Stewardship: Giving and Receiving

This article was written by Rev. Joseph D. Creedon, Pastor Emeritus, Christ the King Parish, Providence, Rhode Island

Many ingredients of the spirituality of stewardship are counterintuitive. None more so than this: “Stewardship is based on the need of the giver to give more than on the need of the receiver to receive.” Most of us have been conditioned to be need-based givers. If someone has a need they should present their case and, if we agree with both the cause and the need, then we think about giving. Need-based giving is unfortunately the bedrock of most, if not all, church-related giving of “time, talent and treasure.” It takes a while to unlearn our conditioning to be needed.

Henri Nouwen, one of my favorite spiritual authors, said, “If I can only give and not receive, then the only honest thing to do is question why I give.” There has to be a balance between giving and receiving. To give is to be in control; to receive is to be vulnerable. How many times have you learned from a friend that he or she needed help but did not ask for it? How many times have you been offended because that friend did not ask for help? How many times have you needed help but did not ask for it? True sharing can only happen if it is reciprocal. If we enjoy giving then we should be willing to receive as well. Only a small percentage of us will ever be able to enjoy receiving but that should be our goal. It is good to give a friend a listening ear; it is better if there are times when we are the speaker and allow our friend to be the listener. It is good when we carve spaces in our schedules to be present to a neighbor; it is better if there are times when we are willing to ask our neighbor to carve out time for us.

One of the mysteries of our Christian faith is that it is not based on either/or but both/and. It is not giving or receiving that should be the mark of our stewardship but giving and receiving.

Stewardship of Others: Our Life as Servant Leaders

This article was written by Leisa Anslinger, Associate Department Director for Pastoral Life, Archdiocese of Cincinnati

During the Easter season we immerse ourselves in the wonder of Jesus’ resurrection and the story of the early Church through our Sunday liturgies. Each year, I look forward to hearing from the Acts of the Apostles during this season. I am inspired by the faith and courage of the apostles and those who came to believe in Jesus Christ as a result of their witness and stewardship of their community of faith. I am also encouraged when reading the story of the development of the early communities of believers – not only did they face immense challenges from the Roman and Jewish authorities, they were often challenged from within, as they figured out what it meant to be Christians in community with one another.

In his book on the gift of administration, Reverend Donald Senior, biblical scholar and former president of Catholic Theological Union, writes of the ways leadership emerged in the early Church. He writes: The inspiration for all leadership in the New Testament is rooted in the example of Jesus. His qualities of compassion, integrity, and selfless service in the carrying out of his mission are reflected in the virtues lifted up in the examples of early community leaders such as Peter, Barnabas, Paul, and Priscilla and Aquila.

The fundamental responsibility of New Testament leaders is to foster the common good of the community – and here, too, the example of Jesus is paramount. Jesus the healer and teacher was committed to the restoration and well-being of God’s people. So, too, the charismatic leadership of Paul and the more administrative type of leadership exercised by Peter, Barnabas, Phoebe, and Priscilla and Aquila and many others were directed to building up the Body of Christ. Father Senior goes on to summarize this form of leadership, modeled by Jesus himself, as “servant leadership” (The Gift of Administration: New Testament Foundations for the Vocation of Administrative Service, Liturgical Press, 2016).

As we hear the story of the early Church this Easter season, let us reflect on our stewardship of others in our family of faith, our role as servant leaders: How do we continue the mission of Jesus with compassion, integrity and selfless service? How do we build up the Body of Christ as a community of disciples and stewards?

From Holy Week to Pentecost – A Stewardship Lesson from the Upper Room

This article was written by Mary Ann Otto, Pastoral Minister for Missionary Discipleship, St. Mary and St. Joseph Parishes, Appleton, Wisconsin

