50 More

By Richard Rosario

Half a century. That’s how old the Diocese of Beaumont turns in September. That’s 50 years of history, struggles, progress and overcoming. But I have seen the future, and I know that we have the potential for another great 50.

I had the pleasure to present a workshop at this year’s Diocesan Youth Convention. I was a bit nervous because I was going to be speaking to teenagers. I probably shouldn’t be since I’m probably only about 7 or 8 years older than they are, but I still was.

My workshop was something important: Stewardship. I had about 45 minutes to present Stewardship to a room full of teenagers – a topic that’s touchy and difficult for some people – while making sure that I had their attention and that they actually left having an idea of what Stewardship was.

Best and easiest way to describe it, Stewardship is how we share our stuff. It’s our time, our talents, our treasure. I had candy to keep them happy and energized, threw Frisbees to keep them alert, and even raffled a Pope Francis doll to keep them until the end. I felt it went well.

But I was really impressed with the Diocesan Youth Leadership Team members assigned to my room. They were able to get others into my workshop, they helped me to transition topics, and even controlled the noise level in the room for me. Their leadership and their potential was great.

It was interesting to see the seminarians and think that right now, they’re talking to youth convention attendees. In about 10 years, those youth convention attendees will be parishioners and lay leaders in ministry. I was not at the full convention, but the time I was there I felt the youth’s spirituality and their commitment to their faith.

I was not around 50 years ago to know how this new diocese started, but I am here today. When our diocese turns a century old, I’ll be 74 years old. These young people will be in their 60s. If the leadership I saw from the youth leaders in my workshop continues as they become lay leaders in their parish through their adult lives, our Catholic faith has the potential to grow in Southeast Texas.

Why is this so important? Well, because statistics are showing that more young people, Millennials, are no longer affiliating with a religion. If our older Catholics die off, and we do not have new ones to replace them, we have the potential to shrink.

The youth at convention have gifts that could change that. But they need the adults to help mentor them and develop those gifts.

As Christian stewards, we are interdependent on one another. Yes, we need the young people for the next 50 years, but we also need the adults who were here the first 50 years to guide and explain to them what took place during the first 50 so that the next 50 can even be better. You can’t have much of a future if you don’t know your past.

50 years is a huge milestone for a mission diocese. This really is a historic moment for the Diocese of Beaumont. But this is an opportunity to look at the past, and look toward the future as well. We don’t have to be psychic to see into the future, we just have to look at youth leaders like those that helped me and know that we will celebrate 50 more.

The Press Club of Southeast Texas awarded second place in the “Faith-based/Inspirational” category to director of Stewardship and Communications Ministry, Letty Lanza for her column, “Varied Graces: Times and Always,” and awarded third place in the “General Column” category to the assistant director of community development Richard Rosario for his column, “One Steward’s Response: Blessed Memories.” The ETC is rerunning those columns

Blessed Memories

By Richard Rosario

Time is precious. It is so precious that it can’t be bought, sold, traded or even returned. It is God who gives each of us the gift of time. What we do with this time is our choice, but as in every other situation, choices have consequences.

We can look at time from so many perspectives. We could view time as how we spend each hour of our day. We could also view time as the amount of memories we make, good and bad. Either way, as a gift from God time is a gift that should not be wasted or mismanaged.

In a typical 24-hour weekday, 8 of those hours are normally spent working, and another 8 hours are spent sleeping (or at least should according to healthcare professionals). Already we are down to 8 hours that are left in our day, not including commute time or lunch hour. After deducting the time of eating, bath or showers and daily routines such as getting dressed and personal hygiene, how much time are we down to?

Perhaps this is why time is so precious. Supply and demand says that when supply is down, the demand goes up, and vice versa. A single individual who leads a not-so-hectic life might have extra time so the demand for his or her time might not be as high. A working parent that has a family might have short supply of time that is not already committed, so will have a high demand for extra time.

