Stewardship: Giving Us a Clear Sight

I recently received an updated eyeglass prescription and ordered new glasses. I was anxious to pick them up when they arrived, as my previous prescription had been inadequate for quite some time. With only a few hours with the new glasses, however, I could tell that something was just not right about them. The reading portion of the bifocal seemed off, which meant that I had to bob my head awkwardly to read a book or see the computer screen.

 

I returned to the optometry office the following morning, explained that the glasses were just not working. With two brief adjustments, the technician returned the glasses to me, and suddenly, I could see! All the way home, and throughout the following days,

I prayed many prayers of thanksgiving to God, for the gift of corrected sight and the blessing of a skilled technician. We who have committed ourselves to living and growing as good stewards experience these sorts of moments often.

We see the blessings within and around us every day and we grow in gratitude for these many gifts in our lives.

Like my glasses after the technician had adjusted them, stewardship gives us clear sight. We see the world, and our lives, as they really are — gifts from God, entrusted to us to steward well. The technician who fixed my glasses knew just what was needed in order to bring clarity to my vision.

We are called to act as stewardship leaders, “technicians”, who show others what is needed, so that they, too, may see themselves, their faith, gifts, and resources as blessings from God.

Through the things we say, our interactions with people, the sharing of lay witnesses, and the ways we ask our people to make commitments to Christ and to the Church, we point the way to the vision that God desires for all of his people — that we will see God’s grace in our midst, thank God for our many gifts, and give glory to God as we steward

 

by Leisa Anslinger, author and co-founder of Catholic Strengths and Engagement Community (CSEC)

 

 

 

Don’t Neglect Your “Garden”

The creation story in Genesis speaks about God placing Adam and Eve in a garden.  Like humanity’s first parents, God has entrusted us too with “gardening” duties.  We may not have been given a literal garden to oversee, but we have been given responsibility for the “garden” of our own life.

Our own personal “garden” is composed of three separate plots: our physical bodies, our relationships with others, and the natural world that surrounds us all.  God expects us to tend each of these plots.

The Garden of the Body

Sometimes, we forget that our physical body is a gift given to us by God.  St. Paul reminds us that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit.  However, we often abuse or neglect them.  Do we nourish our bodies with nutritious food and a balanced diet?  Do we receive enough sleep, or does sleep deprivation make us less productive at work and in our interactions with others?  Do we get regular check-ups and take any prescribed medications?  Have we unnecessarily exposed our bodies to harmful substances?  Have we exploited the body of another for our own selfish purposes?

The Social Garden

Our relationships also are precious gifts that we fail to nurture as we should.

Do we make it a priority to spend time with our families?  Sometimes, the people we are closest to are the very ones we take for granted.  Do we prioritize our relationship with our spouse over all other commitments except our relationship with God?

Are there friends and family members with whom we should spend more time?  Are there any unresolved issues that are seriously interfering with any of our relationships?  Are there people that we need to pray for, even if they have hurt us?  Cultivating our relationships means being attentive and communicating our love, commitment, and concern.

We must also ask, are we willing to take the risk of reaching out and welcoming newcomers into our social circle?

Matthew 25 reminds us of our obligation to server others, when Jesus says, “For I was hungry and you gave Me food…a stranger and you welcomed Me.”  In today’s world, immigrants and refugees are precisely the strangers we must welcome—and the Bible makes it clear that doing so is indispensable to our faith.

The Ecological Garden

The Bible tells us that God has entrusted the earth and all its creatures to us, so that we might be good caretakers.  St. Francis of Assisi made us particularly aware of God’s mysterious presence in all of creation.

Have we been wasteful or careless in the use of the material goods entrusted to us?  Do we make an effort to recycle or re-use these materials wherever possible?  Do we allow concern for the environment to influence our purchasing decisions/  Are there any steps we could take to reduce the impact that we have on the environment, such as buying re-usable shopping bags, lowering our thermostats, or reducing our use of plastic water bottles?  Do we truly understand that stewardship of the earth and its creatures is a way of honoring God, our Creator, and it will lead to a great respect for our fellow human beings?

