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Alphonsus Rodriguez was a Spanish Jesuit lay brother whose assignment for 45 years was being a doorkeeper at one of its colleges. One observer noted that Alphonsus carried out this simple task with such loving hospitality that the act of opening the college door became a “sacramental gesture.”

 

Born in Segovia, Spain in 1533, Alphonsus was the child of a prosperous wool merchant. His father died when he was 14 and he left school to help his mother run the family business. He inherited the business when he was only 23 years old and at the age of 26 he married María Suarez, with whom he had three children. By the time he was 31, though, he found himself a widower who had not only lost his wife, but his mother and two of his children as well.

 

Alphonsus sold his business and began living a life of prayer and simplicity. When his third child died, his thoughts turned to living in a religious community. He wanted to become a Jesuit but was rejected for his lack of formal education. In 1571 he applied a second time and was accepted as a lay brother. At age 40 he was sent to the recently established college on Spain’s Mediterranean island of Majorca and was assigned the humble position of porter, a doorkeeper.

 

His daily responsibilities for the next 45 years included receiving visitors who came to the college, searching for the college staff or students who were wanted in the parlor, delivering messages, running errands and distributing alms to the needy. He would, however, transform this humble station into a ministry of hospitality and spiritual guidance.

 

Alphonsus exercised a marvelous influence not only on the members of the college community, but upon a great number of people who came to him for advice. His reputation for holiness grew and people began going to him for spiritual direction. Saint Peter Claver, while a student at the college, was one of them. It was Alphonsus who inspired Claver to become a missionary in the New World.

 

Alphonsus once wrote that each time the bell at the front door rang he looked at the door and envisioned that it was God who was standing outside seeking admittance. He died on October 31, 1617 and in 1633 local officials declared him patron saint of Majorca. In 1888 he was canonized a saint and the Jesuit poet Gerard Manley Hopkins memorialized him in a sonnet. His feast day is October 31.

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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 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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Announcements

A stewardship way of life happens in the day-to-day of each parish and each parishioner. The Region VIII stewardship day, occurring August 17th and 18th, offered just such a perspective. Hosted in Minnesota’s St. Paul-Minneapolis Archdiocese, the day opened with Mass celebrated by local Archbishop Bernard A. Hebda.

Dave Baranowski gave the inspiring conference keynote, offering his observations and insights on stewardship over the years. Baranowski has served as the Director of Stewardship Education for the Archdiocese of St. Louis since 2012. His presentation can be found online here.

The conference featured a number of breakout sessions, laid over the two-day conference. Many sessions featured presentations on specific populations within the parish. Rev. Bil Rose, pastor of Christ the King in Toledo, OH, presented applications of stewardship spirituality to senior parish members, school families, and millennials.

Ryan O’Hara, Director of Mission Resources for the college ministry Saint Paul’s Outreach, shared advice on engaging youth and young adults. Estela Villagran Manancero, Director of Latino Ministries for the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis, offered insights into communicating stewardship to the Latino community.

When stewardship is so often equated with financial gifts, helping parishioners to identify their unique strengths and talents is critical. Two local Gallup Strengths Facilitators, including Mary Kennedy, Director of Stewardship and Development at Pax Christi Catholic Church, presented “Growing and Sustaining Strengths & Engagement in Our Parish.”

Keynote speaker Dave Baranowski continued to offer his wisdom throughout the conference, leading breakout sessions on the spirituality of money and running an annual stewardship renewal.

The conference included opportunities for networking with fellow stewardship professionals and vendors leading the field in stewardship tools. ICSC is proud to partner with local leader to offer opportunities nationwide for communities to grow in a stewardship way of life!

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Annual Conference

“The Call” is the title of the very first chapter of the United States Catholic bishops’ pastoral letter Stewardship: A Disciple’s Response. Their premise is that every baptized Christian is called to be a follower of Jesus Christ and to be a good steward of their life in Christ. Today, twenty-five years after the stewardship pastoral was written, the International Catholic Stewardship Council honors the bishops’ pastoral at its 55th annual conference to be held from September 17 to 20, 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia.

This year, ICSC adopts as its conference image the classical painting The Calling of Saint Matthew by Michelangelo Caravaggio. This painting depicts the gospel scene where Jesus calls Matthew to follow him (Mt. 9:9); thus, changing his life radically. The painting symbolizes that universal call to follow Christ Jesus no matter the cost. It is not a coincidence that this year’s ICSC conference will take place a few days before the feast of Saint Matthew on September 21.

Internationally recognized as the most valuable conference for those involved in Christian stewardship, the annual ICSC conference is a gathering of scores of Catholic stewards living and teaching Christian stewardship in the Catholic tradition. It offers over 80 program sessions to inform and inspire attendees through the sharing of innovative ideas, networking with peers, and providing best practices and proven strategies for inviting others in parishes and dioceses alike to become good stewards of their life in Christ.

