Stewardship of Our Parish: Continue to Give Generously

As COVID-19 continues to change the way the world interacts, parishes across North America are responding creatively and finding new ways to minister.

As parishioners who are charged with exercising good stewardship of our parishes, how are we supporting the ministries of our parish communities? More succinctly, how are we responding to our parishes with our giving practices? We have a need to give, a need that is expressed through our love for Christ and his Church. Jesus sets the standard. His life is our greatest lesson about love. He identified love as the path to salvation. Love goes beyond well-wishing to action. He laid down his life for his community of disciples. Jesus saved us through giving. He gave us himself.

We’ve all experienced the joy of giving, the excitement of presenting an unsolicited gift or a particularly generous one. We enjoy witnessing the joy our gift brings. Parents experience this when they give to young children. We all experience it when we give to a friend, a neighbor, a charity, a stranger. However, the warm feeling that accompanies giving is the least important part of the experience. The truth is we need to give because we grow in Christ by giving.

The world would have us believe that we grow by getting: the more I have, the more I am. In this view, persons are defined by things. Personal possessions count more than personal qualities, like character and virtue. But a fast car or expensive clothes are a poor means of self-expression. In order to express ourselves, we need to share our uniqueness with others, to create and to give.

Giving also affords us the opportunity to grow socially. We need relationships and relationships are enriched by giving. We sometimes hold back our giving because of fear. If I volunteer my time and give my money, will I have enough left for me? Am I willing to risk sacrifice?

Giving and sacrifice strengthen relationships. We all have a need to continue giving faithfully to our parish community. Our gift continues to enrich the people who gather around the Eucharistic table, even if virtually. Our need is rooted in our commitment to the Gospel and our love for Christ, our community and our neighbor.

When we give, we obey the first commandment, we practice the greatest virtue, and we reveal ourselves as Christian stewards.

Stewarding the Senior Members of Our Parishes

We are told that one of the COVID-19 high-risk groups are people who are 60 years old and older. The members of this group are constantly being warned to take the appropriate precautions to protect themselves.

Now that we are adjusting to new “social distancing” guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19, we can all think more creatively about keeping our older parishioners engaged in the parish. The COVID-19 pandemic makes ministry to our older parishioners challenging and many parishes are investing in technology to stay connected with parishioners. For seniors with internet access, for example, helping them set up what they need to view livestreamed Masses and other parish services is ideal for staying connected.

But while technology can make it easier to connect in some ways, it is not always easier for everyone. Consider those members of our parish who might not have the technical ability to watch a livestreamed Mass. The simplicity of a handwritten note or phone call for the senior members of our community can be an important ministry. A short call or note can go a long way and make a lasting memory. Offering a helping hand to our senior parishioners is an important service ministry as well. Go to the grocery store or pharmacy for them. Take out their trash and recycle for them. Make it a family project to do yard work or wash their car. Many retirees have time on their hands and giving them some creative opportunity to serve would be very beneficial for them and for the parish.

In this time of anxiety and uncertainty about the future, let’s keep thinking about how we can serve the older members of our parish, stay in contact with them and keep them engaged. Your ideas don’t have to be complex or overly-produced. Just let seniors know that the parish is there for them, wants to reach out to them and show them what it means to be an integral part of the Body of Christ.

If you do not know a senior member of our parish, reach out to an older neighbor or friend.  Just waving and saying hello goes so far in the day of someone who is not regularly seeing others.

Stewardship Saint of the Month

Saint Teresa of Calcutta gave us an extraordinary example of Christian discipleship and stewardship by her faith, simplicity and service to women and men without considering their race, religion or nationality.

She was born Agnes Bojaxhiu in Albania on August 26, 1910, and at age 18 went to Ireland to join the Sisters of Loreto following what she discerned to be a call to become a missionary. She was sent to India in 1929, and began her novitiate in Darjeeling near the Himalayan mountains. Eight years later she made her solemn vows and took the name Teresa after Saint Thérèse of Lisieux, the patron saint of missionaries. From there she taught at the Loreto convent school in Calcutta for almost twenty years. Though a dedicated educator, she was increasingly disturbed by the desperate poverty in Calcutta.

On September 10, 1946, Sister Teresa had an extraordinary conversion experience, what she later described as “the call within the call.” While traveling by train from Calcutta to the Loreto convent in Darjeeling she experienced interior visions that led her to the conviction that Christ was calling her to serve “the poorest of the poor.”

In 1948 after a few months of medical training, Sister Teresa ventured out into the slums to tend to the needs of the destitute and starving. Her first year was very difficult. She had no income and had to resort to begging for food and supplies. She experienced loneliness, doubt and the temptation to return to the comfort of convent life. But at the beginning of 1949 she was joined by a group of young women who wished to be a part of her ministry. In 1950 “Mother” Teresa’s community was formally recognized by the Vatican. Its mission was to care for, in her own words, “the hungry, the naked, the homeless, the crippled, the blind, the lepers, all those people who feel unwanted, unloved, uncared for throughout society, people that have become a burden to the society and are shunned by everyone.” In 1952, she opened a hospice for the poor. Then she established several leprosy clinics throughout Calcutta, providing medication, bandages and food. In 1955, she created a home for orphans and homeless youth.

The Missionaries of Charity soon began to attract both recruits and charitable donations, and by the 1960s had opened hospices, orphanages and leper homes all over India. Mother Teresa then went global. Her first mission outside of India was in Venezuela in 1965, then in Rome, Tanzania and Austria. During the 1970s the congregation started missions in dozens of countries in Asia, Africa, Europe and the United States. In 1979, she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

Mother Teresa died on September 5, 1997, departing a religious community with over 4,000 sisters operating 610 missions in 123 countries and aided by more than one million co-workers. Former U.N. SecretaryGeneral, Javier Pérez de Cuéllar, said of Saint Teresa: “She is the United Nations. She is peace in the world.” Saint Teresa of Calcutta was canonized on September 4, 2016 by Pope Francis. Her feast day is September 5.