STEWARDSHIP AND PUBLIC LIFE: Bringing the Good News to All Creation

 

With the presidential election upon us, it is more important than ever for mature Catholics to be mindful of their responsibilities to exercise good stewardship over their neighborhoods, communities and society by participation in the public life of our country. Jesus said that we, his disciples, are the light of the world. We must not hide that light under a bushel basket (see Matthew 5:16) or in the privacy of our homes or in a church building. We must let it shine so that all men and women can see it. Stewards understand that living out their faith in public life is part of their responsibility to go into the world and proclaim the Gospel to all creation (Mark 16:15); and that their relationship with Jesus Christ and their desire to please him should inform all of their moral decisions, including how they participate in public life and how they vote.

A Call to Political Responsibility from the Catholic Bishops of the United States. Developed by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, this document continues a tradition by the bishops of encouraging Catholics to use the values of their faith to shape their participation in political life.

How should stewards exercise their responsibilities as citizens? One way of course, is to inform themselves of the political issues of the day and to vote. Voting is literally the least one can do to promote Gospel values in our communities, state and nation. Stewards are not found wanting in this vital area of their stewardship. The teachings of the church help us understand our responsibility to make informed choices about issues that concern our society and world, especially as it relates to peace and justice and the most vulnerable of our sisters and brothers. The bishops of the United States have again provided important guidance through their statement: Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship:

It focuses on helping Catholics form their consciences so they can make sound moral judgments about public choices. Visit www.faithfulcitizenship.org.

Stewards commit to prayer, reflection and discussion among others in their community of faith about how to bring the Gospel to public life. They believe in continued conscience formation and conversion, take the teachings of the Church seriously, and keep themselves informed on the political issues of the day. Stewards also strive to make prudent choices, vote and encourage others to vote. These are just a few of the ways stewards can help bring the Good News to all creation.

Remember, that whatever your political affiliation,  you need to make a decision based on research and PRAYER!

 

CALLED TO MERCY

I am not “into” dream interpretation, but I do believe that our subconscious thoughts manifest themselves in our dreams.  With that being said…  I had the strangest dream the other night.

I dreamed that I was attending a college class (in person, not on-line) and had an assignment due.   WAIT!  Was this a dream or a nightmare?

Of course, the assignment wasn’t ready for submission.  I had spent a lot of time on research, et cetera, but had not written THE PAPER.  I’ll be honest with you.  I am a true Virgo and I procrastinate (which literally means “for tomorrow”).  So my dream was pretty believable so far.

I decided to go to class anyway and Face The Music.  It was in one of those big lecture halls.  After everyone was seated, the professor asked the students to bring forward their assignments.  I raised my hand and, with shame on my face, admitted that I did not have the assignment.  I was prepared to be further shamed and humiliated in front of the class.  His response took me off guard.  Rather than pointing out my shortcomings, he gently asked if I had done any work on the project.  I explained to him that I had done all the background work and just didn’t write the actual paper.  He said “I understand that we all get distracted sometimes and I will forgive this.  Go home now, complete the paper, submit it tomorrow, and do better next time.”

When I wakened and thought about the dream, I remembered the Gospel I heard just a few weeks ago about the Prodigal Son.

Remember I keep saying that there are certain lessons we must learn and they’ll keep coming around for us?   The lessons are plain as day—we just need to be cognizant of the signs.

On Saturday, Sept. 9, I attended the presentation on MERCY given by Bishop Emeritus Robert Brom.  He was so inspiring.  He is a very learned man, but is quite charming and told some wonderful stories! During his presentation, he talked about The Prodigal Son.

Then, because it was Covenant Weekend, I attended all five of the English-Speaking Masses on Saturday and Sunday.  Do you remember the Gospel reading?  It was The Prodigal Son!

Clearly, this is an important lesson for all of us.  MERCY.  God, our loving and merciful Father, gives us chance after chance to get our act together.  And when we come to Him day after day “with our assignment incomplete”, He gives us another chance and reminds that He loves us and believes in us.

I remember when my children were young and Rachel was studying to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation for the first time.  I had an epiphany and from that time on I was willing to admit that, even as a parent, I could be wrong sometimes.  It usually had to do with overreacting about something they did.  I would apologize for the overreaction, ask them for their mercy and understanding,  and  then continue to address the incident.

In the one version of the Act of Contrition, we say “I firmly intend, with your help, to do penance,  sin no more, and to avoid whatever leads me to make wrong choices”.

