It was a great exercise in recalling my own upbringing around money and how much the financial industry has changed, even just in my lifetime.
U.S. Catholic chooses some articles – like mine – to post first online with a reader survey, then they run the survey results along with the article in the print magazine. So right now this article is only available online, but will be in the February 2013 print edition of the magazine.
I hope you’ll take the survey! Here’s an excerpt from my article Make A Deposit of Faith When Finding a Home for Your Money.
One of the first questions to ask when assessing one’s own financial social responsibility is: How quickly does my dollar leave my neighborhood? Or as one community organizer put it: How many of your neighbors’ hands does your money pass through before it leaves your immediate community? Generally speaking, the bigger the financial corporation, the quicker your dollar exits.
Credit unions, as we know them today, originated in Europe in the 1800s as financial self-help cooperatives among small business owners and farmers in particular locales, geared toward providing for and protecting their economic sovereignty. Many of them were started by Catholics and were based on principles of Catholic Social Teaching. For example, both St. Anthony Claret (1807-1870)–founder of the Claretians, who publish this magazine–and Franciszek Stefczyk (1861–1924) worked in rural areas to establish credit unions among poor farmers. Both wanted famers to own their farms and market their own crops, and they understood that one’s financial health was intimately connected with one’s family and local community. Stefczyk’s community organizations were intended to be “schools of character” for enhancing human dignity and stabilizing local communities.
As immigrant Catholics brought credit unions to America, they became organized around seven principles that reflect Catholic teaching: 1) voluntary membership, 2) democratic governance, 3) member control of capital, 4) autonomy and independence, 5) education of members and public in cooperative principles, 6) cooperation between cooperatives, and 7) concern for the local community. Most credit unions today are still built around these principles.
“If love is wise,” wrote Pope Benedict in his 2009 encyclical Charity in Truth, “it can find ways of working in accordance with provident and just expediency, as is illustrated in a significant way by much of the experience of credit unions.” … –Rose Marie Berger
Read the rest of Make A Deposit of Faith When Finding a Home for Your Money.