Diocesan Day of Stewardship centers on embracing charity, gratitude as a way of life
BEDFORD — All of us, as members of the Church, have responsibilities and roles to play, Bishop Michael Olson said during the Diocesan Day of Stewardship held March 19 at St. Michael Church in Bedford.
“For we have been called to be disciples of the Lord Jesus and He has given us the grace to say ‘yes,’” Bishop Olson said.
More than 170 religious, deacons, ministry leaders, and staff members from more than 25 parishes throughout the Diocese of Fort Worth attended the event, which also fell upon the Feast of St. Joseph.
In addition to Bishop Olson, Cande de Leon, Diocese of Phoenix executive director for the Office of Mission Advancement, spoke.
From the practical to the big-picture view, Bishop Olson and de Leon employed the lenses of faith, hope, and charity as well as identity, trust, gratitude, and love in discussing stewardship’s many aspects.
Bishop Olson, in his homily during the Mass that began the day, noted that the Bible contains no quotes from St. Joseph.
“The silence of St. Joseph represents his attentiveness for hearing the call of God,” Bishop Olson said. “This is at the heart of our stewardship. God’s initiative, our faith and listening and discerning as a Church for His voice and direction, and then doing our part in the unfolding of the mysteries of salvation.”
Such centering on God, de Leon said, is essential both to identity and the mission of stewardship.
“If we want to do anything in the Church, it has to start with each of us,” de Leon said. “It has to start in the interior life of who we are. That has to be intentional. Once we do that, as a Church together, we can go and make disciples. But we can’t do anything on our own, even as a group. We [must] have God as the center, otherwise it’s hopeless.”
Bishop Olson stressed the interplay of faith, hope, and charity, and our dependency on these virtues.
“They inform our vision, provide a plan and then carry that out with a project of our action and plans,” Bishop Olson said.
Such actions are impossible on our own, Bishop Olson added, but doable through God’s grace.
“The Lord our God calms our spirits amidst so much that threatens and distracts us today,” Bishop Olson said. “Clarifies our hearts and minds that we may hear His word and receive it with gratitude that we may put it into practice and love.”
Trusting in and listening to “the Holy Spirt speaking through the Church” is vital but challenging today “in a world that, at least, wants to blur the truth or warp it or cut it apart so that we receive partial aspects of the truth,” the bishop said.
Which is where the importance of listening and the gift of faith play in, Bishop Olson said.
“Especially with such a cacophony of voices yelling and drowning us out,” Bishop Olson said. “Trying not to inspire or calm us, but to incite our passions. So, we listen and listen for the truth and that faith then gives way to hope.
“Hope always leads us to some sort of responsible action towards the good. Charity is borne of that hope, both of which are anchored in faith.”
True stewardship, de Leon said, springs from an intentional desire, through conscious, firm decisions, to live as followers of Jesus Christ no matter the cost to oneself. Stewardship also brings conversion and the realization that it’s not about you, he added.
“Stewardship is an expression of discipleship with the power to change how we understand and live our lives,” de Leon said. “Recognizing God is the origin of life and all we have, and deeply aware that, as the recipients and caretakers of God’s many gifts, we are thankful and eager to cultivate those gifts out of love for God and one another.”
That entails recognizing the dignity of all, de Leon said.
“That we are a gift from God and He’s constantly drawing closer to us,” de Leon said. “Which means life has purpose and meaning. Not just yours, but even people you don’t like. People you don’t like especially because their life has purpose and meaning too and they’re in your life for some reason.”
On the practical side, de Leon encouraged Church leaders to view stewardship, discipleship, and evangelization as a whole, even though they are each distinct from one another and, when times of frustration arise, to remain focused on the bigger picture.
Jettison the word volunteer and replace it with steward, de Leon suggested.
“Volunteers are just warm bodies,” de Leon said. “Stewards understand their baptismal call. Even if they don’t, there’s a chance to work on conversion.”
De Leon urged Church leaders to make God the center of every meeting and reminded all parishioners that mission opportunities exist everywhere.
“It’s not just some faraway place,” de Leon said. “What about the person in the next pew that you’ve been going to Mass with for 20 years and still don’t know their name?”
De Leon called upon parishioners to encourage and challenge their pastors but not to be a “hater.”
“The laity are really good about complaining sometimes but not always good about helping find solutions,” de Leon said.
Stewardship, ministries, and discipleship are not about numbers, he said.
“It’s about bringing people into a relationship with Jesus,” de Leon said. “Remember, the Church is a field hospital. It’s not a place where we’re just collecting an offertory and have ministries.”
St. Michael parishioner Carolyn Dominik, who serves as her parish’s nursing home ministry lead agreed, even though her ministry serves 11 nursing homes with nine ministers and could use more help.
“I got out of today that it’s not about just begging people to come help us out,” Dominik said. “But conveying how important it is and giving them a reason to want to do it.”