By David Myers and Tim Wenzl
Southwest Kansas Register
At a sports bar in Garden City, several young adults occupy a handful of tables as a large-screen TV shows the day’s sports’ highlights. But instead of focusing on the images of home runs and amazing catches playing across the screen, they are listening to Father Wesley Schawe, or another priest or guest speaker, share with them an inspirational message.This is Theology on Tap, and it was the topic of one of several presentations at the annual Diocesan Stewardship Conference, Aug. 30 at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Dodge City. The day was organized by Eric Haselhorst, Director of the Stewardship Office for the Diocese of Dodge City.
Stewardship, the approximately 200 participants quickly learned, is about far more than dropping a coin in the collection basket; it’s about allowing God to use oneself in service of others -- and thus bringing ourselves closer to God -- whether it be through time, talent or treasure.
Here are a few brief snippets from some of the several presentations offered throughout the day-long gathering. To obtain podcasts of all of the presentations in their entirety, go to www.dcdiocese.org/stewardship.
Teri Vasicek: “From Starbucks to Stewardship”
Teri Vasicek, business administrator at St. Michael the Archangel Parish in Aurora, Colo., was stunned to learn that Dodge City is one of the few geological points on the planet without a Starbucks coffee shop.
“Why are coffee shops such a phenomena today?” she asked in her keynote address. She said that in many communities, coffee shops have replaced church as the “third place” for gathering -- following home and the workplace.
“It’s a sad thing that people are seeking a sense of community at Starbucks and not church.”
But to answer why, is to give the church a few pointers on community building.
Vasicek suggested five ways of “being” to create a sense of community, all of which are contained in a little book that all Starbucks employees must carry: “Be Welcoming; Be Genuine; Be Considerate; Be Knowledgeable; Be Involved.”
Michael Schuttloffel: “How to Get Involved in Advocacy”
Michael Schuttloffel, executive director of the Kansas Catholic Conference, said that as a Topeka lobbyist for the bishops in Kansas it was his job to promote Catholic social teaching. “Most political issues have a moral dimension.”
He said that moral principles are shared by other churches and people who don’t go to church at all. Schuttloffel provided an overview on how people can present their views to senators or congressmen on specific policy and bills making their way through Congress. He recommended faxing hand-written letters to their Congressmen instead of signing form letters. If people call the office of a congressman they should ask for the staffer working on a particular bill and know the number of the bill. He also recommended writing letters to the editor of secular and diocesan newspapers to get issues before the public.
Sandy Rieley: “Teens and Young Adults: An Invitation to Change the World”
Sandy Rieley, director of Youth Ministries for St. Michael the Archangel in Aurora, Colo., told those gathered that “If you are here because you feel you have to get the youth involved because they are our future, please get that notion out of your heads. Teens are not our future, they are part of our church today.” She went on to say that young people were included in every area and ministry in her parish. “When you want to include young people, invite, invite, invite. Look at their gifts and connect them to the ministries in the parish. Don’t worry about numbers. There is no success in numbers. The 12 Apostles continue to change the world. We are Christ to one another. Put Christ in their world.”
Connie Thomas and Phyllis Barber: “Connecting with Care”
Connie Thomas and Phyllis Barber of the Cathedral of Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish said that “Connecting with Care” is a recent parish ministry that connects parishioners with volunteers able to provide small repairs, home maintenance, tax assistance and general help. It is a parish ministry that connects the talents of volunteers with the needs of others. Parishioners volunteer their time and talent to help and service others.
Maria Arteaga: “Sunflower Community Action, Who We Are and What We Do”
Maria Arteaga, who oversees the Dodge City region of the southwest Kansas Sunflower Community Action chapter, which is based in Garden City, explained that the organization is designed to help primarily immigrants to be able to take action when facing difficulty.
“God says help yourself that I will help you,” Arteaga said. “You have a voice. You can take control of your problems. We just facilitate so that you can do that, so you can take action on your own.”
