School Teacher Leaves $2 Million to Jesuit Parish

St. Francis of Xavier parish in Kansas City, Missouri, has received a gift of nearly $2 million from the estate of former elementary school teacher and parishioner Anna Kurzweil, Religion News Service reports.

The unrestricted gift surprised those who knew Kurzweil, who by all accounts lived frugally and never married. In addition to the gift to the parish, Kurzweil left $5,000 to each of her nieces and nephews. "Even the bank wanted to know how she got the money," said John Van De Vyvere, Kurzweil's nephew and trustee of her estate. "They were surprised a school teacher had that much money."

Kurzweil received a life teaching certificate from what is now the University of Central Missouri, a bachelor of science degree from Avila University, and a master's degree from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. In addition to teaching fourth- and fifth-graders for twenty-five years, Kurzweil, a poet, volunteered at a shelter every Saturday for fourteen years and helped coordinate classes in an intensive writing therapy program for more than a decade. She also sang in the church choir and was a lifelong member of various parish clubs and societies, even as she later grew interested in Eastern theologies. During World War II, she worked at a Pratt & Whitney plant that manufactured airplane engines and, after the war, joined the Sisters of Loretto but left the teaching order in 1954 before taking final vows to care for her aging mother. Kurzweil remained deeply spiritual and service-driven, and spent six weeks working at a leper colony in New Guinea during the summer of 1972. She also traveled the world — her one extravagance — touring Europe, Egypt, Australia, and the Holy Land multiple times.

"Ms. Kurzweil has exemplified the power of planned giving," said John Fitzpatrick, provincial assistant for advancement of the Society of Jesuits, Central and Southern province, adding that as her gift was unrestricted, the Jesuits can "apply this gift where it is most needed."