Stewardship's role in purposeful living examined during day of renewal
ARLINGTON — K.I.S.S, or “Keep it simple, sister,” provided an oft repeated tagline as Sister Mary Michael Fox, OP, of the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia Congregation in Nashville discussed stewardship during April 28's Purposeful Living Stewardship Day of Renewal at St. Maria Goretti Church in Arlington.
“As a professor of mine used to say, ‘Constant dripping makes a hole even in cement,’” Sr. Mary joked.
At the Diocese of Fort Worth's third annual stewardship conference, Sr. Mary and others discussed the tenets of stewardship as they apply to family life and church ministries.
“Today's purpose is to grow in our faith, learn stewardship best practices, and hopefully take those back to your parishes and families,” said Diana Liska, director of stewardship and parish relations.
Sr. Mary filled in after a family illness detained scheduled keynote speaker Sister Mary Anne Zuberbueler, OP. Sr. Mary joked that she stuck with the same topics Sr. Mary Zuberbueler had planned to discuss so organizers would not need to change the event's program.
“The work we're attempting in our Church starts with family,” Sr. Mary said in discussing stewardship's role in families. “Saints and disciples begin in the womb and around the dinner table.”
Sr. Mary returned to the K.I.S.S principle in explaining that children must be formed in the virtue of stewardship.
“Prayer is certainly the first step,” Sr. Mary said. “But, as a teacher, I've learned when you say ‘prayer’ to parents they get a little nervous because they're not always sure what that looks like. Keep it simple, sister. Simply knowing how to make the sign of the cross is a good start.
“I know families who try to be uber Catholics. All the saints show up, the whole litany of mercy and examining of conscience. Dinner's getting cold and it's no wonder the children are getting weary. The simple things build virtue. And, if we continue to make this project of stewardship and discipleship complicated, people will drop off the boat quick.
“As the family grows and gets stronger in their faith and relationship to the Lord, you can do the Rosary and longer prayers. But if you make it too hard at first, they shut down.”
Also important, Sr. Mary said, is to remember that all we have comes from God and stewardship is our role in giving back to Him.
Sr. Mary recalled how, as a teenager, she told her mother to stop giving money to the Church because they already have enough.
“She looked at me, you know how Irish mothers have that look, and said, ‘Everything we have is from God and we can't give Him enough back.’” Sr. Mary said. “That's all she said, but my mother taught me stewardship through that.”
Stewardship pushes past our “natural fallen inclination” to be possessive and cling to things for security and salvation, she said.
In discussing the graces of the moment during her keynote, Sr. Mary referenced the line “Hope springs eternal” from Alexander Pope's poem “An Essay on Man.”
“Deep within each one of you is a wellspring of hope because God is there,” Sr. Mary said. “Hope is the theological virtue from God, a gift that helps orient us toward God.”
Life is struggle but God provides and hope springs eternal, Sr. Mary said.
“You look around the world and see all kinds of suffering, all kinds of ugliness,” Sr. Mary said. “But to know without a doubt there is a good God who knows you, loves you, loves the whole world, that takes strength.
“God gave us this gift of faith, hope, and charity because He knows we need it.”
Hope speaks not only to the promise of eternal life but also to life abundant — full of grace and promise in the here and now, she said.
Amy Felton, principal of St. John the Apostle School in North Richland Hills, spoke of hospitality's vital role in stewardship.
Catholic churches at times fail to do a good job of welcoming new people, Felton said.
“When they walk in for the first time and feel ignored or not treated kindly, do you think they're going to come back to that parish?” Felton said. “Always be thinking: how are they going to remember you? Hospitality is Christian kindness, a simple hello or asking how you can help them.”
Felton stressed the importance of crafting events to encourage the parish’s various communities to interact. She discussed the steps taken at her school to impart stewardship principles to staff and students. Those include prayer, volunteerism, retreats, and Eucharistic Adoration.
“With our society so upside down, those children are feeding our parents,” Felton said. “Those children are the ones saying, ‘Mom, do you want to come to Adoration on Thursday?’ And now we have parents coming to Adoration.”
Angela Wynn, parishioner at Holy Redeemer Parish in Aledo, shared how she helped organize a thriving mom's group ministry at her parish, tips she said translate well into forming or reviving any ministry.
Purposeful mission is key, Wynn said.
“You want a good mission statement and you want to determine if it's something that just sounds good as opposed to something you're actually doing,” Wynn said. “And you want to revisit it occasionally to make sure you haven't outgrown it or are doing something different now.”
Wynn suggested familiarizing yourself and your group with other parish staff, volunteers, and ministry groups.
“Especially if you're starting something new that has never been done at your parish before,” Wynn said. “But also to support each other and share ideas.”
Recruiting good leaders and volunteers is important as well to ensure the ministry doesn't fizzle out after the initial organizers step down.
Feedback likewise is important to make sure the ministry is meeting the needs of members.
Martha McCoy, St. Maria Goretti parishioner, said one should not join a parish ministry just because they are flattered to be asked but should first discern such a decision.
“Discernment prayer is not just about asking,” McCoy said. “It's about listening. There's a reason God gave us two ears and one mouth.”
One should first discern the duties, time commitment, and whether they're the right person to lead the ministry, and whether they're considering it for the great good of the parish or their own agenda, she said.
St. Andrew parishioner Richard Pearson said he gleaned much from this, his first stewardship day of renewal. Although he's enjoyed a successful career, Pearson said he's seeking more as he approaches 60.
“I came here looking for better ways to provide stewardship in my life and to see what the options are,” Pearson said. “I've had a very good life and career but I don't feel God gave me this ability just to chase money. I enjoyed today immensely, especially [Sr. Mary's] quotes that we're simply returning to God what is His anyway.”