STEWARDSHIP 101

The article that follows was written by our Diocesan Director of Stewardship, Manny Aguilar,  and is published in the September issue of our Diocesan newspaper, The Southern Cross.

How do we define stewardship?  What is it?  What does it mean in our lives?  How does it change us, motivate us or inspire us?  Unfortunately, many of us may not have an answer for these questions.  That’s okay, but is is difficult to teach or encourage stewardship unless one has a clear understanding of what the Church really means when it uses the term.

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Pastoral Letter on Stewardship.  So, perhaps this is an appropriate time to reflect on this important aspect of our faith.

Misconceptions about stewardship abound: Some people think it is all about money, some think it is all about service, some think it is an environmental issue.  What identifies a steward?  Well, conserving material and human resources and using them responsibly is certainly one answer; so is generously giving of time, talent and treasure.

But being a Christian steward mean much more than that. It means receiving God’s gifts gratefully, cultivating them responsibly, sharing them lovingly in justice with others, and returning them with increase to the Lord.  “As each one has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of God’s varied grace.” (1 Peter 4:10)

Stewardship isn’t always a popular word.  Many think it is just an appeal for more time, talent or treasure.  However, true stewardship is not a fundraising or volunteer recruitment program.  True stewardship is a commitment of mind and heart to the Lord; a way of life that needs constant renewal and transformation.  Stewardship is truly a multi-faceted concept that addresses all aspects of our faith and spirituality.

The bishops’ 1992 Pastoral Letter on Stewardship is a call to all of us to deepen our relationship with God, truly live the Gospel, and realign the priorities of our lives.  True stewardship is exactly  the sort of faith-in-action that St. James wrote about (in James 2:17) and that Pope Francis has invited us to embrace.

In their Pastoral Letter on Stewardship, the bishops asked us to be mature disciples who make a conscious decision to follow Jesus, no matter what the cost.  Christian disciples experience conversion—life-shaping changes of mind and heart—and commit their very selves to the Lord.   Christian stewards respond in a particular way to the call to discipleship.  Stewardship has the power to shape and mold the way in which we live.

How can we apply these insights from the bishops’ pastoral letter in a practical way in our lives?  What does conversion mean to you?  Literally, it means “turning towards” God. How can we look at our faith and convert more deeply?  What are we willing to do to have a deeper relationship with God?  What does discipleship mean to us?  How do we follow Jesus, no matter what the cost?

Our faith and our stewardship actions cannot be made to fit into a checklist.  It is certainly a life’s journey.  If you haven’t already, let’s begin to look more deeply at our faith in terms of stewardship to deepen our relationship with Christ.