Home

Saint Elizabeth Roman Catholic Church

Formation in Catholic Stewardship

Pastor’s Presentation: January 7-8, 2006

 

It was clearly intended as a criticism, but I took it as a backhanded compliment!  Last November, around Thanksgiving, one of the members of our parish stewardship council was speaking about our new church to friends from another parish.  One friend said with more than a little sarcasm:  “All they do up there is stewardship!”  When I heard the comment, I thought to myself: “Would that it were really true that all we do up here at Saint Elizabeth is stewardship.  Amen to that!”

I suppose what the complainer actually meant is “all they do is collect money without providing much pastoral service,” since many people hear stewardship and think fund raising or more collections.  But responsible stewardship entails much, much more than simply donating money to one’s church or favorite charity. 

Consider for a moment the words of Saint Paul in today’s second reading, when he speaks to the Ephesians about  “the stewardship of God’s grace given to me for your benefit.”  Paul is clearly not talking about money.  He is speaking about his own role in the mystery of salvation made known in Jesus Christ, his responsibility to participate in God’s plan for the salvation of all.  Paul’s stewardship has everything to do with how he lives out his faith in Jesus Christ as Risen Lord, and how others’ lives are enriched by Paul’s giving of himself in imitation of Christ.  Stewardship is rooted in Christian discipleship, in how you and I live as twenty-first century followers of Jesus Christ.   Stewardship is a way of living like Jesus so that others come to believe in him.

Catholic Stewardship is certainly not new.  Since the publication of the American Bishops’ 1992 pastoral letter, Stewardship: A Disciple’s Response, Catholic churches all across the country have developed stewardship plans for their parish communities.  A good number of you are already somewhat familiar with stewardship from your experience in another parish, including our neighbors at Saint Joseph in Downingtown, Saint Eleanor in Collegeville, or Saint Aloysius in Pottstown.

Here at Saint Elizabeth, our stewardship council has been working for quite some time to design a plan of formation in Catholic Stewardship specifically tailored for our own parishioners.  This formation plan is intended to deepen the spiritual foundation which motivates the many concrete forms of stewardship service in which parishioners are already involved and to encourage all our parishioners to make a personal commitment to a stewardship way of life.

I have invited members of our council to speak after Communion at each Mass over the next several weekends. I have asked them to offer short reflections which will help us all to develop a better and more complete understanding of stewardship.  They will speak about what it means to be a Catholic believer; about what Catholic Stewardship really is; about what it means to be a stewardship parish; and about what stewardship means in our daily lives.  Their oral reflections at Mass will be presented in a more complete form in our weekly parish bulletin and on the parish website.  

I encourage you to listen to our stewardship speakers at Mass, to read the printed material with attention, and to talk about stewardship with your family members, adults and children alike.  As you learn more about stewardship in the weeks ahead, I ask you to pray with me and to pray with one another.  Ask the Holy Spirit to motivate and empower all of us to deepen our shared commitment to be faithful stewards of the abundant gifts God has given to us here at Saint Elizabeth, so that we become ever more active participants in the mission and ministry of the Church in the world. 

Yes, it’s true: “all we do up here at Saint Elizabeth” is stewardship.  Like the magi of today’s gospel, we bring our gifts to our Newborn King, Jesus Christ, to be shared with others, both within and beyond our parish community.  May we be good stewards of God’s abundant gifts!


Saint Elizabeth Roman Catholic Church

Formation in Catholic Stewardship

Reflection 2: What Does It Mean to Be a Catholic Believer?

January 14-15, 2006

 

When faced with the question “what does it mean to be a Catholic steward” the members of the stewardship council realized that first we should define what it means to be a Catholic!  It sounded easy enough: “Catholic” means “go to mass on Sunday and receive Holy Communion.”  Done.

 

Once we realized that this wasn’t going to cut it, we turned to reading and reflecting and came to the conclusion that in its most basic terms, it is simple after all:  All who call themselves Christian share one simple belief – that salvation comes from the divine life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

 

Scripture tell us that God wants a covenant, a relationship, with the people He created.  Therefore, living out our Catholic Faith must begin with developing a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and with participation as a member of the full body of Christian believers – the church itself.  We commit to cherishing our beliefs and living them out by our actions, in everyday activities.  There is no aspect of our daily lives from which our faith can be excluded.

