Stewardship as a New and Better Way of Life at St. Patrick's
"Stewardship." For some of us, “stewardship” may be a new term and a new concept. Stewardship is focused on at Saint Patrick's to further expand our already active and vibrant parish, a parish whose members are firmly committed to helping build the Kingdom of God in Lawrence. So, we may ask ourselves, "What is stewardship all about?" And, perhaps more importantly, "How can each of us benefit from stewardship as we grow in our Catholic faith?"
Let's begin by talking about what stewardship is.
Stewardship is a belief - a conviction - a way of life - an expression of discipleship - that acknowledges that all we are and have are gifts from God. It's an absolute certainty to state that all of us entered our earthly lives with nothing, and will surely leave our earthly lives with nothing. You may recall the words from the book of Job: “Naked I came forth from my mother's womb, and naked shall I go back again.” During our earthly lives, we are only stewards - trustees - temporary caretakers - of the gifts that God has given to us. All of creation demonstrates the concept of stewardship: God created the world, but entrusted it to human beings. God made all of us - men and women, children and young adults, seniors - all of us, God made stewards of His creation and of the unique combinations of gifts He has given us.
What are these gifts? We can categorize them as time, talent, and treasure. God gives each of us a certain amount of time to live on this earth. God gives each of us particular talents in life. God gives each of us material treasure during our earthly lives. As stewards, our job is to gratefully receive these gifts of time, talent, and treasure; to cherish, cultivate and develop them in a responsible manner; to share them in love and justice with others; and to return the gifts with interest to the Lord. All of this we do out of gratitude to, and love for, a generous heavenly Father.
A serious, responsible disciple of Jesus Christ - one who attempts to pattern his or her life after that of Jesus Christ - makes a conscious decision to follow Him, and His teachings, no matter what the challenge or cost. Such a disciple truly experiences conversion - life-shaping changes of mind and heart that result in committing his or her very self to the Lord. Stewardship is a disciple's response to the call to be a follower of Jesus Christ, by sacrificing the time, talent, and treasure God has given the disciple to help build the Kingdom of God on earth. Stewardship shapes and molds our understanding of our lives and the way in which we live. Stewardship is the path of happiness in this life.
Stewardship has to do not just with our happiness during our lives on this earth, but with our eternal lives. Jesus teaches us that, at the end of our earthly lives, we will be judged for entrance into eternal life purely on the basis of how we have used our time, talent, and treasure during our earthly lives – either in imitation of his love, sacrificing for the least of our brothers and sisters, or not.
By now, we see that stewardship is not a one-time project or a seasonal campaign. Rather, it is a biblically based response to Jesus’ call to discipleship. It is a way of life in which we follow Christ through our commitment to sacrifice our gifts of time, talent, and treasure to help in the building of his Body, the Church.
If we already recognize so many examples of Christian stewardship in our community, why do we continue to focus on it? We continue to focus on the spirituality of stewardship in a concerted way at St. Patrick’s because we know through the experience of all the good that takes place here that much more good can and should be done through our faith community. God has so blessed us in this parish, and we believe that our response to God’s generosity can be significantly expanded.
We believe that fostering stewardship at Saint Patrick's offers all of us opportunities for significant growth in our Catholic faith. It reshapes and remold our understanding of our Catholic lives. Stewardship, we believe, shows us the way to further our discipleship in Jesus Christ. Stewardship, we believe, is a God-given opportunity for continuing growth at St. Patrick’s. We believe that we are living in a time of grace.
To get an appreciation of the culture of service and participation in our parish, just think about how many people volunteer at a Sunday morning Mass. Consider the various ministries that support the liturgy: altar servers, lectors, extraordinary ministers, cantors, choir members, and ushers. Consider the scores of adults who sacrifice their time and talent to teach in our religious education programs, lead our youth ministry efforts, and supervise our extensive youth athletic programs. Think about the many parishioners who visit the sick, feed and clothe the less fortunate, and provide for so many pastoral and social needs in our community. Think about the large number of men, women, and young people who support our parish through their active participation in the many liturgical and spiritual ministries that lead us all closer to the Lord.
Along with these realities of our parishioners’ sacrifice of their time and talent for the building of God’s Kingdom at St. Patrick’s, we know that many parishioners follow Christ by actively sacrificing the treasure God has given them. Our magnificent church building, our wonderful school, and our other facilities were built and have been renovated only through the financial sacrifice of many generations of Catholics at Saint Patrick’s. The running of our parish’s expansive day-to-day operations is funded only through the sacrificial generosity of the members of our parish. Even when our Church and our economy have experienced serious troubles, many parishioners of Saint Patrick’s have actively sacrificed the treasure they have received from God for the support of our parish, and the wider Church.
To understand stewardship, one might compare it to the contributions made by the individual members of a vibrant family, each of whom sacrifices his or her time, talent, and treasure for the good of the entire family. Each person’s embracing of the duty to perform certain tasks is a statement of family responsibility. Whether it's doing the dishes, washing the clothes, emptying the rubbish, or mowing the lawn, each task supports the operation of the family. Isn't this an example of each family member’s sharing his or her time and talent for the common good of the entire family? Isn't this done in a spirit of giving of self and of love?
So it is in the context of our parish family. Countless tasks are involved in the day-to-day operation of Saint Patrick’s. It's true that many tasks are performed by our pastor, clergy, sisters, and staff. It's also a remarkable manifestation of active discipleship that most of what is done at Saint Patrick’s is accomplished through the sacrifice of time, talent, and treasure by hundreds of parishioners. Our parish is blessed with a strong base of volunteers who are already living lives of stewardship in over seventy parish ministries and organizations.