300 explore stewardship at conference in Cathedral


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It all starts at home.

Prayer, vocations, the practice of the faith, catechesis and stewardship as a way of life.

“Just like all things in our faith, the home — the domestic church — is the basic building block,” noted Father Stephen Jones, pastor of Cathedral of St. Joseph Parish in Jefferson City.

“And if we all want our parishes to be good stewards and embrace stewardship, we have to start doing that at home,” he said.

Fr. Jones, former director and current moderator of the diocesan Stewardship Office, joined about 300 people from parishes throughout the Jefferson City diocese at the Diocesan Stewardship Conference on April 13 in the Cathedral.

It was a fantastic audience, said Trish Lutz, diocesan director of stewardship.

“We were very pleased with the turnout and the level of engagement,” she stated. “It was a very engaged audience, and we got a lot of positive feedback.”

The daylong conference included a series of discussions and fellowship opportunities for people to become more familiar with stewardship — not as a program or code word for Church finances but as a God-inspired way of life, thoroughly rooted in gratitude.

Presenters included Bishop W. Shawn McKnight; Father John Lanzrath, a priest of the Diocese of Wichita, Kansas; Eric and Lisa McArdle of Augusta, Georgia, cofounders of Catholic Stewardship Consultants Inc.; Fr. Jones and Mrs. Lutz.

“I hope that what came across ‘loud and clear’ is what we’ve been proclaiming throughout the diocese for the past three years: the idea that stewardship is ‘Christianity 101’ — basic Christianity,” said Fr. Jones.

“Stewardship is not a ‘Jeff. City thing,’ and it’s not a ‘Wichita thing,’” Fr. Jones stated, referring to the diocese where the stewardship way of life was first articulated for present-day Catholics and where it in many ways has reached its highest expression.

“No, it’s simply a ‘Christian thing,’ and it was great to have people come and give new voice to that,” said Fr. Jones.

“No greater love”

Bishop McKnight grew up in St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Wichita, where Monsignor Thomas McGread, known as the modern father of Catholic stewardship, served as pastor for 32 years.

“I’ve never studied the stewardship way of life,” Bishop McKnight noted. “It was just part of the ecclesial culture of my parish, and I thought it was how the entire Catholic Church operated.”

Msgr. McGread took to heart what the world’s bishops had reaffirmed during the Second Vatican Council (1962-65) — specifically the call for laypeople to step up to their rightful role in the life and mission of the Church.

“This was just his way of doing that,” Bishop McKnight said of Msgr. McGread. “It’s how he preached, and it’s how he lived.”

Fr. Lanzrath, speaking on the spirituality of stewardship, reiterated that it’s not about fundraising and is not “another program.”

“Stewardship spirituality is about faith,” said Fr. Lanzrath, pastor of St. John the Evangelist Parish in El Dorado, Kansas.

Namely: “Stewardship is the grateful response of a Christian disciple who recognizes and receives God’s gifts and shares these gifts in love of God and neighbor,” he stated.

He pointed to four pillars that are critical for parishes to foster stewardship spirituality: hospitality, prayer, formation and service.

He noted that the textbook for stewardship spirituality is the Bible, and that the school of stewardship spirituality is the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

“As Jesus says, ‘There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends,’” said Fr. Lanzrath.

He emphasized there will always be needs in every community, but even if there weren’t, everyone would still have the need to give back to God in gratitude for everything he has given.

On the home front

Lisa McArdle, author of a book called Stewardship Starts At Home, offered concrete examples of cultivating stewardship in the family.

“It starts at home and begins with how we treat ourselves and those who are closest to us,” she said.

She confronted the all-too-common misconception that people are only “doing stewardship” when they’re helping out at church.

“Yes, that’s a part of it,” she noted. “But if stewardship is, in fact, a way of life that touches every aspect of our lives, it begins with us at home.

“Whether we’re a huge family or a small family, whether we’re a retired couple living by ourselves or a married couple with no children of a family with 10 children, stewardship really starts with how we treat the people who are closest to us that we often take for granted,” she said.

Mr. McArdle, president of Catholic Stewardship Consultants Inc., said a Catholic understanding of stewardship is grounded in “recognizing that everything we have is a gift from God, and in gratitude sharing our gifts with God and neighbor.”

He emphasized that stewardship is a disciple’s way of life, and that when it’s carried out properly, stewardship changes the lives of individuals and families for the better, helps young people become lifelong disciples, and enables each parish to become more effective in its mission.

He pointed out that in order for parishes to properly promote and sustain a spirituality of stewardship, there must be an increase in effective communication, education and evangelization.

He emphasized the importance of each parish promoting an annual Catholic Stewardship Renewal, allowing each member to pray about and recommit to support the work of the Church through a pledge of time, talent and treasure.

“Once you have a better understanding that it’s not about money but about how we live our lives as disciples of Jesus, that’s when it catches fire and people get excited about it,” he said.

“A lot at stake”

Mrs. Lutz gave a brief overview of this year’s Catholic Stewardship Renewal (CSR) for the parishes.

She also announced the theme: “Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give,” (Matthew 10:8b).

Bishop McKnight spoke of the essential role stewardship councils must carry out in each parish.

“That is, to help the pastor and the community become aware of the needs that are there and also to make us aware of the resources we have to meet those needs,” he said.

He pointed out that stewardship plays an important role in the diocese’s new three-year pastoral plan and the concurrent deanery plans of the diocese’s five deaneries.

The bishop talked about the importance of all members being engaged in the life and ministry of the Church, “for our salvation and for the salvation of others.”

“There is a lot at stake if we don’t get this right!” he stated. “But the Lord is here to help us no matter what the problems are out in the world or within our Church.”

Making a go of it

Reactions to the Stewardship Conference were overwhelmingly positive.

“It was a great time to come together as a parish and diocese,” stated Nikki Howell of St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Sedalia.

“I was so inspired and also got concrete things to implement,” said Sharla Buthod of Immaculate Conception Parish in Loose Creek.

“The content and speakers were excellent,” stated Gay Ann Christy, a member of Our Lady of the Lake Parish in Lake Ozark. “I honestly believe those that attended the conference left ‘on fire’ for stewardship and our parish’s 2024 Catholic Stewardship Renewal.”

“It was a very worthwhile day and reiterated the Bishop’s message that the mission of stewardship is about living our faith as a way of life,” stated Mary Burgess, a member of the Our Lady of Snows Parish in Mary’s Home.

Fr. Jones said the diocese hopes to organize another Stewardship Conference next year, hopefully with more time for questions and answers and informal interaction among participants.

“We had a lot things this year that people needed to hear, and we got it all covered,” he stated. “I’m convinced that all of this will continue to bear fruit in all of our parishes.”