The Upper Room in Scripture has always held a very sacred place in my heart. I imagine this candlelit dwelling in Jerusalem as providing a home for weary travelers and an address for those who needed to find them. I step into the room with all four Gospel writers and they give me a glimpse into the humanness of the first disciples, the patience and love of Jesus and the power of the love between the Son and His Father. Truthfully, as I sat among and observed the Upper Room inhabitants, I learned and continue to learn so much about Jesus and myself through the humanity and divinity found there. This place in Jerusalem is where I came to know the true meaning of friendship as Jesus shared his last supper, the Passover meal, with his followers. It is where the saying “It’s not about you” was fully demonstrated and authentic servant leadership was modeled as he washed the feet of his friends. It is in the Upper Room where the New Covenant in Jesus became a reality and I saw that even those who profess the ultimate love could become a betrayer, a denier or a doubter. The question “Is it me?” continues to ring throughout the ages. The Upper Room is where I witnessed our soon to be Savior wish his friends peace and place them in the care of his Father. Here I perceive Jesus’ sadness as he leaves this place courageously to take on the sinfulness of his friends, me and humankind. As dawn breaks on Easter morning, the messages in the Upper Room are magnified. I discovered the importance of being a good steward of community as a follower of Jesus and the power of huddling with fellow disciples. I understood what it might be like to experience grief, fear, surprise and joy at the same time and the importance of sharing our Jesus encounters with other followers. The crucial lesson of believing without seeing was made real in this space through Jesus’ conversation with Thomas. In the Upper Room I came to know that even with all my human failings, I can be an agent for building Christ’s Church because there is no stronger force on this earth than the power of the Holy Spirit if we pray for its guidance and gifts. I want to be that missionary disciple and steward of the Church so I shall return to this sacred place often for inspiration and encouragement. Alleluia! He is Risen!

Stewardship Saint for May: Saint Damien de Veuster

Saint Damien de Veuster is better known as Saint Damien of Molokai, “apostle to lepers.” When he was born in 1840, few people had any firsthand knowledge of leprosy, Hansen’s disease. But by the time he died at age 49, people all over the world knew about this disease because of him.

Joseph de Veuster grew up in a small village in Belgium. He joined the Fathers of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary in 1859, taking the religious name Damien. When his brother, who was also a member of the congregation, was taken ill and unable to embark on his assignment in the Hawaiian Islands, Damien went in his place. He was ordained a priest there in 1864. In 1873 Father Damien responded to the local bishop’s call for volunteers to work on Molokai, an island used in part as a leper colony. At the time there was no cure for leprosy and those who contracted the disease were shunned. There were about eight hundred lepers on the island when Father Damien arrived and the number continued to grow. Living conditions were so terrible that Damien referred to the place as a “living cemetery.” He visited the lepers in their huts and brought them the sacraments. He also made efforts to improve the roads, harbor, and water supply and to expand the hospital. His multiple responsibilities were said to have included those of a pastor, physician, counselor, builder, sheriff, and undertaker.

In one of his letters home, he wrote: “I make myself a leper with the lepers, to bring all to Jesus Christ.” Father Damien returned to Honolulu to beg for money, clothing and medicine and as news of his ministry spread, donations began to pour in from all over the world. But in 1885, he himself contracted leprosy and was forbidden to leave the island. Volunteers and visitors stopped coming. When Father Damien spent a week in a Honolulu hospital, his ministry gained even more recognition. He was visited by the king and the prime minister, and money and offers of prayers continued to pour in from Europe and the United States. As his condition worsened, Damien accepted it as God’s will and described himself as the “happiest missionary in the world.” He died on April 15, 1889. When Hawaii became a state in 1959, it selected Damien as one of its two representatives in the Statuary Hall at the United States Capitol. Damien was canonized in 2009.

20 Stewardship Ideas for the Month of May

  • Join or start a summer bible study group.
  • Plan an outing with your family.
  • Introduce yourself to a fellow parishioner with whom you are unfamiliar.
  • Pray for peace on Memorial Day.
  • Help a neighbor who is physically unable to clean their yard.
  • Invite someone to attend a weekend liturgy with you.
  • Make a blood donation.
  • Show genuine hospitality to visitors at your church.
  • Don’t text when you drive.
  • Reduce your stress by getting outside and getting some exercise.
  • Drive courteously.
  • Make contact with a relative you haven’t seen in a long time.
  • Take time to pray each day.
  • Treat your family or loved one to a day at the museum.
  • Volunteer to participate in a community cleanup effort.
  • Make a gift to your diocesan annual appeal.
  • Plant flowers, shrubs or trees in a park or other location.
  • Collect stuffed animals from friends and neighbors, write messages to tie or clip onto the animals and give them to a local police department to use in comforting children.
  • Don’t drive while impaired by alcohol.
  • Donate gently used clothing

Stewards of the Easter Season

Christ is risen! Indeed, He is risen! If you’re thinking this greeting comes a little late, since Easter Sunday was April 21, think again. As Catholic Christians, we celebrate the Easter season for seven weeks, until the fires of Pentecost once again inflame our hearts on June 9. Indeed, how could we not continue to celebrate this event that has changed everything for us?

