Gratitude brews stewardship best, conference speaker says

| August 21, 2017 | 1 Comment

Dave Baranowski delivers a keynote address during the Stewardship Conference for Region VIII at St. Ambrose in Woodbury Aug. 17. He is the director of stewardship education for the Archdiocese of St. Louis. Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

After years of marketing suds, Dave Baranowski now pitches stewardship.

The director of stewardship education for the Archdiocese of St. Louis moved to his position after working 29 years for Anheuser-Busch. Sparking the transition was a 2007 retreat where the director encouraged participants to listen to God’s guidance — something he said he hadn’t earnestly done before. The experience convinced him to deepen his faith and focus on Christ.

While praying about God’s gifts in his life, “this wave of gratitude rushed over me,” Baranowski said. “It was at that moment that I decided that I wanted to get to heaven, and I want to take as many people with me as possible. My priorities had to change. I had to put God first in everything I did, and I had to put complete trust in God.”

That led to Baranowski leaving Anheuser-Busch for stewardship work with the St. Louis archdiocese in 2013.

“I was fortunate to work for the ‘King of Beers’ for 29 years, and now I hope to work for the King of Kings for the rest of my life,” Baranowski told more than 250 people gathered for the Region VIII International Catholic Stewardship Council Conference at St. Ambrose of Woodbury in Woodbury Aug. 17, hosted this year by the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

Baranowski gave the keynote address for clergy and parish, school and diocesan staff members from the 10 dioceses comprising Region 8, which covers Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota. ICSC provides support for stewardship in dioceses across the United States and overseas.

Since joining the St. Louis archdiocese, Baranowski has dedicated time to reaching out fellow stewardship leaders with a focus on souls, not just a collection envelope.

“Everything we have and everything we are is a gift from God,” he said. “We really aren’t owners of anything. We’re really stewards of those gifts that God has given us, and all God is asking is that we return a portion in gratitude for all that he has given.”

Baranowski referred to Archbishop Bernard Hebda’s message about gratefulness in his homily at the Aug. 17 Mass for the conference.

“When somebody is generous to me, I’m grateful,” Baranowski said. “For most people, the byproduct of gratitude is generosity.”

He emphasized that having a prayer life is essential in stewardship work. He asked his audience to reflect on the question, “What if you woke up today with only the things you thanked God for yesterday?”

Baranowski challenged attendees to consider replacing “time, talent and treasure” with the terms “prayer, participation and generosity.” He said Archbishop Robert Carlson of St. Louis, a former auxiliary bishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis, developed the new terms for stewardship his archdiocese, and they help people think differently about discipleship, parish life and stewardship.

“People listen. They’ll at least give you more than a couple minutes before they tune you out,” he said.

Kay Mottaz, stewardship director and liturgy coordinator for Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Maplewood, could see that as an effective move for her parish, as it “gives a broader understanding of stewardship.”

Baranowski gave other practical ideas, drawing from his experience at Anheuser-Busch. He recommended implementing an all-parish calendar and holding an annual all-parish ministry meeting to strengthen collaboration.

He also emphasized that parish councils and committees need to enlist a variety of people who reflect their parish’s demographics. Limiting committee terms and encouraging participation in a range of ministries also benefits a parish, he said.

On a stewardship level, he encourage attendees to write out an annual stewardship plan to aid communication and execution.

Catholics working in stewardship in Region VIII gather every few years to address challenges and find more effective ways to engage Catholics, said Margaret Slawin, director of the Office of Stewardship and Development for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. The two-day conference provided breakout sessions on stewardship principles and engaging different demographics.

“For effective stewardship and development to take place, I feel we can all learn from each other and grow in understanding,” Slawin said. “It isn’t just about raising money or collecting names. It is helping leaders connect with people, engage one another in meaningful conversation and work of the Gospel.”

Twin Cities-native Father David Zimmer, a priest of the Diocese of Bismarck, North Dakota, gave the second day’s keynote presentation on the U.S. bishops’ pastoral letter “Stewardship: A Disciple’s Response.”

Baranowski also mentioned the 25-year-old document. His office sent St. Louis’ parishes a copy of the letter this year to help them understand stewardship’s origins. Parishes have also received stewardship-related Scripture reflections to place in their bulletins.

“We’re trying to tie how stewardship is ingrained when you hear the Gospel reading every week,” Baranowski said.


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