By Our Baptism, We Are Called To Be Stewards

September 18, 2009

Stewardship, The Pilot

By Julie Kenny

“Our parish is starting stewardship. Can you help us?” We receive this question from parish staff members all over the country several times a month phrased in a variety of ways, all looking for help. Weekend Mass attendance may be low, the parish might be struggling financially, they could need volunteers, or all of the above. Hundreds of parishes are teaching stewardship to rejuvenate parish life and bring their parishioners closer to Christ. Why stewardship?

It helps to first understand what stewardship is and is not. Stewardship is the realization that God fashioned me in my mother’s womb, gave me everything I have, provides me with opportunities to share my talents with others, and is counting on me to do so. It is the result of a conversion of heart experience and motivates me to gratefully give of myself. Stewardship is NOT a program that ends when the parish collection goes up, or more people volunteer and is definitely not spelled “$tewardship!”

When parishes teach a stewardship way of life, parishioners are excited about their faith and joyfully share their lives and personal resources without counting the cost to themselves. This means driving to the parish at 2:00 am to pray during eucharistic adoration one morning a week, giving a sacrificial and proportionate amount of their income to the parish, and serving in parish ministries and/or community activities.

A parish desiring to teach stewardship should first look at parish life to see how they already live stewardship. Does the parish provide prayer opportunities for parishioners like eucharistic adoration, parish missions, or Bible study? How many ministries are active in the parish? How many parishioners serve in those ministries? How many attend daily Mass? What is the average weekly collection? These are all existing stewardship activities to be grateful for!

To help organize and formalize stewardship efforts, it is critical for parish staff to network and educate themselves on what does and does not work! Attending workshops is a great way to exchange ideas and learn practical methods to implement or renew stewardship in all areas of parish life. Companies like Our Sunday Visitor provide web-based seminars with hands-on techniques and have experienced consultants ready to guide parishes in their annual planning and communications. 

The International Catholic Stewardship Council (ICSC), located in Washington, DC, is an organization parishes join to get quality resources and meet others teaching stewardship. This organization holds an annual conference designed to assist and educate parishes at all levels of stewardship formation. The ICSC’s 2009 annual conference is October 11-14 in Dallas. You can find information about the ICSC, their conference and materials at www.CatholicStewardship.org.

The most successful stewardship efforts occur in parishes that keep the message of time, talent and treasure in front of parishioners throughout the year in a variety of ways. Parishes cannot mention stewardship one time a year during ministry sign-ups and expect everyone to remember and understand the message the rest of their lives.

By our baptism, we are called to be stewards. Ed Laughlin of Partners in Stewardship in Port Saint Lucie, Florida, says, “Stewards are on a life-long journey. We must provide them nourishment and guidance along the way.” Certainly there are stewards at different stages of their trek. Some just started.  Some are nearing their destination. Some dawdle. Some run. Some desperately need a GPS!

The late Archbishop Thomas Murphy said, “Stewardship is not a quick fix.” If parish efforts are not drawing parishioners closer to Christ, stop and start over or re-evaluate the efforts. Be patient. Stay the course. Pick up your walking stick and get started.

Julie Kenny is the Stewardship Services Manager at Our Sunday Visitor (OSV) in Huntington, IN.  For more information about OSV’s stewardship resources, offertory envelopes, and electronic giving services, please visit www.OSVenvelopes.com.

This article originally appeared in a special “Parish Stewardship & Fundraising” section of The Pilot on September 18, 2009

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