Last Updated:Friday - 09/24/2010
June 9, 2003
Take stewardship out into society
The word "stewardship" is still sometimes seen as a codeword for giving more money to the Church. But in our archdiocese, it appears we are about to step towards the richer, truer meaning of the term that is found in Genesis when God entrusted the world to humanity to care for and nurture.
The fullest sense of stewardship is the giving of our time, talent and, yes, treasure for the building of God's kingdom. Indeed, this "giving" is really a returning to God what he has already given us - everything we have is gift from God, gifts that can only be properly used in honouring God.
The parish is being seen as the locus of stewardship activities in our local Church. In one sense, that is only reasonable, but to see the building of dynamic parishes as the final goal may narrow the focus of stewardship.
The parish is the place where the local Catholic community comes together - primarily to celebrate the Eucharist, but also to enter into various forms of apostolate on behalf of the Church. The parish can prepare people to receive the sacraments; it can be a place of outreach to the poor and the unevangelized; it can be a place for devotional prayer; it can be a place for socializing and education in the faith.
Still, the vast majority of members of any parish are laity. So when we talk about stewardship by the laity, we need to keep in mind the Second Vatican Council's call for the laity to "endeavour to have the Gospel spirit permeate and improve the temporal order."
Through Baptism and Confirmation, the laity are priests, prophets and kings. Their priestly, prophetic and royal nature, however, is different from that of the ordained clergy. The laity have a primarily secular nature and apostolate.
In his 1988 letter, The Lay Members of Christ's Faithful People, Pope John Paul gave an inkling of how the call of the laity to transform society and their role in the parish might be combined: "Without a doubt, a mending of the Christian fabric of society is urgently needed in all parts of the world. But for this to come about what is needed is to first remake the Christian fabric of the ecclesial community itself present in these countries and nations" (n. 34).
Whether the world can wait for the Church to create more dynamic parishes is questionable. Clearly we ought to be doing both at the same time. At present, we may not be doing either very well.
So we ought to sit up and take notice when Archbishop Thomas Collins says of the hope to build a greater sense of stewardship through parish life, "There is something good here that could be enormously fruitful for our diocese." Parishes have been transformed - not overnight, but over long years - through a process of preaching and stewardship activities.
Those who attended stewardship workshops in Edmonton last month saw a video of an American parish that has been walking the stewardship path for 34 years. Its Mass attendance has skyrocketed - so have financial contributions - people are involved in numerous ministries, and the parish runs a tuition-free school and free medical clinic for the poor.
We ought to rejoice at parishes that could accomplish such things.
But we ought to recognize that building such parishes is only the beginning of lay involvement. The laity's main living out of the Gospel is not through visible parish ministries, but in the family, through one's work and in one's workplace, through volunteerism in the community - anyplace where the Gospel needs to go and visible Church structures don't take it.
We need dynamic parishes. But a crucial part of that dynamism is to inspire a holiness and dedication in the laity that will lead them to permeate society with the spirit of the Gospel.
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