Recently, I was elected by the members of the Priest Retirement Board for the Diocese of Cleveland to be the chairman of this group for the next two years. I didn’t want to be chairman of the board. In fact, at the last meeting, when it was time to make nominations, I quickly nominated someone else so that I would not be chosen. However, the other priest refused the nomination and then quickly nominated me instead. No one else would even accept a nomination.
I, too, wanted to refuse. But before the meeting began, I was conversing with the other priests, and we all shared an opinion that, in our parishes, we have people willing to volunteer, but very few who are willing to accept leadership positions within parish ministries. How could I criticize others for doing something that I myself am guilty of? So that is how I got elected.
At my parish, Immaculate Conception in Willoughby, Ohio, we are in our sixth year of living stewardship as a way of life. Even before we started on our path of stewardship, we have always had generous parishioners who truly love our parish and who come forward to serve in parish groups and ministries. Our Annual Stewardship Renewal each October provides us with a convenient way to showcase the various ministries of our parish, to encourage people to use their gifts and talents in a particular ministry, and to allow parishioners to make a one-year commitment to a ministry.
Perhaps the greatest benefit of living stewardship as a parish is that we have had over 200 parishioners who previously were not involved in any parish ministry come forward and get involved in sharing their talents. At Immaculate Conception, we have seen several new ministries get a good start, like the Society of Mother Teresa, Wellness Ministry, the Prayer Shawl Ministry, the Hospitality Committee, Mass Greeters, Building Church Welcoming All, the Parish Beautification Team, the Transportation Ministry, and others. Parishioners continue to support the liturgical and catechetical ministries. Stewardship has made this possible at Immaculate Conception and it can happen at your parish, too.
But at my parish and yours, we also all need parishioners to accept positions of leadership within the ministries of the parish. Sometimes, we feel over-extended in our church and civic involvements. Others, perhaps, don’t know where they could fit in leading a ministry while driving children to sports practices and other commitments. Still, others don’t want the burden of suffering the criticism and gossip that come with being a leader.
So as I prepare to chair my first meeting of the Retirement Board in August, join me in praying that leaders will come forth from our parish (and yours) to generously answer the call to serve.