God wants us to succeed.  He doesn’t care how much money we make, or what car we drive, or how many people we supervise at our jobs.

He wants us to succeed in our lives as good and faithful servants; good people with pure hearts; good people with pure hearts who are merciful to those around them and themselves.  (Sometimes we can be very hard on ourselves.)  Look at the signs all around you.  You are being called to be merciful.  Beginning today.

The Circuitous Path

When my son, Jens, was a little guy, he spent a lot of time with my Daddy—”Papa”.  Papa was a gentle soul.  He taught his grandson how to be a real man but how to maintain his caring demeanor at the same time.

Even though Daddy had retired from a career in the Marine Corps long before Jens was born,  he was a proud Marine the rest of his life.

Jens emulated quite a lot of what he saw in Papa’s example of living.  He considered the ROTC in high school but was snatched up by the track team instead.   BTW, he lettered in the long jump in his sophomore year!  (No, I’m not at all embarrassed to be a proud Mama…)

He graduated from high school and attended a trade school to become an auto mechanic. Even though he’s really intelligent, he knew he wasn’t the academic type but wanted a skill with which he could support a family.

Over the years, he has several times revisited the idea of joining the Armed Services.  Each time, for one reason or another, he has chosen a different path.  Remember I said recently that if you don’t learn the lesson you keep repeating it?

Two years ago, Jens and his then-fiancé moved to the East Coast to live with her parents while she earned a BA.  Well, that was their plan.  She couldn’t get into the college, and the housing arrangement fell apart.  And…

And God had a different plan for them.  They only stayed there for five months.  But during that time, Jens shared a very meaningful relationship with his future father-in-law.  Joe is a career Marine and stationed at the Pentagon.  Joe mentored him in much the same way that Papa did when he was young.

Jens came back to California resolved to join the military.  Because he is now 30, the Marines were not an option, so my boy will be a proud Sailor.  He tested very high on the entrance test and will be trained to be an Advanced IT Specialist.  I’m quite certain that he wouldn’t have done so well if he had joined earlier.

Last weekend, we all had the opportunity to renew our Covenant with God.  This is our time to reassess our commitment to our Faith Journey.  “What do I want out of my relationship with God?”  “Do I HAVE a relationship with God?”  “How can I share my faith, my gifts and talents, with those around me?”

I look at my son’s life journey.  What I see is that he knew all along what he wanted.  He allowed himself to be taken here and there on other paths.  Don’t get me wrong, I truly believe that the circuitous route we take is often God’s plan exactly.  There are lessons to be learned along the way that have led us to this exact place and time.

Don’t be afraid to surrender yourself to God’s will.  I tell people all the time that I don’t have the answers.  But I do know this one: God knows what’s best for us.  Listen. Heed the signs.  They’re there right in front of you.   We so often are sure that we have it all figured out for ourselves and we overlook the obvious prompting of the Holy Spirit.

If you didn’t complete a Covenant last weekend, I encourage you to consider taking the time to do it now.  No one with ever see it except you.  It will be mailed back to you next summer and you will be able to review your commitments.   In two weeks, the Covenant chest will be moved under the back altar where it will remain in the sanctuary all year as a reminder to you of your promises to God.

 

 

 

Don’t Forget To Pray!

I always thought my Mom was a great mother.  She seemed to have such wisdom in how she parented her three daughters.

One day, when I was a parent myself and having a difficult time with a situation, I asked my Mom how she had always managed to know the answers.  She said she didn’t always know the answers; she prayed a lot and did the best she could.

I never asked her what exactly she said when she prayed, but it may have been something like this:

Dear Lord,

Thank You for my children. I know they are a gift from You.  Daily I need Your strength and wisdom to train them in the way they should go.  Give me patience and a joyful heart; let me be an example of Your love and forgiveness.  Thank You, Father, for the honor of being a parent.  Amen.

As I look back on her response, it was great advice for parenting, but also for getting through life.

Take a minute to think about it..  PRAY A LOT AND DO THE BEST YOU CAN.  

I always remind myself that the formal prayers that are written in books were written by people like you and me.  Everyday people with everyday thoughts.

It’s not as much WHAT you pray, but THAT you pray.  It’s including God in your life on a daily basis and having conversations with Him throughout the day.    He’s like any parent, mentor, friend; remember to ask advice and to thank Him for the counsel.   I always have to remind myself that my plan isn’t necessarily God’s plan.

