WHAT IS STEWARDSHIP?
Let’s begin by stating what stewardship is not.
Stewardship is not an activity – It is an attitude
Stewardship is not a way to raise money – It is a way to attain holiness
Stewardship is not just a decision of the head – It requires a conversion of the heart
Stewardship is not a topic to learn – It is a process of becoming
Stewardship is not the latest fad – It is biblically based
Stewardship is not an option – It is integral to our Catholic faith
Stewardship is not another thing to do – It is why and how we do what we do
Stewardship is not about our generosity – It is about our response to God’s generosity
Stewards is what we do after we say, “We Believe!” and the realization that Stewardship is not a program, but . . . A Way of Life!
Christ is at the center of stewardship, and Scripture tells us how to be good, responsible and mature stewards. We are all called, through our Baptism, to be saints in our time. To be saints, we have to be disciples of Christ. And to be disciples of Christ, we must live our lives as Christian stewards.
“If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant also be.” – John 12:26
According to the Bishop’s Pastoral Letter of 1992, Stewardship: A Disciple’s Response, a good, responsible and mature Christian Steward is:
- One who receives God’s gifts gratefully
- Cherishes and tends them in a responsible and accountable manner
- Shares them in justice and love with others, and
- Returns them with increase to the Lord
“As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of God’s varied grace.” – 1 Peter 4:10
Giving of Our Time
Prayer and the stewardship of Time is the foundation and the first priority of a Christian disciple. Prayer is the beginning of stewardship. Only when we spend time with God in prayer, and reading and reflecting on His Word are we spiritually prepared to offer ourselves to others. All of our time should involve being with God in prayer and worship, sharing our live with family and friends, and volunteering our time in Church and community activities that help others. “Could you not watch with me even one hour? – John 12:26
Sharing Our Talents
Every Catholic is called by their Baptism to reach out to love others. God has entrusted each of us with unique skills and talents. We must take time to recognize those gifts and discern how we can offer them to our parish, diocese and community to carry out the mission of the Catholic Church. “Your light must shine before men so they may see goodness in your acts.” – Matthew 5:16
Giving of Our Treasure
All gifts are from God, including money and our material possessions. We have a responsibility to share our gifts with our family and with others in need. As Christian stewards, we are called to return in thanksgiving a planned and proportionate gift which reflects the many blessings we have received. Scripture also teaches us to give God our “first fruits” or the first portion – not our leftovers. Financial contributions to the parish are vital to support all the operations, and the charitable ministries and mission of the Church. Good, responsible, mature and cheerful stewards strive to tithe at least ten (10) percent to the Lord, and live with the remaining ninety (90) percent. “With each contribution, show a cheerful countenance, and pay your tithes in a spirit of joy. Give to the Most High as He has given to you, generously, according to your means.” – Sirach 35:8-9
Our Gift of Life
Our Gift of Faith
Good stewards continue to develop the precious Gift of Faith with life-long study and reflection - utilizing classes, reading, retreats, bible study, cursillos, and faith sharing groups. Sharing the Gift of Faith with others, what we call evangelization, occurs when we pass on our faith to family, friends, co-workers, and to students as a Catechist.
Our Gift of Vocations
Whether we build things, care for people, create designs or provide a service we are sharing God’s gift of creation. Good stewards apply their vocations at work, in the home, in the parish and in the community to the best of their ability, as well as encourage vocations to the priesthood and religious life.
In order for St. Mary Magdalene Catholic Church to move toward being a “Total Stewardship” parish, the parishioners must “Be the Best They Can Be” in everything they do – whether it is reading Scripture as a lector, working in the Parish Office as a staff member, or volunteering their time and talents in the community. To help you, as a parishioner, and the parish “Be the Best We Can Be”, you are encouraged to pray daily the following Stewardship Prayer. It is both an individual prayer and a prayer for our parish.
Singing the Praises of the Lord
The concept of stewardship is sometimes both hard to understand, yet simple, if we look at it as being grateful for all the gifts God has given us. And we don’t just wake up one day, turn on the stewardship light switch and say we’re going to be disciples of Christ. Sometimes it’s more of a constant conversion process. As for me, throughout my whole life I have seen my parents serve in the Church, and give their time and talent and treasure. However, I didn’t realize what the meaning of giving or stewardship was, because there isn’t really a word for stewardship in the Hispanic community or language. But, I came to realize that when you give to God, it is not just a thing to do because your parents do it or because that’s what you do in church. To give to God is to be grateful for what God has given you, as an individual. All you have in life is because of God. All your talents, treasure and even time is all made possible by the grace of God. The concept that all that you have and all that you are is thanks to God is a tough pill to swallow; especially for a prideful Hispanic college graduate, such as myself.
As a cradle Catholic, I would go to Mass and have served as a volunteer all my life. I thought I knew all there was to know about Jesus, the saints, and even the Mass. So like most “good” Catholics, I would go to Mass, sing in the choir, and then volunteer wherever my parents wanted me to help – I was probably, in my mind, fulfilling my time and talents to the Church (although I didn’t realize that was what I was doing). Again, this was me following my parent’s examples; but, I was really just going through the motions without questioning why. Why do I help the Church? Why did my parents give money to the Church? Or why did my Dad spend so much time at Church? It was those questions that were left unasked and unanswered that led me to question my own faith. In college you learn many things, not just from the text books, but from the people around you and life itself. I began to experience other cultures and ask about the differences between myself and them. Eventually a question arose in me? Why am I Catholic? Did I really understand what it is to be Catholic? The answer was “No”. I simply followed the status quo in my family and did what I thought I had to do.