Please note: Most of the session titles are new presentations, unless brought back by popular demand, as we strive to continually address the needs of ICSC members and the Catholic Church!

We invite you to join us in Atlanta to celebrate with others and the call to Stewardship: A Disciple’s Response!

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Announcements, Annual Conference

The International Catholic Stewardship Council (ICSC) is pleased to announce that the Most Reverend Joseph E. Kurtz, D.D., Archbishop of Louisville, Kentucky, will deliver the keynote address at its 55th annual conference to be held in Atlanta, Georgia from September 17 to 20, 2017. In the spirit of this year’s ICSC conference theme, Stewardship: A Disciple’s Response, Archbishop Kurtz will bring his passion for justice, charity and love for the poor to the conference attendees.

Archbishop Kurtz served as president of the USCCB from 2013 to 2016, and as its vice president from 2010 to 2013. He has served on numerous boards, and currently is a member of the Council for the National Catholic School of Social Service at Catholic University, and on the Advisory Board to the Cause for Archbishop Fulton Sheen’s beatification. Pope Francis assigned Archbishop Kurtz to the Holy See’s Congregation for the Oriental Churches in 2014.

A popular figure on social media, Archbishop Kurtz has written a well-read blog for several years, has 19,300 Twitter followers, and over 6,000 supporters on Facebook.

He has been the archbishop of Louisville since 2007.

And that’s just the beginning …

ICSC has an amazing lineup of stewardship formation leaders, experienced church professionals and ministerial visionaries at its ICSC 55th annual conference, making it the event for diocesan and parish leaders and professionals to get hands-on learning and prophetic insights. Go to the ICSC website at www.catholicstewardship.com for more ICSC conference news in the coming weeks.

Join us! Register now to join the ICSC family in ATLANTA, GA from SEPTEMBER 17-20, 2017

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Stewardship Saint

Clare of Assisi was a close friend of Saint Francis of Assisi and the foundress of the Poor Clares. She was born in Assisi in 1194 and at age 18 was so moved by the Lenten sermons of Francis that she renounced all of her possessions and entered a convent, much to the dissatisfaction of her family and friends, who tried very hard to dissuade her and bring her home. She was formed in the religious life at Benedictine monasteries and then accepted Francis’ offer of a small house for herself and her companions adjacent to the church of San Damiano in Assisi. At age 21, she was appointed by Francis to lead the community, much against her will. She would lead the community for the next forty years and would never leave the San Damiano convent. The community would eventually include her mother and two sisters.

The way of life in the new community was marked by poverty and austerity, and sustained itself entirely from charitable contributions. The Poor Clares observed almost complete silence unless spoken to or in order to perform a work of charity. They went barefoot, slept on the ground and ate no meat. In later years, Clare urged her nuns to moderate their own austerities and offer Christ “reasonable service and sacrifice seasoned with the salt of prudence.” The greatest emphasis, of course, was on gospel poverty. They owned no property.

Clare served the sick and washed the feet of the begging nuns. She was devoted to a life of prayer and celebration of the Eucharist. She was first up in the morning to ring the choir bell and light the candles.

Clare sought to imitate Francis’ virtues and way of life so much so that she was sometimes called “another Francis.” She played a significant role in encouraging and aiding Francis, whom she saw as a spiritual father figure. She took care of him during his final illness.

From the time Francis died in 1226 until her own death 27 years later, Clare suffered various illnesses and was often bedridden. All the while, she lived a simple but dedicated religious life, performing such menial tasks as sewing altar linens for local parishes. Twice when the town of Assisi was under attack, Clare prayed before the Blessed Sacrament and the armies were said to have ended their siege and fled.

Clare’s nuns soon spread to other countries in Europe, including Spain, Italy, Germany, France and England. Today, they are also established in the Middle East, Asia, Africa, Oceania, and the Americas. She passed away on August 11, 1253 and was canonized two years later. Her feast day is August 11.

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Lord God,

As we prepare for the transitions of August; 
of routines becoming regular,
signs of schools beginning to emerge, 
and traffic patterns getting heavier,
help us to appreciate the sacred rhythms in our lives.

Give us the wisdom to make our hearts be still, much as the August wind is still, 
so that we may listen to the gentle words you speak to us.

Help us understand that you alone are the source of every good gift, 
of the vast array of our universe, 
and the mystery of each human life.

And help us see that we are called to be good stewards of all the gifts you have entrusted to us;
tending them faithfully and responsibly so they may ultimately be returned to you with increase.

In this month of August while a measure of summer’s stillness remains,
speak to our hearts,
guide us in your Son’s ways,
and through your Spirit,
give us the strength to proclaim your justice and peace in our every day words and deeds.

We ask this through Christ, Our Lord.

Amen.

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