Oct. 1 marked my two-month anniversary in my new role at the archdiocese and also the beginning of the four-day International Catholic Stewardship Conference. This year the conference took place here in Boston, which was great because it allowed many more parishes throughout our archdiocese to attend.
Soon after I checked in, I explained to an attendee from New York that I was new in my role and that I was excited to learn more about stewardship. I asked this gentleman, “What does stewardship mean to you?” He responded, “Stewardship is the answer to the question ‘How should you respond to your unique blessings from God?’”
That was an unusual reply. I was expecting a response that sounded more like a dictionary definition or one that involved a description of his experiences with stewardship. But he responded that stewardship was the answer to a question. A very important question. A question central to our lives as Catholics and followers of Christ.
Conference leaders explained that a Christian steward is “one who receives God’s gifts gratefully, cherishes and tends them in a responsible and accountable manner, shares them in justice and love with others, and returns them with increase to the Lord.”
Since the statement is powerful let’s explore it further. Stewards take five actions. They (1) receive God’s gifts gratefully; (2) cherish [them]; (3) tend them in a responsible and accountable manner; (4) share them in justice and love with others; and (5) return them with increase to the Lord.
The practice of stewardship involves starting with the belief that God generously gives us all our gifts and that God purposefully gives each of us unique gifts. Everything we have, we know, and everybody that we love and who loves us comes from God. On the tangible level, God gives us our talents and experiences so that we can develop skills, increase knowledge, and acquire material goods.
After acknowledging and cherishing God’s gifts to us, we are asked as stewards to nurture and grow them, share them and give them (with any increase we’ve been able to generate) back to God. The opposite would be to think our blessings have resulted only from our efforts, or to let our gifts stagnate or to hoard them only for our own personal gain.
We are all called as stewards to share our resources. We are called to share our time and our talent in service to others. We are called to share our material goods in support of the mission of the Church.
October is a month where many activities occur in our parishes and throughout the archdiocese. There are many opportunities for sharing our gifts and blessings. I’d like to ask you to consider five possibilities:
Share your knowledge of our great faith with others. Help pass on the faith either in your parish religious education program, RCIA program, or one-on-one with a family member or friend.
Share your parish with others by inviting them to join you one Sunday for Mass. Some Catholics have stepped away from the practice of our faith over the past few years. Many are waiting to be invited back. Your invitation, welcome and witness are the best gifts you could provide to them.
Share your time and talent by serving those in need. A group of parishioners at St. Patrick Parish recognized the problem of hunger in Lawrence and decided to build a meal center. The Cor Unum Meal Center opened at the end of September. The needs may be different in your parish community, but there are many programs that need to be started or continued by new volunteers.
Share your material resources with your parish community. In the fall, many parishes conduct their annual campaign. These campaigns supplement the weekly offertory so that parishes can meet their expenses. Your participation -- and your gift of any amount -- matters.
Share your material resources with the greater community within the archdiocese by supporting the Annual Catholic Appeal. The appeal was created to fund the programs, agencies and ministries that transcend particular parish communities. We need all Catholics in all of our parishes throughout the archdiocese to come together to support this important work. Please join Cardinal Seán, our priests and lay leaders, about 50,000 of your fellow Catholics throughout the archdiocese and me in contributing to the Annual Catholic Appeal. Together we can rebuild and strengthen our Church.
So how can you respond to your unique blessings from God? By being a Christian steward. God bless you and thank you.
Scot Landry is Secretary for Institutional Advancement and Chief Development Officer for the Archdiocese of Boston.