So, for a parent, small sacrifices in time can make a big difference. For example, a kindergarten graduation might seem like just another event, almost like a waste of precious time that can be spent working for a wage or salary. Looked at that way time is measured in hours of each day. That kindergartener, on the other hand, is measuring time through memories.

Regardless if a parent is present in the kindergartener’s event, the kindergartener will remember that moment for life. They may either remember that their parent was there to support their early educational accomplishments, or they’ll remember seeing all of their friend’s parents there while their own was absent.

By making a simple choice of not attending one event, a parent or guardian has affected the child’s perception of not just time, but of education as well. The kindergartener might stop seeing school as important since those they look up to don’t seem to take education seriously. That might be a perception on the child’s part, but it could easily be a perception that they take with them for life.

As we grow older, and start to realize that time is finite, we start to look at it as a child, in terms of memories. These memories stay with us forever and can let us know if we’re truly being good stewards of the gift of time.

If we do not have that many good memories with friends or family, we should probably change that.

Unfortunately some memories are no longer possible to create. If we do not have very good memories of a loved one, and they pass away, we can no longer recreate memories of that loved one.

When my grandfather passed away, I sort of felt as if I should have had more time with him. However, once I started to look back at all of the good memories I had with him, I no longer felt that way. Rather, I felt like I had made good use of my time with him. Even though I didn’t know it at the time, I was being a good steward.

Almost everyone would like to have one more moment with a deceased loved one, but we also have to think about the loved ones who are still alive. The hours of a day come and go, but memories are forever.

So if a friend, sibling, grandparent or child requires a bit of our time, I like to think that those couple of hours will eventually turn into a memory that both people can carry with them for the rest of their lives.

After all, the time that God gives us with our loved ones is both a gift and a blessing.

Summer Stewardship

By Richard Rosario

The days are longer. The weather is warmer. School is out. Summer is near.

With summer comes summer vacations, weekend trips to the beach, summer jobs for teenagers and generally a more joyful attitude. As the song says “summertime, and the living is easy.” But even if we’re taking a break through a vacation or accepting a challenge such as a summer job, we still have the responsibility to be Christian stewards.

Vacations can help us to reduce stress and focus on ourselves and our family’s needs for a short period of time, if done correctly of course. If we’re still checking emails or still attached to our daily routines, the vacation loses its purpose. But if done correctly, it can be a fun and relaxing experience.

However, just because a vacation can take us away from our routines, does not mean we need to lose our Stewardship way of life. For example, we still have an obligation to attend Mass every Sunday, even on vacation. If anything, we should also focus on our spiritual needs as well as our personal ones while on vacation.

Also, it’s not very smart to rack up credit card charges on vacations, without having any plan to pay them back responsibly. This is from both a Stewardship and financial perspective. Vacation should be about relieving stress to be more efficient in your personal, family and work life. It shouldn’t create bigger problems for the future.

Vacations should be budgeted for beforehand. And if credit cards or loans are taken for a vacation, responsible spending limits should be considered. God did not send us gifts for us to act irresponsibly with them. And yes, this also includes funds for vacation.

Teenagers start jobs during the summer now that school is over. This is good because they can learn the importance of earning and spending responsibly. I started scooping ice cream as a teenager. After that, I saw my spending in terms of hours. For instance, a $25 shirt would require about 5 hours of work since I was making $6.75 an hour at that time.

I started to gain an appreciation for the work my parents did and also started to prioritize what expenses were important and which were either irrelevant or did not matter as much. I had to also start thinking about how much I gave at Church. Before then, it didn’t matter because I did not have an income. But now not only did I have an income, but also a responsibility to give proportionately and make sure God was getting the first fruits.

This was difficult for a 16-year-old because at the time, $20 for a new dress shirt took precedence over giving in the collection basket. But on the plus side, a $20 dress shirt seemed more appropriate than a $50 one from the newest store at the mall. So I was half-way responsible, but this was still unacceptable.

Teaching us when we are young is the best thing to do, even if we as teenagers think that we know everything. In learning early, I was able to carry that into adulthood. Responsibility became something natural, not something I struggled with.

