Couple Leaves Millions to Catholic Churches, Organizations

An elderly couple from the North Side of Syracuse, N.Y. left several Catholic organizations with a big-time blessing – to the tune of several million dollars – when they passed away.

Gus and Marie Salenske didn't live an extravagant lifestyle, but they sure knew how to save their money. The Post-Standard reports that Gus worked as a plumber and his wife worked as a nurse, and they lived out 46 years of marriage in the same home Gus grew up in as a child. They had no children.

In 2001, Gus passed away at the age of 80. After his death, Marie continued to go square dancing – a past-time they had formerly enjoyed together – and frequented the local Catholic churches near her home.

In 2009, Marie passed away, and afterward a shocking revelation occurred – the couple had saved up $4.3 million dollars, much of which they wanted to donate to local churches.

In her will, Marie requested that $1.2 million go to St. John the Baptist Church, $821,637 to the Franciscan Church of the Assumption, $410,665 to both St. Stephen's Church and the Cloistered Dominican Monastery, $205,486 to the National Shrine of St. Jude in Chicago and $1 million that was to be split between a nephew, a niece and two friends.

The Rev. Jon Werner, the priest at St. John the Baptist, told The Post-Standard that Marie went to noon Mass at his church almost daily. He says that the church has used the money to repaint its building's interior – a $90,000 job – and pay off its debts.

Although he never met Gus – Werner came to the church after Gus passed away – and he only knew Marie from the church, Werner says that it was clear the couple cared for the community they lived in.

"It was evident that they loved their community, they loved their churches on the North Side...That was so much a part of their life,” he told The Christian Post on Friday. “They obviously took care of the family that they had but they also wanted to take care of their church family."

The family and friends of the Salenske's say the Catholic church was an important part of their lives. Although Marie frequently attended St. John the Baptist, she volunteered, occasionally attended Mass and was a member at the Franciscan Church of the Assumption.

Kenneth Sprague, director of mission advancement for the Assumption church, told The Post-Standard that the church will use the money it received from the Salenske's to support its health center, food pantry and other ministries.

“What inspires me most about somebody like Marie Salenske,” he said, “is the very quiet way that she committed herself to her church and the needs of the North Side and made her decision on her own.”

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