The Archdiocese of New Orleans has made many efforts to explain the concept of stewardship to Catholics. Can you talk about what stewardship is?
When most people think of stewardship, they often think solely of financial giving. While financial giving is one aspect of stewardship, it is not the primary meaning of stewardship. Stewardship really is an attitude toward life. It is recognizing the gifts that God has given to us, and, in gratitude to God for those gifts, we give back to God in many ways. Stewardship is a way of thinking and expressing thanks. All we receive is a gift from God, and our gift back to God requires ongoing prayerful discernment of what God is calling us to share with others and his church.
What does discipleship mean?
Discipleship is a way of life. Stewardship is an attitude of gratitude through which I live my life of discipleship. If I truly believe that everything I have, everything I am and everything I accomplish are gifts from God, then I will want to follow Jesus as a faithful disciple and be a good steward of the gifts he has given to me. A disciple works to make Jesus present in the world today. Pope Francis has told us that “God’s world is a world where everyone feels responsible for the other, for the good of the other. … To be human means to care for one another.” Twenty-five years ago, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops published a pastoral letter, “Stewardship: A Disciple’s Response,” and that message resonates just as clearly today: “Genesis tells us that God placed the first human beings in a garden to practice stewardship there – ‘to cultivate and care for it’ (Gn 2:15). The world remains a kind of garden (or workshop, as some would prefer to say) entrusted to the care of men and women for God’s glory and the service of humankind. In its simplest yet deepest sense, this is the Christian stewardship of which the pastoral letter speaks.” Stewardship is an expression of discipleship.
We have heard a lot about the three t’s of stewardship: time, talent and treasure.
If we can nurture a spirit of gratitude for all that God has given us, then we will want to share with God and the church the resources that he has given to us in terms of time, talent and treasure. In the Archdiocese of New Orleans, we have many people who are extraordinarily generous in offering their gifts and their time through the ministries in which they are involved. I think particularly of the incredible number of people who volunteer in various Catholic organizations, parishes and schools as a sign of good stewardship. Their sacrificial actions build up the community far beyond the Catholic community. Their lives enable the community to become more faithful. If I truly believe that everything I have is a gift from God, I will want to support the church, not only by offering my time and talents but also by responding to need to financially support the work of Christ in our church today. When it comes to financial giving, the questions we need to ask are what has God given to me and how do I use these gifts to support myself, my family and the church? What portion of those gifts should I use to support the work of Christ in our world today? There are many needs of evangelization in our parishes, schools and in various ministries and organizations throughout the archdiocese. By supporting these financially, we participate ever more fully in the good that is done by the church for Christ, that his mission may continue.
Are there any guidelines for Catholics about financial giving?
We know that many other Christian churches give far more generously than we do as the Catholic Church. The Bible specifically talks about tithing – giving back to the Lord a portion of what God has given to us. Many Christian churches use 10 percent as a financial-giving goal for their members. While this percentage may vary a lot from person to person within the Catholic Church, most estimates indicate that Catholics give at a rate of 2 to 3 percent. Does God expect each of us to live out our discipleship by giving generously of our time, talent and treasure? The answer is yes.
How would you suggest Catholics do this?
This can be answered only in prayer – first, in a prayer of thanksgiving for what God has given to me, and, secondly, in a prayer of enlightenment, asking God to enlighten me about the many gifts I have received and then to enlighten me as to how I can give back. We must all live a life of gratitude. Gratitude will help us realize Jesus’ call, “Come, follow me” and to live that call through our actions.
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