The new year — with the season of giving still fresh in our memories — is an opportune time to reflect on the gifts God has generously given and continues to give us.
Yet, I hear and read about how so many people are depressed today. Some talk about feeling the “weight of the world,” and act accordingly. They have a sense of being bound by worldly possessions and expectations.
How can this be, when we have so much?
Perhaps we can answer that question by considering the source of all we have, and the source of who we are.
God gives us life. He provides us with a community that supports us in our faith and raising our families. He gives each of us unique talents, aptitudes and charisms to make a difference in this world by our participation in the life and mission of the Church.
When we acknowledge that all comes from God, that all resides in Him — the weight is lifted.
Rather than being possessed by our gifts, we gain peace and the freedom to use them in service to others — and in accord with the intention of the Donor, God.
St. Peter tells us in his first letter, “As each one has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of God’s varied grace.”
This is the key concept of the spirituality of stewardship, which is rooted in the Eucharist and is foundational for our lives as Catholics: “It is truly right and just, our duty and our salvation, always and everywhere to give You thanks, Lord, holy Father, almighty and eternal God.”
Everything generously flows to us from God, and through the sacramental mystery, we empty ourselves back to God.
This effort remains central to our diocesan pastoral plan, A Steward’s Journey: A Call to Greater Communion.
Having just completed our second year of work toward the goals of our plan, we are releasing an assessment of our progress; you can read the full report at diojeffcity.org/pastoral-plan.
I especially want to highlight our work on stewardship, and where we are going this coming year.
Over the past two years, our diocesan Stewardship Office worked to renew and strengthen the approach to stewardship and participation at many parishes in our diocese.
To date, approximately 3,000 Catholics in our diocese have attended stewardship presentations in 75 of our parishes.
Father Stephen Jones, who is leading this effort, has preached weekend liturgies about stewardship in dozens of parishes and missions.
Many of our parishes have formed stewardship councils to ensure that the spirituality of stewardship becomes engrained in their parish communities.
This year, as we enter the third year of our pastoral plan, all our parishes will come into communion with an integrated diocesan approach to stewardship.
The core truth to this effort is that we live our lives in awe of our gifts from God. When we do this, we recognize His call to share them for the betterment of all.
As St. Augustine wrote, “Find out how much God has given you and from it take what you need; the remainder is needed by others.”
This means we use our God-given talents and abilities for the betterment of our communities and parishes — all in concert with our personal growth in faith through prayer and participation in Mass.
Catholic stewardship also enlightens us in how we share our financial resources as gifts from God. Our stewardship renewal reorients our giving toward the biblical practice of tithing — giving a tenth back to God.
Over the course of our pastoral planning, we have worked to make financial stewardship more transparent and straightforward in our diocese.
Our renewed stewardship model means far fewer special collections. It phases out the diocesan-run annual stewardship appeal. It also moderates multiple fundraising efforts in our parishes.
With this simplified model, Catholics can be intentional about giving to their parish. As stewards, we can embrace that it is not so much a matter of giving to a worthy cause, but rather giving out of our need to give back to God.
Stewardship is foundational to Catholic life. It is a Eucharistic spirituality of gratitude and a recognition of God’s presence within us.
A stronger culture of stewardship — sharing gifts, talents and seeking greater participation — is also essential to our work to build thriving Catholic parishes in our diocese as we embark on our “Shaping our Future Together” process this coming year.
Let us all pray, live in awe of what we have been given, show gratitude to God and look for the guidance of the Holy Spirit as we make use of God’s many gifts to us in 2023.