December 26, 2010

On behalf of the clergy and staff of St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church, I would like to wish everyone a very merry Christmas and for those who are traveling over the holidays, a happy new year.  Did you know that this past Friday will be the 18th anniversary of the first Mass celebrated in our church?  On December 24, 1992, the first Mass was celebrated at St. John the Evangelist church.  Fr. John Ludden is eagerly awaiting the celebration of his third Christmas Mass as our pastor.  Please come out and join us for a beautiful celebration of the birth of Christ. 

 As I write my weekly column, I cannot help but think of how blessed we are to be living in “paradise.”  The current temperature in Chicago is 20 degrees with light snow.  The current temperature in Naples is 63 degrees headed up to a high of 72 degrees.  And let us not forget that winter only began begin this past Wednesday.  For the next ten days, the temperature in many areas of the Midwest and Northeast will not reach 40 degrees while we will be basking in cloudless skies with temperatures in the 70’s.  Although our recent and forecast temperatures are going to be slightly below normal, I seriously doubt anyone is complaining.  If anyone has ever questioned why so many people choose to winter in Naples, the next ten days are a prime example.  While it is true that during “season” we must deal with increased traffic congestion and arrive at Mass early for a good seat, it sure beats the alternative of driving on icy roads in bone chilling cold.

 Thank you to everyone that gave so generously this Christmas season.  Whether it was a gift to the CFA, a donation to Jamaica, a gift to Habitat for Humanity or a contribution to the regular offertory, you defined the essence of Christmas.  I am continually amazed every year at this time by the outpouring of generosity shown by our parishioners.  It is truly remarkable what you do for others while ensuring that St. John is provided for.  I am not a “cradle catholic” like many of you however I have visited my share of catholic churches, especially during the design stages of St. Agnes.  As I have said many times before, there are countless parishes out there that could learn a thing or two by visiting St. John the Evangelist and simply observing.  There just seems to be a spirit that exists here at St. John that does not exist at any other parish I have visited.  Obviously the Holy Spirit is present at Mass; however there is something more that exists within the friendly confines of St. John.

 Below is an idea for those of you that may be considering year end gifting ideas.

 The IRS requires you to use the Applicable Federal Rate in calculating the gift tax consequences on certain estate planning techniques.  The AFR was 3.48 percent in November; this extremely low rate combined with marginal stock performance and dismal real-estate values results in an enormous opportunity to freeze your estate at its current low value.  In essence, it might be time to consider transferring all of the future appreciation to your children/grandchildren and yes, your favorite charities, if you so choose.  This environment is ideal for the creation of Charitable Lead Trusts.  A CLT allows you to gift assets into a trust at today’s low value.  The initial or “lead” interest is paid out annually to a charity of your choice or St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church for either a predetermined number of years or for your lifetime.  Ultimately, the assets of the CLT are passed on to your children, grandchildren or other loved ones while paying a fraction of the gift tax on the transferred dollars.  All of the appreciation on the assets in the CLT transfers free of gift and estate tax.  This will provide you with an effective income tax deduction on the amount passing to the charity.  This is a win/win/lose transaction.  The amount you currently give to charity can be funded via the CLT; the assets, along with the appreciation on the assets, will pass to your children and/or grandchildren; and the IRS will get a very short haircut on the transaction.  This technique can pass millions of dollars tax-free to your favorite charities and your family.  Time is of the essence, so please talk to your tax advisors before the rates escalate and the market rebounds.

 And finally, let us not forget the Catholic Faith Appeal this Christmas.  We are dangerously close to reaching and exceeding our goal.  We need your help to exceed our goal and keep our streak going for the third straight year.

 Thank you so much for supporting St. John the Evangelist.

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