On May 1, 2005, the gas pumps were shut down. Not at the local filling station, but right here at my parish of Immaculate Conception in Ohio. That was the day we began to put into practice stewardship as a way of life here in our parish.
What does living stewardship have to do with gas pumps?
Gas pumps are a metaphor for the way that some people look at their Catholic parish. What this means is that you look at your parish the way that you look at the local Speedway or Shell station. You need gas, and so you go to the nearest or most convenient gas station to get your gas.
Is this image appropriate for a parish? What does your parish mean to you? Is it simply a place to go on the weekend to fulfill your obligation to attend Mass? Or is it simply a place you go to when you have a need for a baptism, wedding or funeral? Or when you don’t like something about your parish, do you go somewhere else that has “better service” or gives you “better discounts” like a gas station would? If this is all that your parish means to you, then I guess you do look upon your parish as a set of gas pumps.
As stewards, what would be a better way to look at your parish? Perhaps to look upon the parish as a community or a family would be better. A community shares common experiences along with a common understanding about those experiences. A community makes a common commitment to each other or for another purpose, as well. What this means is that a parish is made up of individuals who live out their commitment to discipleship together. We need each other in order to live our own discipleship. The relationships and bonds that we form as parishioners deeply affect our lives, just as family relationships affect our lives.
So, we still have the “gas pumps” here at Immaculate Conception. We celebrate over 200 baptisms, weddings and funerals each year. But we do so as part of a parish family that prays together, serves together, and financially supports the mission and ministries of our parish.