When Bill Wagner gives to Bishop Machebeuf High School, he strives to be the hands of Christ on earth.
“As it says in Scripture, we’re all ambassadors of Christ,” Bill said. “Jesus needs our eyes, hands and feet on earth.”
Bill, who supports Denver-area Catholic high schools through scholarships, made it his mission to serve God by supporting a faith-based education in an often secular world.
“The environment outside of Catholic schools is neutral at best and hedonistic and anti-God at its worst, so you need something to help draw students back to Christ,” he said. “Through these scholarships, I’m encouraging the students and trying to help them develop good habits of daily prayer and Scripture readings.”
Students who receive the partial scholarships at the six high schools, including Bishop Machebeuf, are asked to develop their own spiritual mantra and pray it several times a day. One of his favorite mantras is to pray “Praise you, Lord Jesus Christ, God almighty.” Bill meets with the students once a year to encourage them to know God by reciting similar prayers and reading Scripture.
“I like to meet with the students just because it gives me a chance to evangelize a little bit,” he shared.
Bill remembers well his Catholic education, which he says was “the best thing that happened to me because it helped solidify God in my life.”
A Denver native, Bill attended St. Bernadette School and Regis High School before studying at the University of Colorado on a football scholarship. He spent two years discerning at St. Thomas Seminary—now St. John Vianney Theological Seminary—before returning to CU Boulder.
He met his wife, Marge, the pride and joy of his life, and married her in St. Louis, Mo. They spent the next 16 years of his 20-year career in the Air Force living around the world. For a time he was stationed at Lowry Air Force Base, where Bishop Machebeuf now stands. Although their four children were not able to attend Catholic schools, their five grandchildren attend local Catholic schools. His daughter is assistant principal at Bishop Machebeuf and his granddaughter started her freshman year.
After retiring from the Air Force, Bill entered real estate and discovered a business opportunity. Through the grace of God, he said he developed a self-storage business that became successful despite many obstacles. The windfall from selling his business led him to want to give back.
“It was an absolute miracle,” Bill said. “I saw the Holy Spirit at work in my life. I sold my self-storage business and received a windfall. I wanted to do something with the extra funds and decided to help youth attend Catholic school.”
He discovered the ideal vehicle to disperse the scholarship funds to Bishop Machebeuf and other high schools was through a donor-advised account at The Catholic Foundation. The more he’s given to the fund, the more he’s received, he said.
“God cannot be outdone in generosity,” Bill said. “I’ve received more than I’ve given to The Foundation. It seems impossible. I don’t have a full-time job anymore, but God provides. It’s the way he works.”
He recognized his financial blessings came from God.
“I realized that God had done extraordinary things in my life and some were financial. Because of that, I wanted to give back financially to God.”
After he and his wife attended the Catholic Biblical School, the word of God became much more prominent in their own lives. It further encouraged them to share the richness of the faith through Scripture, he said.
Through the scholarships, Bill said he strives to do the work of Christ by encouraging Scripture reading and prayers, in addition to supporting Catholic education.
“We don’t always know what God has in store for us. But if you just trust in him and do his will, God will provide,” he said.
Bill’s take on giving
Q: What are the benefits of giving?
A: Our financial blessings belong to God, and he gives us the opportunity to be a steward. When my wife and I give, we feel like God is operating through us to accomplish the things he wants to get done. He also gives you the preferences and inspiration on how to donate. You really do feel like you are helping to build the kingdom of God and are doing what Christ asks of us.
Q: What advice would you give someone thinking about becoming a volunteer or donor?
A: I would encourage people to give to what is near and dear to their hearts, whether that is Samaritan House or FOCUS or Catholic Charities. I didn’t grow up in a time when they talked about giving. Everybody said I should give the Church 10 percent, and that seemed like a lot. But I would say our resources are not ours, and God cannot be outdone in generosity. The more you give, the more you get. It seems impossible, but God provides. Just like the people God delivered out of Egypt to the desert, I learned you have to trust in the Lord. You have to give and trust God will provide for the next day.