Eventually I learned that maybe giving to the collection basket instead of buying a new dress shirt was more responsible. Maybe.

Summer is my favorite season because the weather is nice (not including heat waves or killer mosquitos) and there seems to be more time for family.

If we’ve been working hard all year, why not take a break. There’s nothing wrong with sipping a margarita at a beach on a sunny Saturday afternoon, just as long as we’re in Church the next morning with our responsible offering.

A Stewardship Life Insurance Policy

By Richard Rosario

I received an offer from my credit union – $5,000 toward a life insurance policy. The offer also included an $8 a month policy with $100,000 coverage. I didn’t pay much attention to it. I’m in my 20s, have no spouse or children and have healthy check-ups at the doctor.

Sometime later, a close friend of mine revealed that she was diagnosed with cancer. She’s only a couple of years older than I. She seemed like a healthy person, so the diagnosis was shocking. All of a sudden, life insurance did not seem that bad of a deal.

Fortunately, my friend was diagnosed in the early stages so as of now her treatment does not include chemotherapy. But that is still a bit of a scare.

It also put my own life into perspective. Am I really being a good Steward of my life by being arrogant in regard to my mortality?
Stewardship: how we share our stuff. Simple. Stuff can be intangible like time or talent, or tangible like resources and money.

Now, how can you continue to be a good steward even after you die? Not so simple.

Most of us have probably heard the saying that “you can’t take it with you when you go.” But it usually comes with an anecdote or story about greed or neglecting more important things in life, such as family, friends and God. But this saying doesn’t necessarily need to be bad all the time.

True, when we die we cannot take our material possessions and money with us. We do take with us the things we did (or didn’t do) with our money. If we were good Stewards of our stuff, we get plus points. We just can’t take our stuff when we go.

Now, we can’t take time and talent either whenever we die, but we also can’t leave them behind. Time is up when we die, there is none to give. Talents also cannot be taken when we die, and they are not transferrable. A good singing voice cannot be transferred to a child.

But just because we can’t take our possessions and money with us when we die, does not mean we can’t steward it, unlike time and talent. We can make sure that our possessions and money benefit those we love after we’re gone. This will help us to be good stewards both when we are alive, and when we are gone.

We never know when our day will come. If anything, that would also be a reason to plan for the future. But that uncertainty can make us uncomfortable.

Why make a will or take out a life insurance policy if I don’t plan on dying anytime soon? Won’t I jinx myself and die sooner if I do? Well, most likely not. Death does not work that way. If anything, we are being responsible because we lose that arrogance that we are ultimately immortal.

Life is unpredictable. Some days we are with our loved ones. Other days they are gone and become good memories. But being prepared is important and can make us better stewards of our resources, as well as leaving our possessions and resources to benefit others whenever we too become good memories. After all, what’s $8 a month when you’re leaving a legacy for those you love?

Prosperity or Responsibility

By Richard Rosario

Could you imagine your parish, or even a diocese having an aviation ministry? Basically, a helicopter or private jet for evangelization purposes. Would you continue giving to your parish collection or diocesan campaign? What if your pastor told you that for every dollar you gave, God would give $100 back? Would you give then?

As far fetched as that seems, there are different churches of different denominations that actually have these so called aviation ministries. My question has always been, “how do you sustain a helicopter or a commercial jet?”

Well, after a little research, I realized that the church members were being told by their leaders that God would return their donations and offerings with a large interest. They were told that they would get back 10 or even 100 times of what they gave. Some were told that God would bless them with new cars, and others with new houses.

Now, I didn’t research the individuals who gave to see if they got their new cars or houses, but I’m pretty sure that God does not work that way. Nothing against the churches with aviation ministries, but Stewardship should not be spun that way.

As stewards, we do not give to the Church because God will give us back a certain amount or because He will send us material gifts. Rather, we give because we appreciate what God has given us, and because of our relationship with God, we share our gifts for Him and for our brothers and sisters.