The one thing that kept me in the Church was my love for music and playing at Mass – not to mention the friendships I made in the youth groups and in leadership. The only thing missing was the why? Why was I doing what I was doing? For many of us who do not really understand our beliefs in God, we tend to build up pride and attribute all of our success and triumphs to self-perseverance and hard work. Not to mention when things go bad we tend to blame others and then ask God for help. It was not until I started working for the Church and learning the concept of stewardship that it really dawned on me, that God put me here for a purpose - to serve Him through the Church, because of the gifts and talents He bestowed upon me. I felt bad knowing that I was giving myself credit for something I did not do. Even when I went through bad times in my personal life, God still gave me the talents to overcome.
My wife, Martha, and our three children are the ultimate gifts from God, because without them I would be lost and incomplete. Therefore, I feel that if I do not give back to God what is His, then I’m not grateful for the family He blessed me with and for everything else in my life. I also feel He blessed me with the talent to sing, and He gave me a leadership position in our parish to serve others. It is only right and just that I give back, with increase. I also sing in the choir at the Sunday 8:30 a.m., Spanish Mass and I’m thankful everyday for that talent. Singing to the Lord fills my heart with joy. Also, helping those in need, especially in my community is really satisfying. However, as I said in the beginning, it is a constant conversion process. I’m working on being a good steward of my time, especially with my family, as well as the third leg of that stewardship stool – treasure. Again, they are a gift that I must thank God for always. When we give of our Time, Talent and Treasure, we are on our way to being a complete, good and faithful stewards and disciples of Christ. It is not easy and it takes a lot of effort and sacrifice. However, I know we are all capable of showing our gratitude to God. So, thank you, God, for all you have given me! Now that was easy, huh? Praise the Lord! - Esteban Jimenez
HITTING ROCK BOTTOM
My beautiful wife, Aida, and I have been married for 16-years, and God has blessed us with two children - Dimarco (12-years) and Audrey (soon to be 10). Both Aida and I are actively involved in various church ministries – I’m currently serving as a lector and Master of Ceremonies, and recently my wife and I were asked to help lead the Hispanic Marriage Preparation class. My wife also helps with the children’s liturgy on Sundays. Sounds like a storybook life, huh? Well, as Paul Harvey used to say, let me tell you the “rest of the story”, especially the part about how God came into my life and how stewardship has become a way of life for me and my family, since that conversion.
Sometimes when bad things happen or when circumstances or situations hit, we sometimes think that those things will not happen to us, because we think we have everything under control. We have a good job, a roof over our head, food on the table, a car or two in the garage, a loving wife and children. Well, it was not long ago when the economy started to go downhill back in 2007, that we, too, thought the economy wouldn’t hurt us – but, it did! We hit rock bottom – to the point of us losing everything – my job, all the assets we had, and even being evicted from the house we were renting (after losing the ones we used to own). We didn’t even have the money to make the deposit on a small 2 bedroom apartment. As the family bread-winner and provider, you feel hopeless and helpless, because you thought you had everything under control. There is also a sense of shame, because you have let down or disappointed your family.
Well, usually out of every negative there comes a positive, and I feel that God had a purpose in humbling me by sort of bringing down to my knees. During our low point of being evicted and having no place to go, God sent into my life, my now new Brother in Christ – Martin Lopez. He is also actively involved at his church, and an amazing upright man and steward, who walks in His ways along God’s path.
Knowing of my despair, Martin asked me to attend a retreat called Cursillos de Cristianda. So I accepted the invitation and, boy was I glad that I did! During that retreat, I found myself – the real me that God created me to be; but, more importantly, I found God. He wasn’t lost – I was. But, at times – especially the low or bad times in my life, I thought that God was not around. The retreat helped me to re-discover that He has always been there for me and my family – it was I who was pushing Him away and not allowing Him into my life, and also my family.
Now, there is not a day that goes by that I don’t thank God for all the uncountable blessings that He brings into our lives. Sometimes, I even think that I’m still not worthy or the blessing are more than we deserve. But in 2 Corinthians 4:7-8, it says that “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing . . .”. So God has blessed us (our earthen vessels), so that His greatness will shine before man, even when we have hit rock bottom (but not crushed), perplexed (but not despairing), etc.
God has blessed us with many unique gifts and talents, and it is because of His generosity and blessings, that my wife and I desire to help, in gratitude, as much as possible in our parish. We want to share our lifestyle of Christian stewardship and discipleship as we walk along God’s path, so that others who may be struggling will find themselves and allow God into or back into their lives. We are not the perfect stewards and disciples He has called us to be; but, each day we are trying to give more of our time in prayer, more of our time and talents for others, (especially the poor), and more of our treasure, so as to build of His Kingdome here on earth.
Today, I invite you to allow God to come into your life and not wait like I did to hit rock bottom in order to reach out to Him and serve Him with grateful and humble hearts.
- Marco Ibarra
St. Mary Magdalene Stewardship Prayer
O Lord, giver of Life and source of our freedoms, we thank You for all the abundant gifts You have given us –our life, our families, our parish community –all that we have and all that we are. We thank You most of all for the gift of Your Son, Jesus Christ - the perfect steward of Your gifts. Heavenly Father, send Your Holy Spirit upon us, bringing us knowledge and understanding. Teach us to be good stewards of Your gifts. Help us to revere vocations, serve joyfully, give generously, follow faithfully, possess responsibly, and love unconditionally. O Lord, we pray that You will open our hearts and our minds to joyfully accept a lifestyle of Christian discipleship and stewardship, so that we, both individually and as a parish community, are being the best we can be. We ask these things in Your name, with grateful hearts. Amen.
May God Bless You on Your Stewardship Journey to Sainthood!