What does it take to cultivate a spirituality of stewardship?

| September 26, 2012 | 0 Comments

Renee Allerheiligen is a member of Our Lady of Grace in Edina and the Archdiocesan Stewardship Committee. The following are excerpts from a recent interview with her conducted by The Catholic Spirit about the spirituality of stewardship. It is the first in a three-part series on stewardship.

Renee Allerheiligen

What do we mean by a “spirituality of stewardship”?

To get at the spiritual root of something is to go back to its original reality — in this case, to discover the essence of stewardship. Catholic spirituality has real meaning in our lives and the lives of others because we connect to the source of that meaning, Jesus Christ and his church. The spirituality of stewardship seeks to integrate the truths of our Catholic faith, the sacred Scriptures and the Mass into our daily actions. Because of this, stewardship as a response of a Christian disciple is a way of living, not a program offered through a parish. This daily living reality circles back ultimately to the Scriptures and living daily the realties offered to us in the Eucharist.

What are the scriptural roots/basis for stewardship?

The textbook of stewardship is the sacred Scriptures. Search the Bible and you will find myriads of references in the Old and New Testaments about living out a life of discipleship through gratefully recognizing, receiving and sharing the gifts God gives us out of love for God and our neighbor. The sacred Scriptures and our tradition assisted the U.S. bishops in crafting their pastoral letter on stewardship, “Stewardship: A Disciple’s Response.” Every person and everything is a gift from our generous God who gives us all that is good.

Stewardship is the manifestation that we are disciples, and we see it most clearly in the sacred Scriptures. In the Scriptures, we constantly see God pouring out his life and love, his abundant gifts. Each outpouring solicits a response in the Scriptures just as it does today. The parable of the steward is a more obvious story, but search the Scriptures and you will see this theme consistently played out. God calls us to full stewardship of all he has entrusted to us, and to care for and return with increase (good) in some way all he has given out of sheer love for us. This includes our time, talent and treasure, but it also extends to our relationships and truths of the faith we have been entrusted with.

How is a spirituality of stewardship best cultivated among individuals and churches?

If the “textbook” for stewardship is the sacred Scriptures, then the “school” for stewardship is the Mass. The most vibrant stewardship parishes are focused on the source of these gifts — God. Jesus Christ gives himself and remains with us in the Eucharist — the source and summit of the church’s life. Parishes with a strong devotion to the Blessed Sacrament, a strong a sacramental life with frequent offerings for confession and Mass, and that help parishioners cultivate God’s life of love in their parish activities and outreach, not only have vibrant parishes but also seek to build and promote strong families and vocations.

More tactically, parishes that seek to build their parishes as places of hospitality, prayer, formation, service and evangelization have a stronger sense and plans on how to facilitate a stewardship way of life in parishes and families. Pastoral planning helps parishes do this in a more intentional way. Stewardship parishes seek to build up these “pillars” that support the parish and the parishioners therein.

Individual stewards should also seek to build themselves and their relationships as hospitable, prayerful, well-formed, servant-oriented who want to share the good news of God’s goodness and love. These are some of the most faithful stewards and witnesses of the Gospel.

How can the church cultivate this spirituality successfully among youth and young adults?

Providing a eucharistic focus in meaningful ways and frequent opportunities for confession to young people is important. As young people come to know Jesus Christ in prayer, the sacraments, catechesis and solid youth programs, they begin to see how abundant his blessings are and are eager to serve. Young people have an energy and idealism that should be embraced as well as guided. Families that seek to live a life of stewardship set a great example for children, and this often leaves a lasting impression through adulthood. Teaching young people the value of good personal leadership, temperance, prudence, and generosity in daily life, especially in the midst of abundance is important. And, like most of us, young people need to be invited, encouraged and empowered to live a life of stewardship. They are often most generous if they have made a personal connection with someone in the church.

How do you live out a spirituality of stewardship in your own life?

Like most things, living a life of stewardship is a process. I started giving myself a little bit at a time. As this happened I discovered that true joy resided there. It also evolves as one life’s circumstances change. Regardless it is ultimately about sharing and self gift. Today, I try to attend Mass as often as possible every week and pray each day. We attend Mass on Sundays as a family whenever possible, although sometimes we have to go to Mass at different times on Sunday. From there our family seeks to give our time, talent and treasure in our parish, school, archdiocese and community. My husband serves differently than I do. As our talents develop and circumstances change we listen to how God is calling us to use our gifts. The given: He is calling us.

As a wife and mother of young children with experience in training and development and working in the Catholic Church, I felt called to spend time to give energies volunteering at our parish, my kids’ school and serving the archdiocese in various endeavors. Giving stewardship and leadership talks and retreats is another way I try to practice stewardship.

Additionally, our family tithes. We don’t like to talk about money, and stewardship is not about money. But Jarod, my husband, and I found that the giving of money is a manifestation of our values and beliefs and truly representative of what God has given. My husband is an accountant but audit statements and tax returns is not how he is compensated for the gift and talents of his employment — his paycheck is. When we were first married we started tithing 2 percent, the next year 3 percent, then 4-5 percent and so on. Once we realized we could really do this by ordering our lives as such, we moved to higher percentages of tithing.

When you speak to anyone about stewardship, what is the one thing you want to impress upon them most?

That God’s life is love and we are called to be active, grateful recipients as well as participants in that love through a life of stewardship. We are stewards of everything and everyone entrusted to us, and in all circumstances. God calls each personally to give of ourselves in the church and in the family. Not if, but a certitude that God is calling us to this life. That leaves us with a choice. As we choose to live as stewards, the Mass comes even more alive for us because we are actively participating in a deeper way. When the gifts are offered at Mass, we offer the Lord our stewardship, which he blesses. This provides us great hope and strength to live as his disciples, his faithful stewards. God returns the gifts we offer back to him: bread, wine and our very lives with the holy exchange of his own life and love in the body and blood of Christ.

I can always tell if I am being a good steward by the degree of my joy. Stewards are joyful people. If I am down, I can trace it back to a need to be a better, more grateful steward. When I am joyful, I notice it is because I am living stewardship more intentionally.

For more information about stewardship and to access the Parish Stewardship Toolkit, visit http://www.archspm.org/departments/development-stewardship.

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Category: The Lesson Plan