Often incorrectly perceived as a fundraising stratagem, stewardship in fact focuses first on spiritual discipline and, second, on active involvement of every parishioner in at least one parish activity. As practiced in hundreds of parishes across the United States, stewardship is a commitment on the part of a person or a parish community to act consistently as Christians who have been called by Christ to be stewards of creation.
Being a steward of creation sounds like an intimidating responsibility. But each Christian is given the insight, strength, and personal fortitude to protect, nurture, promote, and enhance the entire universe, of which men and women are in charge. Stewards make use of their God given gifts to harness energy, develop skills, and use materials to build up the world in a way that is praiseworthy. They make computers, farm crops, mine minerals, and educate young people in faith, love, and morals. In all these ways Catholic stewards praise God and act as good stewards.
The first responsibility of a steward is to protect human beings, who are at the apex of creation. Human beings are gregarious. They like being together and they rely on other people and the environment for their welfare and wellbeing. A good steward tries to arrange things so that all people can fulfill their God given callings and responsibilities.
In order to become a good steward, a person has to be aware of the wealth with which he or she has been entrusted. This can only be done in prayer, meditation, and adoration. Prayer is conversation with God. It is necessary because self-knowledge is difficult to attain and God is the person best informed about each one of us. Of course, the most important gifts we receive are neither monetary nor material. Rather they are life, physical wellbeing, a loving heart, and a generous disposition to help others. Determining one’s financial wealth is relatively easy. Stewards first seek to identify personal, non-monetary gifts that God has given them.
For this reason, stewardship parishes are known for weekly, or even daily, adoration of the Eucharist, for families praying the rosary, for bible study groups, and, most of all, for joyful attendance at Maas on weekends and during the week. Stewards and their families count their Catholic faith and the practice of their faith as their most wonderful gifts from God. Stewardship parishes are full of parishioners who take prayer seriously!
Stewards give their time to Christ, the fullest possible revelation of God. But they also give their time to their brothers and sisters in Christ. That is, they participate in parish societies or they initiative activities in the parish that help either help people improve their circumstances or help the parish in praising God and using efficiently the talents God has given to parish members.
Both time in prayer and time given to build up the parish stem from gratitude for God’s abundant gifts to the steward. As in the Gospel account of the steward (Matthew 25:14-30), the gifts are to be used so as to generate a return. This means both supporting the activities of the parish by being involved in them and also contributing directly to them by committing a small percentage of one’s monthly salary or income to the Church. This is a decision made by the steward, not by the parish. It is the grateful steward who decides in prayer what to give back to God by building up both the local parish and, more generally, the Catholic Church.