Tithing hasn’t always been a part of my own practice of contributing to the Church or other charities. I donated when and what I could for a number of years, but I have to admit, how much I was willing to give was sporadic and inconsistent. To make the decision to commit 10 percent of my income wasn’t given much consideration. I justified my hesitancy by thinking, “I am certain I give enough, no matter what the amount.” After all, I have given my whole life to serving the Church; what more should I give? Ten percent of my personal income seemed excessive when my salary was so limited. It was an attitude I am not proud of, or willing to share openly.
That was before I made the decision to adopt the stewardship way of life, personally and spiritually. I understood the need and desire I had to give my time and talent, the first two essentials of stewardship. But committing to the “treasure” part took some contemplation. It was in prayer that it became clear to me that being a true disciple calls me to use all that God has given me for the good of the Church at large. I had never prayed about what to give monetarily. Now, it is how I understand how to be truly grateful for all God has given to me. In gratitude, I honestly desire returning a portion of what I have to be His disciple and a good steward. I have never been as content and peaceful, even joyful, in my spirituality.
At one time, the use of my material resources seemed private and personal. I didn’t think I could or would share anything about that part of my life. But since I began to tithe at least 10 percent of my income, my attitude has changed about material needs, priorities, and how I use what I have. I actually have fewer concerns now than I have ever had about financial matters. I am able to connect, participate, and invest in the work of our parish, our diocese, and so many other worthwhile charities. I really don’t have more funds; I simply have a better and more charitable use of them, thank God.
I believe God has always loved me whether I was a “cheerful giver” or not. That saying, “God loves a cheerful giver,” was “catchy,” but didn’t resonate with my experience until I practiced stewardship in the spiritual sense. Giving five percent to my parish, one percent to my diocese and four percent to other organizations connects and links me with them, and allows me to actively participate in their work and outreach. I not only complete my desire to serve others, but tithing opens all kinds of opportunities for me to participate in the needs of this world. While tithing has made a difference in my life, it came as the result of prayer and understanding, as well as an openness to discover its benefits. For me, it was the next level of living the stewardship way of life.
Tithing has been a practice here at my parish, St. John the Apostle Church in Minot, N.D., since long before I became pastor. Our former pastor, Fr. Schneider, provided 10 percent of the annual parish income for the diocesan collections and other projects. The parish Finance Council has continued to endorse the practice and agrees that, especially as a stewardship parish, it is a worthwhile and essential practice of our fiscal management. It has allowed our parish to provide needed assistance: locally, nationally and worldwide. Joining in the efforts of outreach on such a scale is what stewardship is all about.
The funds are used in some of the following ways: Besides providing donations to our diocesan collections, we sponsor assistance to a program called, TAPS (Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors). Donations are offered at benefit dinners and fundraisers for local needs, a parish and pastor in Tanzania, and a FOCUS missionary, which is a Catholic evangelization effort aimed at Catholic college students on campuses around the country. We also help our Catholic Indian Mission in Fort Yates, a Catholic Bishop in Alaska with his ministry, the North American College for seminarians in Rome, and numerous other causes. I like to believe the generosity of the parishioners here at St. John’s living the stewardship way of life will continue to bless our parish as it has for so many years, and will also continue to allow our parish family to help out with so many needs. The economic status of our times has been a challenge to all of us, but the practice of tithing continues to demonstrate good stewardship on all of our parts.
Lives are affected and changed when we live the stewardship way of life. I know, and thank God for the ways it has changed mine.