It’s easy to slip into a cultural way of thinking about our great feasts. Many people have the Christmas tree taken down at the end of New Year’s Day, rather than waiting for Epiphany. Likewise, most of us have long ago put the Easter decorations away. But the Christian steward is aware of the beauty and meaning of the seasons in the liturgical calendar.

The Easter season remains a special time for recommitment to the Lord. One word for this period is “mystagogia,” and those who were newly baptized at the Great Easter Vigil are especially familiar with this term. It literally means that we delve more deeply into the mystery of our faith. But exploring this mystery is not just an endeavor for new Christians. As we prepare for Pentecost, we prayerfully examine what the Resurrection means in our own lives.

For Christian stewards, it’s a time to reevaluate how faith in the Risen Lord informs every aspect of our lives – how we labor, how we play, the way we pray, how we allocate our resources, where we spend our time, how we love, how we extend our compassion to others. If Christ is truly risen – an astounding and life-altering belief – then this Easter time brings immense joy and a continuing desire to know the Risen Lord.

The Scripture readings of the season are especially helpful. We hear once again the stories of the appearances of Jesus to his friends; how often they failed, initially, to recognize him in his glory. The Acts of the Apostles tell us of the struggles and the excitement of the new community of believers. We spent forty days in the penitential season of Lent.

Now, we are embarked on fifty days of joyous celebration. Let us experience this joy throughout the Easter season, so that when we celebrate Pentecost, we may truly find our hearts on fire with the Holy Spirit.

Stewardship Saint of the Month: Saint Joseph

Next to the Blessed Virgin Mary, Saint Joseph is the most honored saint in the Catholic Church for being the foster father of Jesus and the husband of Mary. His traditional feast day is March 19. Joseph’s life is depicted in the gospels, particularly in Matthew and Luke. He was born in Bethlehem and is described as being a descendant of King David. Mary was betrothed to Joseph, but was pregnant with the Christ child before Joseph took her into his home. According to Jewish law at the time, Mary could have been stoned to death if she was believed to have been unfaithful to her betrothed. An angel of the Lord told Joseph to take Mary into his home, that the child was conceived through the Holy Spirit, and that his name would be Jesus. After Jesus’ birth at Bethlehem, in yet another dream, Joseph was told to take Mary and Jesus to Egypt and remain there until Herod’s slaughter of newborns had come to an end with Herod’s own death. Joseph, Mary, and Jesus returned to the region of Galilee and settled in Nazareth where Joseph taught his craft of carpentry to Jesus. Joseph is last mentioned in the Gospels when, on their pilgrimage to Jerusalem, he and Mary frantically searched for the lost Jesus in Jerusalem, and found him in the Temple (Luke 2:42–52).

Saint Joseph was declared patron saint and protector of the universal Church by Pope Pius IX at the close of the First Vatican Council in 1870. He is also considered a spiritual model for families and Christian teaching frequently stresses his patience, persistence, and hard work as admirable qualities Christians should reflect upon and embrace.

He is the patron saint of fathers, foster fathers, husbands, the unborn, working people in general and social justice. Saint Joseph is the patron saint of several countries including Canada, China, Korea, Mexico and Peru. Many cities, towns, and other locations are named after Saint Joseph as well; and it has been noted that the Spanish form of Saint Joseph, San Jose, is the most common place name in the world.

PRAYER TO ST. JOSEPH FOR WORKERS

Joseph, by the work of your hands and the sweat of your brow,
you supported Jesus and Mary,
and had the Son of God as your fellow worker.

Teach me to work as you did, with patience and perseverance,

for God and for those whom God has given me to support.
Teach me to see in my fellow workers the Christ who desires to be in them,
that I may always be charitable and forbearing towards all.

Grant me to look upon work with the eyes of faith,
so that I shall recognize in it my share in God’s own creative activity
and in Christ’s work of our redemption, and so take pride in it.

When it is pleasant and productive, remind me to give thanks to God for it.
And when it is burdensome, teach me to offer it to God,
in reparation for my sins and the sins of the world. Amen.

 

 

Forty Days, Forty Ways to Exercise Good Stewardship of Lent and Easter

Are you looking for ideas to help you with your Lenten experience? Here are 40 ideas to fill the 40 days of Lent and the beginning of the Easter season.