 

By our baptism, we have become members of the body of Christ.  To be members requires action. One form of action that we take as a community of believers is to participate in the sacraments.  By gathering around the table at Mass, we experience “God with us” in two ways each and every week.  First, in the very act of gathering, for Christ promised  “where two or three are gathered together in my name there I am in their midst” (Matt 18:20).  And Second, in the Eucharist itself, when we receive the Body of Christ.  We receive the Holy Eucharist with the hope that each one of us can become more fully the body of Christ – that our hands will act as Christ’s hands in this world, that our words deliver Christ’s message.

 

At Mass, during the Profession of Faith, we pray: “We believe in one, holy, catholic, apostolic church.”   This statement of belief stresses several other important aspects of our Catholic Faith.

 

One: The notion that regardless of how many individuals, parishes and local churches make up the Catholic Church,  we are one with a common purpose, as Saint Paul affirms: “... so too we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.”  (Romans 12:5)

 

Holy:  Flawed though we are, we Catholics acknowledge that all humanity, created in the image of God, is essentially good. This is the basis for the value we put on human life and the dignity of every human person. Pope John Paul II put it this way:

“The vocation to holiness, that is, the perfection of charity is the basic charge entrusted to all the sons and daughters of the Church.” (CL,16)

 

Catholic:  The word catholic simply means universal, including the whole without limit or exception.  Our faith is just the opposite of exclusionary. Our faith especially demands that we actively seek to change the circumstances of the poor and promote justice in the treatment of all the members of the human family.

 

 

Apostolic:   While still on earth, Christ called together a community of faith founded on Peter and the other apostles. As the successors of the apostles, today’s bishops, assisted by the priests and deacons of each diocese, act as shepherds of the Christian community.   As members of the Body of Christ, lay people are also called and sent into the world as missionaries – actively helping others to discover or re-discover the Catholic Church under “Christ’s headship.”

 

To be an active faithful Catholic is a tall order, but we are blessed with a perfect role model in Mary our Mother.   Though fully human, Mary epitomizes trust in and faithfulness to the will of God.  Isn’t that, after all, what we are really called to be while we live on earth?


Saint Elizabeth Roman Catholic Church

Formation in Catholic Stewardship

Reflection 3: What is Catholic Stewardship?

January 21-22, 2006

 

The term “stewardship” is frequently misunderstood in contemporary Catholic parish life.  For many people, it just sounds like another term for fund-raising.  But stewardship embraces all aspects of spiritual giving, too.

 

Without realizing it, many of our parishioners already engage in stewardship throughout the course of an ordinary day:  holding a door for someone, sending a get-well card, or volunteering at a charity bake sale.  These may sound trivial, but all are examples of stewardship, for in its most basic form, stewardship is simply the act of taking care of what has been entrusted into one’s care.

 

On a deeper level, Catholic Stewardship is a way of living as a disciple of Jesus Christ.  It shapes one’s whole life,  and it entails a real conversion of mind and heart to a new way of understanding one’s life.  Stewardship begins with the recognition that all we have is really a gift from God, not the product of our own accomplishments.  And our generous God expects us to return a generous portion of His gift to us by sharing our time, talent, and treasure with others.  So stewardship calls us to develop a need to give, rather than merely giving to a need! 

 

Catholic Stewardship is not simply about something we do, but rather it is about who we are.  The spiritual way of living called stewardship can be identified in five steps:


Recognizing that we are “called” to be stewards

Receiving the gifts of God with gratitude

Cultivating these gifts responsibly

Sharing our gifts lovingly out of justice toward others

Holding ourselves accountable before the Lord for the use of our gifts.

 

In his First Letter to Timothy, Saint Paul writes:

Tell them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous, ready to share, thus accumulating as treasure a good foundation for the future so as to win the life that is true life.                 (1 Timothy 6/18)             

 

Those committed to Catholic Stewardship understand that personal responsibility is inseparable from genuine stewardship.  For stewardship entails a full accountability for one’s life and one’s gifts, rooted in an acknowledgment that God is the true Owner and the Creator of all.  All ultimately belongs to God!   Indeed, stewardship is a life-long journey of following the path and imitating the lifestyle of Jesus Christ, who “came not to be served but to serve, and to lay down his life for the many.”  

 

We invite YOU, the parishioners of Saint Elizabeth Church, to commit yourselves to the practice of stewardship:  to embrace God’s call and serve God above all, to recognize your God-given gifts and to share them generously with others.   This is what it means to be a Catholic Steward!


Saint Elizabeth Roman Catholic Church

Formation in Catholic Stewardship

Reflection 4: What is a Stewardship Parish?

