Table of Contents
- Stewardship is a profound and concrete expression of faith, how God relates to us and how we in faith, relate to God and to others. Stewardship is an obligation arising out of God’s goodness to us and the divine command to live in solidarity with others. This is expressed not only to the prophets and apostles, but also by Jesus who called his disciples, both rich and poor, to love as God loves (Lk 19:1-28). Jesus links good stewardship with entrance into his kingdom: “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of those who are members of my family, you did it to me.” (Mt 25:40.)
- The apostles, the first bishops who had the care of faith communities entrusted to them, were very clear in their teaching: “As each one has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of God’s varied grace” (I Peter 4:10). “I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened, but as a matter of equality your abundance at the present time should supply their want, that there may be equality.” (2 Cor 8:13-14.)
- Stewardship is a way of life. It is an expression of Christian discipleship which empowers us to change how we understand and live our lives in a culture that puts SELF at the center of life. Stewardship involves a conversion of images, from being “owner” to being “steward”. Catholics need to become aware of the importance of responsible and compassionate stewardship within the faith community and in the world. Gifts from God are to be shared by all of us in order to continue the redemptive mission Jesus entrusted to His Church. We need to return a portion of our time, talent and treasure so that stewardship is clearly seen and understood as a giving back to God what has been entrusted to our care. Our bishops describe Christian stewardship in this way: “We receive God’s gifts gratefully, cultivate them responsibly, share them lovingly in justice with others and return them with increase to the Lord.” (Stewardship: A Disciple’s Response.) We should not give simply because there is a need. Because we have been blessed, we have a need to give.
- Once there was an abundance of priests, sisters and brothers. Past generations built churches, schools and hospitals and lived with a catechism understanding of Church wherein the clergy and religious performed most of the ministries. Today their presence has diminished significantly. Yet this very decline brings with it the grace and opportunity of a new awareness for both the laity and for Church leadership. When there were many priestly and religious vocations, the baptismal gifts of the laity often were not sufficiently recognized and used. A renewed theology of stewardship of Christian service now opens up fully to the Catholic faithful: in their parishes and schools, in hospitals and prisons, in soup kitchens and hospices, and in all places haunted by human weakness and need.
- Since the Vatican Council II, the Church has renewed its understanding of stewardship of time, talent, and treasure. This development is grounded in our understanding of Baptism. Baptism incorporates us all as members of the one body of Christ. St. Paul tells us that “all of our gifts are from God and that they are given, not for ourselves alone, but for the common good.” (1 Cor 12: 4-11.) As people of God, we have come to recognize that all members are called to participate according to their giftedness. We are all called to full, conscious, active participation in the ministry of the Church and in the world. Out of love we place ourselves at the service of others.
- We are stewards of the gifts God entrusts and places into our care and keeping. We are accountable to God for the right use that we make of His gifts whether these are personal attributes, acquisitions, achievements, familial relationships, or the gifts of nature distributed to all of humanity to support life. Christian stewardship calls us to be generous towards others with our time, talent and financial resources. God is the source of our being and of everything we have. He gives us talents which we use to earn our daily bread. He gives us time in which we may use our talents. He gives us health and a world in which to live. Receiving, developing and sharing all of God’s gifts rightly is the activity of Christian stewardship. Stewardship begins with trust. We must trust that God continues to lavish gifts. We must come to recognize that stewardship leads to deep joy for joy is the result of generosity! As has been said, “Stewardship is what we do after we say that we believe.”
- The Office of Stewardship and Development coordinates stewardship activity for the local Church. The only organized effort at the diocesan level is the Bishop’s Faith Appeal, which comes during Lent, a time of self-examination and self-renewal. While there are parishes that would like to promote stewardship through addressing time, talent and treasure, the actual parish implementation of stewardship programs is limited.
- In an effort to further the understanding of stewardship within the Diocese of Beaumont, the Bishop has asked the Office of Stewardship and Development to develop resources for this important ministry. There is a definite concern by the Bishop for his people. We see evidence on a daily basis of appreciation by the laity for their pastors, deacons and religious. There is high interest and definite involvement of the laity in using time and talent for education in faith formation including RCIA, yet many feel that the Church is not adequately meeting the educational needs of the people.
- It is thought that mostly older Catholics assume financial stewardship. At the present time, the increasing costs of education in our parochial schools have not allowed many of our families the benefit of a total Catholic education for their children. Catholics in the Diocese have expressed a high level of interest in reaching out to the poor, but a minority feels that the Church is not addressing the needs of disadvantaged people. There appears to be a high level of interest in expecting the Church to invite the use of people’s talents, but Church members need to do a great deal more to invite and welcome people to share their talents. Parish and finance councils, ministry to the sick and bereaved, Eucharistic ministers, ministers of hospitality, lectors, altar servers, music directors and choirs, youth ministers, and other service oriented organizations, are some of the areas wherein people can contribute their talents.
- When people begin sharing their gifts, they often increase the giving of their time, talent and treasure. Those who are not sharing the gifts God has given them need to become Christian stewards by sharing them in justice and love with others, and returning them with increase to the Lord (Stewardship: A Disciple’s Response). Stewardship is not each Catholic simply giving 10% of his or her income. Time, talent and treasure can be continued in varying amounts and ways.
To meet the challenges the synod recommends the following goals and strategies:
Goal 38. Give of the time, talent and treasure that God has entrusted to you.
Goal 39. Establish a stewardship program in the parish.
- Develop an active parish stewardship committee
- Acquaint people with the basic concept of stewardship
- Provide a method for exercising stewardship in the parish and the opportunities to do so
Goal 40. Hold an annual ministry fair wherein parishioners are invited to become involved in ministry.
- Invite participation of all members of the parish so that the giving of time, talent and treasure become habitual
- Expect youth to contribute of themselves, their goods, and their time
- Select parish projects to help those in need
Goal 41. Collaborate on stewardship efforts across parish boundaries.
- Share information on parish programs/approaches that are successful
- Collaborate on sacramental preparation and education/ training programs
- Look for opportunities to share personnel and resources wherever possible
- Involve the parish in civic and ecumenical efforts to help the needy
Goal 42. Publicize the need for the contribution of time, talent and treasure.
- List monthly in the East Texas Catholic critical local needs and the diocesan organizations and parish programs that need volunteer help
- Publish articles and reports on how the diocese and parishes are using contributed time, talent and treasure
Goal 43. Assist parishes to begin a regular stewardship program if they have not yet done so.
- Provide stewardship education based on a personal response to God’s goodness
- Offer step by step programs that have been proven to be successful
- Provide help in sustaining stewardship programs
- Stewardship: A Disciple’s Response. National Conference of Catholic Bishops / United States Catholic Conference, 1992.