Stewardship: A disciple’s response

As you probably are aware, after nine years at the diocese, I have returned to my ministerial roots in the parish. Before leaving, I was given the great gift of writing one final Joyful Steward column as the Diocesan Stewardship director. I am extremely grateful for the many years that I have been able to share the beauty of living the life of a Christian steward, from the perspectives of Scripture, church teachings and everyday life in The Compass. Reflecting on stewardship as the lived response of a disciple has helped me in my own journey.

This final column has brought me particular joy because I am able to honor the person whose shoulders my predecessors and I have stood upon in sharing the spirituality and practice of stewardship. He has traveled internationally and spoken extensively on the role of stewardship in the life of those of us who say “I believe.” He is respected and loved all over the world for his writing and his humility. Most importantly, he walks the talk of a Christian steward.

Bishop Emeritus Robert Morneau was one of the original contributing authors to the document published by the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops in 1992. “Stewardship: A Disciple’s Response” quickly became a resource that helped people understand and articulate the habits of a committed disciple of Jesus Christ. If you listen carefully while reading the document, you can hear Bishop Morneau’s voice.

The authors of “Stewardship: A Disciple’s Response” taught us many things, but nothing more important than the simple steps of what a Christian does.

Using the Parable of the Talents as a guideline, we learned that to receive God’s gifts gratefully, nurture God’s gifts responsibly, share God’s gifts generously and return God’s gifts in abundance is a perfect formula. You and I can apply these steps to all areas of our lives, including stewardship of the earth, our minds, bodies, families, friendships, our time, unique gifts and financial blessings.

We also learned the basic biblical truths such as everything belongs to God (we are just caretakers) and God asks us to give back not what is left over but the first fruits of all of our time, talent and treasure. This important publication also made the important connections between stewardship, evangelization and Catholic social teaching and the challenges that consumerism and materialism are to the Christian steward. For those reading and taking to heart the document, (usccb.org) it is difficult not experience a change of heart.

Next month in Atlanta, the International Catholic Stewardship Council will celebrate the 25th anniversary of “Stewardship: A Disciple’s Response” and present the International Christian Stewardship Award to Bishop Morneau in front of 1,000 enthusiastic admirers and friends. There will be bishops, priests and lay ministers from all over the world and 20 participants from the Diocese of Green Bay.

I’m truly grateful for the opportunity to attend the conference so that I might be a witness and support to a man who teaches us and challenges us to truly live the authentic life of a Christian. He believes that is where we find true joy. Thank you, Bishop Morneau!

As I conclude this chapter in my professional ministerial career, I want to thank Bishop Ricken for allowing me to serve under him the past nine years. I express my sincere appreciation to many members of the Curia who have become dear friends and companions on the journey. I offer special gratitude to all those who served on the Diocesan Stewardship Commission with special acknowledgement for the many hours you contributed, your prayerfulness and your honest contributions. There will always be a special bond between us. Thank you to the pastors and pastoral leaders who welcomed me into their parishes to share the important message of stewardship. I’m grateful to everyone who stepped out in faith to learn how uniquely they were created using Living Your Strengths. May you always see how much God loves you when you look at your results!

Finally, see you in Atlanta, Bishop Morneau!

Otto is pastoral minister at St. Mary Parish and St. Joseph Parish in Appleton.