Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of January 12, 2004
Stewardship shares God's gifts
Archbishop plans series to explain archdiocese strategy
The Shepherd Speaks
By ARCHBISHOP THOMAS COLLINS
In October of 2002 about 25 parishioners and priests of the Archdiocese of Edmonton attended a conference in Toronto sponsored by the International Catholic Stewardship Council. They returned with great enthusiasm about the stewardship movement which has been developing within the Catholic Church in the United States and elsewhere for several decades.
On May 9 and 10, 2003 the archdiocese hosted a conference at our pastoral centre, attended by over 450 participants from throughout the archdiocese, to learn more about the spiritual significance and practical implications of the idea of stewardship.
Dan Potvin, director of the stewardship office in the Archdiocese of Winnipeg, led the discussions, and helped us understand the basic themes of stewardship, which is centred on the idea that each of us needs to realize more fully that God has given us so much, and that each disciple of Jesus should reflect with gratitude on God's gifts, and share them with others.
This is a pretty straightforward idea, and seemingly obvious, but the stewardship movement over many years has helped people to become more conscious of the gifts of God that we tend to take for granted, and to find ways within parish and diocesan communities to help more and more people to recognize their gifts, and to be moved to find effective ways of sharing them.
It is clear that the concept of stewardship is already alive in our parishes, although not under that name. The point of conscious involvement in the stewardship movement is to help us discover new ways of living this basic theme of discipleship. We can learn from others, who have systematically developed ways of engaging all of the parishioners in active discipleship, thus sharing the burdens and making more effective the witness of the parish community.
Many years ago, I was teaching in a seminary. We had been doing our work of education and formation for decades, without thinking systematically about how we were going about our tasks. When we applied for accreditation with the Association of Theological Schools, a team came to examine how we were fulfilling our mission. They made us aware of the ways in which other similar institutions were facing the challenges that we faced. They also insisted that we go through a checklist of requirements and procedures, and carefully examine each of the elements of our program.
This was an enormously helpful exercise, as it allowed us to articulate what we had so often taken for granted, and so to discover strengths and weaknesses that we had not really thought about. This well-thought-out approach helped us to become much better.
I think that involvement of our archdiocese in the international stewardship movement is much the same. It does not teach us anything radically unfamiliar, but helps us to look more carefully and systematically at the ways in which we devote our gifts of time, talent, and treasure to the service of God and neighbour. It is always good humbly to learn from the experience of others, and then to adapt the insights we gain to the particular situation in which we live as Christians.
It was clear in listening to the speaker during our May stewardship assembly, and in watching videos which document the effect of a commitment to stewardship in many parishes throughout North America, that this approach to discipleship is truly fruitful.
When a parish has been committed to the stewardship "attitude of gratitude" for many years, there is clear evidence that the effect is to make the community more vibrant, more welcoming, and more fruitful in its fulfillment of its mission to make Christ present in this world.
This past October about 30 parishioners and priests attended this year's conference in Chicago.
I also attended the conference, seeking to understand more fully this phenomenon of stewardship which seems to be so promising. I was impressed with the witness offered by people in this movement, and could understand why those who attended the Toronto conference came back with such enthusiasm.
We have established a stewardship council for our archdiocese, to help us to become more fully engaged in stewardship, and will appoint a director of stewardship for the archdiocese in the new year. I will be reflecting on the meaning of stewardship for our archdiocese in a series of articles in the coming weeks in the WCR.
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