All of this can feel like a lot to consider—and even more to actually do.  But with a series of small steps, each taken in succession, we can live out the call of Isaiah 1:17—”Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression, bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.”

 

By Manny Aguilar, Director of the diocesan Office for Stewardship

 

 

Stewardship Saint of the Month

Saint Anthony of Padua is one the most beloved and admired saints in the Church. A Franciscan friar and a Doctor of the Church, he is considered one of the greatest preachers in the history of Christianity.

Anthony was born on the Feast of the Assumption in Lisbon, Portugal, in 1195 to a wealthy and educated family of the Portuguese nobility. He entered the Augustinian religious community at an early age where he devoted himself to the study of sacred scripture and Latin classics.

He felt a call to missionary work, however, and was given permission to join the Franciscan Order when he was 26 years old. Anthony traveled tirelessly to preach what it meant to live according to the Gospel.

He is believed to have made as many as 400 trips to towns in both northern Italy and southern France where he attracted people by the thousands. He was so popular a preacher that he often had to speak in public squares and marketplaces rather than churches.

Anthony knew that preaching was not enough to help people understand how to follow Jesus Christ. He believed he had to give witness to the Gospel by the way he lived his personal life. So, he adopted and maintained a simple lifestyle consistent with what he believed the Gospel was calling him to. He became one of Francis of Assisi’s favorite disciples and closest friend. The last months of Anthony’s life were lived in Padua, Italy, with preaching, hearing confessions, and assisting those in debt. He died there on June 13, 1231 at the age of 36 and was proclaimed a saint less than one year after his death.

So simple, yet compelling and inspiring was Anthony’s teaching of the Catholic faith that he was declared a Doctor of the Church in 1946.

Anthony is best known as the saint to whom one prays to find a lost article. When a novice took his Psalter without permission, Anthony prayed for the book’s return. After the novice was visited by a ghost in a frightening nightmare, he rushed to give the book back to Anthony. Many people do not know, though, that St. Anthony is the patron of other causes. He is the patron saint of Brazil and Portugal, the poor, barren women, harvests and those who travel. His feast day is June 13.

 

Saint Anthony, great wonder-worker, intercede for us that God may grant us our request if it be for the good of our soul.

Saint Anthony, be our patron, our protector, and our advocate in life and in death.

Saint Anthony, attentive to those who invoke thee, grant us the aid of thy powerful intercession for the grace of holy purity, meekness, humility, obedience, the spirit of poverty, and perfect abandonment to the will of God.

Saint Anthony, servant of Mary, obtain for us greater devotion to the blessed Mother of God. 

 

 

Celebrating the Body and Blood of Christ as “Stewards of the Gospel”

This weekend, we celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, or Corpus Christi, to celebrate the gift of the Eucharist.

Of course, the best way to celebrate it is to live it, to put the Eucharist into action. None of us can be a mere spectator to the Eucharist, for this offering to God of bread and wine is really our offering to him of ourselves, of our lives and of the whole world. Jesus taught us this connectedness when he enjoined us to go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel (see Mark 16:15).

The Eucharist invites us to be “stewards of the gospel;” to follow in Jesus’ footsteps and to love others just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us.

This is the meaning behind the language of blood sacrifice of which we will hear proclaimed in the weekend’s readings. Blood is fundamentally life. The commitment to share in a common life, the covenant between God and Israel, was endorsed in blood, lots of it.

Sacrifice was, and is necessary. But how does the celebration of the Eucharist relate concretely to our ordinary day-to-day lives? At one level, the practice of going to Mass affirms our belief that there is something extraordinary in our ordinary, daily lives. We take time to acknowledge to ourselves, our families and our communities that we are engaged in a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. More deeply, however, is that the Eucharist transforms us. It provides a center of our being and a driving force that impels us to go out and “be” Christ to a broken world.

