Editor’s Note: This is the final in a five-part series by Msgr. Jim Costigan on The Pillars of Parish Stewardship.
In the fifth and final installment in my series on The Pillars of Parish Stewardship — the 2004 document published by the stewardship office of the Diocese of Wichita — we take an in-depth look at the fourth pillar: service.
Throughout Sacred Scripture, there are numerous references to service. There is the parable of the vigilant and faithful servants who await their master’s return from a wedding, “ready to open immediately when he comes and knocks” (Lk 12: 35-40). There is the story of the good Samaritan who was moved with compassion to help the victim of a violent robbery (Lk 10: 25-37). And there are several examples of Christ serving those around Him: feeding the multitudes, healing the sick, and even turning water into wine at a wedding banquet.
Why is service a running theme throughout the gospels? Because service is at the root of living in imitation of Christ. Christ served others throughout His life on Earth, and His death on the cross was the ultimate act of service to mankind. And when we serve others, we are not only following in Christ’s footsteps, we are also serving Christ Himself: “Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me” (Mt 25:40).
At any stewardship parish, service must be at the heart of everything we do. The parish community is the bastion of service within the Catholic Church, as we serve one another and are also served by our brothers and sisters in Christ. As the Diocese of Wichita’s document, The Pillars of Parish Stewardship, states, “Like a blood family, the parish family stands ready and eager collectively to wrap their arms around their brothers and sisters when they suffer in trial and/or celebrate special events in their lives.”
It is good to recognize the parish community as a place where service is appreciated and can be utilized for the good of the Church. However, it is not enough for us to simply serve other members of our parish family. As disciples of Christ, it is our obligation to serve people in need everywhere they exist — in our families, our greater community, our country, and throughout the world. This can be a challenging concept, as it is often much more comfortable and convenient to serve those who are close to us than it is to reach out to “outsiders.” But, as The Pillars of Parish Stewardship eloquently points out, “Failure to have this understanding leads to a selfish parochialism, which is life draining to a parish stewardship way of life.”
Think of ways that you can serve others around you, both within your own parish family and in the greater community. Parish ministries offer a great place to begin offering your time and talents, but the opportunities for service don’t end there. There are many civic and non-profit organizations that do an immense amount to serve others across the globe and are always looking for volunteers.
Once you serve, you will find that you will reap numerous rewards in return, much like the faithful servants who doubled the talents their master had entrusted to them: “Well done, my good and faithful servant. Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities. Come, share your master’s joy” (Mt 25:21).