Msgr. Thomas McGread, the former Pastor at St. Francis of Assisi in Wichita, Kan., and the Director Emeritus of Stewardship for the Diocese of Wichita, is often referred to as the “Father of Catholic Stewardship.” In this recent Question and Answer session we conducted with the renowned stewardship pioneer, Monsignor offers his insights on how parish leaders charged with the great task of forming disciples can accomplish their goals by making Christ the center of all they do.
The Catholic Steward: Living stewardship as a way of life essentially means living as Christ’s disciples. However, in a practical manner, you speak of commitments of time, of talent, and of treasure. It is interesting to note that time comes first. Why is a commitment of time so important to truly living stewardship?
Msgr. McGread: We need to be spending time developing our relationships with God. The only time that we are really happy in this life is when we have a good relationship with God, because that is how He made us. He made us to be in heaven with Him, and He wants us to build that relationship with Him. When we have that relationship with God, then we can have good relationships with one another.
TCS: So, by a commitment of time, you mean making time to pray and to develop our relationship with God, and, then, our relationships with others?
Msgr: Yes. This is what is really important in all of our lives – that we have a relationship with God.
TCS: Life in today’s world is incredibly busy. Many of us are working long hours, and if we are not working, oftentimes we are doing so many other things, it is hard to find time to spend in prayer. What would you say to those who feel that they do not have time.
Msgr: Lots of people say, “I don’t have time.” But the truth is, we all have time. God has given each of us time on this earth. The average person spends about 25,000 days on this earth, and when God calls us home, we must account for how we spent the time we were given while we were here. Often times we get so busy that we do not look at what is really important. We have time to watch television, to read the newspaper, to talk on the phone. Where does God come in? How much time do we have for God?
TCS: It’s interesting to hear you say it like that. After all, God is the author of time, and all of the time we have, He has given us. So it stands to reason that we should have all the time in the world for God. Yet, all the while, we must spend time doing things other than praying. How do you account for this?
Msgr: Yes. Most of us cannot spend all of our time in silent prayer on our knees, but it is important that we prioritize. One of the things I’ve always stressed is how much time husbands and wives give each other at home. It is very important to help each other know how much you need one another and how much you love one another. Also, how much time do you give the children? Time to a child is love. They would much prefer spending time with you to getting material goods.
TCS: Clearly, Monsignor, it is very important that we use our time wisely — that we really are good stewards of the time God has given us – putting God first and our family second. Then we must focus on how we use our talents and our treasure. Do you believe that this approach to stewardship leads to true discipleship?
Msgr: Yes, very much so. God created us to be with Him, ultimately in heaven. While we are on this earth we must use all He has given us to grow closer to Him. It is only then that we will truly be happy. Since the beginning of time, human beings have tried to come up with ideas to bring them happiness. For some, it was power, for some it was drugs or alcohol, for some it was sex. But, you see, none of these things will bring about true happiness. None of these satisfy people, because God made us all in the very same way, and that is to live in a relationship with Him. That must be the very center of our lives. Christ must be the center of what the stewardship way of life is about.
TCS: How would you encourage parish leaders to lead other parishioners in the ways of stewardship of time? Is there anything in particular that parish leaders can effectively do to encourage others to give more time to Almighty God?
Msgr: Set an example. Parish leaders need to implement the stewardship way of life within their own lives – beginning, of course, with building their own relationships with God and with others. People will see the difference it makes in their lives, and that will serve to greatly encourage others to do the same!