In Spanish, the word for Stewardship translates to “co-responsibility.” This means that we are equally responsible with God to share our gifts. We know because of our faith that God will help us and will provide for us, but that shouldn’t translate to God will give me more if I give more.

Once we start talking about how God will give us more material gifts because we give to the offering, it stops being Stewardship and starts to become “prosperity Gospel.” Prosperity gospel is basically that if we remain faithful and give, God will increase our financial wealth. Unfortunately, this concept excludes the poor.

How do you tell someone that is struggling financially that their current economic status is due to their lack of faith and lack of giving? If someone is not financially stable or “well-off,” does that mean God does not like them or He is unhappy with their faith or giving pattern? These are questions that prosperity Gospel cannot answer.

However, Stewardship can. Stewardship states that God blesses us with different gifts, and that He loves all of us regardless of our financial status. He wants us to succeed so He sends us gifts through others. We just have to be willing to see these gifts and blessings, and be humble enough to accept that they come from someone else, even from someone we might not get along with.

The U.S. Bishop’s pastoral letter on Stewardship states that “sharing is not an option for Catholics who understand what membership in the Church involves.” Stewardship is a responsibility we have as Catholics. We have a responsibility to God and to our brothers and sisters.

We might not get a new car or a new house after we give, but we know that God still loves us. And God’s love is bigger than anything in the world, even more than a budget for an aviation ministry.

The destructive “isms”

By Richard Rosario

The American dream has always been that if you work hard, you’ll be successful regardless of your background. But, what does the successful part mean?

American secular culture is filled with “isms.” For example, materialism is prevalent in advertisement, whether in print or in media. Some commercials persuade you to think that owning a luxury vehicle sets you apart from everyone else. Printed ads meant to sell homes sometimes show that living in the biggest house will elevate you in status.

Individualism is another secular “ism” in mainstream culture. To an extent this “ism” is even celebrated – the idea everything we have and we are aspiring to be is in direct correlation to our own hard work and efforts. Yes, we have to be independent (to an extent) and we have to be self-sufficient (to an extent), but individual efforts should not rule out the possibility that something else is helping us achieve our goals (like God).

Another “ism” is hedonism, basically that pleasure is the highest aim of human life. This is probably more seen in the entertainment industry. Making money and spending it lavishly is not only portrayed as fun but also as a measure of success, sometimes pushing the idea that the end (being successful) justifies the means, regardless of the ethics involved.

Relativism leads us to believe that because something becomes the norm in the culture, morality shifts and these acts are now moral. We might have been led to believe that in America, morality is a grey area when we are fulfilling our American dream. For example, skipping Mass can be okay, so long as we made a good amount of money that day, using our individual or family’s “needs” for justification.

But we still have the original question to answer, what does being successful mean? Based on the secular “isms,” success means lots of material possessions, lots of pleasure through more material things, and making sure we did it all on our own.

This is not what God has in mind for us. Our ultimate purpose in life is not material possessions, pleasure or extreme independence. And our morality certainly does not shift because it gets in the way of our goals.

There is nothing wrong with working hard to move up in socioeconomic status. There is nothing wrong with wanting to buy a nice house or a nice car. There is nothing wrong with being independent or self-sufficient. But when these “isms” start to remove God from our lives, they start to become destructive.

We cannot become so independent and stuck on material things that we lose sight of God. These “isms” should not replace our humanity or our spirituality. In the eyes of God, what does success mean?

I don’t think there’s a concrete answer on what God calls success. As Stewards, we have to understand that God is always helping us through others so that we may attain our goals. So success could mean working hard, remaining faithful, and letting God work through you so that He can help others just as others helped you.

Having more material goods does not mean that God favors you more than those with less, nor does being poor mean that God has forsaken you. Climbing out of poverty is difficult and can even be more difficult for some people than others, but faith means that we are willing to deal with these difficulties, knowing we are not alone.

Success based on material possessions is not our end goal, but rather having a place in heaven after we leave earth. We still have a right to want to better ourselves financially and socially. We just need to make sure that attaining the American dream won’t keep us from attaining heaven.

