Stewardship a way to express thanksgiving to God, speaker tells priests, staff, ministry leaders

by Matthew Smith

North Texas Catholic

April 4, 2017

Father Andrew Kemberling, VF, guest presenter for the April 1 Leadership Day of Renewal, talks about gratitude being at the core of Christian stewardship at Holy Family Parish in Fort Worth. (NTC photo/Adrean Indolos) 

FORT WORTH — Admittedly, it’s a challenge many dioceses face.

“Stewardship is a tough one,” said Tracy Gomes, stewardship committee member at St. Michael Church in Bedford. “Everyone instantly goes to money.”

It’s more than financial giving of course. But one obstacle to increasing stewardship participation, which also involves lending one’s time and talents, among parishes is that many view the practice as a chore rather than a catalyst for evangelization, discipleship, and spiritual growth.

A stewardship retreat held April 1 at Fort Worth’s Holy Family Parish concentrated on changing such perceptions. Pastors and ministry and lay leaders from 14 parishes heard from guest presenter Father Andrew Kemberling, VF, of St. Vincent de Paul Church in Denver.

The event marked the diocese’s second annual stewardship retreat.

“I wanted the parishes to come together and network,” said Diana Liska, director of stewardship and parish relations. “I think it’s important that the parishes get to know one another and share best practices.”

Diana Liska, director of stewardship and parish relations, addresses the audience of pastors, staff, and ministry leaders gathered for the retreat day. (NTC photo/Adrean Indolos)

Last year’s event, held at Good Shepherd Church in Colleyville, was reflective, Liska said, focusing solely on prayer.

“Fr. Kemberling lives stewardship beautifully and he’s able to teach us a lot,” Liska said. “I wanted to bring him here because I think we’re really in the infancy stages of stewardship in our diocese.”

Fr. Kemberling broached the subject while celebrating the Mass opening the day.

“We are to be countercultural to the values of this world,” Fr. Kemberling said. “Stewardship is a sign that God loves us more than we can ever imagine. Stewardship leads to evangelization.”

Fr. Kemberling delivered three talks on the topic in between group discussions, question sessions, and the testimony of lay witnesses.

“We are made to know, love, and serve God in this life and the next,” Fr. Kemberling said. “That’s the meaning of life. I don’t have to climb a mountain and talk to some guru to find the meaning.

“And we express our love by giving our time, talent, and treasure back to God in thanksgiving for God’s love. It’s the core of spirituality and our entire Catholic faith.”

The frustration, several attendees said, is that they see huge potential for stewardship at their parishes, but limited involvement outside of weekly Mass makes it a struggle.

Fr. Kemberling urged them to relay the reward and importance of stewardship and suggested discussing it throughout the year instead of only on special occasions.

“Stewardship needs renewal,” Fr. Kemberling said. “What is your commitment? What are your plans going to look like? Break it down throughout the year into [separate] talks on time and talent and treasure so they don’t just hear money, money, money.”

Charity, be it financial giving, time, or talent is not optional, Fr. Kemberling said.

“We are not to bury our talents,” Fr. Kemberling said. “First and foremost, they’re not ours. They’re God’s. Giving is worship, giving back to the one who first gave.”

One of the small groups participates in a discussion with Fr. Kemberling (far left) during the April 1 event. (NTC photo/Adrean Indolos)

That includes taking time to pray.

“If you’re only eating once a week you’re starving,” Fr. Kemberling said. “You have to pray and make time for God each day because you’re starving for God.

Father Jonathan McElhone, TOR, parochial vicar of Good Shepherd, agreed.

“I see a hunger for authentic stewardship because that's where the teachings of our faith come alive,” Fr. McElhone said.

Beverly Farren, a parishioner at St. Andrew Parish in Fort Worth, delivered powerful testimony on her conversion to Catholicism.

“I love being a good steward through sharing how I became a Catholic,” Farren said.

Farren’s oldest son attacked her several years ago and is now in jail, where he later converted to Catholicism. Farren, an evangelical at the time, was not pleased and joked that she was less pleased once she realized her son was converting fellow inmates to Catholicism. She borrowed the books he was reading intent on learning about and debunking Catholicism.

“So, guess what happened?” Farren said.

She and her husband converted about a year ago.

FORT WORTH — Admittedly, it’s a challenge many dioceses face. “Stewardship is a tough one,” said Tracy Gomes, stewardship committee member at St. Michael Church in Bedford. “Everyone instantly goes to money.”

Published (until 12/27/2035)