‘Stewardship: A Disciple’s Response’ — A summary of the U.S. bishops’ pastoral letter on stewardship
The following is the first in a three-part series on stewardship.
In the early 1990s, the United States Catholic bishops collectively prayed and reflected on the hallmarks of Christian discipleship. Grounded by many solid biblical foundations, the bishops concluded that a disciple of Jesus is truly a thankful, responsible and generous caretaker of God’s many blessings.
Based on several parables and the many apostolic instructions, Jesus’ disciples understood they were to share their gifts with others. They believed in a provident Lord who multiplied meager offerings of bread and fish.
Guided by Scripture, the bishops concluded that the Christian steward is a person whose prayer leads to a constant awareness that God is the creator of all blessings in life — spiritual and material. Jesus presented the ultimate gift to God — the gift of his life — and we, too, are called to follow in Jesus’ footsteps by:
- Receiving God’s gifts gratefully.
- Cultivating them responsibly.
- Sharing them lovingly in justice with others.
- Returning them with increase to the Lord.
Daily stewardship examples
God has entrusted us with the gifts of material creation, our individual vocation, and the living out of God’s mission through the church. Gratefully caring for these gifts leads to these tangible examples of stewardship in our daily lives:
- Stewardship of Creation: Respecting life, protecting the environment and developing our world through noble human labor.
- Stewardship of Vocation: Faithfully carrying out our unique individual roles in God’s plan.
- Stewardship of the Church: Prayerfully sharing our time, talent and treasure to fulfill the mission of the parish, diocese and universal church.
This concept of stewardship as a way of life is not focused on our temporal or temporary needs such as facilities and debt. It recognizes the innate spiritual desire to give. This desire lies within all our hearts. Our loving God created us in his image with the potential and expectation to share our gifts with the world around us.
Stewardship as way of life
It is Archbishop John Nienstedt’s hope to grow stewardship as a way of life within our homes, our parishes and throughout the 12 counties of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.
Essential to our success in accomplishing this vision will be the encouragement and formation of our clergy and laity in practicing and teaching stewardship as a way of fulfilling one’s ministry in the parish.
That is why the archdiocese has developed a comprehensive resource “tool kit” for parishes to use in teaching stewardship as a way of life, as well as providing ongoing support and training to parish leadership.
Stewardship as a way of life has astonishing implications for our relationships and our daily lives. We can experience life-shaping changes of mind and heart when we commit ourselves to the Lord — recognizing God as the origin of life, receiving gifts in a gratitude that is glued to action with an eagerness to demonstrate our love for God and neighbor.
The journey of discipleship is one of intense joy, fulfillment and peace. As Mary, the mother of Jesus, lived her ministry in a spirit of fidelity and service, we can find the same favor with God by living as authentic stewards of our world, our vocation and our church.
Mike Halloran is director of the Office of Development and Stewardship.