The Stewardship 401K

By Richard Rosario

My financial management class may seem difficult at times, but almost everything I’m learning has a practical use. For example, learning about investments, interest rates and financial planning can help when it comes to planning out retirement.

The rule of thumb is that the sooner you start investing, the larger the return. Investing small amounts over a long period can yield higher returns than investing large amounts over short periods. Of course this is theoretical, since interest rates can change, and it neglects market risk.

But still, we trust that financial advisors will be good Stewards of our money and that they will make the best out of that money. You’re often not sure where it specifically goes, but you have faith that everything will turn out well for you in the end.

On the other hand, we often hear people give different excuses as to why they don’t give to their parish. Some say that they won’t give because they’re not sure where the money goes, others because they feel that their parish does not say specifically where it goes, or if money will be put to good use.

If we trust random financial planners with our money, why are we sometimes skeptical about giving to the Church?

Perhaps you might say that the two situations are different, but there are too many similarities to ignore. When we “invest” money, we’re expecting a good return. With retirement, the return is a large enough sum of money that will help in later years of life. But what is our return when we invest in the Church?

When we invest in our parish by either giving regularly, prayerfully and proportionally to the weekly collections, the return is knowing that our children and grandchildren will have adequate resources and functioning facilities that will meet their spiritual needs in the future. And making sure that our children and grandchildren’s spiritual needs are being met is a big deal in today’s world.

One of the challenges of the Church today is that a growing number of young adults now identify as non-affiliated to any religion. They stop going to Mass, no longer participate in ministry, and eventually leave the Church altogether. By the time they have children, they will have no intention of raising them in the Church.

How does your money avoid this possible apocalypse? Well, as I said earlier, smaller amounts over long periods is better than larger amounts over smaller periods. This means that a prayerful and proportional weekly offering yields better results than depending on large fundraisers.

Yes, fundraisers generate money, but the weekly offering generates a revenue stream that not only helps maintain your parish but also projects a budget for any large expenditures, such as parish expansions, fixing an uneven parking lot, or even new text books for religious education classes.

Being good stewards of our gifts is to help others, including our own families. By helping maintain our parish through the offering and helping the diocesan ministries do their work by making contributions to the Bishop’s Faith Appeal, you are helping to create ministries and build community that will engage parishioners and keep them in the Church.

This might be difficult to see since it’s so far ahead in the future, but the investment in our parish and our diocese is worth it. Another difference between retirement accounts and the Church, is that one will yield returns at the end of your life, while the other will yield returns in this life as well as the eternal life we were promised in scripture.

Sweet Stewardship

By Richard Rosario

As we enter the Lenten season, we begin to see people who start to post on social media what they’ll be “giving up” for Lent. Many will give up sweets, some even social media itself. But how will giving up something during Lent bring us closer to God?

Our physical bodies don’t exactly benefit from sweets. They cause us to gain weight, give us false energy and make our skin oily. So yes, giving up sweets can be good, for our physical bodies. Social media can distract us from things in our everyday lives, so avoiding it may also have some benefits.
But we also have spiritual needs that need to be met. If anything it is those spiritual needs that we need to take care of rather than the physical ones. So instead of “giving up” something for Lent, perhaps we can add something that will strengthen our spirituality.

For example, Pope Francis has declared this the Jubilee Year of Mercy. With that, he asks that we practice the spiritual and corporal works of mercy. From praying for others, to forgiving those who committed offenses against us, we grow closer to God and prepare ourselves for the resurrection of Jesus, essentially the point of Lent.

If we want to still “give something up,” maybe we can be good stewards of our time and feed the homeless or visit the sick, some of the corporal works of mercy. We must see the face of Jesus in the least of our brothers and sisters. So if we are good stewards and use our tangible and intangible resources for others, we are using them for Jesus. How much closer to Him can we get than that?

Of course there are obstacles and levels of difficulty that go with the acts of mercy. It’s easy to forgive a friend who did something minor, but how easy is it to forgive someone you now consider a stranger because of a grave offense he or she committed against you? In our fast-paced world, do we really have the time to feed the homeless or visit the sick?