  1. Attempt a more intentional prayer life – start a habit in the morning and before bedtime.
  2. Attend Mass on Ash Wednesday. Wear your ashes out into the world as a witness to our faith. Mass for Ash Wednesday will be celebrated at 8 a.m. and 12:10 p.m. in English.  A bilingual Mass will be offered at 5:30 p.m. and a service in Spanish will follow at 7 p.m.
  3. Make a prayer basket at home – slips of paper or construction paper hearts (invite kids to participate) writing names or intentions that each person around the table picks out before each meal.
  4. Attend a weekday Mass. Our parish celebrates Mass Monday through Friday at 8 a.m.
  5. Pray the rosary.
  6. Make a point of experiencing the sacrament of reconciliation at the beginning and end of Lent. Consider inviting someone who’s been away from the sacrament to join you. Our parish offers the Sacrament at 8 a.m. on Saturdays.  We will have a Communal Penance Service on Friday, April 5 at 7 p.m.
  7. Pray for someone with whom you are out of touch.  Reconcile with someone you’ve hurt or aren’t speaking to.
  8. Attend a Lenten Bible Study with Father Ceaser on Tuesdays at 6:30 p.m. in the Star of the Sea Center; invite others to join you.
  9. Give up meat on Fridays but don’t substitute lobster – make fasting something that is truly sacrificial.
  10. Resolve to stop engaging in rumors, gossip, and negative chatter that devalues others.
  11. Begin and end each week with an e-mail thanking someone for all that they do.
  12. Be sure to say grace at any restaurant you frequent (don’t dodge making the Sign of the Cross either).
  13. Buy a cup of coffee for someone living on the street but not until you learn their name and exchange in some conversation.
  14. Pray before the Blessed Sacrament. Our Blessed Sacrament Chapel is open M-F 8:30-5, and until 7 p.m. on Tuesdays.
  15. Pick up a brown grocery bag in the back of the church and contribute to our St. Mary’s Parish Pantry by providing basic food staples listed on the bag.
  16. Invite someone who’s been away from the church to attend Mass with you.
  17. Make a gift to a charitable cause – make it a sacrificial gift.
  18. Make a commitment to the “40 Days for Life” to support the unborn.
  19. Thank a bishop, priest or member of a religious congregation for their public witness – invite them out for coffee or a meal.
  20. Learn about the life of a saint, perhaps our parish saint.
  21. Visit someone who’s alone.
  22. Reflect on the most pressing challenges confronting our Church and pray for a Spirit-filled response.
  23. Pray for our Holy Father, Pope Francis.
  24. Attend the Stations of the Cross. We will pray the Stations of the Cross in English on Fridays after the 8 a.m. Mass (except on April 1) and at the School for families on Fridays at 6 p.m.
  25. Find out if there is a person participating in your parish’s RCIA program and send a note of encouragement.
  26. Find out how our diocese is involved in refugee resettlement and see how you can help.
  27. Attend our Good Friday Services. Good Friday Stations of the Cross at 12 noon, Seven Last Words of Christ at 2 p.m. and the Good Friday Liturgy at 3 p.m.
  28. Make time for family activities that are faith-related such as reading the Bible as a family.
  29. Keep a journal during Lent about your spiritual highs/lows.
  30. Make a playlist of spiritual music that you enjoy and share it with a friend.
  31. Embrace periods of silence in each day.
  32. Offer to be part of the church preparation crew or cleanup crew for the Easter Triduum (Holy Thursday – Good Friday – Holy Saturday) liturgies.
  33. Commit to a parish ministry or try a different ministry than the one you in which you are currently engaged.
  34. Cut your media consumption to open time for prayer or scripture reading. Start and end each day free from the influence of the media.
  35. Attend a Friday fish fry at a local parish with friends or coworkers. It’s not the healthiest meal, but a fun Catholic tradition to join others and help you abstain from eating meat on Fridays during Lent. Or, you can attend Family Stations of the Cross at School on the Fridays in Lent and participate in a Meatless Pot Luck Dinner.
  36. Find a form of Lenten fast appropriate for your age and state of health.
  37. Buy a book of daily spiritual reflections, keep it by your bed and read it upon rising or retiring or both.
  38. Dedicate a portion of your time during Lent to serve others such as working at a soup kitchen or homeless shelter.
  39. Participate in Catholic Relief Services’ (CRS) Rice Bowl collection. Visit crsricebowl.org to watch videos of the people and communities you support through your Lenten gifts to CRS Rice Bowl.
  40. Invite someone you know who will be alone to Easter Sunday dinner.

