In 1992, the U.S. Catholic Bishops published the Pastoral Letter “Stewardship: A Disciple’s Response” and defined a Christian steward as a disciple who “receives God’s gifts gratefully, cultivates them responsibly, shares them lovingly in justice with others and returns them with increase to the Lord.” Stewardship is a way of life that comes from seeing everything as a gift from God, changing the way we see things. The disciple is motivated by faith and a deep sense of gratitude, flowing from their faith, to a greater sharing of their time, talent and treasure with the Church and other charities in a planned, proportionate, thankful and sacrificial manner.
The Diocese of Orange has been committed to teaching stewardship as a way of life since 1997 when Bishop Norman McFarland started our diocese on the journey of living stewardship by designating a weekend in November each year as “Stewardship Weekend.” Every year since then, parishes have been encouraged to celebrate their own unique observance of stewardship on that weekend, teaching the faithful what it means to live as a Christian steward. Our successor Bishops Tod Brown and Kevin Vann have also continued their commitment to Stewardship for our diocese.
Understanding stewardship does not come naturally and so the Orange Catholic Foundation equips the pastors of the diocese with toolkits of impactful materials to share, creating an atmosphere of living with an attitude of gratitude that permeates the life of the parish. In fact, since 2008, the foundation has taken it a step further by introducing a Stewardship Renewal process that enhances Stewardship Weekend and offers an annual opportunity for our parishioners to prayerfully discern their commitment to their parish by completing their commitment form and offering it at Mass as their sacrificial gift during the liturgy. Brochures, commitment forms, posters and banners are provided to support this effort as well as training and networking to help our pastors grow in their understanding and commitment to stewardship as a way of life. This year’s Stewardship Weekend and Renewal theme is “Growing in a New Way of Life.”
The Christian community, as the Body of Christ, experiences Christ’s presence through one another. “In most cases, belief does not lead to belonging, but rather, belonging leads to belief.” (Growing an Engaged Church, Gallup Press). The parish community should have its arms wide open fostering a sense of belonging that will help many experience and deepen their faith in Christ. According to Gallup, parishioner engagement is primarily a result of feeling that we are of value to the community. Engagement in the faith community helps to root us in the fullness of hope in Christ, giving our lives more meaning and purpose. Those who are engaged are more likely to invite others, serve the community and give more of their financial resources. (Forming Generous Hearts, 23rd Publications).
This is the outcome the Orange Catholic Foundation hopes to provide; this deeply spiritual and also practical process for helping our parishes to grow in vitality and generosity. It is through this growth in stewardship that we recognize the importance of taking part in God’s gifts and to give back in order to make all that the Our Lord has planned for our Church possible.