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Workshops give ‘how-to’s’for stewardship success

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Pastors and lay leaders gathered this fall at workshops offered by The Catholic Foundation’s Stewardship Office as a way of sharing resources for implementing stewardship projects on the parish level.

Office manager Michael Rhodes served as moderator for both workshops.

For the first time, the workshops were held regionally —at St. John the Evangelist Parish in Canton, hosted by Father Michael Doyle, and at St. Malachy Parish in Burlington, hosted by Father Leonard O’Malley —to accommodate attendees from parishes as far away as Lakeville in the South region to Lawrence in the Merrimack region. More than 50 participants attended each workshop, now in its fifth year.

In his welcoming remarks at St. John the Evangelist Parish, Archbishop Seán P. O’Malley cited the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’1992 pastoral letter in describing stewardship —the giving of time, talent and treasure —as a disciple’s response.

“It’s that kind of vision we need to have today. We need to help our parishioners understand discipleship and see it as the core of our faith,”said the archbishop. “We must provide our parishioners with ways to take action. This workshop is designed to help us in that challenge. It is our responsibility to share that vision with others. I thank all of you on behalf of the Church for all you are doing,”he said.

Bishop John P. Boles, co-chairman of the Archdiocesan Advisory Committee for Parish Stewardship, also referenced the pastoral letter in his discussion of the spirituality of stewardship.

Exploring the theme “Stewardship: A Disciple’s Response,”Bishop Boles observed, “It roots stewardship in spirituality. Its fundamental purpose is to help us hear the call to discipleship and to respond to that call in an effective way.

“Everyone is called to be a disciple. And so we’ve come today to commit ourselves to stewardship —our ongoing response to the call of Jesus —and to take part in His work,”he continued.

Integral to stewardship is the giving or volunteering of one’s time and talent, a topic addressed by Ann Lally, director of the Archdiocesan Office of Volunteer Resources.

“Involvement helps people grow in faith and build a sense of belonging to a larger Church community in ways they otherwise never could. Inviting people into a ministry is a very privileged challenge. Don’t just ask for volunteers. Give careful thought to retaining them,”she advised, adding, “Plan. Plan. Plan.”

Craig Gibson of Parish Growth Partners and a lay leader at St. Mary Parish in Winchester, and Father Michael Hobson, pastor of St. Agnes Parish in Middleton, discussed ways to promote gifts of time, talent and treasure.

“Stewardship is a faith response that allows us to live out the aspects of our faith,”said Father Hobson. “It becomes a way of life. It’s about conversion of life and imitating Christ.”

“It’s also about the need for careful planning and hard work to inform, inspire and motivate parishioners about stewardship as a way of life,”Gibson added.

Father Paul O’Brien, pastor of St. Patrick Parish in Lawrence, and Edward Sampson, a lay leader at St. Patrick’s, discussed the parish’s successes and challenges in implementing a stewardship project.

“Leaders are critically important to the success of the project,”Father O’Brien pointed out.

“Our leaders have evolved in their understanding of what stewardship means. If in the community it is evident that people are increasingly living out their giving of time, talent and treasure, that’s success. If you come to understand yourself as a disciple of Christ with gifts that are meant to be given, that’s success,”he said.

Sampson added, “We try to communicate stewardship in every aspect of the life of our parish. We think about it in all different ways.”

“Don’t be intimidated by the effort. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel,”he reminded the group.

Closing out each workshop was Catherine Avril of St. Mary of the Hills Parish in Milton, with additional comments by Father Arthur Wright, pastor of St. Mary’s.

Speaking on the topic, “Thinking Outside the Box: Not Your Typical Ministry Fair,”Avril emphasized that the process of holding special parish meetings, ministry workshops and events, such as St. Mary’s three-part “Celebration of Community,”to provide opportunities for discussion were fundamentally important to establishing stewardship at the parish.

“We asked people to use their creativity to demonstrate the spirit of their ministries. While the ministries booklet we produced provided nuts-and-bolts information, our event brought people together to celebrate the life of our parish and our Church in a way that was fun,”said Avril.

Reflecting on stewardship, The Catholic Foundation’s executive director Kenneth J. Hokenson told the audience: “Stewardship is about bringing the gifts that God has given to us, to return those gifts and to spread the word of Jesus Christ.”

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