Luckily, we have 40 days of Lent to reflect and think about how we will strengthen our spiritual life, along with our relationship with God. Through prayer, meditations and even practicing small acts of mercy, we can eventually tackle the bigger ones.

Also, there’s nothing wrong with saying you can’t do something alone, and asking a friend or mentor to help you. There is the option of making a contribution to the diocesan annual campaign, which carries out the works of mercy on a regular basis.

Now there isn’t anything wrong with “giving up” an unhealthy habit. Our bodies are temples for the Holy Spirit and as good stewards we have to care for it as well. And if Facebook or Twitter are keeping us from being with friends and family then perhaps avoiding it for a while can also be a good thing. But we have to keep in mind what the purpose of Lent is.

The Jubilee Year of Mercy helps give us a different view on Lent and how we will prepare for the resurrection of our Lord. It gives us new options to grow closer to Him and new reasons to be merciful to our brothers and sisters.

And even though we might cut out sweets, the feeling we get from being closer to God by helping our brothers and sisters might actually be sweeter.

Encountering a Conversion

By Richard Rosario

We are told by Pope Francis to be good stewards and be merciful to our brothers and sisters. We are also supposed to exercise 30 minutes and drink eight glasses of water every day. All of these things sound very nice, but putting them into practice, not so much.

With the New Year starting, everyone is all into their proposed resolutions. Almost everyone focuses on improving their physical and spiritual health. Social media becomes flooded by posts about new gym memberships, new healthy eating lifestyles and meditation and reflection books. People look like they are really about to make a change for the better.

Then hits February. We gradually stop seeing the gym selfies, the motivational morning reflections and the milestone posts about the number of pounds lost. Life gets in the way, the 30 minutes of exercising become inconvenient, and the morning reflections are substituted for a few extra snooze button hits.

My fitness friends tell me that I should look at healthy eating as a lifestyle change instead of just a diet. It should replace my old eating habits and eventually become part of my new healthier life. If I look at it as separate events, I’ll eventually falter and not fulfill the resolution I committed to for the new year.

The same should be for acts of mercy. They should be integrated into our lives until they become new habits, replacing our old, selfish ones. This goes well with Pope Francis’s declaring this year the Year of Mercy. This new year would be the best time to start making lifestyle changes in regard to mercy.

Since Stewardship is a way of life and not random acts, we should be undergoing a lifestyle change. All that we would be doing this year is to make an emphasis on being good stewards of the corporal and spiritual works of mercy.

We could look at the corporal works of mercy, where we could share our gifts with the hungry, the thirsty, the homeless and the sick. An easy way to do this is to contribute to the Bishop’s Faith Appeal. It supports programs like the Hospitality Center that feed the hungry.

We could also look at the spiritual works of mercy and share our time and talents to counsel the doubtful and pray for the living and dead. The more difficult spiritual works of mercy would probably be to bear wrongs patiently and to forgive offenses willingly. Either way, we are told to do all, not just the ones we think are easy.

We were all given gifts by God and have a responsibility to manage them correctly. This is not just giving in the collection basket or being involved in a ministry at our parishes. Since it is how we live our lives, Stewardship should be a part of everything we do, such as personal decisions involving how we should care for the body that God gave us or not holding a grudge against someone.

Change is difficult because it is different and strange. It is not what we are accustomed to so we ourselves develop fear and resistance to it. When exercising, the first couple of days hurt, but if it becomes routine, it will go from being change to being the norm.

Mercy can work the same way. It might be difficult to patiently bear a wrong, when what you want to do might be to get back at that person. We might have to bite our tongue and pray for patience, but eventually being merciful in all aspects can also become our new norm.

So when going through with our New Year’s resolutions, let’s not forget that if they are good for our physical and spiritual health, we should continue with them until they become part of our new lifestyle. Even though Pope Francis declared a Year of Mercy, if we fully commit to being more merciful, it can become a lifetime of mercy, and not just a year.