We are nourished and strengthened in a profound way in order to build up the Body of Christ and carry out Jesus’ command to be missionary disciples.

The theme for the 56th annual conference of the International Catholic Stewardship Council, to be held in Nashville, Tennessee, October 28 to 31, is Missionary Disciples: Stewards of the Gospel, in response to the United States bishops’ call to form ourselves, and others, as missionary disciples. This conference will give us a wonderful opportunity to learn more about putting the Eucharist into action and to become “doers” of God’s Word through missionary discipleship, as individual Catholics, and as local Catholic communities of faith. The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ reminds us that we are each called to serve, uniquely equipped with gifts for missionary discipleship, and sent forth to carry the good news of the gospel to all we meet wherever we go. And we are never alone in this journey of faith. Christ is with us in a real and most personal way.

 

 

SPRING CLEANING

Even though we live in sunny Southern California, we still have a period of winter “hibernation”.  Even though we don’t experience the seasons like in other parts of the country, we still have a “rebirth” when the sun is out and the temperatures are higher.

When these changes occur, something stirs within: the desire to tackle that dust we suddenly notice in places we seldom look. And those windows smeared with winter’s muck? And that disorganized closet? There’s a reason our grandmothers called it “spring housecleaning.” The season brings an almost physical desire to get out the mop.

Surprisingly, for the Christian steward, this can actually be a spiritual impulse.

There’s something intrinsically renewing and revitalizing about cleaning. Everything done with a prayerful heart can lead us closer to God, and cleaning, often a solitary and contemplative task, can definitely include prayer.

You might plan to begin your cleaning with prayer, and play music that lifts your spirit as you work.

Start with a closet. Open your heart to what it tells you about how blessed you are materially. But observe the consumerism a closet can reveal. As you examine each item of apparel, remember and thank God for the graces of the occasion: a wedding, a graduation, a vacation. Enjoy “shopping” in your own closet for items you’ve forgotten about. Pare down what you no longer need or what you feel called to share. Wash, mend, iron and select a place where your items may find a good home.

Many cities have refugee closets, and many nonprofits have thrift stores which support them.  St. Vincent de Paul shops serve the poor with inexpensive used items. Pray for those with whom you are about to share. Resolve to put your newly reorganized items to work for you and not rush out to buy more.

And those windows? Does anything lift the spirit like a clean window after a long winter? As you polish those panes of glass, pray about where your own inner life could use a cleaning.

Perhaps you don’t make it to the Sacrament of Reconciliation as often as you’d like. Use your quiet window cleaning time to examine the graces and challenges of your life. Thank God for the many blessings and be honest about failings.

And that ubiquitous dust? It promises to return, afflicts the rich and the poor. It’s a sign of our universal connection to the earth and the environment, a reminder of our own mortality. Even the dust we clean can be lifted up to God with a thank you from a steward’s grateful heart.

Don’t forget to look outside yourself as well to the outside.  Clean out those fallen leaves, trim back plants that didn’t make it through the winter, turn your sprinklers back on so your spring and summer yard can flourish.

Take this time—this long weekend is just the time to start—to look around you (and in you) and polish up the dirty corners!

 

 

WELCOME THE HOLY SPIRIT

This year, the Church celebrates the great feast of Pentecost on May 20. As recounted in the second chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, Pentecost occurred when the followers of Jesus were clustered together in a room and were suddenly surprised – overtaken is not too strong a word – by the dynamic presence of the Holy Spirit in their midst. Strong wind and flame seemed to sweep the room, and the Apostles were so filled with the gifts of the Spirit that they emerged to speak in multiple languages to the throngs who had come to Jerusalem to celebrate a Jewish festival.

In our secular culture, Pentecost goes largely unobserved. “Pentecost” cards don’t pop up on store shelves weeks in advance, and there’s no merchandising that remotely compares to Easter and Christmas.

