Catholic Foundation of Michigan's founding CEO says nonprofit has supported $7 million in giving since 2017, and is just getting started
DETROIT — Seated in a booth at a busy Panera Bread one late-September morning, laptop open and coffee in hand, Angela Moloney is fresh from an executive committee meeting with the Catholic Foundation of Michigan, where she serves as founding president and CEO.
“Lots of good news this morning,” she says with a smile. “Just this quarter alone, we’ve had 16 new charitable funds established.”
A longtime leader in the Catholic nonprofit community, Moloney is passionate for philanthropy work and fully invested in increasing the impact of Catholic ministries, parishes and schools by inspiring charitable giving and managing assets to grow the Church for generations to come. For 10 years, Moloney served as domestic director of the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, a Catholic organization connecting young volunteers with opportunities to serve in marginalized communities.
“While I wasn’t trained in the Jesuit tradition through school, I definitely got the entry to Jesuit spirituality through running JVC Midwest in Detroit,” she said. “We eventually merged and became one national organization.”
Her work included cultivating major gifts, leading regional development and fundraising efforts, and acquiring grants to support the program.
“I grew up in Livonia the youngest of 12 kids. My family is Catholic, and my uncle is Msgr. Jim Moloney, the pastor of St. Anselm Parish in Dearborn Heights," Moloney said. "My dad was with the Jesuits for 10 years but in the end, it wasn’t his calling. We just had that rootedness in our family life. Community has always been one of our core values."
Despite her Catholic upbringing, Moloney didn't have the opportunity to attend a Catholic school until college, when she enrolled at Madonna University in Livonia.
"I fell in love with Madonna, and it was because of the sisters there and their commitment to faith, service and justice,” Moloney said. From there, she went on to earn a master’s degree in theology from Washington Theological Union in Washington, D.C.
“I was on fire to do good work. My first job out of grad school was as a high school campus minister at a Holy Cross school just outside of D.C. called Bishop McNamara,” Moloney said. “I was responsible for all the community service, planned the retreats and led Masses. During that time, I got married to my husband, Bill, and we fell in love with the places where we took our students to do service work.”
Foremost among them was Nazareth Farm, a Catholic community in rural West Virginia, whose mission is to transform lives through a service-retreat experience. Nazareth Farm is devoted to living out the Gospel message through community, simplicity, prayer and service.
“Bill and I left what we loved in D.C. and decided to do three years of service work with Nazareth Farm," Moloney said. "We worked in Appalachia. It was awesome and a pretty unique experience doing it as a married couple. We loved it, and after three years came home to Michigan."
Moloney said her husband, who is from the Baltimore area, is "still surprised that we're Michiganders," along with their two boys, 11 and 13.
The experience of celebrating the richness and people of Appalachia stayed with the couple.
“After Nazareth Farm, we had the ability to identify our values and talk about our core values as a family," Moloney said. "It also helped deepen my work at JVC. Our kids know our values and our community. It’s about simple living, prayer and our faith, and finally, service."
Moloney said the family remains committed to service work; Bill leads community engagement efforts for students at the University of Michigan's Michigan Community Scholars program, and "we're a pretty service-focused family," she said.
"We make sure we’re always attentive to doing service. Our work has always come from those values," Moloney said. "My boys have been known to do service with us, but it’s been a tough year for that.”
Moloney has been bringing her "fire to do good" to the Catholic Foundation of Michigan, which was established in 2016, from its earliest days. The foundation helps connect donors to charitable causes in the Catholic community through planned giving, scholarships and donor-advised funds, among other efforts.
“I love the opportunity to be with individuals and families in particular as they discern what their heart is passionate about," Moloney said. "We prayerfully discern where and how (funds are dispersed), and where and how we can give service to the community."
Moloney is passionate about her work, and she's grateful for that. But her focus never wavers; and she’s always on to the next thing, spotlighting the work of others.
Moloney credits Pat Fehring, president of Level One Bank, with inspiring the creation of the Catholic Foundation of Michigan after arriving in the state and noticing an opportunity.
“He moved here from Ohio in the early 2000s and said, 'Well, where’s the Catholic Foundation?'" Moloney said. "In Columbus, they have a model where everyone gives through their Catholic Foundation as a stand-alone 501(c)3 lay-led organization."
The foundation is separate from the Archdiocese of Detroit, but supports the work of the archdiocese by inviting donors to create and give to funds that bolster ministries, parishes and schools throughout southeast Michigan.
"When Pat moved here, he approached other business leaders and said, 'We need something that’s lay-led and easy to use,'" Moloney said. "He got the blessing of Archbishop Allen Vigneron, and now we have a board of about 30 to 40 business leaders. They are a dynamic group who are so faithful, so committed, so passionate and so generous."
Moloney would love to continue talking about the mission of the Catholic Foundation, but there’s another meeting to attend, so she begins gathering her computer and things to move to another area of Panera where it’s quieter.
“The Catholic Foundation of Michigan has given about $7 million back to the community since 2017, and that’s not too bad,” Moloney says with a smile. “But there’s still so much more work to be done.”
Editor's note: An earlier version of this story misquoted Moloney saying the Catholic Foundation had established 16 new scholarship funds. The text should have read "charitable funds."