February 16, 2011 // Local

Stewardship benefits family, church and community

By Kay Cozad

Many parishes of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend have embraced stewardship as a way to not only remain financially solvent but spiritually vital with roots deeply immersed within the working community.

Stewardship, the careful moral management of time, talent and treasure, is a way for Catholics to serve God and others with the plethora of gifts and talents God has bestowed on them, each according to his or her ability. It requires a willingness to trust that God will meet their needs even in sacrificial giving. And that includes much more than simply contributing from financial resources.

Offering time and skills and talents that serve others and the Church is also vital to the life of a steward.

For those who embrace stewardship in this diocese, it is an evolving practice. Today’s Catholic looks at the fruit that has grown from three families’ stewardship.

Jude and Craig Phillips
For Little Flower parishioners Jude and Craig Phillips, the meaning of stewardship has grown over their 43 year marriage. In the beginning, it revolved around participating in their children’s activities at church, but eventually the concept of giving of one’s time, talent and treasure expanded.

“To be a good steward you need to be willing to buy into the fact that stewardship is a way of life. Everyone can do something no matter what stage of life they are at,” says Jude.

Jude is able to share her talent as a graphic designer by helping with the parish pictorial directory and being a part of the church’s art and environment ministry.

She and Craig emphasize the importance of getting young couples involved especially with parishes that tend towards having an older community.

“We need someone to climb ladders!” Jude chuckles as she describes the decorating of the parish for the seasons of the liturgical year in the art and environment ministry.

Craig, who is a convert to the faith, began understanding his role in stewardship after attending a Cursillo weekend. For the past 10 years he and Jude have been involved with the parish’s stewardship committee and getting out the message of participation for all age groups from children to the elderly.

“Even if you are homebound you can help make phone calls from the prayer tree or send cards and letters from your home,” says Craig.

The giving of treasure is always a challenging piece of stewardship commitment, but both Jude and Craig have found that automatic electronic deductions for parish pledges have improved this area. “It’s been a huge help because if someone is on vacation or out of town, their money still comes into the parish. In our stewardship committee we focus more on time and talent, and we find treasure usually follows when someone makes a commitment to become more involved,” he emphasizes.

Craig finds the best way to encourage stewardship is to personally ask someone for help. “While people are not always willing to volunteer, if you ask them, they have a difficult time saying no.”

Judy and Tim Biggins
Tim Biggins and his wife Judy, longtime parishioners of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Fort Wayne, find stewardship to be a multifaceted spiritual journey.

Tim says, “As children our parents acted out the stewardship role by giving of themselves for us. … Our parents were actively involved at the parish level, Judy’s at St. Rose in Monroeville and mine at Queen of Angels. Many a night was spent at church helping with bingo, rosary society, cleaning, painting or whatever else needed to be done.”

He adds that their parents were role models supporting the offertory as well.

Tim finds that the practice of stewardship enhances his marriage relationship as well as their ties to their spiritual and social communities. “Stewardship connects Judy and I as a couple, as members of our parish community, as part of our social structure, as participants in the liturgy and tends to offer strength to our spiritual life,” he says.

As for time and talent the Biggins have been grateful to offer many of their blessings back to their church community.

Tim reports, “As members of the cathedral we became involved in numerous activities over the years and remain active to this day, as extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion, greeters, parish council, Legacy of Faith chair and secretary, stewardship committee and numerous other functions.”

And he says, “Many of our friends are the result of parish activities based on spiritual and joyful activities that we have shared over the years together. Judy and I often look at our religious life as a continuation of our marriage, the more we participate in church activities with each other the closer we become. Through the participation in the multifaceted aspects of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception activities, we believe that our spiritual life has been strengthened.”

The Biggins are encouraged that the stewardship program at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception continues to evolve. “We are trying new ideas all the time. One such example is online giving. Our goal was to have 40 people involved by the end of the first year and currently we are half way after six months,” says Tim.

The Biggins are confident that stewardship as a way of life is a way to live out the Gospel and invites others to follow their example.

Kate and Matt Barrett
Longtime St. Joseph, South Bend, parishioners Kate and Matt Barrett believe that stewardship is a choice anyone can make.
Matt says, “Stewardship is about choices; in particular, about your life choices. Stewards are entrusted with life, with abilities, and with possessions.”

Good stewards, they agree, are those that believe all time, talent and treasure are gifts from God to be used for the welfare of others. The challenge is recognizing that in that sacrificial giving, they must depend upon God for security.

They say, “When we give away what we could otherwise hold on to, to make our lives more “secure,” it’s a concrete way of recognizing that our true security is in our dependence on God. We’re not in charge — and we’re only kidding ourselves when we forget that.”

And from their giving, this couple, happily married for 19 years, raising four children, knows that many times it is difficult to offer more than just “the easy stuff off the top.” But they do find passing this legacy of love and service to the next generation a real blessing.

Kate says of involving their children in the practice of stewardship, “We’ve tried to choose some ministries we can do together, such as bringing the Eucharist to the homebound, serving as hospitality ministers at Mass, and going on food calls for the St. Vincent de Paul Society. We also try to encourage them to make special gifts when needs arise, such as the earthquake in Haiti or Hurricane Katrina. Sometimes we’ll offer to match any gifts they make so that they can see their contributions make an even bigger impact.”

The children all have a firm belief in the family’s sacrificial giving and agree when 14-year-old Wilson says, “Stewardship combines belief in your faith and living it out. It means going beyond the bare minimum in your faith, reaching out to others and helping them.”

So the challenge the Barrett family issues to all Catholics is “to use the gifts God has given us, and use them well.”

* * *

The best news. Delivered to your inbox.

Subscribe to our mailing list today.