“Throughout her courageous four-year battle with cancer, Mary Sue never lost focus on her passion for the unborn and her genuine concern for others. She had an uncanny ability to step into the shoes of others in need. She was the most devoted faith-filled person that I’ve ever met, and stunningly beautiful on the inside and out. Everyone says that,” shares Bill Terrasi, her husband of over 30 years. 

Mary Sue Terrasi passed away in May 2019, at age 62. Mary Sue had an unwavering faith in God and her mission in life was to care for others, especially the unborn, the elderly and the sick. After her career as a geriatric nurse, she volunteered supporting adult day care. She brought Holy Communion to many in-home individuals and nursing home residents as an Extraordinary Minister of the Eucharist at St. Michael Church. She also volunteered for Heartbeat of Monroe and was an ardent right-to-life activist.

“When we were children, Mom met a young, pregnant woman. Uncertain about raising a baby, this woman did not have the means or support with which to envision a future with a child. From then on and over the years, Mom supported her with rides, visits, meals, diapers, and unwavering encouragement. These collective acts of giving, more than anything else, are how she honored new life,” shares Becky Gartman, Mary Sue and Bill’s oldest daughter. 

Over the past year of his grief journey, Bill began thinking and praying about how to continue Mary’s legacy of pro-life advocacy. Out of the blue, he received a call from Brad Smith at Right to Life of Michigan. One of the fruits of their conversations was that Brad suggested contacting the Catholic Foundation about creating a fund in Mary’s name. 

“There are so many pro-life organizations out there. I knew we did not need to start another one. I looked into establishing our own family foundation, but there is a lot involved and it didn’t seem like the best way to start,” Bill shares.

Bill decided to create a Donor Advised Fund (DAF) with the gifts offered in memory of Mary Sue. A DAF is a flexible giving tool that is established by a simple agreement, and with it, the Catholic Foundation provides the distribution, reporting, and grant-making services. 

DAFs work a lot like mini family foundations and benefit the greater community,” says Angela Moloney, President and CEO of the Foundation. “Others can contribute to the fund at any time, and then Bill and his daughters, whom he selected as fund advisors, can grant to the causes most in need that uphold Mary Sue’s passion – the sanctity of life.” 

Bill named the fund Ius Vitae – Mary Sue Terrasi Memorial Fund. Ius vitae means right to life in Latin. One unique aspect of the fund is that annually, a distribution will be made for a memorial scholarship at Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central High School (SMCC). His daughters, who are alumnae, will be judges of an annual scholarship essay contest in which students will address the topic “Why I am pro-life.”

“Being a judge of an essay contest for my alma mater will be really special, but honoring my mother and her mission in this way means the world to me. Attending SMCC was an amazing experience, and my time there helped shape the woman I am today—as well as being raised by such Christ-centered parents. I’m honored to provide a scholarship to these young adults and view their reflections on the importance of being pro-life,” shares Amy Diehl, one of Mary Sue and Bill’s three daughters.

“Remembering and honoring Mary in this way is painful in that it forces me to relive a lot of memories, but it is also inspiring and hopeful. By opening a fund with the Foundation, we have a much greater opportunity to establish a lasting legacy for my bride, as opposed to doing it on my own,” Bill reflects. 

By opening a fund with the Foundation, we have a much greater opportunity to establish a lasting legacy for my bride, as opposed to doing it on my own. – Bill Terrasi

He continues, “The Catholic Foundation’s fees are extremely reasonable. Starting a new 501(c)3 organization or family foundation would’ve been much more costly, which would’ve taken away from the impact of the fund. What is more, the Foundation is already well-known, established, and very professional. It gives credibility to the cause we are promoting.”

Elizabeth Giarmo, one of Mary Sue and Bill’s daughters, shares about her mother’s legacy, “My mother was a beacon of light, a servant follower of Christ, and a fierce fighter for the unborn. Though she is tremendously missed, I am honored to carry on her dedicated mission. Her legacy will live on through these efforts.”

“Mary Sue always said that a person’s stance on abortion is a window into their soul. I wish more people had conviction about something as much as she did,” Bill shares. And for those inspired by her conviction, he invites a gift to the fund to continue her work and passion. 

The Catholic Foundation is privileged to offer opportunities for people to honor their loved ones and continue their legacy through making an enduring philanthropic impact. Can we help continue to continue the passion of someone you love? Explore the possibility of creating a fund today.

GIVE TO IUS VITAE – MARY SUE TERRASI MEMORIAL FUND

Read More: Why Consider a Catholic Fund Over a Family Foundation?

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