In the process of developing stewardship as a way of life at the parish or diocesan level, the term “stewardship” is sometimes used rather loosely. Generally, there is a wide range of definitions among parishioners as to what the term “stewardship” really means to them. This holds true even though the 1992 U.S. Bishops’ Pastoral Letter, Stewardship – a Disciple’s Response, very clearly addresses exactly what stewardship is and what it is not.
Case in Point: the Diocese of Wichita, Kan., under the direction and leadership of Bishop Eugene J. Gerber, designed, implemented, and facilitated a diocesan-wide, parish based, stewardship way of life process in the fall of 1985 that has continued now for the past 26 years. This process has successfully served the broad and combined mission of the diocese and its parishes. As successful as it has been, however, there are ongoing challenges that require evaluation of how stewardship is perceived in general, as well as what is and is not working well.
When Bishop Michael O. Jackels was installed in our diocese in April 2005 and began meeting with pastors and leaders at the various parishes in the diocese, he quickly discovered there was a lack of a common understanding of the term “stewardship.”
As a result, Bishop Jackels charged the Diocesan Stewardship Office and Diocesan Stewardship Council with the task of coming up with a definition of stewardship that would be succinct, memorable and teachable. The result was:
“Stewardship is the grateful response of a Christian Disciple
who recognizes and receives God’s gifts and
shares these gifts in love of God and neighbor.”
While there is nothing truly unique about it, within these 25 words, there are important teachable points that provide our diocese with a uniform definition and related understanding from which to uniformly train and form Christian stewards in our parishes and throughout the diocese.
Developing stewardship as a way of life at your parish or within your diocese needs to begin with a consistent message and universal approach. Whether you use our definition that we use in the Diocese of Wichita, or come up with your own, we encourage you to use the 10th Anniversary edition of the U.S. Bishops’ pastoral letter, Stewardship: A Disciple’s Response, published in 2003, as your guide.