A Parish and Priest Transformed by Stewardship:
St. Theresa Catholic Church — Kihei, Hawaii
Msgr. Terrence Watanabe — affectionately known as “Fr. Terry” by those who know him — has been incorporating active discipleship into his life as a priest since the late 1970s. But his approach to establishing the “Stewardship Way of Life” at St. Theresa Catholic Church in Kihei, Hawaii, was completely transformed and energized when he began to partner with Catholic Stewardship Consultants (CSC) in 2016.
Fr. Terry has been serving the Diocese of Honolulu for over 40 years. He was introduced to stewardship as a way of life during his first assignment as an associate pastor at Our Lady of Good Counsel in Oahu in 1977. As Fr. Terry now realizes, the pastor of Our Lady Parish, Msgr. Alan Nagai, was a visionary priest who was ahead of his time. He was preaching regularly on stewardship long before other Catholic parishes had embraced the concept.
In each of his future assignments, Fr. Terry sought to pass along what he had learned from Msgr. Nagai, educating parishioners on the importance of active discipleship. However, he lacked a structured method for cultivating stewardship, and the results of his efforts varied across the parishes he served.
All of this changed in 2016 when CSC president Eric McArdle and his wife and the CSC Vice President of Client Services Lisa McArdle came to visit several parishes in the Diocese of Honolulu, including Fr. Terry’s parish, St. Theresa Catholic Church.
Fr. Terry was deeply intrigued by the stories of faith in action Eric shared from hundreds of parishes around the country that have benefited from CSC’s years of experience with stewardship. His enthusiasm for stewardship was ramped up even more after a trip to Wichita, Kansas, for CSC’s biannual Msgr. McGread Stewardship Conference. He was on fire and inspired after hearing the presentations by other pastors, filled with stories of growing discipleship in their parishes by embracing stewardship.
Soon, he had decided to work with CSC to bring his parishioners into closer discipleship with Christ.
“The year I came to St. Theresa, I had the wonderful opportunity to invite CSC to join us on our journey with stewardship,” says Fr. Terry. “From the very beginning, it was nice because they came with structure and an annual calendar for things we needed to do to continue to promote stewardship. It raised my awareness of speaking about it more in homilies, using the word stewardship and helping people understand that it is not just about money, but time and talent.”
Another service provided by CSC that Fr. Terry has come to treasure is the production of a personalized, quality newsletter that keeps parishioners up to date about church ministries and activities and introduces them to their fellow parishioners. Parishioners often mention to Fr. Terry how much they enjoy learning more about their faith community through the monthly newsletter.
Of course, in parishes served by CSC, the annual stewardship renewal is at the heart of cultivating a closer walk with Christ. When parishioners have the opportunity to prayerfully discern their commitments to time, talent and treasure through the renewal process, stewardship ceases to be an abstract concept and instead becomes the sign of a faith that is truly alive.
Last year, Fr. Terry was astounded by the spiritual growth evident in the 2020 stewardship renewal at St. Theresa. Amid a pandemic, commitments to the parish increased across the board. Parishioners returned more commitment cards than they had in their next best year since their first annual renewal in 2016. They made more prayer commitments and more ministry commitments, and offertory commitments increased by $61,000 as compared with their next best year.
“The most wonderful part is that the prayer commitments have grown,” says Fr. Terry. “Certainly over the years we’ve added a lot of opportunities for prayer, but that has been difficult during Covid. Seeing those measures increase means the parishioners are making some kind of commitment to the Lord, so that’s a good sign that we’re capturing people’s hearts.
“Over the years, each year, you see a little growth, and a little growth, and a little growth,” he continues. “There’s no question that our stewardship has been growing. Doing this annually asks parishioners to reflect on how they’re being good stewards, and I think it’s important to give them a way to do that.”
Linking together all of these services — including the annual timeline and action plan, the newsletters, the annual retreats, and the renewals — is a CSC parish client manager that works closely with the staff at St. Theresa to evaluate and meet their specific needs.
Fr. Terry appreciates the personal relationship that he and the parish office have developed with their CSC representative over the years. Since the CSC client manager knows the ins and outs of the parish, including its key players and the various ministries and activities, she can ask appropriate questions and make recommendations and plans tailored to the St. Theresa community.
From a pastor’s point of view, the close relationship St. Theresa has forged with CSC is truly priceless.
“If we went out and hired somebody to do all of this, it would cost a lot more,” says Fr. Terry. “And we’re working for something so important: the spirituality of our laypeople. We tend to do faith formation for children and teens and young adults, but we don’t do it for adults. As far as I’m concerned, this is adult education and formation. That’s what stewardship is, asking the question: how are we living our faith and practicing our faith? This is a spirituality that we’re supposed to be growing in. So how much are you spending on children’s faith formation, and are you spending anything on adult formation? What are you doing for the adults in the parish?”
Fr. Terry is thankful that he decided to take a leap of faith and invite CSC to be an integral part of St. Theresa’s stewardship journey. This summer, he will begin a new assignment as pastor of St. Anthony Catholic Community in Wailuku, Hawaii. Like St. Theresa parish, St. Anthony has also worked with CSC to develop stewardship for several years. With their continued partnership, Fr. Terry is confident that the Stewardship Way of Life will continue to thrive in his new parish home and that his priestly vocation, too, will continue to be blessed by his commitment to helping the faithful become more active disciples of Christ.
“Working with CSC challenges me to become a better steward myself and challenges me to look at all the aspects of time, talent, and treasure in my own life,” says Fr. Terry. “I’ve learned to trust more in the Lord that He will make this all work out. And so far, He has, which is the amazing thing. So it’s all part of trusting in the Lord that you have this time, talent, and treasure and if you use it for God’s glory, that will bring fulfillment. I think everyone is seeking a way to live out their faith and stewardship, and it’s been wonderful working with CSC to help that happen.”
If you would like to learn more about how Catholic Stewardship Consultants can help your parish, and to find out more on the parish services CSC provides and how we can help you more effectively engage and connect your parishioners, please feel free to contact CSC President Eric McArdle at 706-373-9576 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org