The four pillars of parish stewardship — Hospitality, Prayer, Formation and Service — have been heralded as key elements in the process of parish and personal conversion to the facilitation of living stewardship as a way of life.
In establishing the order of importance of the “four pillars,” Bishop Eugene J. Gerber, Bishop Emeritus of the Diocese of Wichita, strongly suggested that Hospitality must be first because, as he said, “you can’t form them unless you first have them in the pews.”
The success of Hospitality is generally measured on the basis of how well the needs of parishioners, young and old, are being met. If those needs are being met and the parishioners are being invited to become involved in providing the needs, serving and being served, a parish will typically witness commitment to and support of the mission of the parish, and the pews will be fuller than they might be otherwise.
Whether in the pews, the classroom, in the parish school of religion classes, or that of conferring the sacraments, it is key to have a well-organized and ongoing spirituality of stewardship formation process year in and year out. The ongoing stewardship formation process serves to initiate, maintain and keep alive the conversion process — the journey, if you will — of what it means to be and live as a Christian steward, thus serving well the mission of the parish.
Key to this formation process, this journey, is that of referring to (1 PT 4:10) where we read:
“As each one has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of god’s varied grace.”
In recognition of this “varied grace,” our participation in the life of God and where he extends his love to all of us, we are called in an orderly process to: 1) recognize His gift of love to each of us, 2) to receive that gift of life and love, 3) to accept that gift of life, 4) to allow the gift of life and love to transform the heart and mind and to then 5) in gratitude, recognize the need to share the gift of God’s life and love generously, sacrificially and proportionately in service to others.
This formation must then become an ongoing “process” rather than a start and stop “program” that is only fired up when needed.
Experience confirms and is convincing that ongoing parish stewardship spirituality formation must precede any expectation of ongoing and life-long commitment or support on the part of parishioners in service to the mission of their parish. The process of ongoing formation also reveals and confirms that the up-front and ongoing parish-based education and formation of Christian stewards coupled with responsible, accountable and transparent parish operations will result in the willing, generous and sacrificial support of a parish.
It is also important to recognize that this ongoing formation necessarily includes pastors, parish staff, parish pastoral council members, parish finance council, parish stewardship council members and parishioners in general.
The following resources or teaching moments are examples of how and where a parish pastor, parish stewardship council and / or parish in general can keep the message, practice and ongoing formation of stewardship alive.
- The Bible – The Textbook of Stewardship
- The Mass – The School of Stewardship
- The U.S. Bishops’ Pastoral Letter, Stewardship – A Disciples Response
- The Spirituality of Stewardship – A DVD Formation Series from the Diocese of Wichita
- The opportunity to likewise form those who are receiving the Sacraments or their sponsors.
- Other stewardship materials available from a variety of publishers.