Stewardship is based on the spiritual principles of the Old Testament and the teachings of Jesus. As Catholics, realizing all that we have is a gift from God, we are encouraged to reflect on our blessings, enhance them and share them with others. By giving of ourselves and helping those around us, we are practicing Christian stewardship.
In 1992, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops brought attention to this principal when they published Stewardship: A Disciple’s Response. Looking beyond financial contributions alone, this document encourages Catholics to live their lives as disciples of Jesus and to share their gifts of time, talent and treasure – more out of gratitude than obligation. A very concise version of the Pastoral Letter follows.
To Be a Christian Steward
A Summary of the U.S. Bishops' Pastoral Letter on Stewardship
"As each one has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of God's varied grace" (1 Pt 4:10).
What identifies a steward? Safeguarding material and human resources and using them responsibly are one answer; so is generous giving of time, talent, and treasure. But being a Christian steward means more. As Christian stewards, we receive God's gifts gratefully, cultivate them responsibly, share them lovingly in justice with others, and return them with increase to the Lord.
Disciples as Stewards
Let us begin with being a disciple—a follower of our Lord Jesus Christ. As members of the Church, Jesus calls us to be disciples. This has astonishing implications:
- Mature disciples make a conscious decision to follow Jesus, no matter what the cost.
- Christian disciples experience conversion—lifeshaping changes of mind and heart—and commit their very selves to the Lord.
- Christian stewards respond in a particular way to the call to be a disciple. Stewardship has the power to shape and mold our understanding of our lives
- and the way in which we live.
Jesus' disciples and Christian stewards recognize God as the origin of life, giver of freedom, and source of all things. We are grateful for the gifts we have received and are eager to use them to show our love for God and for one another. We look to the life and teaching of Jesus for guidance in living as Christian stewards.
Stewards of Creation
The Bible contains a profound message about the stewardship of material creation: God created the world, but entrusts it to human beings. Caring for and cultivating the world involves the following:
- Joyful appreciation for the God-given beauty and wonder of nature;
- Protection and preservation of the environment, which would be the stewardship of ecological concern;
- Respect for human life—shielding life from threat and assault, doing everything that can be done to enhance this gift and make life flourish; and
- Development of this world through noble human effort—physical labor, the trades and professions, the arts and sciences. We call such effort "work." Work is a fulfilling human vocation.
The Second Vatican Council points out that, through work, we build up not only our world but the Kingdom of God, already present among us. Work is a partnership with God—our share in a divine human collaboration in creation. It occupies a central place in our lives as Christian stewards.
Stewards of Vocation
Jesus calls us, as his disciples, to a new way of life—the Christian way of life—of which stewardship is part. But Jesus does not call us as nameless people in a faceless crowd. He calls us individually, by name. Each one of us—clergy, religious, lay person; married, single; adult, child—has a personal vocation. God intends each one of us to play a unique role in carrying out the divine plan. The challenge, then, is to understand our role—our vocation—and to respond generously to this call from God. Christian vocation entails the practice of stewardship. In addition, Christ calls each of us to be stewards of our personal vocations, which we receive from God.
Stewards of the Church
Stewards of God's gifts are not passive beneficiaries. We cooperate with God in our own redemption and in the redemption of others. We are also obliged to be stewards of the Church—collaborators and cooperators in continuing the redemptive work of Jesus Christ, which is the Church's essential mission. This mission—proclaiming and teaching, serving and sanctifying—is our task. It is the personal responsibility of each one of us as stewards of the Church. All members of the Church have their own roles to play in carrying out its mission:
- Parents, who nurture their children in the light of faith;
- Parishioners, who work in concrete ways to make their parishes true communities of faith and vibrant sources of service to the larger community;
- All Catholics, who give generous support—time, money, prayers, and personal service according to their circumstances—to parish and diocesan programs
and to the universal Church.
Obstacles to Stewardship
People who want to live as Christian disciples and Christian stewards face serious obstacles. In the United States and other nations, a dominant secular culture often contradicts religious convictions about the meaning of life. This culture frequently encourages us to focus on ourselves and our pleasures.
At times, we can find it far too easy to ignore spiritual realities and to deny religion a role in shaping human and social values. As Catholics who have entered into the mainstream of American society and experienced its advantages, many of us also have been adversely influenced by this secular culture. We know what it is to struggle against selfishness and greed, and we realize that it is harder for many today to accept the challenge of being a Christian steward. It is essential, therefore, that we make a special effort to understand the true meaning of stewardship and live accordingly.
A Steward's Way
The life of a Christian steward models the life of Jesus. It is challenging and even difficult, in many respects, yet intense joy comes to those who take the risk to live as Christian stewards. Women and men who seek to live as stewards learn that "all things work for good for those who love God" (Rom 8:28).
