Stewardship at St. Thomas
Stewardship is one of two hallmarks -- the other is evangelization -- of St. Thomas More Parish and is continuing to evolve as a total way of life with its current six-phase program consisting of:
- Stewardship of Prayer: Time
- Stewardship of Ministry: Talent
- Stewardship of Faith
- Stewardship of Treasure
- Stewardship of Vocations
- Stewardship of Earth
Stewardship teaching at St. Thomas More includes, among others, the following principles: Stewardship is a way of life and a spirituality. It involves tithing, has biblical foundation, and it promotes the need to give vs. giving to a need. And finally stewardship is a means to an end -- evangelization. Stewardship as a way of life in the parish provides the resources needed to "go and make disciples." Thus, stewardship at St. Thomas More promotes prayer and making time for God, sharing God's gifts and talents, nourishing our faith, giving of our treasure, promoting vocations and taking care of the earth.
St. Paul's letter to the Colossians sums our view of stewardship as a way of life. "...we do not cease praying for you and asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding 10 to live in a manner worthy of the Lord, so as to be fully pleasing, in every good work bearing fruit and growing in the knowledge of God, 11 strengthened with every power, in accord with his glorious might, for all endurance and patience, with joy 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has made you fit to share in the inheritance of the holy ones in light." Colossians 1 9-12
"Every one of us needs at least half an hour each day, except when we're busy, then we need an hour"! St. Francis de Sales.
"Every one of us needs at least half an hour each day, except when we're busy, then we need an hour"! St. Francis de Sales.
Time is a gift from God. In stewardship spirituality, we think of time and talent being connected. One has to spend time giving of one's talent, so the two are obviously linked. But reflecting upon time alone gives further insights into the spirituality of stewardship. The timelessness of God is found in the "Glory Be" prayer.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
At St. Thomas More we begin our Stewardship Season in August with the Stewardship of Prayer, the Stewardship of time. At this time we ask parishioners to make a commitment of time in prayer -- whether private or public -- in order to develop further our relationship with God. To this end we ask parishioners to make a commitment of at least two hours and 24 minutes a week or 10 percent of one day a week and perhaps increase the time spent in prayer over time.
"As generous distributors of God's manifold grace, put your gifts at the service of one another, each in the measure he has received." 1 Peter 4:10
"The English word "talent" originated in the Bible which describes talent as a unit of money. It's a coin representing a specific amount of money. The Scriptures gave us a great story: A man goes on a great journey and he leaves his servants ten talents, five talents and one talent--a unit of money. The Bible then explains that the men did something with their talents. One went and invested his portion and doubled it. The next one doubled his also, but the last one took his one talent and buried it in a hole. Of course we know how the story ends. The master comes back and praises the first two for winning their master's joy and then says to the worthless servant, "What's wrong with you? You knew I would come back and ask for an accounting." Then he takes the talent away from him and the servant has lost what wasn't even his in the first place. Remember, they don't say he buried his own money; it was his master's money that he buried.
Everything we have - our very breath, our life, our time, our talents and our resources - comes from God, and in thanksgiving for His many blessings, we need to give a portion of our blessings back to God." We have a need to give. We also have a need to use our gifts to benefit others. There's a saying, "If you don't use it, you lose it." But more importantly, in using our gifts we honor the Giver of the gifts.
Before we can use our gifts, however, we need to become aware of our God-given gifts and talents. We all have the gift of life. We have received the gift of faith, the gift of leadership, of family, of friends and of fellowship. For the clergy, the gift of ordination, the gift of being teacher, priest and king. With this in mind, discern how you might best use your own gifts to bring the spirituality of stewardship to your own community of faith, to your own community of disciples of Jesus Christ. And you know that we must share these gifts for the common good, "According to the gifts each has received, administer it to one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God." 1 Peter 4:10.
The desire for God is written in the human heart, because man is created by God and for God.
With this program the celebrant reminds our parishioners that parents are their children's primary teacher of the faith. Thus this weekend is usually associated with the Catechetical Weekend, around the third Sunday of September. This weekend involves recognizing and commissioning of all catechists at all Masses. More importantly, all parish commissions have a responsibility to incorporate nourishing of the faith in their programs, but especially the Faith and Academic Formation Commission - the Office of Catechesis, Parish School and Youth Ministry.
During the Stewardship of Faith weekend, we ask parishioners to make a commitment of time to nourish their faith. As with other stewardship programs, the cards used are perforated so that one part is turned in during an "altar call" and another kept for record keeping. This card also has a Stewardship of Prayer on the back. With the Stewardship of Faith, we ask parishioners to make a commitment on how they will nurture their own faith and how they will share their faith with others.
The desire for God is written in the human heart, because man is created by God and for God.CCC, No. 27
"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and decay destroys, and thieves break in and steal. But store up treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor decay destroy, nor thieves break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be."
We have a five-week Stewardship of Treasure renewal process at St. Thomas More. We also handle the Archbishop's Catholic Appeal (ACA), which funds diocesan programs. The Stewardship of Treasure component of our program also coordinates the Building Fund campaigns after the fundraising company leaves the premises. In 1994, we built a new school and shortly after, expanded it. The project cost close to $12M. Our fundraiser brought in $1.1M and the Office of Stewardship raised another $1.5M by a combined effort with our Stewardship of Treasure weekends. We have since paid off the new school, mostly through the weekly offertory collection. In 2006, we embarked on another $12M capital fund campaign, using the principles of stewardship and the jubilee gift.
