Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of June 6, 2005
Stewardship draws us to the Lord
A good steward shares the gifts God gave them with others
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
Stewardship is not another way to squeeze more money out of Catholic parishioners, but a way of life, says an American priest who has become a champion of stewardship.
"Stewardship is a way of life that is deeply rooted in the person of Jesus Christ," said Father Daniel Mahon.
"Stewardship is about him; it's about growing closer to the Lord and it's about helping us to grow more and more in love with his bride, his spouse, the Church. And it's about helping us understand better what it is we are called to do in this life."
Mahon, pastor of St. Louis Parish in Indianapolis, Ind., and director of Faith Formation with the International Catholic Stewardship Conference and Institutes, gave the keynote address at the third annual Stewardship Days May 27-28 at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church.
About 350 people from across the Edmonton Archdiocese and the St. Paul Diocese attended the event. Many of the participants were members of parish stewardship committees.
Archbishop Thomas Collins, Father Martin Carroll and stewardship director Mary-Ann Yusep also spoke or facilitated sessions at the conference.
Mahon said his purpose at the event was to convince participants that stewardship is good for them and the Church.
A way of holiness
He spoke on the spirituality of stewardship, saying stewardship is a way of holiness, a way of helping people who are busy with the affairs of this world grow closer to Jesus.
When the bishops of the United States wrote their pastoral letter on stewardship in 1992, they explained that a good steward can be known by four qualities. Mahon spoke about those qualities and asked participants to see how those qualities apply to themselves and to the pillars in their parish community - those people who are always there.
"First of all, a steward is grateful," he said. "A steward never stops saying 'thank you' to God for blessings received. A steward has an attitude of gratitude and essentially is a person of great peace and great joy. You know, it has been said you cannot be both grateful and unhappy at the same time."
The second mark of a steward is that a good steward is responsible in taking care of the gifts that God has given, Mahon told the conference.
"Gifts are given so that we can take care of them." He said when parents pay attention to their children's gifts and nurture them, those gifts develop and then the children use those gifts to build the kingdom of God.
A good steward is also generous in sharing God's gifts with others out of a sense of love, out of a sense of justice, Mahon said.
"A good steward knows that it is better to give than to receive. A good steward knows that good things are meant for sharing. And again, if you think about the pillars in your parish community, are they not ones who are self-giving, are they not ones who are very generous and are they not people of great peace and great holiness?"
In addition to being grateful, responsible and generous, a good steward makes a return to the Lord with an increase, Mahon said.
"One day, each one of us will have to stand before the Lord and the Lord will ask us, 'What you did you do with your life, what did you do with all the time that I gave you, what did you do with all the abilities and talents that I gave you, the opportunities that I gave you?'
"I think if we are able to look at the Lord honestly and say, 'Lord, everyday I tried to take care of the gifts that you gave me and I tried to share them generously with others.' If we are able to say that, will the Lord have any choice but to look us in the eye say, 'Well done good and faithful steward, come share your master's joy'?"
Mahon's experience in three different parishes is that stewardship works. "I've seen some things happen as a result of stewardship, as a result of teaching stewardship and practising it and the first thing that I noticed is an increase in gratitude," he said.
"I noticed that people started thanking one another for gifts that are shared in the parish. They started expressing gratitude for the blessings that they experience in life."
The priest also noted greater sense of involvement in the life of the Church and a greater sense of commitment to the mission of the Church.
"We would be mistaken if we thought that stewardship was just about helping the parish volunteer roster stay full. That's one benefit of stewardship.
Stewardship is about helping people recognize their mission out there," he said.
People who live their faith out in the world help to transform the world. "By your living your faith out, you will make a difference and you will change this troubled world in which we live. You will help to transform a culture of death into a culture of life."
Mahon's introduction to stewardship came in his first parish, St. Rose of Lima, a small Indiana parish of 500 families.
He introduced stewardship there. "I did everything I was supposed to do and you know what happened? The volunteer roster swelled. People organized paint up, clean up and fix up days.
"And the collection grew. And it grew up so much that they found out about it at the chancery.
"Then the chancery sent somebody out to talk to our parish council and I'll never forget the questions that person asked. First question was, 'Do you like stewardship?' Everyone said yes. Then the second question, 'Would you still like stewardship even if the collection hadn't gone up so much?'
Each one responded yes and they started telling their stories and they started telling how the language of stewardship resonated in their hearts."
A group of teens recommended their parents turn off the cable TV in order to give more to the church as a result of stewardship.
After a talk, a Baptist doctor told Mahon that before listening to him, he had never before thought about his ability to practise medicine as a gift from God. Now he knows that he is doing what the Lord has given the gifts to do, Mahon said.
A way of life
"He knows that he is doing his part in building up the kingdom of God by how he practices medicine each day. That's stewardship as a way of life. That's stewardship as a way of being grateful for all of God's gifts and being responsible for them and sharing them generously with others and they can be returned to the Lord with increase."
These are the classic three keys of stewardship: time, talent and treasure.
"You heard it said that time is money. I don't believe it," Mahoney said.
"Time is more important than money. Money, when we lose it, can be regained. But not so with time. Time is precious; once spent, can never be recovered. And furthermore we don't know the day or the hour. We don't know how much time we have."
In his presentation, Mahon urged his audience to set priorities and pay attention to the things that are critical to their happiness, like golfing, playing with their children and taking their spouse dancing.
"Stewardship of time is not just about how many hours we can give to the parish for this or that project; it's what we are doing with our lives.
"It's about setting priorities. Are you taking enough time to pray?" he asked.
Stewardship of money means giving a percentage of one's monthly income to charitable causes and to one's parish - four per cent and one per cent respectively.