Stewardship: More than just the weekly collection

By | May 5, 2010

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Fr. Dan Mahan, executive director of the Marian College Center for Catholic Stewardship in Indianapolis, leads a workshop on stewardship as a way of life April 29 at Nativity of Our LordChurch in Ashwaubenon. (Eddie O’Neill | For The Compass)

The day began with prayer led by Bishop David Ricken. Fr. Mahan then gave his keynote address to the 125 participants. Small group sessions were also offered on a variety of topics related to stewardship.

In his keynote address, Fr. Mahan noted that money is part of stewardship but it is not the primary part.

“Conversion of heart and growing in holiness is the goal,” he said. “Included in this is a sense of gratitude in thanking God always and for everything. Equally important are responsibility and generosity in sharing God’s gifts within our own family, the less fortunate and within our spiritual family, the church.”

Julie Kenny who serves as the stewardship services manager at Our Sunday Visitor in Huntington, Ind., led one of the workshop sessions. She spoke on maximizing the parish’s offertory. She told her small group that parishes should set an offertory strategy. This should include periodically analyzing the parish’s current offertory envelope program and making any changes that might be required.

Kenny added that it is important to regularly communicate to parishioners on the state of the parish. This could include updates on ministry activities within the parish, prayer opportunity experiences as well as keeping people updated on the parish finances and budget.

“When I say communicate to parishioners,” explained Kenny, “I don’t mean just putting a note in the bulletin. To reach all parishioners, churches must use a variety of media as people learn differently. For instance, use the parish Web site, conduct town hall meetings and put a story in the parish newsletter.”

Mary Ann Otto, who serves as the diocesaen stewardship director, was quite pleased with the day. She noted that the inspiration for Stewardship Day began with parish leaders from around the diocese.

“We are constantly asking the question, ‘How can we inspire, encourage support and resource the many committed pastors and lay leaders in their stewardship efforts,” explained Otto. “Our parish leaders do the important work of the church. Any way that we can provide life-giving opportunities that assist them in their ministries, we are helping to spread the stewardship message.”

In addition, Otto was impressed with a number of things that happened at the event. She noted the variety of ministries represented. She was also inspired by the spirit of prayer began the day and the attentiveness and interaction of the participants with Fr. Dan Mahan and the workshop presenters.

“There were some extraordinary speakers and according to the evaluations, everyone went home understanding the heart of stewardship in a new and deeper way,” said Otto.

Longtime Appleton Catholics Deacon Rich Simon and Helen Hart echoed Otto’s sentiments. Deacon Simon, who serves at St. Pius X Parish, said that he liked Fr. Mahan’s message that stewardship is a way of life that must be shared beyond just Sunday morning. Hunt saw a connection between the growing involvement of parishioners in the Christ Renews His Parish (CHIRP) program and the enthusiasm for other ministries within her parish of St. Thomas More.

Fr. Mahan, who has been involved full time in stewardship ministry since 2006, explained that the roots for his zeal on this topic took shape when he was a first time pastor at St. Rose of Lima Catholic Parish in Franklin, Ind.

“As a parish we worked on discovering together how good God was,” he said. “What happened was that as more people felt ownership in their parish, the more they were willing to give of their time, talent and money.”

Fr. Mahan added that much of the program and methodology that St. Rose implemented close to 20 years ago has now been adopted by the Archdiocese of Indianapolis in a diocesan-wide stewardship program.

Looking ahead, Otto is already putting together next year’s event.

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