. This is an easy estate planning technique to execute. It allows us financial security during our lives and eventually will benefit seminarians while avoiding income and estate taxes.