Over the last several months I have written about your parish becoming a Stewardship Parish. Much of what I have written has been about how to become a Stewardship Parish. In referring to our diocesan priority plan, Through Him, With Him and In Him: A Spiritual Guide to the Diocesan Priority Plan,” I have spelled out the process for becoming a Stewardship Parish in “The Characteristics of a Stewardship Parish.” Some readers – and maybe you’re one of them – are asking, “Why is being a Stewardship Parish so important? Our parish is fine.” I am glad people are asking that question.
Patrick Lencioni, in his book, “The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business” lists six crucial questions that need to be addressed for organizational health. They are:
Why do we exist?
How do we behave?
What do we do?
How will we succeed?
What is most important right now?
Who must do what?
It is important to note that Lencioni begins with the why question first — Why do we exist?
Simon Sinek, author, Columbia University professor and motivational speaker, says “very few people or companies can clearly articulate WHY they do WHAT they do. By WHY I mean your purpose, cause or belief — WHY does your company exist? WHY do you get out of bed every morning? And WHY should anyone care? People don’t buy WHAT you do, they buy WHY you do it.”
Sinek’s thoughts remind me of the prayer by the late Jesuit Father General, Fr. Pedro Arrupé, who answers his why question in finding and falling in love with God:
“Nothing is more practical than finding God, than falling in love in a quite absolute, final way. What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning, what you do with your evenings, how you spend your weekends, what you read, whom you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude. Fall in love, stay in love, and it will decide everything.”
The why is the fulfillment of our true desire and happiness which can only be found in finding and falling in love with God in an absolute way.
Our sacred mission statement for the Diocese of Rapid City addresses the why question as well. “We, the Diocese of Rapid City, through the power of the Holy Spirit, are called to attract and form intentional disciples who joyfully, boldly and lovingly proclaim and live the mission of Jesus Christ, leading to eternal life.”
The why is eternal life!
In Paul’s letter to the Romans we hear: “We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose” (Rm 8:28).
Jesus tells us what his purpose is — to love and serve God, and to love and serve others. “Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these” (Mk 12:29-31).
In the 19th chapter of Matthew’s Gospel, a young man approaches Jesus and asks him, “Teacher, what must I do to gain eternal life?”
Jesus, himself, asks him the why question, “Why do you ask me about the good?”
The rich young man kept all the commandments and desired to do good, yet Jesus has more in store for him than simply keeping the commandments. Jesus wants him to go further and deeper not only with his relationship with God, but with his brothers and sisters: “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
Why is being a Stewardship Parish so important? It is important because it helps us to focus our lives on Christ as the center of everything we say and do. It takes the focus off ourselves and puts the focus on the needs of our brothers and sisters, who come first, even before our own needs and desires.
Remember, stewardship is not a program; it is a way of life. Stewardship begins with a personal and intimate relationship with Jesus Christ, who reminds us of our own identity as beloved sons and daughters of the Father, and then sends us forth as missionary disciples who proclaim joyfully, boldly and lovingly the living Christ that leads us to eternal life.
In linking discipleship to stewardship, we are following Jesus’ examples. In Matthew 25:14-30 he describes a disciple in the terms of stewardship. The steward is the one to whom the owner of the household turns over responsibility for caring for the property, managing affairs, making resources yield as much as possible, and sharing the resources with others. The position involves trust and accountability.
The characteristics of a Stewardship Parish are meant to help us to be accountable not only to one another as missionary disciples, but also to our parishes and our diocese. The characteristics of a Stewardship Parish are meant to be a guide, a blueprint helping us to fall more in love with Jesus Christ by living a Catholic way of life through generous hospitality, lively faith and dedicated discipleship.
I welcome your questions and comments regarding stewardship in your life and that of your parish. Feel free to contact me at (605) 716-5214 x235 or firstname.lastname@example.org.