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Stewardship Saint

Every capital campaign requires initial donors, those major gifts in the quiet phase that ensure a strong foundational for the campaign’s future. Large gifts can stretch people’s pocketbooks, but can we imagine entirely emptying them? That’s the story of St. Katherine Drexel.

 

The daughter of a prominent investment banker in Philadelphia in1858, Katherine experienced all the trappings of high society. Still, her family was Catholic and she received a strong, faith-based upbringing. They traveled frequently, exposing young Katherine to the needs on the American frontier. After her father’s death, Katherine inherited a large sum of money.

 

Still, Katherine’s heart was not in becoming another socialite with the East Coast elite. She began parsing out her inheritance to charity work among the Native Americans. During a pilgrimage to Rome, she begged Pope Leo XIII to appeal for missionaries to the people she’d come to love. His response changed the course of Katherine’s life: “Why don’t you become a missionary?”

 

Four years later, Katherine had founded a religious order specifically to serve the Native American and African American population in the United States. Her order opened 145 missions and over 70 schools across the United States. During Katherine’s life, the cost of opening these schools was largely financed by her personal fortune of nearly $20 million – roughly $500 million today.

 

While most of us won’t be called to give away every penny to our name, Katherine’s example of total surrender can inspire us no matter our walk of life. Rather than use her money for selfish pursuits, Katherine saw a need and sought to fill it with everything she had. Where is the need in your community? How are you seeking to meet it?

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Stewardship

This is a guest post from Tracy Earl Welliver, Director of Parish and Community Engagement with Liturgical Publications, Inc

In our parish communities, we ask people to give of themselves more and more. We use St. Paul’s image of the Body of Christ to illustrate how we all play a part in God’s Kingdom. We express that the need is great and that the only way for us to succeed is to pull together. Then, we express our frustrations behind the scenes because most people still don’t step forward. One reason why is that many seated in our pews do not have an answer to the question, “What do I have to give?”

 

How many people do you think feel that they have nothing to give in your parish?

With the average parish in the US only having about 7% engagement, let’s assume that number is pretty high. Let’s begin with the fact that most Catholics have a poor sense of stewardship when it comes to their finances. This is about more than what they put in the collection basket each Sunday. This is about how they view all of their financial resources. Anemic offertory totals are not the problem; it is a symptom of the problem.

 

Most people have no real sense of time.

Everyone seems to be equally busy, but that is impossible. In fact, most of us suffer from mismanagement of time and procrastination. Time is a precious gift, so stewardship of that time should be crucial for any mature disciple.

 

Too many people have no sense of their uniqueness and talents.

We are good at analyzing everyone else, but not ourselves. I have encountered too many people to count over the years who said they would give of themselves to a parish, a charity, or a civic organization, but they have nothing specific to give.

 

What is the answer?

Helping intentional disciples to lead a stewardship way of life. Stewardship is about more than a formal campaign and ministry fair. It is about daily living as generous beings answering the call of Jesus Christ no matter the cost.

 

It is a parish community’s responsibility to help people understand this life.

Parishes need to offer programs on financial planning and stewardship. All treasure is sacred, not just that ends up in the offertory. We need to teach about time management and the benefits of a prayer life. Walking with God more closely will not only refocus our time, but it will actually provide us with seemingly more time as we slow down and hand over our days to God.

 

Then, we need to offer programs on discernment of talents and charisms. The Called and Gifted program from the Siena Institute and Clifton StrengthsFinder© implementation and coaching from places like Catholic Life and Faith and LPI can help people see the unique beings they are and all the gifts God has given them to share. People can even find themselves liberated from a false vision of who they thought they should be, embracing the real person that God created and shaped in the Spirit.

 

If those in the pews can’t turn to the Church for assistance in living a stewardship way of life, where else will they go? Begin changing your parish one person at a time and soon your community will no longer see symptoms of a larger problem, but instead, fruits of stewardship community. It will become a community of disciples that answers the question, “What do I have to give?” with the answer, “Everything.”

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Stewardship Saint

“When [Jesus] looked up he saw some wealthy people putting their offerings into the treasury and he noticed a poor widow putting in two small coins. He said, ‘I tell you truly, this poor widow put in more than the rest” (Luke 21:1-3).

 

Juan Diego was born a member of the native Chichimeca people in central Mexico. He was not a particularly wealthy or educated man. He experienced a deep conversion to Christianity later in life. His devotion to the Eucharist led him to walk long miles to Mass and to receive formation from the local Franciscan friars. One day’s walk stood on from the rest. On December 9th, 1531, a woman appeared to him on Tepeyac Hill. She appeared in the dress of the native people and spoke to Juan Diego in his native language, but she revealed herself to be the Blessed Virgin Mary.

 

Juan Diego was entrusted with a mission both simple and profound – to ask the local bishop to construct a shrine. Upon his first request, the bishop was understandably skeptical. He instructed Juan Diego to ask Mary for a sign. Three days later, Juan Diego returned to Tepayac Hill. There, Mary appeared again and fragrant roses bloomed out of season. Juan Diego picked the roses and returned to the bishop.

 

Here was a simple gift from a simple man – a mantle full of roses. Yet as the roses tumbled from Juan Diego’s cloak, there on the fabric was the image now so familiar across the world – Our Lady of Guadalupe. Juan Diego never could have imagined the results of his simple gift. The “yes” of Juan Diego led to the construction of a shrine, inspired millions of conversions, and still transforms lives to this day.

 

We all have roses and small coins. If we can step out in faith and offer the little we have, who knows what great deeds God will do?

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Stewardship Saint

In this internet age, we have unique insight into the lives of modern day saints. St. Teresa of Kolkata is much beloved for her care for the poorest of the poor in the slums of India.

Born in Albania, St. Teresa began her religious life as a member of the Sisters of Loreto. After a placement in India teaching at a boarding school, she experienced what she referred to as a “call within a call.” Seeing the destitute on the margins of society, St. Teresa could no longer remain behind the walls of the school. She was compelled to take her ministry to the streets. In 1950 she received permission for the community that would become the Missionaries of Charity.

In St. John Paul II’s document on the Dignity and Vocation of Women, he writes “the moral and spiritual strength of a woman is joined to her awareness that God entrusts the human being to her in a special way” (30).

What is stewardship if not entrusting? God gives us our life, with all it’s gifts, strengths, and weaknesses. St. Teresa of Kolkata recognized that she was entrusted with her life, her one life, to offer as a gift to those in need. As the Missionaries of Charity grew, as donations came in and convents were built, St. Teresa recognized that not only was she entrusted with the means to serve, but she was entrusted with the person themselves. Every person she encountered – the dying, the disabled, the refugees, the orphan – she met as if meeting as Christ.

 

As we grow in a stewardship way of life, let us remember that we are not only entrusted with our finances and abilities, but we are entrusted with one another, brothers and sisters in the family of God.

 

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