Annual Stewardship Day
encourages people who
‘do church’ to be a people
who ‘are church’
By DAVID MYERS and TIM WENZL
Southwest Kansas Register
Haunting music rose from the grand piano in the worship area of the Cathedral of Our Lady of Guadalupe Aug. 28 as pianist Patrice Egging stopped intermittently to share a message oft repeated throughout this annual Diocesan Stewardship Day, that stewardship is about far more than just placing money in the collection basket.
Stewardship is, more than 200 participants would learn, a way of “being Church” – a way of creating better parish communities and families, and of bringing ourselves closer to God.
For Egging, a featured speaker, stewardship is about discovering your talents – for her an uncanny ability to play beautiful music by ear -- and using those talents to witness to others. For speaker Ethel Schneweis, who discussed “problem gambling,” stewardship is about addressing those things, such as gambling addiction, that pull us away from what is holy.
Other speakers addressed topics such as “The Importance of Fatherhood,” “Holy Grounds Adult Ministry” (adult social ministry in the coffee house), “Growing an Engaged Church,” and many others.
The annual event was organized by diocesan Director of Stewardship, Eric Haselhorst, who designed the day to encourage people who “do church,” to become a people who “are church.” The day was presented concurrently in Spanish.
Opening the program was Bishop Ronald M. Gilmore, who, in his keynote address, spoke of the one subject often overlooked at stewardship gatherings – that of money. While he told those gathered, “I don’t want your money, I want your souls,” he stressed that, “I cannot have your souls without having your money.”
“In saying that, I am merely speaking for God, of course: it is He who cannot have your soul without your money.”
The seeming contradiction was brought into crystal clarity when he referred to Matthew 19:24 in which Christ says, “It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”
“It’s a good thing to want and to love the necessities of life, even a luxury or two,” he said. “It’s a bad thing when that wanting and that loving becomes disordered,” when it is treated “not as a means, but as an end. ‘The love of money,’ St. Paul said, carrying forth the message of Jesus, ‘is the root of all evil. …Greed is what our spiritual tradition has called it….’”
“Greed,” the bishop explained, “is a passion that tends to supplant God in the human heart. Greed crowds the heart with all sorts of desires bent upon things of the earth, and it fills the heart with all sorts of anxieties and distracting preoccupations.”
He said the remedy is to allow the Spirit of God to “root” in to your lives the conviction that “money is not an end in itself, but a means to something else.”
The way to bring about that remedy, the bishop said, is to “give it away. Give it to the poor. Give it to good works in the community.
“… To fasten our hearts on money is to drive out the love of God. That is the deep truth about God and Mammon. That is the deep truth we often miss. That is why God said, ‘I cannot have your souls unless I have your money.’”
Between the many talks presented throughout the day, participants wandered among booths set up in the gathering area that highlighting many ministries within the Catholic Church. On one table a computer slideshow displayed the joy found at Faith and Light gatherings for the intellectually challenged. At the Catholic Social Service (CSS) table, a large (and tasty) cake celebrated the centennial of Catholic Charities, of which CSS is a part.
Mike Houser, a facilitator for the CSS program “Marriage for Keeps,” presented a session on the role of being a father in today’s world. In the breakout section, “The Importance of Fatherhood,” Houser spoke of the critical role a father has in shaping and guiding children’s lives.
“Fathers have the opportunity to make an eternal investment in their children that can be passed down to future generations. Fatherlessness can lead to social problems,” stated Houser. Topics covered were respect, having fun, forgiveness, discipline, and connecting.
Meanwhile, Shawn Crawford, director of Stewardship and Development for the Diocese of Salina, presented “Stewardship and Being Present.”
“If we aren’t present, we can’t be grateful. And gratitude is the first step in being a steward,” stated Crawford. He spoke about being present to family, “your circle of friends who are your extended family,” and community. “The most important person in the world is the person in front of you. Not the person you are going to call or e-mail at the next opportunity. When you ignore the person in front of you, you are missing an opportunity to serve Jesus.”
Stewardship is about being stewards of all God’s creation. Rebecca Ford of CSS spoke on “How to Care for Creation … in the Home, the Office, and the Parish.” In her address she touched on seven areas: energy efficient lighting; energy conservation; water conservation/water purity; toxic free living; waste reduction and recycling; indoor air quality; and reducing the carbon footprint. She presented products that could accomplish these goals that both conserve resources and save money. She suggested that parishes could take the lead and evaluate these seven areas in their plants and make the necessary changes.
Other presenters of the English language workshops included Father Bill Pruett and Tim O’Connor, who co-presented the second keynote address, director of youth and religious formation, Steven Polley, who spoke on “A Framework for Time and Talent,” and Debbie Dowdle, who discussed the “Holy Grounds” social ministry program for those 35 and older. The summer program invites adults to coffee shop gatherings where they listen to a speaker and then have a friendly discussion over coffee.
Father Robert Schremmer, vicar general, always a popular speaker, had to bring extra chairs into the St. Augustine room for his presentation, “Hollowing Out the Middle.”
“Every culture,” he said, “gives us an expression of the divine in a way that some other culture doesn’t. And that’s why we value cultures. … We see things in that culture in a way that we probably wouldn’t see if the light of the Gospel didn’t shine on it.”
Our culture here in southwest Kansas, he explained, “is a valuable piece in expressing God’s creative will in the way that people live and love….”
Father Schremmer quoted a phrase that reads, “All you have to do to see the majesty of the Rocky Mountains is to open your eyes.” To see the “splendor of the plains,” Father Schremmer continued, you must “open your soul.”
Small town prairie living, he said, is a “very special kind of life,” much like the monks and nuns live. “Because of our spiritual geography, we live a special spirituality and a special contemplativeness. Imagine if that’s gone, if it’s just lost.”
Fifty percent of those attending Father Schremmer’s workshop grew up the children of farmers, whom Father termed as stewards, caring for the land.
“In the heartland, people are working together on their part of the planet’s critical questions of the day: How do we love our neighbor? How do we care for the earth? That’s what we’re about. … The heart, we are told, is a fitting symbol for the heartland. The heart represents the hospitality -- the close relationship, the courage, and commitment that can be found here.”
In conclusion, he said that what we need to be doing is not “hollowing out the middle” -- emptying out, draining – but hallowing out the middle – emptying ourselves so that we can then “open ourselves to the filling that can go on with our spiritual energies and resources.”
Haselhorst’s presentation, “Growing an Engaged Church,” was one of the last sessions of the day. This fact wasn’t lost on Haselhorst, who began his discussion by “busting” three myths, each time popping a balloon, sending blood pressures rising as if having had a sudden shot of caffeine.
He noted that there’s a big difference between being involved in your parish, and being engaged.
“Engagement is how you feel about your parish; involvement is what you do for your parish. How do you feel about your church? How do you make your parish a place someone could fall in love with?”
One myth he spoke of is that which says that “believing leads to belonging.” In reality, he said, it’s the other way around.
“Belonging is far more likely to lead to believing,” Haselhorst explained. “If you feel you belong there, if you feel wanted, it will lead to believing. The more they feel they belong, the more they feel spiritually committed.”
Haselhorst stressed that parishioners must fall in love with their church, not just serve. Activity, he said, is not the result of being engaged with your church, and can lead to burnout. On the other hand, “Engaged members do not burn out, they only get more spiritual committed, more energized and more engaged. When you are doing something you love, that gives you life.”
In effect, he said that being engaged instead of simply being involved in your parish is the art of “being church” and not just “doing church.”