OMAHA, Neb. — From its founding 125 years ago by six Midwestern bishops looking to obtain reasonably priced insurance on their churches, Omaha-based Catholic Mutual Group has grown to become the primary provider of property and casualty coverage for the Catholic Church in North America.
And this year, the not-for-profit organization, owned by the Catholic Church, is celebrating its anniversary by honoring founding and current members and employees, and by building on accomplishments that began when the first coverage was written Feb. 1, 1889.
"Our success is predicated on the support we get from our member dioceses and religious orders," said Michael Intrieri, president and CEO. "Without them, we wouldn't have the success we have today."
That support comes from across North America, as Catholic Mutual Group provides coverage and other services, such as comprehensive risk management, claims administration and an employee benefit buying alliance program for 111 dioceses in the United States, 17 dioceses in Canada and more than 200 religious orders and Catholic institutions.
Those Catholic organizations are served by about 250 Catholic Mutual employees, including 150 in Omaha and about 100 employees in 35 service offices from New Orleans to Toronto, said Intrieri, who has been with Catholic Mutual for 28 years and became president and CEO in November 2012.
Catholic Mutual Group has helped the church recover from every manner of property loss -- from major natural disasters such as Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and a deadly tornado that tore through Joplin, Mo., in 2011, to boiler and machinery repairs at churches and schools.
Helping the church respond to clergy and other sexual abuse claims, Catholic Mutual also has provided financial support through its liability coverage and helped develop and implement training and policies to prevent sexual misconduct through its risk management services.
Intrieri said Catholic Mutual's growth stems from the vision of the six bishops who founded the benevolent relief society as the Catholic Mutual Relief Society: Bishop James O'Connor of the then-Diocese of Omaha; Bishop Richard Scannell of the Diocese of Concordia, Kan. (now Salina), who succeeded Bishop O'Connor in Omaha; Bishop Martin Marty of the Diocese of Sioux Falls, S.D.; Bishop Louis Fink of the Diocese of Leavenworth, Kan. (now the Archdiocese of Kansas City); Bishop John J. Hennessy of the Diocese of Wichita, Kan.; and Bishop Thomas Bonacum of the Diocese of Lincoln.
Remaining a benevolent relief society today -- Catholic Mutual's parent corporation retains the name "Catholic Mutual Relief Society" -- the company provides an average of $3 million a year in relief payments to members for matters such as uncovered losses, Intrieri said.
While the organization may appear similar to a commercial insurance company, Catholic Mutual is approved as a self-insurance fund of the Catholic Church, which means the company only can write coverage for Catholic entities. Assets belong to the church, and money may be returned to members in the form of lower rates or a return of contribution following a successful financial year, he said.
Rather than having a profit motive and serving many organizations in various industries, Catholic Mutual's goal is focused on providing the best protection for the church at the most reasonable cost, he said. And because of its ties to the church, the corporation provides that service with a faith-filled professionalism and personal touch consistent with the teachings of the church, Intrieri said.
"When we get a claim, we respond in a way that recognizes the importance of preserving the good will the church has established within the parish community," he said. "We take that very seriously."
The board of trustees is made up of cardinals, bishops and archbishops, Intrieri told the Catholic Voice, Omaha's archdiocesan newspaper. The chairman of the board always has been the bishop and now archbishop of Omaha, including current board chairman Archbishop George J. Lucas.
To celebrate the 125th anniversary, Catholic Mutual Group is commissioning unique artwork for each founding diocese, to be presented Aug. 11 at an anniversary dinner in Omaha. Current members will receive plaques with artwork, commemorative coins, pens and special newsletters highlighting the histories of the founding dioceses, said Intrieri, a member of St. John the Evangelist Parish in Valley.
Also, letterhead this year features the current Catholic Mutual logo along with an earlier Catholic Mutual Relief Society logo, he said.
Catholic Mutual Group also is commissioning a commemorative book for members and employees that will feature contributions from Archbishop Lucas, retired Omaha Archbishop Elden F. Curtiss, Intrieri and two retired presidents, he said.
The anniversary is an important milestone, Intrieri said, but the company looks forward to building on its success while remaining committed to its mission of serving the temporal needs of the Catholic Church.
From the Omaha Archdiocese, as a founding member, to the newest diocese the company began writing a policy for last year, "we have to continue to prove they are with the best," he said.