Reasons to Become Involved with Stewardship
Here are some reasons why I believe that an effort systematically to develop and deepen the spirit of stewardship will be valuable for our diocese.
1. Stewardship is clearly a central theme in the Bible and in our living Christian faith. I have
already pointed out its scriptural foundations.
2. Stewardship is undeniably fruitful. Where, over time, more and more parishioners become engaged in committing their time, talent, and treasure to the work of the Gospel, the Church flourishes. Stewardship parishes report an upsurge in volunteer engagement, a greater fervour in the prayer life of the community, a more effective outreach to those in need, an increase in religious and priestly vocations, and so on. We need humbly to learn from others, especially when it comes to what has proven to be apostolically effective.
3. Stewardship is realistic. On a video which presents examples of excellent stewardship
parishes, the pastor of one parish says that they have been working on stewardship for thirty years. That makes sense. What is important in life takes time, and a steady growth of commitment in the community. The most important things in life are not like machines that we build, but like plants that grow over time.
4. Stewardship is not a new program, but is Continuous and Permanent. Stewardship is a
way of life, not a program. We regularly experience spiritual programs and movements that come, flourish, diminish, and disappear, only to be replaced by others. These programs and movements do great good, and we will always have them, but there is an instability in going from program to program that is problematic, a kind of a boom and bust pattern. Stewardship is so deeply rooted in the foundational themes of the Gospel that it involves a permanent and continuous reorientation of our approach to discipleship, and so provides a stable base for the life of faith in our communities. Stewardship calls for nothing less than both individual and communal conversion, rooted in faith and fruitful in action.
5. Stewardship addresses the Engagement Dilemma. Stewardship leads to a fairer sharing of
the responsibilities of parish membership. Sometimes a few parishioners carry a disproportionate share in the work of the parish. They can become overworked and can then, discouraged, simply drop out of all involvement. Or the leadership of a parish can become concentrated in a few dedicated people, and others can feel left out. Neither of these situations is healthy. Many hands make light work, and as more parishioners are engaged, each can experience the joy of giving without being threatened with the danger of burning out. We do not want to have a community in which a few parishioners are active and most are passive, the religious equivalent of couch potatoes. One key effect of stewardship is more actively to engage all of the parishioners in sharing their time, talent, and treasure in generous service, so that the full richness of the parish community can be experienced, and its energy be focused outward in making Christ more present
in our world.
6. Stewardship is Comprehensive, and enhances already existing activity
Because stewardship is set on the very foundations of discipleship, it is harmonious with all of our other apostolic endeavours and organizations. It does not duplicate, replace, or interfere with them, but enhances them. It is something like the image of holiness found in St. Francis de Sales, who says that when diamonds and rubies and emeralds are dropped in honey they remain themselves, but simply shine more brightly. His point is that our own personalities are not obliterated when we live by the spirit of charity which is holiness. We simply become our true selves more radiantly. The same is true for our various apostolic initiatives and groups when we all enter more fully into the spirit of stewardship: each remains itself, but shines more radiantly if all are enhanced by a deepened spirit of gratitude for God’s gifts, with the resulting flourishing of a spirit of generosity in the use of time, talent, and treasure. Our archdiocese is richly blessed with apostolic organizations and movements, and I believe that each will benefit as our whole community of faith moves more intentionally into an attitude of stewardship. If as an archdiocese and parish we are all seeking to be more faithful trustees of God’s gifts, then each person can become a more engaged and effective member of the Catholic Women’s League, or Knights of Columbus, or other apostolic organization. Similarly, the deepening of the “attitude of gratitude” will enhance our commitment to prayer and Eucharistic adoration (so essential if our apostolic action is to be fruitful), to the flourishing of lay engagement in the mission of evangelization, to an increase in the response to the call to the priesthood and
religious life, to a courageous and effective dedication to social justice, and so on.
A conscious, engaged, and intentional orientation to stewardship will help all of our apostolic organizations and initiatives to flourish, and will cause new ones to be created, to the glory of God and to the service of His people.
I ask every apostolic group or movement within the archdiocese prayerfully to reflect upon the themes of stewardship, and to participate actively in the development of stewardship within our community.
7. Stewardship is Proactive We often look too much at the problems we face, and then become immobilized by the immensity of the task that faces us as disciples. Jesus tells us, as he told Peter: “Put out into deep water, and lower your nets for a catch.” (Luke 5:5) Confident not in our own strength but in the providence of God, we need to concentrate on building up the kingdom of God, as did the Apostles and the great saints of the Church, and then the problems we face will be dealt with in due time. We cannot get into a state of mind in which we are simply reacting. If we look to the Acts of the Apostles, we see how the early Christian community, with all of its own evident weaknesses, confidently moved outward into the pagan Empire. In stewardship we concentrate on developing a deep sense of
gratitude for God’s gifts, and on inviting all disciples to become engaged in the Gospel mission received at baptism. That positive and energizing approach is the only way forward. What a benefit it would be for our whole society if more and more of the generous energy of all of the members of our archdiocese were activated, to bring the life of the Gospel to a world so desperately in need of it. Stewardship is a conscious and careful effort to activate that energy, and to focus it effectively in the service of God and neighbour.
Pastoral Letter on Stewardship