Yet make no mistake. To Christians, Pentecost is a great celebration, sometimes called the birthday of the Church. The word Pentecost has its roots in the Greek word for “fifty;” Pentecost comes fifty days after the Resurrection on the seventh Sunday after Easter.

Why was Pentecost such a watershed event in the life of the Church? As Christian stewards, we know we are called to be missionary disciples. This calling has its roots in the momentous events of Pentecost.

Up until that time, the followers of Jesus were still a somewhat disorganized band of believers, still in shock over the events of the crucifixion, still confused about the meaning of the sightings of the Risen Lord. Pentecost abruptly and forever changed that. Suddenly, missionary disciples were born, followers both called and sent forth. Like us, they were called together, in community. They became aware that their great mission was to reach, not just their

Jewish brothers and sisters in Palestine, but the disparate crowds who visited Jerusalem and beyond.

Like us, they were called to bring Jesus to the world. The Holy Spirit brought courage to replace fear, understanding to replace confusion, faith to replace doubt. The same Holy Spirit moves in our own lives, perhaps not always with the drama of that first Pentecost, but with the same grace.

The Spirit calls us within our Church community to share Jesus with others, just as the disciples were called. Let’s celebrate Pentecost this year as heirs to this great moment in the life of our Church, as stewards inspired to be missionary disciples for the life of the world.

 

 

 

A Blessed Mothers Day

I remember as a young girl being asked “What do you want to be when you grow up?”  Without hesitation, I answered that I wanted to be a wife and a mother.

I think part of that came from the vibe of the 50’s and 60’s with stay-at-home moms who vacuumed wearing pearls (just kidding!), sewed kitchen curtains, cooked all meals from scratch (except the once-a-month tv dinner).

And part of it came from my mom personally who, by her actions, showed me how valuable a mother could be in a child’s life.

As I grew older, I aspired to being a culinary scientist or a math teacher.  But at the same time, I still had the burning desire/need to be a mom.

After I got married—quite young—we decided to spend some time getting to know each other.  One year turned into two, into five, into ten.  Finally I couldn’t deny the calling to be a mother, and we started our family.

I remember being asked how I could bring another human being into the mess of today’s world.  (Little did they know that it was going to get a lot messier.)

My heartfelt response was that I thought the world would always have its issues, and I wanted to add one more human being who could be part of the solution.

I set about to raise people of faith and good moral standing who could think for themselves and have a desire to make their lives and those around them better.

I will borrow the words my mother said to me once, because they are true for me as well:  “I did the best I could and I prayed a lot.”  There’s a good chance that you would agree.

Both of my children had meandering paths (I’ve talked about it before), but they always came back around to what is right and what is good.  And they never lost track of the value of family.

I love being a mom.  I would do anything for my children.  They are both adults with spouses (who are wonderful people), careers, real lives.   I wasn’t sure how much better it could get.

Until. I. Became. A. Grandparent!

Neal Finnegan McGrane entered my life 10 months ago and I have cherished every moment I share with him.   He has brought me such joy and a fullness that I could have never imagined.

My daughter would like a sibling for Neal and asked me if it was hard to juggle two children!  Oh yeah!  My children were 17.5 month apart.  Two in diapers, two with bottles, two in a stroller.  And yet, I couldn’t have been happier.

I was told a long time ago that our children are on loan to us.  They belong to God and He has entrusted their care to us.  I want to wish every mother, grandmother, mother-to-be a Blessed Mother’s Day.   As women, we have a special role to be part of the miracle of life.  I pray that moms value what a gift it is to be blessed with such a miracle.

 

 

 

A LETTER FROM OUR PASTOR

My Dear Parish Family,

I’m very happy to be able to greet you once again through this letter.  Last November I shared with you the situation our parish was facing and also the vision I had for the first pastoral year.   The first order of business,  because we were spending more than what we were receiving, was to stabilize the financial situation of the parish.   The second priority was to make some changes in the church to bring it back to its original historical form.

