Clients in Conversation: Money & Spirit – Part I
May 12 2015
This article was originally published in the Spring 2015 RSF Quarterly. This dialogue is with John Bloom, Vice President, Organizational Culture and RSF clients Rose Feerick and Barbara Sargent.
Last fall at the SOCAP14 conference, RSF sponsored a panel titled, “What Does Spirit Have To Do With Money?” The participants, Barbara Sargent, Rose Feerick, and John Bloom (facilitator), began this conversation prior to the panel in preparation and it deepened more during the panel. This “conversation” is an extension of that dialogue. Our hope is that the questions we explored be engaged with by anyone reading this distillation. It would honor the participants and the dialogue itself were this to be the case.
The questions: What in each of our biographies led us to seek the connection between money and spirit? How do spiritual practices inform our work with money? What are some practical examples from your current work with money and gift which evidence the presence of spirit?
Barbara: During the 1980s I was gradually growing into too much wealth for my own comfort as a result of stock that had been gifted to me. My parents advised me to just keep these funds in the bank, not speak about it, and not give too much away.
Toward the end of the eighties I had become quite uncomfortable with this shadowed world, for this was translating into hiding from the reality of my own life, hiding from myself. There was also a nagging, if not fully conscious, feeling that not circulating the funds in service to people and life in general violated a fullness that I sensed was present in me.
I was scared of the exposure that being more public about the presence of this money would bring. At the same time, I was praying to be of service to the well being of the world. Now I can say that that prayer was heard, because the courage and energies needed came for what my husband Tom and I are in the midst of doing philanthropically and through our investments.
Rose: I grew up in a traditional Irish Catholic family in an affluent neighborhood. From a young age, I understood that faith was meant to shape how we lived and what we did with financial resources. I witnessed my parents’ generosity in responding to various food drives and fundraising requests. Neither of my parents paid any attention to fancy clothes, jewelry, or cars, which was a source of much embarrassment for me at the time. Even so, I knew that their lack of concern for image was because their hearts and values were rooted in something else—their faith.
I chose to study that faith in college at Georgetown University and there learned about inspiring men and women such as Dorothy Day, St. Francis, and Romero who left positions of privilege in order to confront the injustice of their times. I was also troubled by the economic injustice I witnessed as I took a two-mile bus ride every week from Georgetown to 14th Street to work with homeless women. I understood that Jesus had a lot to say about these realities and wanted to see if I could find a way to embody the Christian values of simplicity and social justice in my own life. How ironic, then, that as I was making this decision, I received a substantial financial gift. Of course, now I see that paradoxical moment as the holy joke that launched me on my path.
Barbara: I am taken by Rose’s expression of that ‘paradoxical moment,’ of receiving a substantial gift of money from, what I call, the universe. It is compelling for me to watch how the universe responds when we make a very serious commitment from our inner life. We are tested, and depending on how we respond, we can be supported by gifts of the energies needed to carry the commitment through, or not. For Rose this moment turned out to be the holy joke that launched her on her life path. This little story expresses a kind of sweetness and intimacy with the unseen world. For me, at a meditation retreat during this early period, an energy came with the words “just start a foundation.” From there I knew I would do so, as intimidated and scared as I was by the thought. When we started what became Kalliopeia Foundation, I asked myself, “What should this foundation focus on, what should it be about?”
During my growing up years I had become lost and without purpose, and the natural, spiritual orientation I was born with had disappeared, largely because this was not reflected in the culture in which I lived. So this is what Kalliopeia Foundation came to be about. Its mission is to support the evolution of communities and cultures that honor the unity at the heart of life’s diversity. It is not religiously affiliated, but through its grantmaking it honors programs that hold the sacred at the center, that work with authenticity, the re-emergence of feminine values, and with deeply holistic, emergent ways of living.
Barbara Sargent is president of Kalliopeia Foundation and on the board of New Field Foundation. She and her husband, Tom Sargent, are active in building financial practices that can lead to holistic and truly sustainable ways of living. Her practice is within the Sufi tradition with Sheikh Llewellyn Vaughan Lee of the Golden Sufi Center.
Rose Feerick is the Director of Harvest Time, an ecumenical Christian ministry that invites people of wealth to engage questions of money as a doorway to spiritual transformation. Rose has been offering retreats, reflections and spiritual direction related to money and Christian faith for over ten years. She has a BA from Georgetown University and an MDiv from the Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University. She lives in Redwood City, CA with her two sons who share her love of music, sense of wonder in nature, and spirit of playfulness.