"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and decay destroys, and thieves break in and steal. But store up treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor decay destroy, nor thieves break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be."Matthew 6:19-21
What is a jubilee gift? The word "jubilee" is a biblical word. It is found in the Book of Leviticus (Chapters 25 and 27) and once in the Book of Numbers (Chapter 36:4). In Isaiah 61:1-2, jubilee year is the "year of the Lord's favor.' The word refers to the sacred practices that are still observed every fifty years. Jubilee is used in the Bible in a tithing and stewardship sense. In Leviticus, God tells us that once a week there should be a day of rest. One of every seven days is the Sabbath. God also commands the Israelites that there should be a Sabbath year. Every seven years they are to let their fields rest. The Jubilee Year signifies seven years of Sabbath Years. Seven times seven is forty-nine; so, in the fiftieth year we are to have a super Sabbath Year, the Jubilee Year, which means freedom for slaves, rest for the land and release of debts of the poor.
When we ask people to make a commitment, we encourage them to start with a small amount first, and if they never made a commitment before, we ask them to start with 1% or 2% of their annual income. Then we ask those who made any kind of commitment to make half of a tithe or 5%. At the Renewal, we ask those who make half a tithe to make a full tithe. Some people found out that they weren't worse off, but in fact, were even better off, so they make a full tithe. We emphasize that the giving is out of gratitude for the many blessings from God. That is the motivation for giving.
"The harvest is abundant, but the laborers are few."
When Father Andrew came to St. Thomas More, the Archbishop told him he wanted him to promote vocations. As a result, we decided to include vocations as part of our stewardship program, seeing it as stewardship issue. We plan one or two weeks in November for vocations, using a "Called by Name" program. The first weekend, the presiding clergy preaches about his own vocation, or about a vocation issue in being a priest, brother, sister, or deacon in the church. The priest then asks parishioners to think of someone whom they think may have a vocation and to plan on nominating that person the next weekend. That means they identify some young man or woman, or even a young person 12 years or older who could start studying for the priesthood or for the religious life. The following week, the priest gives another homily on vocation. As with other Stewardship Renewals, the priest asks parishioners to pick up a card in the pews and pray the stewardship prayer for vocations.
Since 2001 we have received an average of 150 names. They usually receive at least two letters from Father Andrew. The first letter informs them they have been nominated as a person who might consider a vocation. Some people feel honored by this. The second letter informs them of upcoming diocesan events and we also send a magazine or brochure on vocations. Father Andrew says, "We ask them to give us a call, but I personally get very few phone calls because they're afraid of what I may say to them regarding their vocation. What happens is: moms and dads, brothers and sisters, teachers or youth ministers talk about vocations themselves and about who got nominated and who didn't. Vocations then become an open issue. When everyone talks vocation, vocation no longer seems like a dirty word."
Working on vocations takes time; two, three or four years of this. Imagine, here's an 18 year old boy who's been nominated four times and here comes the fifth nomination. He's wondering what he's going to do with his life, and he thinks; "God is calling me again?" He needs to check it out. He then calls the vocation director. It works! As a matter of fact, there was a deacon who just entered the diaconate formation program. We actually get the most response for our diaconate program. Many men have been identified as permanent deacons through this program. This particular young man had dropped out, and then he got nominated. As a result, he thought of giving it another try and re-entered the formation to be a permanent deacon. He was ordained in 2005. Then there's another young man, 20 years old. I see him once in a while, and the last time I saw him I asked if he got my letter and he said he's thinking about it. He recently was instituted as a reader. It's our job to cultivate vocations.
One of the things we started in 2001 was "Clergy and Religious Appreciation Day" on the last weekend before Ash Wednesday. We organize a party for all the religious and clergy, even those who are retired and residing in the parish. The children and youth make posters and write letters to each of our clergy and religious expressing appreciation for their giving their life to God. This is a good time for them to learn about vocations to the priesthood or to the religious life. In addition, the parish remembers them at Christmas and Easter, on their birthdays and on the anniversaries of their ordination or profession of vows. We have a regular column in the Sunday bulletin that lists the birthdays and special days of our clergy and religious, so the parish can be aware of those special dates. We remind our parishioners to pray for our clergy, religious and seminarians, as well as all the seminarians of the Archdiocese of Denver included on this list. This gives credibility to the men and women who are going to be talking about stewardship. It helps people appreciate that when one gives their life to the service of the Church, they are not alone.
"The harvest is abundant, but the laborers are few."Luke 10:2
Being called brother, sister, or father clearly denotes that we are family, and the church is a spouse. The church family's role in our vocation is that we get recognized, that important anniversaries such as ordination or profession be remembered along with birthdays as you would do with any family member on their special days. By encouraging this, it emphasizes that having a religious vocation is a good thing. When children see parents pick up a card or a gift to give to a priest or a nun, they can see the appreciation, they see it's worthwhile to have a vocation, and are left with a positive image of the clergy. Furthermore, we promote vocations throughout the year following the Church liturgical celebrations such as the World Day of Prayer for Vocations as well as the Pastor's Appreciation Day in October.
This program is new and is still developing. At St. Thomas More, we try to have a special liturgy on Earth Day. We use this time to encourage parishioners to take care of the earth -- to plant flowers and trees and to promote the three "R's" -- reduce, reuse and recycle -- of Stewardship of the Earth. We have a recycling program with a company that picks up all our recycling material. Our Stewardship of the Earth Committee continues to work on other projects based on the U.S. Bishops' Policies on Preserving the Earth, including immunization of children in inner city parishes, and other programs.