On Sunday, Sept. 26, the Archdiocese of St. Louis will celebrate its 21st “Stewardship Awareness Sunday.” Many parishes will use this time for their annual stewardship renewal by looking back in gratitude and thanking God for all the gifts that they have been given individually and collectively, as a parish community, over the past year. Also, they will use this time to look forward to the new liturgical year ahead to continue to grow in generosity with their time in prayer, talent in ministry participation and increasing financial support.
It is important to continue teaching stewardship in our parishes for several reasons.
First and foremost, because we are disciples of Jesus. We were made in His image and likeness. As Catholics we are called to imitate His life and be His eyes, ears and voice to build His kingdom on earth. As disciples, we are responsible for our own lives and the lives of others, too. We are called to be generous with the “first fruits” of all of our gifts. To give our first and best of everything, not simply what we have “leftover.”
Second, because we are all stewards of our gifts! Stewardship isn’t an exclusive club for a few members. We all have gifts to share. All are invited and all are needed. No gift is too small or insignificant. Stewardship is a lifestyle. It is about putting God first in everything we do. Stewardship is the common thread that links all of our parish ministries together for the good of all.
Third, because stewardship is what has built our Church. Gratitude and generosity are fundamental to our Catholic faith. It is the generosity of past generations that has built our Church. It is now our turn to continue the good stewardship of our gifts. It is our responsibility to pass it on to future generations.
Just like Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter and Ordinary Times are seasons of the Church, so too, stewardship is also an unofficial season of the Church — the season of gratitude and generosity.
Stewardship isn’t complicated to understand, but it is hard to do. Stewardship is simply recognizing everything is a gift from God and being grateful and generous with our gifts. Everything we are and everything we have comes from God. We aren’t really “owners” of anything, we are merely “stewards” of our God-given gifts.
A critical aspect of stewardship is that we are called to be generous with everything, all of our gifts, not just the one or two things we pick and choose, and especially that one thing that means the most to you. This is different for everyone. For some it is their time, for some it is their talents and for some it is their money.
The words “time, talent and treasure” are used a lot when describing stewardship, but the gift that God wants the most from us is our heart. The whole point of stewardship is to keep us on the path of discipleship, to grow in holiness, to grow in love with the Holy Trinity and with each other, and to ultimately, help each other get to heaven.
During this season of stewardship, ask the Holy Spirit for guidance on how we can continue to be better stewards of our gifts; to live a more God-centered life and a less self-centered one.
Baranowski is the director of stewardship education in the Archdiocese of St. Louis. He and his wife are parishioners at Mary, Mother of the Church in south St. Louis County. He can be reached at (314) 792-7215 or [email protected].