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BRIGHTON -- The annual International Stewardship Conference is a “true blessing” because it will promote continued healing in the Archdiocese of Boston, according to Michael S. Rhodes, the archdiocesan manager of parish stewardship.
The conference will be held at the Hynes Convention Center on Oct. 1-4 and is open to pastors, parish leaders, diocesan development and stewardship directors, Catholic associations and leaders of religious congregations.
“Boston has been through so much, so it’s really a blessing that the conference is coming to Boston at this time,” he said.
The clergy abuse crisis and parish reconfiguration have caused a disconnect between Church leaders and parishioners. Those who attend the conference will have the opportunity to learn more about stewardship and share that knowledge with other Catholics. This will continue the healing process, Rhodes said.
“Stewardship in its very basic form is an understanding that everything we have is a gift from God,” he said. “It’s not a concept or a program. It’s a true way of life.”
When Catholics better understand that their families, jobs and parishes are gifts from God and that they must return those blessings by sharing their time, talent and treasure, they will be able to continue the healing process in Boston, he added.
The International Catholic Stewardship Council, which has sponsored the conference for over 20 years, sets the venue 10 years in advance. The last time the conference was held in Boston was in 1994, Rhodes said.
This year’s conference will feature several local speakers as well as international speakers like Cardinal Francis Arinze. The local speakers include Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley, pastor of St. Catherine Parish of Siena in Norwood Msgr. Cornelius M. McRae, pastor of St. Patrick Parish in Lawrence Father Paul B. O’Brien, Ed and Kathy Sampson also from St. Patrick’s and Sean P. Dunlavy of The Catholic Schools Foundation.
In addition to the speakers the conference will also feature Mass, award presentations, receptions and specialized exhibits, he said.
Rhodes said each parish in the archdiocese is being encouraged to send at least one representative to the conference. Lay leaders and pastors can then bring information back to their communities and promote stewardship education and renewal on the local level, he said.
Much of the conference is based on a pastoral letter from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops called “Stewardship: A Disciple’s Response.” The letter was approved by the USCCB in 1992.
A summary of the letter printed for its 10th anniversary quotes Bishop John J. McRaith, an original member of the USCCB’s Ad Hoc Committee on Stewardship, who said, “Once one chooses to become a disciple of Jesus Christ, stewardship is not an option.”
The summary continues, “As with all things pertaining to the Gospel, stewardship is fundamentally the work of the Spirit in our lives. When we accept our lives as sheer gifts, the Spirit can use us as apt instruments for spreading the Gospel. Wherever the Spirit works, there is joy. Good stewards are always the joyful bearers of the Good News of Salvation.”
The summary notes that much has been accomplished in raising awareness of stewardship as a way of life both locally and internationally since the letter was first published.
Stewardship is a lifelong journey, both for individuals and for parishes, Rhodes added. Embracing it helps with so many issues that affect parishes today, including low attendance, low weekly offering and a lack of volunteers.
Parishioners need to understand how important it is for them to give of themselves for the benefit of their parishes, he said.
“I was so spiritually struck by the conference last year,” Rhodes said, adding that he hopes this year’s conference has the same effect on others.
Registration for the conference is available on the International Catholic Stewardship Council’s Web site, www.catholicstewardship.org, until the Oct. 1 start date.