Dear Parishioners, +JMJ
This week in my homilies I am speaking about stewardship. Stewardship is the idea that you step back from your life and realize that it is not your own. Of course, it is your life! But the point is that you and I have a Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, who actually is the Master of our lives. Given his Lordship, we step back and ask ourselves if we are “stewarding” our lives according to his will. In every area of life, are we handling things in a way that would be pleasing to Him, to the best of our ability? There is no area of life that we should leave untouched by his Lordship.
Here is a quote I ran across providentially, used by the parish where my uncle’s funeral was celebrated this past week. It’s a quote by Pope Benedict XVI addressing stewardship:
The promotion of the practice of stewardship is important for the mission of the Church and for the spiritual well-being of each individual Christian. Everyone benefits from the sacrificial gift one makes of his time, talent, and treasure.
As you can see in the quote, for decades the Church has taught about stewardship by using the categories of time, talent and treasure.
Time is the time you put into prayer and worship of the Lord. This certainly includes the very top priority, which is the Mass on Sundays! Also included is your daily prayer time to keep a personal relationship going with the Lord. But then it includes the effort you make to advance your knowledge of the Faith each year. This could be by means of a retreat. It could be an online theology class you take. It could be using one of the many resources on our parish FORMED subscription. Perhaps a husband and wife, or a whole family watches a video series of teachings during Advent and Lent. Or a father and mother read a paragraph of the Catechism each night before dinner and discuss it with the children. Or the family prayers a Rosary, or even a decade of the Rosary, each evening. The point is, time includes the Mass, personal prayer and worship, and then some study to increase your intellectual understanding of the Faith.
Talent is all about using your gifts to serve the Lord in a special way. This can certainly happen outside of the parish. For instance, I know there are many people who help with the local soup kitchen. That is definitely time spent for the Lord. Our parish does not operate that soup kitchen, although many parishioners help with it. In our parish we certainly want to make well known and available the service opportunities. Especially given that with our need to operate three campuses, with all the buildings and grounds involved, we do not have the financial means to hire people for all of the work that has to happen at each campus. We have been working actually for a couple years to organize our discipleship talent/ministry structure, so that we can know what services are happening already, and what their needs are, in order better to support them as a parish staff. We have reached the point where we are almost ready to publish a discipleship talent booklet which will list many opportunities for service in the parish, and the names and contact information of people who organize the various service areas. This booklet should appear in late October. Then on November 4 in Payne we will have another appreciation/thank-you dinner for all of our volunteers who give of their talent to help the parish in so many ways. We had one of these dinners three years ago. It’s a great way to let volunteers know that we really appreciate all the work they do, fitting in parish service in the midst of very busy lives (Who isn’t busy like crazy these days?!).
We hope with the publication of a service opportunities booklet and with a “ministry fair” after each of the weekend Masses October 20-21 to give people the opportunity to step up for service, if they are not already involved in something in the parish. I think much of the difficulty getting people involved is simply communicating what the needs are. The booklet and fair will help immensely! As pastor, I am not able to approach every individual and ask for help. The ministry booklet and fair to give people the opportunity to sit back and contemplate the various opportunities and prayerfully consider where they might help.
For example, at this time there’s nobody to help with the flower beds at the Paulding rectory. Given my schedule, the rectory is quite frankly too big for me to handle. Is there someone out there who would be willing to commit to keeping flowerbeds and bushes in good order at the rectory? The same question can be asked about the flower gardens at our other campuses. Are there other people who could help? Or consider that each year we have to replenish our team of PSR teachers and YDisciple small group leaders. Are there people out there who would feel called to step up for this duty, which is so crucial to handing on the Faith to our youth (and, by the way, so enriching to the teachers/leaders themselves)?
Finally, there is the category of treasure as a part of stewardship. I wonder if perhaps this is the category many people are most sensitive about. We work hard for every dollar we earn! “Treasure” in stewardship means giving financial support to the parish. The disciple of Jesus Christ considers his or her financial income, and budgets for some amount every year to go directly to the parish, and perhaps a favorite charity besides. I think our parishioners have been very generous – especially with projects that come up. Catholics traditionally give generously when a specific project is before them. But we also have the basic operating costs of the parish, which increase each year. Think of all the ways that our operating costs increase. We have to give employees (office and school staff and teachers) some minimal cost-of-living raise in salary. Utilities such as gas, water and electricity go up each year. Property and self-protection insurance increases each year. We have organized greatly in the last four years, in order to bring our expenses as close as possible to the giving rate of our parishioners… And we have become more efficient and effective with all of our office procedures. Electronic bulletin, the email prayer chain, the parish app and emergency notification capacity are good examples of this. Even a new telephone and Internet system, put in within my first year, which links all of our campuses together more efficiently, is a great example of cost-saving moves. With a cash outlay of $4000, we put in a system that would save us $400 per month. (The system paid for itself in 10 months, and we continue to benefit from the savings.) So, while we are always trying to cut costs by being as efficient and effective as possible managing the parish, we still need parishioners to give a little bit more each year, in order to keep up with increasing costs that are beyond our control.
So, there you have stewardship: time, talent and treasure… A primary focus for us in this upcoming year. Please consider prayerfully all that you hear in the homily this weekend, and all that is in this bulletin letter. And, many, many, many thanks to those parishioners who already give of their time, talent and treasure in such an impressive way in our parish! Sometimes a priest can feel like he is the busiest and most overburdened person on the earth! But then he looks at parishioners who are in love with our Lord Jesus Christ, and he realizes he is really part of a rich community of people equally giving – and giving always more – in love.
Have a blessed week!
In cordibus Iesu et Mariae,