St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception Church in Fredericksburg, Va., was the destination of a retreat I facilitated in January 2010. The parish has 4,100 families and is located in one of the most historical areas of our country. The local residents take great delight in naming those who once lived there, and talking about what events happened that played a pivotal role in shaping much of our nation. As I listened, I couldn’t help but think about my home state of North Dakota and its beginnings as a “territory,” then as “state,” and the humble beginnings of our “Catholic heritage.”
The thoughts are appropriate, since here in the Diocese of Bismarck, we are about to kick off the celebration of our centennial as a diocese and recalling and appreciating the “characters” who shaped us, planting the “seeds” of citizenship” and, more importantly, our faith. The event will take place in Bismarck on June 11, 12, and 13. It offers us here in North Dakota, including here at my parish, St. John the Apostle in Minot, the opportunity to celebrate our history, while “beginning a new chapter” for ourselves and those that follow us.
The history of my parish has changed since the “seeds of stewardship” were planted here five years ago. The roots that have followed the planting of those seeds have more significance for us than we may realize. I appreciate more than ever the efforts made by St. John the Apostle Church parishioners to plant and tend the roots of the stewardship way of life in their lives and in this parish. They have sprouted ways for us to continue to learn and practice discipleship, so we may follow Christ in a practical and inspiring way.
Most pioneers who came to North Dakota settled and homesteaded one “section of land (640 acres).” They had to use their time, efforts, skills, and some of their own resources to make lives for themselves. Those that stayed comprise the heritage and roots of a challenging, yet wonderful, place to live. While my North Dakota “roots” are fairly young, only 23 years, calling North Dakota “home” is a privilege. And although I take a lot of “guff” from those in places I visit, this is my home!
Our diocese is young in its quest to become a stewardship diocese, and St. John the Apostle Church is considered one of the pioneers of stewardship within our diocese. Our parishioners are those who are “breaking new ground” in the practice of the stewardship way of life. It comes from understanding and embracing the spirituality of stewardship. That understanding is a gift from God, and responding to that gift with gratitude and a need to give something back in appreciation has become our natural response. We have used our time, talent and resources to establish our parish as one who models the stewardship way of life. And we are only just beginning.
As spring forges ahead and summer approaches, planting the seeds that will become gardens and fields of crops are on the minds of many here and in many locales across our nation. The seeds that are also planted in our spiritual lives allow us to become the disciples we are called to be. Just as the early pioneers settled this land, with many finding a new life here, embracing the stewardship way of life requires much the same attitude. The early settlers knew they must be a good steward of their land, and that concept is just as important today. So is our stewardship, for the season is always upon us for “planting the seeds that become the roots of stewardship.”