In my travels and discussions with parish leaders around the country, I often hear questions about what the parish can “get” out of developing stewardship. They want to know how much they can expect the offertory to go up, or exactly how many new volunteers they will get. They want to know in numbers and dollars what the “results” of stewardship will be.
The reality is this: the only reason a parish should begin to develop stewardship is to help it’s parishioners grow in their relationship with Christ. Stewardship by the numbers, no matter how dire your needs are in a particular parish, is irrelevant.
With that, I wanted to share with you an essay written by Blair Hatzmann, the 14-year-old granddaughter of one of our blog contributors, Dan Loughman.
The essay was written as part of the requirements of an application to a local Catholic prep school, which recently accepted her. Her assignment was to choose a possession that is important to her, such as something in her room or a gift she had received. She was then asked to write about the object and why it is important to her.
Blair’s essay is a wonderful example of the “results” of true stewardship being passed down from generation to generation. And it all started with Msgr. Thomas McGread at St. Francis in Wichita, Kansas years ago.
If your parish goes about developing stewardship with personal spiritual growth as its focus, like Msgr. McGread did at St. Francis, you will see similar results from both young and old parishioners for years to come.
I’ll let her words take things from here.
For as long as I can remember, the poster has been hanging in my room. My most prized possession did not cost me anything and probably has no monetary value at all. It bears a picture of a baby girl sitting in the center with a cookie in her outstretched hand. The words “God loves a cheerful giver” fill the top of the frame, a super-imposed image reflects the same baby touching another set of hands, and the word “STEWARDSHIP” rests confidently on the bottom edge of the picture. While I do not remember the day it was created, and I had no concept of its importance, I can proudly say that I am the baby pictured in this illustration of generosity.
Stewardship is a way of life that recognizes everything we have as a gift from God. Every time I look at the poster, I immediately think of the impact that Stewardship has made on my family. My grandparents modeled this way of living for my mom, and now she teaches my six siblings and me the same values. My grandpa works for the Catholic Diocese of Wichita, Kansas. For over 20 years now, the Diocese of Wichita picks an annual theme for their Stewardship efforts. Twelve years ago, the Bishop of Wichita, Most Reverend Eugene Gerber, selected the theme “God loves a cheerful giver.” He requested the innocence of a baby to represent the innate generosity with which we are all born. I am sure my grandpa had no idea that inviting me to be that baby would have such an impact on my life.
As a sister to six, it is natural for me to love babies. The poster reminds me of my youth and an awareness of the importance of life. It is expected for adults to serve as examples to children, yet I also believe children serve as examples to adults. They are born with innocence and purity. They are naturally empathetic. They assume others’ good intentions. They love unconditionally. Babies are inherently generous, as seen in my outstretched hand with the cookie. It was easy for me to extend it to someone else without thinking. Since the greatest gift we ever receive is life itself, we should model the generosity of children and give everything and more back to Christ, the One who gave everything and more to us.
In order to give back to Christ, I have learned I must serve others. When thinking of the poster, I recognize that Christ is the only reason any of us is here, so I must acknowledge that and truly show Him my gratitude for saving us from sin. I hope to live a life of appreciation and accomplish everything through Him: acceptance into Ursuline Academy, attending and playing basketball for The University of North Carolina, raising a family and being a model of the Catholic faith to them, and becoming an obstetrician so that I may help others see God’s goodness in their own children.
For my 14th birthday in March, my parents have offered to re-decorate my bedroom. I cannot wait to pick a fresh color of paint for the walls, explore updated fabrics for bedding, and maybe even select a unique piece of furniture. I know one item that requires no updating, for sure. The poster will remain just as it is, in the same place, bearing the same reminders to me. Even though my room might change, it seems to me that the concept of stewardship, the innocence of childhood, and the desire to serve are gifts from God that will never go out of style.