Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of May 19, 2003
Local Parishes urged to promote stewardship
New approach leads to greater apostolic zeal, says Collins
By RAMON GONZALEZ
"I hope it inspires people to commit themselves more closely to the Lord."
- Fr. Paul Moret
In 1992 the U.S. Catholic bishops' conference issued a pastoral letter describing a Christian steward as one who receives God's gifts gratefully, cherishes and tends them responsibly, shares them in justice and love and returns them to God.
Sharing one's gifts and returning them to God then means giving generously of one's time, talent and treasure. One gives to God by sharing with the Church and with those in need. Time and talent can be shared by becoming involved in parish life and volunteering. Treasure can be shared by making a conscious effort to make a financial gift to God first.
"God gives us many gifts and we are called to give them back to the Lord with increase in the service of God and neighbour," Collins told the conference. "This is very scriptural. God entrusts us with something. We are not simply to receive from the Lord and bury it away but make it be fruitful in the service of others."
Potvin, director of stewardship for the Winnipeg Archdiocese, said stewardship is not a program but an ongoing process that has to be taught and learned. He first learned about stewardship 11 years ago and is currently teaching it to hundreds of Winnipeg Catholics through a process called stewardship education and formation.
Currently 17 parishes in the Winnipeg Archdiocese are practising stewardship. Six more parishes are expected to introduce the concept soon. "For stewardship to work you need conversion and that conversion begins with the priest," Potvin said, noting that in the Winnipeg Archdiocese "not all the priests are on board."
Winnipeg parishes that express interest in introducing stewardship are encouraged to set up a stewardship team and to undergo a four-week training process. The diocese's stewardship council has prepared a stewardship guide to help with the training.
Carroll, who attended the Toronto conference, said he was sold on stewardship after seeing that parishes that have adopted it as a way of life have been transformed. "That's where real transformation is taking place, through stewardship," he stressed. "And that's why I believe that the (Edmonton) archdiocese should be committed to this."
Workshop participants got to watch a video showing examples of parish transformation in the United States. St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Wichita, Kan, for example, has been able to set up a medical clinic for the poor and a tuition-free school for 700 children since it embraced stewardship in 1969. About 100 volunteers share their time and talents at the clinic, which opened in 1994.
Due to increasing lay involvement, every year the parish holds a ministry fair to recruit volunteers for about 1,000 ministries. Mass attendance at St. Francis is 85 per cent, twice the national average. The weekly Mass collection is US$62,000.
"(Stewardship) seems to be something really life giving and I think it enhances so many things we are already doing," Collins said at the end of the workshop. "I think we should move in this direction." About half the audience erupted in applause when he asked, "Do you agree?"
Carol Hoven, a member of the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council from Evergreen, near Rocky Mountain House, said she supports the introduction of stewardship in the archdiocese. "I think it's a great chance for enrichment in our whole archdiocese, a real chance for evangelization," she said. "I guess it's really a chance for us to live out our baptismal call."
"Stewardship is a great model. I think that we should introduce it here in Edmonton," said Tricia Cisakowski, one of eight representatives from Edmonton's Good Shepherd Parish. "I think it would help build our faith community and renew our commitment to discipleship."
Patricia Lavender, one of four representatives from St. Andrew's Parish in Edmonton, believes stewardship would increase lay involvement, especially among younger people. "I think everybody has time and talent to give. There are so many talented people in the Church that don't volunteer."
Father Paul Moret, pastor of Rimbey and Sylvan Lake, said he is fully on board. "I hope it inspires people to commit themselves more closely to the Lord," he said.
Father Mark McGee of Stettler is also behind the stewardship concept. "I like it because it's very much about sharing God's gifts within the community and the Church," he said. "I think it has the potential to transform our parish life."
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