From grateful hearts to shining stars

By | January 9, 2013

The event began Nov. 10 and 11 in celebration of Stewardship Sunday. Using the diocesan-wide theme of “Grateful Hearts,” the committees asked each parishioner to write on a sheet of paper what they are grateful for in their lives. Fr. Paul Demuth and Deacon Steve Meyer, through homilies, and other parish leadership, through bulletin inserts, made the connections between gratitude and our response of using our gifts in compassionate service.

Beginning on the feast of Christ the King, parishioners were asked to write on a star the different ways they served in their parish and community and how many hours they served in 2012. Over 500 stars were collected, tallied and placed on an evergreen tree. The “Grateful Heart” responses of adults, youth and children became the tree skirt.

The 20- and 6-foot trees covered with stars of stewards and held up with layers of expressions of gratitude is in itself amazing. When you understand the collective generosity of the parishioners, it is easy to imagine exactly how brightly those stars are shining. My initial response was a delightful, “Oh my gosh!” Contained in those stars was 45,000 hours of compassionate service. Surely a beautiful witness to the stewards at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish.

The Stars of Bethlehem event ended on the feast of the Epiphany this past weekend. At each liturgy, the “Grateful Heart” responses and the stars were brought in prior to Mass and placed at the manger scene. What a wonderful reminder that our most important return or gift to Jesus comes from a heart filled with gratitude and from the things we value the most in our lives such as our time in prayer, our talents in service and our treasure in sharing. (It might be interesting for us to tally up all three for 2012 and see what our gift might look like.)

If I were to have filled out a “Grateful Heart” sheet at Elizabeth Ann Seton it would have included their Stewardship and Dignity of Human Life committees (with liaisons Mary Marquardt and Karen Denney, respectively) for understanding the meaning of stewardship at its very core and for offering opportunities for their brothers and sisters in Christ to celebrate the stewards they are. Having committed leadership and volunteers — who are prayerful and informed, along with the help of the Holy Spirit — will help a parish return abundantly to the Lord the many blessings they have been given.

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton is one of 157 parishes in the Diocese of Green Bay. I would like to express my gratitude as we walk through the threshold of 2013 for all parish leadership, pastoral councils, stewardship committees, etc., who are giving of their talents in service to help our parishes, as Bishop David Ricken says, become “holy and fully engaged” through stewardship. Blessings and joy in 2013!

 Otto is Stewardship and Special Projects director for the diocesan Stewardship and Pastoral Services Department.

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