Hispanic Catholics gather in De Pere to hear priest discuss stewardship

By Tom Beschta | For The Compass | November 23, 2016

In address to nearly 100, Msgr. Matthew Bernelli offers examples of giving

DE PERE — Stewardship plays an essential role in the Catholic Church No matter where you live.

When you get to where you’re going, however, you may encounter a very different interpretation of stewardship than you are used to, according to Msgr. Matthew Bernelli.

Msgr. Matthew Bernelli addresses Hispanic members of Green Bay parishes during an interactive stewardship session Nov. 12 at St. Mary Church in De Pere. The session, which was offered in Spanish, focused on the importance of monetary stewardship in the parish and bridging the gap between different communities in the church. (Tom Beschta | For The Compass)
Msgr. Matthew Bernelli addresses Hispanic members of Green Bay parishes during an interactive stewardship session Nov. 12 at St. Mary Church in De Pere. The session, which was offered in Spanish, focused on the importance of monetary stewardship in the parish and bridging the gap between different communities in the church. (Tom Beschta | For The Compass)

On Nov. 12, St. Mary Parish in De Pere hosted an interactive stewardship session with Msgr. Bernelli for the Hispanic community to help bridge the gap between cultural interpretations of stewardship.

“The purpose of coming here was to explain to the Hispanic community how to implement the idea of stewardship with the spending,” he said of recent immigrants, “because their idea of spending is different from the Anglo community,” Msgr. Bernelli said.

“Many things (in the United States) are not part of their culture, so they find it a little difficult to implement giving both time and their treasure to the church.”

The event, which was given entirely in Spanish, drew around 90 people and focused on the importance of monetary stewardship in the parish.

Mary Ann Otto, the diocese’s stewardship and special projects director, said the event was created by the Diocesan Hispanic Stewardship Committee, which was created one year ago with the intention of reaching out to the Hispanic community.

“What we have realized is that their cultural understanding of stewardship is different,” Otto said. “We cannot translate Anglo materials into Spanish and have them mean the same thing, and that is where this idea came from.”

Otto and Hispanic Ministry director Carlos Hernández first met Msgr. Bernelli during a national stewardship conference at which he was speaking.

“We thought it would be a great idea to bring Bernelli here, instead of bringing all of Green Bay to a conference,” Hernández said. “First off, he speaks Spanish, and second he tries to explain in some words his knowledge of stewardship and connect it with the community.”

Msgr. Bernelli, who is originally from Italy, was ordained in 1964 and has since spread his message of stewardship around the world. During his travels, he had extended stays in Latin America, Guatemala, El Salvador, Mexico and Panama, helping to rebuild struggling communities.

In 1974, Msgr. Bernelli’s mission led him to the United States. Six years later, he was appointed the pastor of a struggling parish in Bridgeport, Conn. Msgr. Bernelli said the parish was saved and eventually thrived during his 37 years there thanks to people of many cultures coming together for the greater good.

“We were able to build a beautiful church and have a beautiful community after the church was about to be closed,” Msgr. Bernelli said. “Thanks to stewardship and the lessons from my personal experiences, we were able to rebuild.”

This is one of many stories Msgr. Bernelli shared to stress the importance of giving back to the parish.

“I have experience,” Bernelli said. “I don’t talk because I read it. I have experienced it. I know what works, I know what doesn’t work, and I know what is difficult to understand. I try to address the things that everyone can benefit from.”

Cruz Delia Hernandez, the business manager for St. Willebrord Parish, said the event was a great way to show the Hispanic community how their treasures help the church.

Members of Green Bay parishes pose for a photo with Msgr. Matthew Bernelli, keynote speaker at a stewardship session Nov. 12 at St. Mary Church in De Pere. Msgr. Bernelli, who serves in the Diocese of Bridgeport, Conn., has traveled around the world speaking on the importance of implementing stewardship into communities. (Tom Beschta | For The Compass)
Members of Green Bay parishes pose for a photo with Msgr. Matthew Bernelli, keynote speaker at a stewardship session Nov. 12 at St. Mary Church in De Pere. Msgr. Bernelli, who serves in the Diocese of Bridgeport, Conn., has traveled around the world speaking on the importance of implementing stewardship into communities. (Tom Beschta | For The Compass)

“I think a lot of the Hispanic people involved in the churches are a little surprised when you ask them about money,” said Hernandez, who moved to the United States from Mexico 25 years ago. “As the business manager, I can see where the money goes, what the problems are with money in the church, and that is the reason we are giving information to the Hispanic community. Knowing where the money goes is an important thing.”

During the session, guests were able to ask Msgr. Bernelli questions about his past work and the difficulties they have encountered while finding their place in their communities.

Msgr. Bernelli also spoke to the parish leaders on Nov. 11 about their role in facilitating good stewardship across all cultures in the parishes.

“The people who came here were hungry to learn, and they had beautiful attitudes,” Msgr. Bernelli said.

Otto said the event fulfilled its goal of catering to the Hispanic community while fostering a sense of unity between all cultures within the parishes.

“Everyone was very positive and very excited that we are taking the steps to address their needs and call them together,” Otto said. “We are going to evaluate this event and move from there, but we already have some more good ideas that can’t be put out there until they get to the bishop.”

Hernández said guests seemed very happy with the event.

“This is just for the beginning,” Hernández said. “First you have to understand what stewardship is. Then you have to make everyone work together in parishes for the big events, so that we are preparing more for the future.”

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