February 4-5, 2006

 

Attempting to define a stewardship parish must begin with the premise that all that we have are gifts from God and that God, in turn, asks us to be good stewards of these gifts.  We, as individuals and together as a parish community, are accountable for nurturing these gifts, while generously sharing them with others—family, friends and others in the community and the world.

 

A stewardship parish is one where the pastor, other parish leaders and staff seek out and support parishioners in their involvement in the ministries of the parish, while encouraging them to develop a closer relationship with God.   They regularly invite parish members to take part in existing ministries and warmly welcome suggestions for new activities that will help to expand the oppor­tunities for all of us to use and share our God given gifts.

 

Everyone has an ongoing responsibility to reflect prayerfully, to take stock of his or her God-given gifts and willingly return a generous portion of them to the parish, the local community, and the world.  It is the responsibility of a stewardship parish to provide an abundance of activities for individual and group involvement.

 

So, what is a stewardship parish?  In summary, it is a parish that:

Demonstrates a commitment to a Stewardship way of life through the leadership of its pastor, pastoral council and other parish leaders

Warmly welcomes individual participation in parish life

Exhibits vibrant spiritual, social, and outreach activities

Reaches out to the broader community as sisters and brothers in Christ

 

and a parish whose members:

 

Are motivated by the belief that we are the body of Christ

Recognize and understand God’s call to be good stewards of all God’s gifts

Prayerfully and honestly assess the value of these gifts

Responsibly share a proportionate amount of their time, talent, and treasure

 

When we, parishioners and parish leaders together, accept our inherent responsibility to actively and willingly share our God-given gifts as uniquely manifested in each of us, we become a successful stewardship parish.

 

In his letter to the Colossians, St. Paul writes,

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, as in all wisdom you teach and admonish one another…with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

(Colossians, 4:16-17)


Saint Elizabeth Roman Catholic Church

Formation in Catholic Stewardship

Reflection 5: What does Stewardship mean in our lives?

February 11-12, 2006

            Jesus calls on us to be stewards - followers entrusted to carry out His work in our time.  We can become good Catholic Stewards in three stages:

 

1.  Recognizing that we are called by God and given the gifts from Him to answer the call.

 

            In Baptism we are called to be faithful followers of our Teacher.  And through the Eucharist and Confirmation we are armed with the powerful gifts that give us the strength, wisdom and courage to be good stewards.

            A crucial part of our journey in life is discovering the sacramental gifts God has poured into us, and learning how to use them to make God’s work truly our own. 

            That journey can lead us here at Saint Elizabeth Parish in many loving directions.  No God-given talent is too small to share.  We can help an elderly neighbor with chores, welcome a new neighbor, greet parishioners at Mass, take part in programs for children and teens.

 

2.  Through God’s transforming power.

 

            There is great joy in doing good works, sharing our love, and giving of ourselves.  Once we discover this reality, we will find ourselves eager to answer the call again and again.  We will live our lives finding new ways to use our time and talents.  We need to realize that our good works will bring us closer to living as Jesus calls us to live.

“We cannot all do great things, but we can do small things with great love.”

Mother Teresa

 

            Such acts help shatter the self-absorption that is so destructive in the modern world.  True stewards, true disciples of Jesus, reject the urge to dominate, possess and control.  Stewardship liberates.  Through the power of love it creates real freedom that leads to eternal life.

            Everything God gives us is meant to be cherished and shared.  We must search ourselves and our world to see where our gifts are needed.

 

3.  Serving others with Jesus as our model.

 

            Our goal is to mirror the life of Jesus in a way that only each of us can, through our own special gifts.  We must nurture these gifts and share them with others.   Jesus wants us to accept them graciously and spend them generously.

            We must reflect on who we are and just how much we can do, so we can sustain our service to others.

 

            Try to set aside 15 minutes this week to prayerfully reflect on these questions:

                      What qualities in the life of Jesus give me a standard by which to live?  Think of some familiar gospel stories and make a list of these characteristics and evaluate your own life against them.

                      What gifts of time, talent, and treasure am I able to share with others at this time?

                      How am I currently practicing Catholic Stewardship in my home, in my workplace, in my community, in my parish?

                      What would be my personal sacrifice in becoming a true Catholic Steward and how would I benefit?

 
Links to other sites are provided on this site. These sites are provided for informational purposes only and are not necessarily sponsored by the parish or church organization.