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Late farmer's generosity yields millions of dollars for Iowa parishes
Catholic News Service

DES MOINES, Iowa — Iowa farmer Edwin "Bud" Skalla died Nov. 26, 2013, at age 92. Thanks to his generosity, local parishes will be reminded of him for many years to come.

That's because he left nearly 858 acres of farmland and other assets, including diamond rings, a Rolex watch and Cadillac vehicle, to 13 southwest Iowa parishes. He also left an additional piece of land exclusively for his home parish -- St. Mary in Portsmouth.

He was a native of Portsmouth and farmed in Shelby County.

An auction of the land and other property took place Feb. 15 at St. Mary Parish Center in Portsmouth and brought in nearly $7.9 million. The proceeds will be split among the parishes, most of which are in the Des Moines Diocese. One is in the Diocese of Sioux City.

"Wow, what a gift to the parishes," said Father John Dorton, who is pastor of St. Mary in Portsmouth and also pastor at St. Boniface Parish in Westphalia and St. Mary Parish in Panama.

That money left behind will make a tremendous difference for the churches in these small communities, said Father Dorton.

"He could have lived anywhere, but his thoughts never strayed from Portsmouth and Shelby County," he told The Catholic Mirror, newspaper of the Diocese of Des Moines. "Because of his generosity, we'll have more resources for doing God's work."

Though the parish has not yet decided what they will do with the funds, there's no doubt the positive impacts will be felt for decades to come.

Father John Frost, pastor of St. Michael Parish in Harlan, agreed. St. Michael is one of the recipients.

"Financial stability is a very important issue," said Father Frost. "It's going to add greatly to our security and stability. It's no secret that the population in rural areas is declining."

Skalla's gift will enable St. Michael Parish to further establish an endowment and enrich the programs offered to parishioners.

"We're very grateful," Father Frost said. "It was a total surprise. Part of Bud's legacy is that he inspires others to acts of generosity. That's a tremendous gift in and of itself."

The generosity Skalla showed knows no bounds.

"Mr. Skalla's gift is a blessing that will endure for years to come," said Joan Bindel, development director at the Diocese of Des Moines. "His generosity beyond his lifetime will impact our faith and church communities in western Iowa for generations. His gift also provides us an opportunity to thank all those who have designated the church as beneficiaries in the future."

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