After Jesus, we look to Mary as an ideal steward. As the Mother of Christ, she lived her ministry in a spirit of fidelity and service; she responded generously to the call. We must ask ourselves: Do we also wish to be disciples of Jesus Christ and Christian stewards of our world and our Church? Central to our human and Christian vocations, as well as to the unique vocation each one of us receives from God, is that we be good stewards of the gifts we possess. God gives us this divine-human workshop, this world and Church of ours. The Spirit shows us the way. Stewardship is a part of that journey
MORE THOUGHTS ABOUT STEWARDSHIP
Stewardship is based on the understanding that all that we have and all that we are isa gift from God; our time, our talent, our money and even the gift of life itself. Weshow our gratitude for these gifts by returning a portion of them back to God. Our gifts of time and talent do not substitute for the gifts of our financial resources (Sacrificial Giving), nor do our gifts of treasure substitute for our gifts of time and talent. All are gifts from God. As Christian Stewards, we receive God’s giftsgratefully, cherish and tend them in a responsible and accountable manner, share them in justice and love with others, and return them with increase to the Lord. Our prayerful gifts of time, talent, and treasure are concrete expressions of our faith and the way we give Glory to God. Through our stewardship of these gifts, we will put our Faith in Action and Build His Kingdom.
Stewardship: Turning Cultural Values Upside Down
Many Catholics wince when they hear the word stewardship. It's a reaction prompted by a mistaken notion that stewardship is just another way the Church asks for money. This is not true.
The Life of a Christian Steward
The decision to share one's financial resources with one's communion of faith is an important aspect of being a Christian steward. But that is only part of the story. Christian stewardship is the commitment made in response to God's generosity: to live a life of gratitude; to make daily decisions to glorify God; and to share oneself and one's gifts generously as circumstances and talents allow.
A life of gratitude is the first mark of a Christian steward. God has endowed His followers with more gifts than they can imagine- life and faith, time and relationships, health, talents, skills and material wealth. Everything one has is a gift from God, and a Christian thanks God daily for these blessings.
Stewardship Involves Daily Choices
Stewardship means making daily, conscious choices that glorify God. Decisions are made daily that reveal a person's priorities. The axiom, "Tell me to what you pay attention and I will tell you who you are," holds true. There are such things as self-glorification and the exaltation of wealth, social status, race, success, power, peace of mind and security. However, one should be able to recognize the Christian disciple by the place God has in his or her daily life.
Christian stewards regard success, a high standard of living and the accumulation of material objects as secondary to a life of generosity, hospitality, and the privacy of personal relationship. In making these decisions, culture's values are turned upside down.
As Christians, we recognize that our gifts of talents and skills are meant to be cultivated and shared with others, beginning with our family and friends, with those whom we gather to share the Eucharist, and with the world. The gift of ourselves blesses the particular community of Christians we are involved with and blesses those whom our parish hopes to touch.
"Planned Giving" is a term that for many people sounds quite imposing and perhaps not clear what it means. Simply stated, planned giving is charitable giving that is part of a family's financial and estate planning.
By providing the essentials – clean water, food, shelter and warmth – your contribution will help those who are most in need following national catastrophes such as hurricanes and tornados. All funds will be forwarded to Catholic Charities U.S.A., the organization commissioned by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to provide first-line response when catastrophe strikes in our own country.
Catholic Relief Services is the official international humanitarian agency of the Catholic community in the United States.
With gratitude for their years of faithful ministry, Catholics in the Diocese of Honolulu have acknowledged and embraced the responsibility for helping our priests during their retirement.
SPIRITUALITY AND THEOLOGY OF STEWARDSHIP
Following the 1992 publication of the Pastoral Letter by the U. S. Bishops, many parishes and priests throughout the country embraced the challenge of Stewardship. One of the early priests to lead parishes to adopt Stewardship was Farther Andrew Kemberling. Father Kemberling and co-author, Mila Glodava, Director of Communications and Stewardship, tell the story of their work at St. Thomas More Parish in Centennial, Colorado in a book published in 2009, “Making Stewardship A Way of Life.” When St. Thomas More parish was created in 1971, there were fewer than 600 families; in 2009 the parish was home to about 6200 families (about 21,000 individuals). The vibrancy of this faith community seems almost miraculous—with 300 ministries and programs and 3000 volunteers (filling about 7,000 volunteer positions), St. Thomas More reaches far beyond the needs within their own parish.
Bishop Larry Silva expressed his vision of Stewardship as a way of Life in 2014 in a video entitled "Cherish The Gift." See the link below:
Father Kemberling’s focus is on the spirituality underlying Stewardship. His discussion of “Core Values,” Identity, Trust, Gratitude, and Love provide a solid biblical foundation for Stewardship. Many of his thoughts were presented in the Stewardship homilies leading up to commitment Sunday.
On January 25, 2014, the diocese of Honolulu hosted Stewardship Day 2014 for all parishes in the diocese. The highlight of the day was a presentation by Fr. Daniel J. Mahan titled Stewardship as Spirituality. This presentation was preceded by opening remarks by Bishop Larry Silva.
Father Mahan's presentation as well as video from the 2013 Stewardship conference with Father Andrew Kimberling can be accessed at the Diocese site:
The implicit goal of every Christian is to follow Jesus, and the stewardship path clearly leads to Jesus—Stewardship truly is a way of life for every Christian.
In addition to the Fr. Kemberling book on Stewardship, there are many interesting books addressing the spirituality and theology of Stewardship. If you are interested in further reading on this subject, please contact any member of the Stewardship Committee.