By Marty Denzer
Catholic Key Reporter
KANSAS CITY — Two of the Kansas City area’s three Catholic credit unions have merged. United Catholic Credit Union and Holy Rosary Credit Union became Holy Rosary Credit Union effective Feb. 1. The merger had been in the works for some time.
According to Carole Wight, president of Holy Rosary Credit Union, the purpose of the merger was to create a larger and stronger credit union serving its Catholic members.
Both credit unions had long histories of service in their communities.
The first credit unions in North America were founded in Catholic parishes in Canada and New Hampshire, to help people who were underserved by banks. Early credit unions ensured better financial services for the working class. Today there are many credit unions throughout North America, both secular and faith-based. Catholic parish-based credit unions proudly point to their predecessors and to their own histories.
United Catholic Credit Union was founded in 1953 at Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Raytown, and originally named Lourdes Credit Union. Over the years, as parishes were established nearby, the credit union expanded to serve their parishioners also. Lourdes Credit Union eventually served more than 2,300 members in numerous parishes on Kansas City’s eastern side, and changed its name to United Catholic Credit Union. Most recently it served about 1,700 members.
A decade before Our Lady of Lourdes established its credit union, Holy Rosary Parish in the old Northeast area of Kansas City founded Holy Rosary Credit Union. Dubbed the “melting pot” credit union, its focus was helping the first generation Italian community, which was usually unable to obtain loans through traditional banks. Holy Rosary was founded in the basement of the church and chartered in December 1943. As the original Italian immigrant members achieved higher incomes and wealth, they moved to other neighborhoods, enabling new immigrant groups to settle in the community. Cuban refugees arrived first, followed by Vietnamese, Cambodian and Laotian families who, along with Latino families, now live and work in Holy Rosary’s neighborhood. The credit union operated out of the church basement until 13 years ago when it moved into the former convent.
As members moved to other neighborhoods, they were encouraged to keep their membership at Holy Rosary Credit Union, in fact its motto maintained that “Once a member always a member.” As time went by, it served six more parishes.
In 2011 Holy Rosary Credit Union was awarded a national Catholic Campaign for Human Development grant to expand its services into additional parishes in Kansas City and St. Joseph that could benefit from credit union membership and serve more people. The funds will also be used in part to develop financial education programs for members.
In the last few years, the economic environment nationwide has made it increasingly difficult for small credit unions like United Catholic to continue operating as they had in the past. Small credit unions face the same administrative, technological and developmental costs that larger financial institutions face, but the base over which those expenses can be spread is much smaller.
Small credit unions are also limited in the range of products they are able to offer their members. And when a small credit union experiences losses due to borrowers not repaying their loans, it can deplete capital to a level below state requirements. The state then steps in to take corrective action, which is what was about to happen to United Catholic Credit Union. Its board acted quickly to seek a merger partner: a larger, well financed, faith-based credit union.
Holy Rosary Credit Union, a larger, well financed, faith-based credit union, with about 2,800 members and more than $10 million in assets, was interested.
Both credit unions completed due diligence reviews, the purpose of which was to gather all relevant information about each other so that together they could craft the best possible outcome for the two institutions. A merger proposal was completed and sent to the Missouri Division of Credit Unions, which approved the proposal before forwarding it onto the National Credit Union Administration. Again the proposal was approved. Although a few things still had to be worked out, the merger was effective Feb. 1. Don Good, the former president of United Catholic Credit Union was hired by Holy Rosary, and the board of directors was increased by two members from United Catholic.
Members of United Catholic Credit Union automatically became members of Holy Rosary Feb. 1. The combined credit union now has two branches, one at Holy Rosary and the other at Our Lady of Lourdes, serving more than 4,500 members from 24 parishes and on-book assets of more than $16 million. Holy Rosary offers products and services including checking and savings accounts, term deposits, online banking, first and second mortgages, loans and debit cards, VISA credit cards, free online bill pay, financial education and “fresh start products” to help struggling members get back on their feet and make a fresh start.
Members of both credit unions will benefit from the combined institution. Former United Catholic members will be served by more products and services to meet their needs, increased lending opportunities and a strong evolving credit union. All Holy Rosary members, new and established, will now have access to a larger Catholic credit union, with increased capabilities for future growth.
“Everything we do is directed toward helping people manage their money,” Wight said, “and build their assets. We want our members, both from Holy Rosary and from United Catholic … financially healthy and … their needs met. That’s why we have staff members who speak English, Spanish and Vietnamese. That’s why we have programs of financial education and micro-business start ups. That’s why we offer free checking and the rest. That’s why our web site is in English, Spanish and Vietnamese.”
That’s why the institution is now Holy Rosary, a united Catholic credit union.