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The art and soul of adopting an 'attitude of gratitude'

Stewardship, Justice, Respect Life Conference

By DAVID MYERS and TIM WENZL
Southwest Kansas Register

There is an art to stewardship.
It is not only placing money in the collection basket, although that’s part of it -- it is also accepting and acknowledging with a grateful heart the multitude of gifts God has given all of us.
Having that “attitude of gratitude” was one of the primary themes of this year’s “Stewardship, Justice and Respect Life Conference” at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Guadalupe Aug. 27.
Among the speakers was the Most Rev. John B. Brungardt, who asked a young child who it was who first taught him to say “thank you.” Looking into the microphone, the child whispered a shy, “I don’t know.”
These moments are expected with the bishop, who typically engages the congregation during his homilies and talks. He asked those gathered to get into groups of four: “I want you to write down 50 different things for which you are thankful. You have five minutes!”

A young Leah Stein sat with her parents, Mike and Coleen, and wrote down such things as “teachers,” “family,” “Eucharist,” “faith” and “health.”
“When we really open up our lives, we realize we have not 50, not 100, but thousands of things to be thankful for,” the bishop said.
The bishop called forth all the youth of the audience, whom he led around the altar and then to the tabernacle where they knelt together in thanks for Christ’s sacrifice.

Thank you, Lord, for our dignity;
Please help me never to take it away from others.


Bonnie Toombs, director of the Respect Life and Social Justice Office in Wichita, said during her keynote address that she once asked a group of fourth graders: Who has the most dignity, a person making straight As, or a child who is struggling?
“They answered, the person making straight As,” she said. “I could understand this answer coming from children. I told them that we’re all equal in God’s eyes.
“So, the next week I asked a group of adults: Who has more dignity, a newborn baby or a homeless man? The majority answered that it was the newborn. I wanted to cry. That’s where we’re at. We are willing to do whatever we can to help a newborn, but Catholic Social Teaching also tells us we have to help those who aren’t cute and cuddly.     
“I’d say that everyone in this room is living fairly comfortably. But not everyone in Kansas is living comfortably, and most of them are children. We have to help everyone.”
She said that dignity doesn’t come with what we have or what we do for a living.
“We’re really a ‘me’ society. Jesus is asking you to get involved, to care more about people than things.”

Thank you, Lord, for being the Father of all people; Please help me to recognize that we are one global family.

Both the state and the Church have responsibilities for creating a just society, said Debbie Snapp, Executive Director of Catholic Social Service in the Catholic Diocese of Dodge City, who spoke on “Solidarity: Are We are Brother’s Keeper?”
Quoting teachings from the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops on Solidarity, she said: “We are one human family, whatever our national, racial, ethnic, economic, and ideological differences. …”
“The Church speaks of a ‘universal’ common good that reaches beyond our nation’s borders to the global community,” Snapp said.
“Solidarity recognizes that the fates of peoples of the earth are linked. Solidarity requires richer nations to aid poorer ones, command respect for different cultures, demands justice in international relationships, and calls on all nations to live in peace with one another.”
Snapp also referred to Pope Benedict XVI’s encyclicals and encouraged those in attendance to read them: “God is Love,” “Faith is Hope,” and “Charity in Truth.”
Snapp recommended “Justice Education, From Service to Solidarity,” by Suzanne C. Toton.

Thank you, Lord, for my food; my possessions, for the heat I feel in the winter, for security; Please help me to open my heart to those who have little.

If you are middle class, said Sister Janice Thome, you are concerned about how a meal tastes. If you are very rich, you are concerned about how it is presented.
But if you are very poor, you are worried about being fed. Or having your children fed.
Sister Janice is part of the Ministry of Presence. Formed in 1997, the ministry serves those who have fallen through the cracks, those for whom there are no other resources available. This includes, among others, undocumented immigrants -- who face a multitude of challenges that are difficult for most people to even imagine.
Sister Janice spoke of meeting a man in his 50s who had ridden a bicycle from Las Vegas to Garden City to find work, and was currently living in a tent.
She met a woman who came home after giving birth, only to find an eviction notice on her door. Her husband had been deported after being pulled over for a cracked windshield.
“Nobody can think of the kind of desperation that makes people come here,” she said. “It’s terribly risky. You may be turned away at the border. You could be killed or raped. They may choose to go to the embassy; if they’re very lucky, they will be able to come to the United States in eight years. Their kids could starve to death by then.”

Thank you, Lord, for the gift of other youth. Please help me to remember what is most important as we grow up.

New to this year’s Stewardship, Justice and Respect Life Conference was a block of break-out sessions designed primarily for youth. Organizer Eric Haselhorst, Director of Stewardship for the Catholic Diocese of Dodge City, wanted to make the day more family friendly then it had been in the past. Several youth from at least four parishes attended the event, and created one of the most solemn moments of the entire day. In the Holy Family Social Hall the youth quietly knelt on pillows at  various “stations,” where they were to reflect on the gift of Christ’s sacrifice versus their possessions, selfish desires, etc.... All the youth took part, quietly and prayerfully. The session was led by Denise Strecker.
At a later youth session, Pam Vainer had each student take a different candy bar with names such as “Whatchamacallit,” “100 Grand,” “Mounds,” “Payday,” etc... Each student then had to explain to the other youth why that candy bar -- its name or ingredients (more than one was a bit nutty) represented them.
The moment was good for some laughs and fellowship

Other presentations:

Rebecca Ford of Catholic Social Service brought a bounty of items designed to help individuals make their home a safer place, all while helping the earth.
Dan Loughman, Stewardship Coordinator for the Diocese of Wichita, presented a session on “Forming and Using a Stewardship Council.” He said that Stewardship was not a program, but a life-long process and emphasized that stewardship is a “conversion journey and is not a way to fill the collection basket.”
Deanna Jones, pastoral minister at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Guadalupe parish, spoke on “The Gift of Self and Others: Transforming Hearts with the Theology of the Body.” Jones focused on the “Theology of the Body” writings of Pope John Paul II, and a book of the same title by Christopher West. “Theology of the Body is a compilation of 129 Wednesday talks delivered by Pope Jones Paul II from 1979 to 1984. In his book, West, a faculty member of the Theology of the Body Institute, guides Catholics through the challenges and pressures society places on Catholic morality. For more information, on log onto www.theologyofthebody.com
Francis Waldren, of the Southwest Kansas Problem Gambling Task Force, shared many of the warning signs that someone may be a problem gambler.
There were also presentations by Brea Roper, Kari Casterline, Margaret Iosi, among others.

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