THE PRAYER OF ST. FRANCIS

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,
Where there is hatred,  let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is dispair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy;

O Divine Master,
Grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console;
To be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

 

Dear Lord,

Help me remember what a difference it makes when I make time with You a priority in my morning. Awaken me in body and spirit each day with a desire to meet with You and to hear You speak words of affirmation, assurance and wisdom over my heart as I prepare to go into my day. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

 Dear Lord,

I don’t know who or what will cross my path today. But I do know that You are my Rock and my Fortress. You are my Shield and my Strong Tower. Help me to anchor myself to You today. Teach me how to stand strong in You and choose only Your way today. Help me walk by Your truth and not my feelings.

Help me to embrace anything that comes my way as an opportunity to see You at work and as an opportunity to point others to You.

Thank You that You love me and nothing can ever take that away from me! Even if I fail today and fall short, You whisper Your unconditional love deep into my soul and remind me that Your mercies are new every morning.  That truly amazes me, Lord.

Thank You for meeting with me today. Would You wake me again tomorrow with the same sweet whisper of Your love? I can’t wait to meet with You again. In Jesus’ Name,  Amen.

 

 

The Time is Nearer Than You Think

As you read this, I will be out of town with my sister, Sally.  Her husband of 42 years died last spring after a long illness that left him house/bed bound.  Sally hadn’t been able to leave town for over two years and desperately needed to get away.  So, a few months later, we met in Las Vegas for a couple of days.  At the end of the visit, she asked if we could make it an annual trip.  So, now you know my whereabouts.

Sally is three years older than I am and we were always very close growing up.  We even stood up for each other at our respective weddings (only four months apart!).    We had a third sister, Joellen, who was the oldest and she seemed to always be “the odd man out”.

After our daddy celebrated his 80th birthday, we realized that we would one day be just the three of us.  We vowed to work on forging a closer relationship while our parents were still with us.

We met a few times for a Sisters’ Weekend and were well on our way to a renewed and revitalized relationship.   Then, two days after his 85th birthday, Daddy passed into eternal life.  So, our master plan was proceeding “according to plan”.

Then the unforeseen happened.  Joellen developed A.L.L. which is a fatal form of leukemia from earlier  treatment for breast cancer.  She spent seven months in the hospital before she eventually succumbed.  Now our plan went haywire!  It was just the two of us and Mom.  Thirteen months later, we lost Mom as well.  And then there were two.

So, what does this have to do with you?  Have you ever read (or heard of) John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men?   The title of the 1937 book came from a Scottish poem written by Robert Burns in 1786 called To A Mouse.  It tells of how he, while plowing a field, upturned a mouse’s nest.  The resulting poem is an apology to the mouse:

    But Mousie, you aren’t alone

    In proving foresight may be vain:

    The best laid schemes of mice and men

    Often go awry,

    And leave us naught but grief and pain,

    For promised joy.

So, while it is critical to be proactive about your life, especially your spiritual life, you can “have it all figured out”, but in the end we don’t know what God has planned for us.

My advice to you (and to myself, of course) is to keep your affairs—temporal and spiritual—in order.  Nurture the relationships in your life.  Maybe someone in your life is now estranged.  Try to build a new bridge.  Even if it’s not the right time for reconciliation, you will be more at peace for having tried.

We all know the parable of the Prodigal Son who was estranged from his father for a long time.   And yet, when he returned home, he was welcomed with open arms.  We believe that this is a true account of what we can expect from Our Father, but wouldn’t you rather come to him as his BFF (best friend forever)?

I encourage you to put as much effort as possible into your Faith Journey.  It is not about just coming to church on Sunday.  It is about the journey to closeness with God—coming to know Him in a way that is only attained through effort.  Be ready for that final encounter;  we do not know the hour or the day.

Stewardship of Our Parishes: Helping Us Grow in Faith

This article was written for the monthly newsletter of the International Catholic Stewardship Council (ICSC) by Leisa Anslinger, author and co-founder of Catholic Strengths and Engagement Community (CSEC). Leisa has visited our parish on several occasions and is a trusted professional in Stewardship.

I have had the privilege this spring of guest-presenting during a pasto­ral leadership class at our diocesan seminary. The first three classes of the semester set the foundation for the remaining topics: the priest as pastor and leader; collaboration with the la­ity; the vision of the parish as the locus or center in which people are formed as disciples, stewards, and evangeliz­ers. I am deeply appreciative of the commitment and genuine desire to lead well that the men, some of whom will be ordained very soon, have dem­onstrated. While I have not been with them for every class, I have witnessed their growing appreciation of the ways in which all the varied elements of parish life fit together.