Thanks to the efforts of our staff, the wisdom of our finance council and your generosity, we were able to make our income greater than our expenses.  In the church we were able to return the statues of Our Lady and The Sacred Heart to their original places, to remove the black arch from the sanctuary, and replace the lights and toilets in the church to make everything more efficient.  These are some items that are left to do in the next few months:

  • Finish the reorganization of our staff. This was one of the main suggestions we had from our diocesan audit review and even though this has been very difficult, with God’s help, we will be able to reduce our spending budget for next fiscal year (July 2018 to June 2019) by approximately 25% to 30%.
  • Now that the black arch has been removed, we need to repair and repaint the wall behind the crucifix. Currently it is purple, but I would like to paint it back to its original color.  I believe it’s time to form a committee that may help with the preservation of our church.  If any of you are interested and have an ability or experience in this area, please call the office and provide your contact information.
  • And finally the most important thing for me as your pastor is to create a Family Life and Spirituality office in our parish. This will be what will move the parish life because it includes everyone.  We all come or belong to one family and as your pastor, I wish that not only the ones I see in Mass every Sunday are well but also the ones that I don’t see often.  I wish that your children, grandchildren and everyone in general understand that this is not only your parish but your home and that it will always be open for you so that we may all continue the mission God has intended for us in this world.

I am very grateful to our Lord for the great finance council he has established in our parish.  Generally we are asked to have 4 meetings a year but I think we have had like 20!  With their help and the help of other experts, we are planning the renovation of our parish buildings and this includes our school.  This is a big project and it is planned to be developed in the next 4 years.  We still need to finalize these projects and present them to our Diocese and I hopefully by June or July we can present it to you and hear your opinions.   And in a very special way I would like to thank all of you for all your support.  Sincerely this has been a very difficult mission for me.  I’ve had to ask God for lots of discernment so that I could follow His will and it could be for the good of everyone and one day guide us to eternal life.  Please continue to pray for me because like Popeye’s spinach, it makes me strong.

 

Sincerely in Christ’s Love,

Fr. G

 

 

ANNUAL CATHOLIC APPEAL: Sharing God’s Gifts

A few months ago, we shared with you a video from the Diocese.  It highlighted the focus of this year’s Diocesan Annual Catholic Appeal with testimony from many of those who benefit from the resources provided by this campaign.

Every parish is assessed a goal and is responsible for that amount whether or not it is contributed by the parishioners.  This means that it comes out of our operating budget if we have a shortfall.

As you can see on the facing page, we have exceeded this year’s goal by a few thousand dollars!   (Our goal was reduced from $30k to $28 this year.)   All monies collected (in one-time gifts and paid pledges) in excess of our assessment are returned to the parish to be used at the pastor’s discretion.

We recently received a notice from the Diocese that our 2017 campaign was about $7,500 short of our assessment.  We will be remitting this amount to the diocese in the near future from our operating budget.

If you have not yet made a pledge to the 2018 Annual Catholic Appeal, I ask you to prayerfully consider doing your part.  You can use the pledge envelopes found in the church vestibule or the parish office or go online at www.sdcatholic.org.

Thank you for your generosity to our parish and the greater Church.

 

CATHOLIC SCHOOLS AND TUITION ASSISTANCE:  With support from the Annual Catholic Appeal, we strive to make Catholic Education both affordable and accessible to every child and family who desires it, regardless of their background, neighborhood, family income or culture.  Tuition Assistance is provided to families who would otherwise not be able to afford sending their children to a Catholic School.

FORMATION IN THE FAITH:  The ACA provides funding for Evangelization and Catechetical Ministries, the Diocesan Institute and Youth Ministries.  These diocesan ministries coordinate training for Directors of Catechetical ministries, Youth Ministry Coordinators, catechists and religious education teachers as well as theological formation for adults.

RETIRED PRIESTS:  Fifty five retired priests of this diocese receive financial support so they can live in dignity, free of anxiety about their means of subsistence.  This support includes providing heath and auto insurance, and nursing care when required as well as supplementing their retirement and pension income when necessary.  Retired priest are also invited to the annual convocation of priests at no charge.

