Stewardship Day: Nurturing a 'stewardship way of life'
MADISON -- Bishop Robert F. Morneau urged Catholic parishes to nurture a "stewardship way of life" in his keynote address at the first Diocesan Stewardship Day held on October 11 at the Bishop O'Connor Catholic Pastoral Center.
The auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Green Bay kept the audience's attention with quotes from Scripture, authors, and poets. He also referred to a pastoral letter on stewardship issued by the U.S. bishops, one which he helped write.
Tending the garden
Bishop Morneau used the image of a garden to describe the many gifts we have received from God. He asked the audience, "What have you done with the garden entrusted to you? The stewardship question is a garden question," he said.
Fr. Robert Barron from Chicago led a retreat in August for bishops. Bishop Morneau said the priest reminded the bishops, "Everything we have comes from God. We are called to give it back to God. But God doesn't need it. So our gift comes back elevated, multiplied, and intensified" - a "loop of grace."
Bishop Morneau recommended the book All Saints by Robert Ellsberg. "If you buy this book, it will change your life," he insisted. The book tells about 365 people whom the author considers saints. "They are 365 people who named their gift, nurtured their gift, and gave it away. They are all saints, all stewards of God's gifts," noted the bishop.
Stewardship way of life
Bishop Morneau listed four infinitives and four adverbs describing a stewardship way of life:
To receive God's gifts gratefully
To nurture God's gifts responsibly
To share God's gifts justly/charitably
To return God's gifts abundantly
He said we either have an attitude of "radical gratitude" or "perpetual dissatisfaction." He encouraged people to be grateful for what they have received. "Stewardship begins by not taking things for granted," he said.
He also urged people to use their gifts. His worst nightmare would be to get to the gates of heaven and have God accuse him of being an eight-cylinder car and only using two cylinders.
God gives us a gift of 168 hours a week. "I challenge you and invite you to give back to the Lord one hour a week for Sunday Mass and 20 minutes for prayer."
He said we must be good stewards of all the "gardens" entrusted to us: our body, family-friends, the globe, decisions, emotions, politics, technology, history, the mind, the arts, money, and the soul.
Saying we are "big-time consumers" today, he advised people to "give away something every day. The more you give, the more will pour into your life."
Be grateful for life
Madison's Bishop Robert C. Morlino presided at a Mass for the Stewardship Day. He reminded them that Eucharist means "thanksgiving." He said we should be more grateful at Mass than anywhere else, because Jesus won salvation for us.
Bishop Morlino also said we should all be grateful for the mystery of human life, including the embryo and even the heinous criminal whose life deserves protection.
In the afternoon, a panel of pastors and members of the Madison Diocesan Stewardship Council answered questions about stewardship on the diocesan and parish levels.
Panelists included Fr. Kent Schmitt, St. Dennis, Madison; Fr. John Hedrick, St. Mary, Pardeeville, and St. Andrew, Buffalo; Tim Endres, St. Maria Goretti, Madison; Fr. Bill Connell, Holy Mother of Consolation, Oregon; Jamie Carlson, Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, Sun Prairie; Kelly Sitkin, St. Albert the Great, Sun Prairie; and Tom Nelson, St. Thomas Aquinas Parish, Madison.
Daun Maier, associate director of the diocesan Office of Stewardship and Development, moderated the discussion centered on the importance of time, talent, and treasure as components of stewardship. Getting people involved in the parish and building community were mentioned as ways to increase stewardship in parishes.
Guided by the Spirit:
October 12, 2006 edition:
Both the goals and the assumptions of the Guided by the Spirit planning process were discussed in the last article. In this article we want to look at the criteria against which changes will be measured, thus allowing the Parish Core Committees to weigh one change against another. We also will look at the parish self-evaluation that will occur as Parish Core Committees begin to meet after attending their training this past week.
With any improvement program, there have to be a set of ideals against which the improvement is measured. In Guided by the Spirit, the Planning Commission put together a set of thematic criteria to give structure and guidance to the parishes as they evaluate each and every ministry in their faith community. They are themes because they are necessarily general in scope so they add to the strategic direction given by the Bishop's goals.
As each core committee meets, they will be using one of two forms supplied by the Reid Group under the direction of the Diocesan Planning Coordinator. They are called the Short Form and the Long Form.
The Short Form is only nominally shorter with the primary difference being in the style of evaluation. The Short Form is somewhat quantitative, asking yes or no questions while the Long Form is more qualitative, asking for narrative answers to essentially the same questions.
The Reid Group has found that when given the choice, about two-thirds of the people choose the Short Form and about one-third choose the Long Form with the selection being one of personal taste, not function.
The key point to recognize is the connection between the Planning Commission criteria, the questions used by the forms, and the eventual evaluation done by each parish core committee, as there is a progression from the general to the specific.
The Planning Commission grouped the criteria into four major groups: 1) Spiritual Life, 2) Formation & Education, 3) Social Justice, Advocacy & Outreach, and 4) Parish Life, Leadership & Planning.
Referring back to the Bishop's main evangelistic goal, "that each person in the diocese will be invited to meet the Risen Christ and be changed," it can be seen that these groupings are all encompassing with regard to the totality of each and every parish's ministries.
The Spiritual Life of a parish will be evaluated by looking at three areas: Prayer and Liturgical Experiences, Evangelization, and Stewardship. The Spiritual Life criteria are:
The parish has prayer and liturgical experiences which truly nurture the spiritual life of the community and are well attended.
The parish values evangelization, reaches out to inactive Catholics and the community, and is open and welcoming.
Stewardship of time, talent, and treasure is an accepted way of life in the parish.
