Woman’s generosity provides enduring legacy

“It takes a noble person to plant a seed for a tree that will someday give shade to people they will never meet.”

This quote by D. Elton Trueblood, a 20th century Quaker author and theologian, is on the office whiteboard of Tony LaMar, legacy planning officer for the Archdiocese of Omaha. There are so many people who have made sacrifices in their lives – and who have planted the seed of that tree for each of us, he said.

Muriel Munchrath was one woman who planted seeds for many people throughout the archdiocese. During her life, she was an active member of St. Leo the Great Parish and later of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish, both in Omaha.

A native of Newman Grove, Neb., she built a career in nursing that included teaching, military service in Korea and Vietnam, and care of veterans. She and her husband, Donald, were married for 19 years but had no children.

Munchrath and her grand-niece Julie Waggoner had a close relationship. “We were a generation apart. There was 50 years difference in our age, but that really didn’t matter. She was like a second mom,” Waggoner said. “I had moved in with her after college and after her husband had passed, so it was kind of a perfect time in her life as well as my life.”

In her retirement Munchrath invested time in prayer for vocations and volunteer work to further seminarian education, Waggoner said.

 “She truly shaped my servant’s heart and what it meant to give back to others. All of the different volunteer and leadership activities that she took part in at St. Leo’s – that really set a good example for me.”

Waggoner became a parishioner at St. Leo while living with Munchrath. Pastor Father Craig Loecker said Munchrath was a very active member and attended daily Mass. “She was known to be extremely spiritual and prayerful,” he said.

In her estate plan, Munchrath gifted $40,000 to the parish for the construction of a perpetual adoration chapel. Construction of the chapel, for which Munchrath’s donation will provide the furnishings, will commence within a year – once the remaining pledges are received from the parish’s ongoing capital campaign, Father Loecker said.

In addition to the chapel, the $1 million campaign will raise funds to replace the church’s roof and build a new youth center, he said.

Munchrath also devoted much time and treasure to seminarian education. She donated to the archdiocese’s seminarian fund and handpicked several men to personally support through prayers and financial gifts.

Father Michael Swanton, now pastor of St. Bonaventure Parish in Columbus, was one of the seminarians she sponsored while he was in seminary from 2000 to 2005.

“She supported me, and it’s just good to have someone back at home that cares about you or you know is praying for you. That’s powerful,” he said. “She was a head nurse and did a lot of good work helping people, and in her retirement she really helped in a particular way.”

Munchrath spent lots of time praying before the Blessed Sacrament for the formation of good and holy men as they were educated in the seminary, he said.

Father Andrew Roza, director of vocations for the Archdiocese of Omaha, emphasized the importance of supporting seminarians for the future of the church.

“Muriel would sponsor men and invest her time and energy in them individually and really follow through with them, which was very appreciated,” he said. “So people like Muriel, they’re a necessary part of what makes the church work and what helps our guys to do as well as they do.”

Though Munchrath has passed away, many people in the Archdiocese of Omaha still benefit from her generosity today – like the men that she sponsored who are now priests and pastors serving as leaders and shepherds in our parishes, said LaMar.

Munchrath, who died in December 2017, decided to give in another way to benefit people after her death. She chose the seminarian fund and St. Leo Parish to be beneficiaries of a portion of her estate.

For those like Munchrath who have made a provision in their estate plans for the church, the archdiocese’s Office of Stewardship and Development created the Living Legacy Circle.

As a member of this recognition society, Munchrath left her mark in two areas that mattered a great deal to her: eucharistic adoration and seminarian education.

Throughout her life, Munchrath was diligent in her efforts to spread the Gospel, said Waggoner. “She listened and she truly lived out her faith. It wasn’t just a ‘talk the talk’ type of thing. She really did walk the talk of her faith.”

This is perhaps most evident in the work that still continues across the archdiocese in her name. “Anything she gave, somebody in the future is going to see fruit from that, and that’s the whole point of a legacy gift,” said LaMar.

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