PRISON MINISTRY:  Chaplaincies at 27 different facilities impact the lives of over 25,000 inmates.  These include eight sheriff’s jails, five juvenile detention centers, three state prisons and four federal detention facilities.  Ministry supported by the Annual Catholic Appeal responds to the hunger that many of these inmates have to deepen their relationship with God.

YOUNG ADULT MINISTRY:  Young Adult Ministry reaches out and invites this age group to responsible participation in the full life and mission of the Church.  Faith-filled peer ministries and various social, service and spiritual opportunities strive to connect young adults to Christ and His Church.

SEMINARIAN SUPPORT:  Our Diocese supports over 16 seminarians who are discerning a call to the priestly life and service in the Church.  Tuition and living expenses average around $45,000 per seminarian.  Three new priests were ordained for our diocese this past year.

CATHOLIC CHARITIES:  Following the example of Jesus who “came not to be served but to serve”, Catholic Charities is supported by the ACA in its effort to promote the dignity of the human person and its commitment to the Judeo-Christian version of justice and charity.  The agency assists almost 300,000 people each year through its expansive network of programs and services.

Be a Good Steward of the Environment  – Stop Plastic Pollution

In his ground-breaking encyclical Laudato Si (“Praise be to You”), Pope Francis urged humankind to exercise better stewardship of the earth. Subtitled “On Care of Our Common Home,” the pontiff’s letter called for a radical “ecological conversion” on the part of people the world over, and especially disciples of Jesus Christ, to honor and save our earth from degradation.

One way we can be better stewards of the earth is to fight plastic pollution. Cheap, capable of being made into any conceivable shape, strong and durable, plastic is the wonder product of the modern world. However, the victim of this technological success appears to be much of life on earth. Almost 80% of the plastic produced since the 1950s has been thrown away, either into landfill sites or into the general environment.

Ending plastic pollution is the focus of Earth Day 2018, the annual event celebrated on April 22 world-wide to raise awareness of ecological dangers and demonstrate support for protection of the global environment. Items like plastic packaging, bags and bottles are thrown away every day, and end up in trash sites as well as in forests, creeks, rivers, seas, and oceans around the world.   While some of these items are recycled, the growth of plastic consumption and its improper disposal currently outpace efforts to recycle and produce post-consumer plastic materials.

But plastic is more than just litter. A petroleum product, plastic is nonbiodegradable. And in reality, most plastic does not ever disappear, but becomes long-lasting “plastic dust”. When items like plastic bags break down, they readily soak up (and release) toxins that then contaminate soil and water, as well as harming animals that ingest plastic fragments. The increasing presence of plastic in our oceans poisons and ensnares marine life.

Check your refrigerator. How much stuff in there is stored in plastic? Hazardous chemicals, some of which can disrupt human hormones, leach from some plastics that are used for food and beverage storage. Plastic is the basic material of a consumer world. Without it we wouldn’t enjoy the same standard of living or convenience.

But if we take the Holy Father’s urgent pleas seriously, we should take seriously the issue of plastic contaminating and damaging our environment. For Christian stewards, it is a moral responsibility to confront this pollution. And become better stewards

Earth Day 2018 asks us to consider the Five Rs: Reduce, Refuse, Reuse, Recycle and Remove plastic in our everyday lives.   Here are some suggestions for stopping Plastic Pollution:

 Keep reusable canvas bags in your car for shopping trips and commit to refusing plastic shopping and grocery bags. • Many stores have containers to recycle plastic bags, even newspaper wraps. Utilize them. • Carry a small set of simple utensils and a reusable straw so that you never have to use throwaway plastic utensils. • Encourage your school or college to look into utensils made with biodegradable components. Many Catholic schools have gone this route. • Store left-overs in reusable containers. • When shopping for gifts or toys, watch for excessive, wasteful plastic packaging.

Visit www.earthday.org for more ideas and inspiration!