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 for April: Saint Mark the Evangelist

Saint Luke’s theology of stewardship is well-documented. But it is also well-known that an understanding of Saint Mark’s theology of Christian discipleship in the second Gospel is necessary in order to understand Luke’s views on stewardship. Hence, Mark’s views on discipleship as well as his stewardship of Saint Peter’s memories, make him an important stewardship saint in his own right. According to the Acts of the Apostles, Mark’s mother, Mary, owned a house in Jerusalem in which the earliest Christian community gathered. After visiting Jerusalem, Paul and Barnabas took Mark back with them to Antioch. Mark assisted them in their evangelization efforts in Cyprus, but upon their arrival by ship in Perga, he left them and returned to Jerusalem. Later, after returning to Antioch, Paul and Barnabas had an argument over Mark. Barnabas wanted to take Mark on their next missionary journey, but Paul objected on the grounds that Mark had not persevered on the previous journey. Accordingly, Barnabas took Mark back to Cyprus, and Paul set out for Syria and Cilicia with Silas. In the letter to Philemon, Mark is mentioned among Paul’s fellow workers. When Paul was held captive in Rome, Mark was with him, giving him “comfort” (Col.4:10). In the same verse, Mark is mentioned as the cousin of Barnabas, and the Christians at Colossae are urged to offer hospitality to Mark if he should come there.

Elsewhere, Timothy is asked to bring Mark to Paul, since he is useful for the apostle’s ministry. The first letter attributed to Peter, written in all likelihood from Rome, mentions Mark as the “son” of Peter, a term either of simple affection or an indication that Peter was Mark’s father in the faith. Mark’s presence in Rome with Peter would be consistent with the tradition that Mark was the steward of Peter’s memories, taking copious notes of Peter’s reflections on Jesus’ teaching and deeds. This tradition comes from the early Christian historian Eusebius, who also wrote that Mark was Peter’s “interpreter.” Many scholars believe that Mark wrote his Gospel while in Rome, although another tradition suggests that the Gospel was written in Alexandria.

Saint Mark is the patron saint of many groups including lawyers, notaries, secretaries, painters, pharmacists and interpreters. He is also the patron saint of Venice and Egypt. His traditional symbol is that of the winged lion and his feast day is April 25.

A Lenten Stewardship Reflection: Compassion

A central theme in the Gospel of Luke and a very good one for Lenten meditation is the notion of compassion. More than any other Gospel, Luke reveals the compassionate nature of Jesus Christ. Jesus said it emphatically and without mincing his words: “Be compassionate just as your Father is compassionate” (Luke 6:36, New Jerusalem Bible). The word compassion is derived from the Latin words pati and cum, which taken together mean “to suffer with.” Compassion asks us to enter into another’s pain, to share in their suffering, to feel their brokenness, fear, confusion and anguish. For Jesus, however, compassion was not just a feeling. It translated itself into action. Throughout Luke’s Gospel, Jesus heals and cares for the downtrodden, the poor and oppressed. Jesus showed his followers that compassion is inherent to discipleship. He did not reach down and lift the poor up from above either. He became poor. He suffered with the poor. He chooses pain, rejection, persecution, and death rather than the path of “upward mobility” toward power, authority, influence, and wealth. It is this “downward mobility” that led to his own passion, death and subsequent resurrection and redemption for all.

Jesus’ path of downward mobility differs from the common notion today that compassion means helping those less fortunate than we are. It is a particularly privileged notion to think that if we volunteer in a soup kitchen or donate money to help others, we have been compassionate. To be clear, these actions are important and valuable ways of serving others. But when we are able to maintain our distance or stay in a place “above” those we serve, such acts easily become acts of pity, rather than compassion. This is the problem with the idea of serving “those less fortunate.”  We are somehow “more” and “they” are somehow “less.” We have all the power. “They” have none.

Genuine compassion, as embodied by Jesus, runs counter to our culture’s concept. Christ’s compassion is a call to suffer “along with” those who are powerless. Compassion is at the heart of the Christian stewards’ life. It is an expression of God’s love for us and our love for God and each other. Perhaps during this Lenten season we can place compassion front and center in our spiritual lives. What better time than the Lenten season to consider a radical reorientation toward others. And what better time than Lent to discover the compassion Jesus calls us to embrace.

Good Stewards Learn to Develop God’s Gifts

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

Good Stewards Learn to Develop God’s Gifts God has blessed each of us with many gifts and our task is to discover, acknowledge and develop those gifts. Some of our gifts we discover ourselves; other gifts have to be pointed out by others. One of life’s greatest challenges involves discovering and developing all of our God-given gifts. Parents, siblings, teachers, coaches, scout leaders and friends play an important role in this journey. Once we know we have a gift, we have to believe in the gift and commit ourselves to developing it. We have to work on our gifts and have the discipline to hone them to perfection.

Blessed John Cardinal Newman once said, “Nothing would be done at all if one waited until one could do it so well that no one could find fault with it.” Many people are afraid to test their gifts. Fear of failure, it seems, is pervasive. We are not born with a fear of failure. Fear grows on us. Fear wears many disguises – fear of failure, fear of success, fear of ridicule, fear of not belonging, fear of looking foolish – to name but a few of fear’s disguises. All of fear’s disguises lead to stagnant energy. Fear always brings with it inertia and inertia always leads to stagnation. No one develops their gifts responsibly without risk-taking, hard work and overcoming fear.

Allow me to offer an example. Do you remember what it was like to learn how to ride a bicycle? We start off with a tricycle and for a while that is enough but soon we want more. We want a bicycle and the day comes when we get our first bicycle but our joy quickly fades when we realize that the bicycle comes with training wheels. So instead of going from three wheels to two wheels we go backwards to four wheels. Finally the fateful day comes when the training wheels are taken off. A person we thought loved us, usually a mother or a father, puts us on the bicycle, puts one hand on the back of the seat and the other on the handlebar, tells us we can do it and pushes us off to fend for ourselves. The result is always the same – we fall to the ground. Then the person we thought loved us picks us up and repeats the process. Eventually we get the hang of it but not before we have fallen and picked ourselves up more often than we choose to remember. The gift of balance is key to being able to ride a bicycle; the process of discovering that gift is repeated many times in our lives.

Life is a series of failures that morph into successes sometimes without our realizing it or knowing how it happens but it does. We had to learn how to be brothers and sisters, we had to learn how to be husbands and wives, and we had to learn how to be friends and neighbors. We need to learn how to be good stewards of the many gifts God has given us; to discover them, cherish them and not be afraid to develop them.

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.