by Bishop Michael G. Duca
This month we kick off our annual Diocesan Stewardship Appeal. This successful yearly collection to fund the work of our diocese is a witness of the generosity of our diocesan family.
Some say Catholics don’t give as much as members of other churches who tithe, but I know they are wrong. Catholics give generously each year to faithfully support their parishes, the Diocesan Stewardship Appeal, second collections that send help throughout the world, Catholic schools, Catholic Charities, pro-life ministries, St. Vincent de Paul, and so many others. I suppose though, since the need is great, we should reflect on how our giving should be seen as an extension of our faith and the response of a disciple of Jesus.
You may have noticed that we call our yearly collection the Diocesan STEWARDSHIP Appeal. The spiritual attitudes at the foundation of our giving are summed up in the word “stewardship.” To understand the importance of being a good steward is to fundamentally shift how we understand the relationship we have with the things we own and the blessings and opportunities we have received. To be a good steward is to understand that our giving to the Diocesan Stewardship Appeal is not like paying a bill or dues, but rather sharing in the mission of the Church.
A spirituality of stewardship is founded on the understanding that a steward is not the owner, but the caretaker of something. A good steward cares for, protects, invests, improves and respects all that is placed under his care. For us as disciples of Christ, a good steward is one who receives God’s gifts gratefully, cherishes and tends them in a responsible and accountable manner, shares them in justice and love with others, and returns them with increase to the Lord. Stewardship is a lived vision of a sharing, generous, accountable way of life rooted in Christian discipleship, which people can take to heart and apply to all the circumstances of their lives. Our giving should flow out of an understanding that we are good stewards. In clear terms this means that we should have a spirituality of stewardship that is rooted in the core belief in our hearts that everything we own and are is a GIFT. We are not meant to be owners of things, rather to see ourselves as stewards of what is placed under our care.
There is a big difference between saying, “I own this, I earned this and I will use it as I want” and saying, “I have earned this, worked hard for it and I thank God for all that makes this possible and I will try to be a good steward of the blessings I have received.” Once you see your life more as a gift, then gratitude becomes a part of your daily attitude and the idea of stewardship is a regular part of your daily decisions about time, talent and treasure.
Viewing life as a gift makes you more attuned to your life from the viewpoint of your faith and the teaching of Jesus. Our attitude and decisions begin to include the awareness of the needs of others and we become more generous and hospitable. I also see that I am called to use my gifts, that is my talents, time and treasure, to help build up the kingdom of God, lend a hand to those in need and give witness to God from whom all good things come.
To adopt the attitude of a good steward is an invitation from God that helps free us from the temptations of things. When we see what we own only in regards to ourselves we can be tempted to use our wealth, time and talent to influence and manipulate others for our purposes. We can become trapped in vanity and greed. We can surround ourselves with so much that we stop hearing the cry of the poor and become isolated from those who need our help. We live in the illusion of self-sufficiency and superficial pursuits.
The faithful disciple of Jesus, the good Catholic, sees everything as a gift coming from God. The proper response is to accept these gifts as a good steward, thankful and accountable that their use is to the glory of God. It is my hope that every parishioner will choose to be a part of the mission of our diocese and donate to the Appeal. It is not about a tithe or how much we give, but about giving, being a good steward and supporting the larger mission of the Church. I want the donation you give to the Appeal, in fact any donation of your time, talent and treasure, to be an act of stewardship. I want us all to see how freeing it is to see our life as a gift, to live each day with a thankful heart and to know the joy of a cheerful giver who gives out of the abundant blessings that come from God. Please, prayerfully consider a gift to the Appeal this year out of a desire to be a good steward. Be assured that I receive them as a blessed gift and I will handle them as a good steward for the glory of God.