Stewardship: A Reflection

by Mike Van Vranken

After living 93 years as a faithful Catholic, Ashley passed from this life to her heavenly reward. She was immediately whisked away to the throne of Jesus where she expected to explain her actions on earth and receive his positive, eternal judgment. She was somewhat surprised with his first question: “Ashley, tell me about the people who ministered to you during your life.” Curiously, she explained how she thought he’d want to know all about what she had done. He promised: “We’ll get to that. For now, tell me about all of those who helped and assisted you.”

“I have to begin with all of the wonderful priests,” she said. “They lovingly and compassionately were always there for me; in times of joy, sadness, pain or happiness. They fed me spiritually, emotionally and were truly your presence in my life. From childhood to my death, they made such a spiritual difference in my earthly experience. I can’t thank you enough for them.” “So, how did you thank them?” Jesus asked. “Oh, I prayed for them daily, baked them cookies, and sometimes even had Masses said for them.”  Jesus lovingly gazed at her, “How did you care for them when they were old and retired?” Curious, she said: “The Church took care of them when they retired.” With gentleness and love, he touched her arm and asked: “But weren’t you part of the Church?” She stood in silence, somewhat embarrassed. She had a deep reverence for and connection with those retired priests, but never thought she could give enough to make a difference for them in their retirement days.

Smiling, he asked her: “Who else ministered to you?”  Beaming, she told him about a poor and vulnerable family who were dear friends of her’s, who needed assistance. She explained how Catholic Charities of North Louisiana not only provided financial help, but also furnished financial training. They even made available children’s necessities from Gabriel’s Closet. She said: “And I always wanted to support our Catholic Charities with donations, but their budget needs were more money than I could give.”

Their conversation continued. She spoke of the wonderful people who work in Hispanic Ministry that provides so much for the active and vibrant faith lives of the rapidly growing Catholic Hispanic community; a community that includes her husband’s family. “We were always so grateful for those who helped with special outreach to Latino Catholics,” she lovingly told Jesus.

She told him about volunteers in Catholic Schools and the many unpaid workers who help with Youth programs. These ministers were so important to her own Catholic upbringing, as well as the faith formation of her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. She described adult education programs, the beautiful worship celebrations, pro-life ministries, college campus ministries, and the work of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.

“All of these people ministered to me in my life,” she told Jesus, “either directly to me and my family, or indirectly to friends I knew and loved.  I am so grateful and appreciative of every one of these beautiful workers and volunteers who provided so much during my lifetime.”

Jesus stood up from his throne, took Ashley by the hand, and they walked into another heavenly room and sat down together. He reverently looked into her eyes and said: “I wish you had been more engaged in helping all of these ministries be available to the thousands of people in North Louisiana.”  She said: “Well, I wish you had told me you wanted that – and even wish you had given me reminders that it was your desire. Besides,” she continued, “you know I never had a lot to donate to so many different ministries. As important as they all were to me, how would I have been able to help them all?”

In his loving, compassionate voice, he softly shared that he reminded her every year of ways she could be engaged in the work of the Church helping these ministry groups. She asked: “When did you remind me of a way that someone like me could be engaged in your work by helping with all of these wonderful works of mercy?”  His response came with more love, tenderness and mercy than she could imagine: “When I gave you, each year, the Annual Diocesan Stewardship Appeal, I was giving you a grace to allow you to be engaged in many of the endeavors of my Church. One small donation, or a monthly gift of just a few dollars, would have connected you with the work of my people as much as someone else giving millions. It was never about the amount you could give. I knew you had such a generous heart that you longed to be able to support these ministries. I never wanted you to be left out. Through this Annual Appeal, I gave to you, and I continue to give to everyone, based on his or her own abilities, an avenue to be fully involved in my Church.”

Please prayerfully visit with God, asking Him who He wants you to be as His steward of the Annual Stewardship Appeal. Then, sit quietly, and wait for his response

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