Being with the seminarians has re­minded me of the complex nature of parish life and how stewarding these elements has direct impact on the way people may or may not grow in faith. When we make adjustments in one aspect of the parish, it will affect other aspects. Hopefully, over time, the adjustments we make will result in deeper conformity to Christ, to holi­ness lived in daily life.

This calls for us to stay focused on the vision and good stewardship of the parish as the place where disciples are grown, where people are drawn to Christ, to live their faith in the dai­ly lives, and to share their faith with others.

Good stewardship of a par­ish requires on-going attention to the spirituality of stewardship, not only at specific points of the year; it requires us to consider parish practices in light of the call to live and grow as stew­ards, to help our people make primary connections between Mass and their daily lives, to understand how stew­ardship is an authentic way to live as disciples of Jesus Christ, and to do all of this in the context of the community of faith.

In what ways is your parish the place where disciples who live as good stewards are grown?

 

During the last three years, we have made many efforts to provide our parishioners with tools to grow as good stewards and disciples. 

 These include praying the Stewardship Prayer as a Faith Community at every Sunday Mass, posing thoughts for Everyday Stewardship in the weekly bulletin (Barbie’s Corner) and offering the annual Covenant with God (which will be offered again on the weekend of September 10-11).

 

 

 

 

Thank You, Good Stewards

Stewardship takes on many forms.  Every week in Barbie’s Corner, I talk about how to live Stewardship in your Everyday Life.

This week, I am showing you an example of what a good steward can accomplish.   On Saturday, a dedicated group of people gathered to spend their time and use their talents in revitalizing the Star of the Sea Center.

This building was constructed in the early 1960s as a bank.  (That’s why we affectionately call it “The Old Bank Building”.)  We took ownership of it in the late 1990s when Father John Dolan was the Pastor.

This building is used EVERY DAY by our English-speaking and Spanish-speaking Religious Education classes, Confirmation classes, our Altar Society, the Knights of Columbus, and many ministries and prayer groups in the Spanish-speaking community.

We are trying to upgrade our facilities to make a better place to worship and gather as a community.  Let’s always keep in mind that we must respect and share all that we have here at the parish.

The following men and women gave up their Saturday to make our SSC a nicer place to gather:

Eric DiSessa, Jim Dahl, Jesse Fernandez, Mike Dunford, Michael Martinez, Zach Canlas, Julie & Johnny Mendez

I deeply apologize if a name is misspelled or missing.  You are no less appreciated.

 

 

 

Godspeed, Father Ron

Barbie was kind enough to let me write her column this week to bid farewell to you.

Three Sundays ago I said that Mission begins with Gratitude. This has been the guiding principal in my life. My 42 years in as a Columban Missionary serving in Japan have given me so much and I am so grateful.

I returned to the U.S. at the age of 70 and the doors of St Mary’s was opened to me. Fr Mike and the people of St Mary’s have done so much to make this transition a good one. Learning how to minister in the U.S. has been very challenging to me. Also, for the first time in my priestly life, not being the Pastor has been an area that I had to grow into. But Fr Mike and the Staff have walked with me and helped me so much.

In the beginning life was simple enough. Celebrating weekday Masses, helping on Sunday Masses and Confessions, sick calls and some Marriage preparation. Fr Mike was very receptive to various ideas I offered and there was a good working relationship.

But then Fr Mike became ill and I had to step in for everything else. Every day I prayed that Fr Mike would recover and return but there was Christmas, Easter, etc. in the meantime. Just as I was beginning to wear out, Fr Mike came back more refreshed and healthy than I have ever seen him. Thanks be to God!

At the same time the announcement that an Associate Pastor had been appointed to St Mary’s meant that I had to move on. This is the work of the Holy Spirit, I am certain, but it is so hard to pick up and move on.

You have been so good to me and I want to thank you for letting me share the most intimate times in your life, whether it be through Funerals or Weddings or Anointings.

May God continue to bless you and continue to show your goodness to Fr Rick who is coming to serve.

 

Father Ron has been a welcome addition to our parish staff for the past several years. He was a huge source of support during Father Mike’s medical leave. He will be sorely missed by our parish staff and our faith community.