Each of these three criteria are expanded upon in the Short/Long Form with questions that challenge the core committee to honestly assess their parish in these areas. For example, with reference to prayer and liturgical experiences: "The Eucharist is celebrated with prayerfulness and dignity" or "Various forms of devotional prayer are fostered" are two questions that probe into the parish's Spiritual Life.
These questions are not just to be superficially answered but should be used to open these areas up to further questioning and exploration. It cannot be overemphasized how important the evaluation depends upon the honesty and integrity of the core committee in addressing each of these areas for this process to work up to its potential.
Any failure to address those specific areas that are lacking in the parish could hamper the growth of the faith community because resources that are thought to be available may not actually exist as the parish works further into the planning process.
Similarly, the strengths of a parish need to be understood because there may be a parish neighbor that is in dire need of help in those areas, or it may mean that resources may be allocated where they are not needed.
The Formation & Education criteria for evaluation are:
The parish provides excellent spiritual and faith formation experiences for all ages.
The parish or consolidated school is accredited, has a strong Catholic identity and excellent curricular experiences. The parish actively encourages and supports the school in its operation and mission.
The parish is actively working to promote vocations.
These criteria are expanded upon in the Short/Long form with more specific questions, such as "Young adult ministry programs are provided and evaluated regularly."
The Social Justice, Advocacy, and Outreach criteria is: "Social justice, advocacy, and outreach programs are well integrated into parish life."
This criterion is broken up into four areas: Education, Public Life, Responding to Human Needs, and Ecumenical & Interfaith, each addressing situations that call out to us in charity for fellow human beings.
The Parish Life, Leadership, and Planning criteria contain those themes that people often associate with the overall physical health of a parish, such as finances and buildings. They are:
The pastor, staff, and parish and finance councils exert effective leadership that points to the future.
The parish is financially stable.
Working with neighboring parishes and sharing resources is operational in the parish.
The parish is working positively and creatively with the current shortage of priests.
The parish is taking into account its geographic proximity to other parishes when it plans for the future.
The parish has adequate staff to carry out its mission.
The parish has adequate facilities to carry out its mission.
The parish supports the programs and ministries of the diocese and the universal Church.
Each of the criteria approved by the Planning Commission addresses an area of the parish's ministry to its faith community. The parish evaluation done by the Core Committee using the Short/Long form should give an accurate picture of how well the parish is doing in each and every ministry.
This information will be essential when the parish begins working with its cluster members in assessing their cluster's ability to provide these ministries to the larger cluster faith community, continuing the process of Guided by the Spirit.
Next Article: The Parish Core Committee - Structure and Roles
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Patron Saint: St. Jerome
"To be ignorant of the Scriptures
Born in 340 and baptized Catholic at age 18, St. Jerome was an avid student of theology. For many years he lived as a hermit in the Syrian deserts, but returned to Rome to be secretary to Pope Damasus I. During that time he produced the Vulgate translation of the Bible, still in use today. He later left Rome and lived his last 34 years in the Holy Land as a semi-recluse. St. Jerome is considered one of the greatest biblical scholars of the Catholic Church. He died September 30, 420.
COLUMBUS -- On the very feast of the patron saint of the parish, St. Jerome Parish in Columbus celebrated a Mass marking 150 years of faith.
Bishop Robert C. Morlino was present to celebrate the Mass, concelebrated by Fr. Bruce Hennington, pastor at St. Jerome. Deacon Timothy Byrnes was the deacon of the Mass and the St. Jerome Anniversary Choir provided the music.
After Mass, parishioners gathered to celebrate together with a pig roast.
"You can remember some of the great forefathers and foremothers who were here at the beginning of this wonderful parish family at St. Jerome. And you can remember who some of the priests were who labored here at that time," said Bishop Morlino in his homily. "And when we celebrate the 150 years we're celebrating something that's basically good."
He reminded them of the Gospel reading that talked about the master bringing out from his storeroom the old and the new.
"You are the new," he said. "Even those of you who are over 70 are new - doesn't that make you feel good?"
The forefathers and foremothers of St. Jerome Parish are the old, he said. But the church treasures us that are new as well as the old - what has come before and is irreplaceable.
"One hundred fifty years is 150 years of continuity of life," he said. "The faith that was alive 150 years ago is the same faith that is alive today in all of us that are new. Jesus Christ is the same in what is 150 years old and in what is new in all of us. And we have to apply that Gospel truth to our own time."
St. Jerome is a perfect example of this continuity. His translation of the Bible from Greek for those who spoke Latin took something that was old and made it new.
"The church is always alive because the new is continuous with and builds on the old," the bishop said.
He mentioned the changes that may be happening in the next few years to the order of the Mass.
"All we can do is take the wisdom before Vatican II and bring it to life in a new way," he said. 'Some of the ancient wisdom got lost in the translation. And just as today we revere the forefathers and foremothers on whose faith this community was built, we don't in any way reject that; so too we cannot reject the faith of the church before Vatican II. We're the same church."
The ancient wisdom of the church has to be brought to life and made new in Wisconsin this year, Bishop Morlino said. He talked about the marriage amendment, how no one has a right to redefine marriage; about capital punishment, and how death is never a good solution to anything; and about embryonic stem cell research and its false hopes that have not solved anything.
"We've got a new challenge in Wisconsin," the bishop said. "But we've got ancient wisdom that responds."
"Our forefathers and foremothers were able to be the foundation of faith here because they put into practice the ancient wisdom," he said. "And as we celebrate 150 years tonight, we know that God will bless us abundantly into the future insofar as we practice the ancient wisdom."
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