Listing Our God-given Gifts Inspires an “Attitude of Gratitude”

By Rev. Joseph D. Creedon, pastor emeritus, Christ the King Parish, Providence, Rhode Island.  This excerpt is sixth in a series based on his current book.

Stewardship requires an “attitude of gratitude.” Many times we are inclined to take too much credit for our successes in life and too little blame for our failures. The best antidote I have discovered for the hubris of our sense of self-importance is to set aside time to compile a list of the gifts we have received from God.

The Gift of Life: Life is a gift from God. None of us did anything to deserve being born. Spend a few moments being thankful for still being alive. My younger brother, Mike, died at the age of 56. He was a delightful human being, a loving husband, father, teacher, coach and friend. He died too young. His family and my brothers and I could focus on what was taken from us or focus on the gift of having him in our lives for whatever part of his 56 years we shared. Life is a gift and we need to live each day thanking God for it.

The Gift of Family: Just as we did nothing to deserve being born, we did nothing to deserve the parents and siblings we were given. Sometimes it takes time to fully appreciate the gift of family. There were times when I would have traded in my parents for another set that would have met my perceived needs of the moment. Fortunately, I have lived long enough to realize that they were the best parents for me. My older brother has expressed it this way, “Our father demanded perfection and our mother convinced us that we could live up to his expectation.” Once we embrace family as gift, it is amazing how the things that could drive us apart lose their power.

The Gift of Education: I have never met anyone who did not have a story about a teacher who changed her or his life. I have my list of such teachers; I’m sure you have yours. Education has changed our worldview and our self-understanding. We have learned from coaches, scout leaders, neighbors, relatives and friends. All learning is a gift from God. We need to be more thankful for the gift of our education.

The Gift of Vocation: Nothing in life is as important as discovering what God wants us to do with our lives. I truly believe that God wanted me to be a priest. Many people seem to get lost in their search to discover who and what God wants them to be but the happiest and most fulfilled people I know are those who are doing what they love and love what they are doing. The Gift of Friends: Let us say together, “We do not deserve the friends we have!”

The gift of friendship is so precious. Our friends love us not in spite of our faults but because of them. Friends encourage us to grow and take risks. Friends teach us that time is a gift when they chose to share time with us. Most important of all, our friends see our gifts and talents before we do and they lovingly encourage us to recognize and develop our hidden gifts.

The above list of gifts is not meant to be exhaustive; it is offered as an outline. I hope you will use it to create your own list of gifts. Unless we make ourselves aware of the many gifts God has sown in our lives we will never develop the “attitude of gratitude” that is essential for the spirituality of stewardship to take root in our lives.

Christian Stewards: “Blessed, Grateful, Giving”

By Leisa Anslinger, Associate Department Director for Pastoral Life, Archdiocese of Cincinnati

Many years ago, I was given a handcrafted wall plaque that reads, “thankful, grateful, blessed.” It has been hanging in my kitchen ever since, and has accompanied my husband and myself through multiple moves, to multiple kitchens. I have seen other wall hangings and greeting cards with the same three words, in the same order: thankful, grateful, blessed.

While I am often drawn to reflect on these three words and their deep spiritual meaning, it has always seemed to me that the words are “misplaced,” in reverse order. First, we are blessed. The initiative is always on the part of God. In fact, we are and will always be more richly blessed than we can begin to comprehend. God loves us first. The more deeply we come to know our blessedness, and grasp that our blessed state is an outpouring of the grace of God, the greater must be our growth in gratitude, in thankfulness. The life and growth of the steward is of recognizing the blessings and growing in gratitude for them, which leads to our grateful response.

The plaque on the wall should read, I believe, “blessed, grateful, thankful.” Or better yet, “blessed, grateful, giving.” On our best days, we are keenly aware of the blessings of life: faith, relationships, talents, gifts, and resources. We are awake to and aware of the world around us and see God’s hand in all of creation. Yet in our human frailty, we lose sight. We fail to perceive and become blind to the blessings within and around us. We even go so far as to take it all for granted, and sometimes yearn for more, searching for more earthly wealth and material riches rather than seeking and finding what is always there — the presence of God in our very midst.

In this extended moment of Ordinary Time before Lent, let us be mindful that nothing in this life is “ordinary.” All is extraordinarily and abundantly filled with the life and grace of God, which we are called to steward well.