 If you wish to reach Father Ron, you can write him at:

 Father Ron Kelso

Corpus Christi

450 Corral Canyon Road

Bonita, CA 91902

 

 

 

 

Being Good Stewards of Our Religious Freedom

The Christian steward knows that gratitude is at the heart of stewardship. Indeed, gratitude lies at the heart of our spirituality; it’s a primary door through which we enter into a relationship with our Creator. Having the freedom to deepen our relationship with the Lord offers us much with which to be grateful.

And yet like so many things sublime and sacred, gratitude can be reduced to easy bromides or pious platitudes. Sometimes those of us in the U.S. reduce Independence Day, July 4, and the freedoms it represents, to just a good barbecue and fireworks show. Instead, Americans and all of us in the Western world should feel a renewed gratitude for the blessings of living in countries where our faith may be freely practiced, where we can freely assemble, and where we can stand up for justice without risking our very lives.

A few years ago, Pope Francis cited the mounting waves of anti-Christian violence sweeping the world. He was thinking in particular of at least 85 people who died during an attack on an Anglican church in Pakistan when he asked us, “Am I indifferent to that, or does it affect me like it’s a member of the family?” The instability and upheaval in countries like Syria and Iraq threaten the faithful. The Middle East, which was 20 percent Christian in the early 20th century, is now four percent Christian with that population steadily declining. Refugees fleeing persecution are at levels not seen since post-World These are troubled times in our 21st century world. Religious intolerance and persecution are at a zenith, and much of it is directed against Catholics and other Christians. And throughout the world – China, North Korea, Sub-Sahara Africa, even India – Christians are a persecuted minority.

Meanwhile, some of us are tempted during the warm summer months to take a “vacation” from Sunday Mass. Some travel and feel no necessity to find a local Catholic church. Some sit through Sunday’s liturgy with golf or the swimming pool on their minds. Some elevate kids’ sports over Sunday worship.

The Christian steward, however, realizes that somewhere around the world, others are being persecuted for the religious freedom so many take for granted. The Christian steward goes to Mass, and with much gratitude, prays in unity and solidarity with their brothers and sisters throughout the world who suffer for our shared faith in Jesus Christ.

 

Random Acts of Kindness

I’ve published several articles recently about Hospitality.   Most of them address Greeting others at Mass, offering a place for people to gather to get to know each other, etc.

Fr. Mike recently received a letter from “Roland F.”. Roland lives on the East Coast. His letter begins…

Dear Father Mike,

I had the recent opportunity to visit St. Mary, Star of the Sea Catholic Church while briefly visiting in the Oceanside, CA area.

I had some time to pass while visiting and walked past your church at about 1 p.m. a few weeks ago. There were a few folks standing outside on the top step, and one of them was about to lock the door. When I asked if I could just stop in for a few minutes to “visit with Our Lord”, there was a pause. At any rate, after about thirty seconds, they all said “sure”, and I was allowed to enter. One of the gentlemen smiled and asked that I lock the door on the way out.

I was able to spend about 45 minutes in quite adoration before the Lord, along with praying the Holy Rosary.

I was very grateful for this kind opportunity—to have the privilege to spend a few moments in your Beautiful Church! It provided such a wonderful sanctuary for me that day.

And so, my prayers are with you, and for your beautiful church and parish. May the Risen Lord be with all of you always.             —Roland F.

 

It was a small act of kindness to allow a stranger to enter our church. But it provided him a significant opportunity to refresh his soul and visit with Our Lord.

 

I received a letter recently from a former parishioner. Here is her story:

To Whom It May Concern,

Hi, my name is Dania Haros. I used to attend St. Mary’s…like 15 years ago. I did my Confirmation and 15añera there. Plus, I used to be in the Youth Group. Even though I haven’t been physically part of the church, I still feel I belong there.

Well, I’m currently incarcerated but I got a good job in here which the Lord blessed me with. So, I would like to start sending a monthly tithe. Give back a little of the blessings the Lord has given me in here and in life. Thank you.

I was so moved by this letter from Dania. Whatever happened in her life for her to end up incarcerated, she hasn’t given up on God. That is so powerful. I would like to suggest that you could send her a card to let her know that you’re praying for her. Let her feel the power for love and prayer. If you feel moved to making a difference in her life, her address is:

Dania Haros #WE0974

C.C.W.F. 512.11.4 up

P.O. Box 1508

Chowchilla, CA 93610