To make a positive impact not only on immigrants, but on all residents of southwest Kansas, “We need to be united with every race, every color, every religion. With all issues, we know that unity is power.”
She described “The Dream Act” as a program designed to help undocumented students who get strong grades to achieve their dreams.
Jim Ennis: “What is Happening in Catholic Rural Life?”
The mission of the Catholic Rural Life Conference is to “apply the teachings of Jesus Christ for the betterment of rural America,” said Jim Ennis, executive director of CRLC.
The moral and social issues facing rural America have not only to do with the struggle of the family farmer, but with the fact that poverty increases as communities become more rural. Or the fact that only 33 percent of parishes with less than 200 households have a resident pastor. Or that only 25 percent have a youth minister.
Of the two million farm workers in the United States, 75 percent earn less that $10,000 per year. And while farm work is one of the most dangerous jobs in the country, “very few farm workers have health coverage.”
“Pope Benedict says Catholics must speak to some of these concerns,” Ennis said.
Jody Paulsen: “The Stewardship Committee: A Practical Approach.”
Jody Paulsen, assistant director of stewardship for the Diocese of Lincoln, explained that “Most people think ‘Stewardship’ is a code word for money. Stewardship is about our faith journey and trusting in God. It is not a program with a start and a finish. Stewardship is a way of life; an understanding of our Catholic faith; a flash of insight – a conversion; living our faith out loud. It is about being Catholic all of the time.”
Jennifer Mai: “Theology on Tap”
Jennifer Mai, director of stewardship at St. Dominic Parish in Garden City, said that “Theology on Tap” is not only a way of engaging young adults already involved in the Church, but of inviting fallen away Catholics, or those at risk of falling away, back into the fold in an inviting and non-threatening atmosphere. She told those gathered at her presentation how they could start a Theology on Tap gathering, which occur usually once per month at a restaurant, bowling ally, or other location in their parish. Of the important things to consider is that of a guest speaker, and topic.
The hour or so meetings include social time, dining, and a presentation by the guest speaker. Topics should evoke interest, humor and mystery, she said, and should be presented by someone who is respected, dynamic, and in line with Catholic teaching.
Al Jirak and Travis Gear: “Parish Websites: Engaging All Generations”
Al Jirak and Travis Gear of Solutio Software in Wichita spoke about the value of parish websites, especially when attracting youth who have grown up on high-tech communication. They said that websites offer a “limitless and highly engaging method of communicating.” When utilized well, websites can “heighten your ability to connect parishioners to each other and to their parish.”
Sister Rose Mary Stein: “Getting Involved in Mission Work”
Sister Rose Mary Stein, OP, pastoral minister at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Guadalupe, shared slides and stories from her many mission trips, including one in Zambia. For a few weeks out of each year, Sister Rose Mary travels to places such as Alabama, where she taught outdoor sports and recreation to youth. In Colorado, she and other volunteers painted homes for the elderly, while in Oklahoma they tutored American Indian children. In one memorable summer in 2008, she worked in New Orleans to refurbish a man’s home that had been flooded. Just weeks after arriving back in Colorado, she and some local volunteers spent several days providing volunteer labor in Greensburg.
While in Zambia, she said she was “touched deeply” to be with the people whom the Dominican Sisters serve. Sister Rose Mary taught Confirmation classes, gave instruction to teachers, led faith sharing on the Sunday Scriptures, gave a retreat to the Sisters, showed photos of her loved ones back home, and told the story over and over of her vocation, her family, and her ministry at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Guadalupe to several of the classes in the schools where the Sisters taught. She loved teaching outdoor games to the children at the “Barefoot School,” a school opened by the Sisters to serve the poorest of the poor.
“Risk to step out of your comfort zone,” said Sister Rose Mary, who described working on a “blitz” Habitat for Humanity build with Jimmy and Rosalyn Carter. “It starts to get in your blood. Along with the hard work you do, there are the blessings that come out of it.”
Rhonda Goodloe: “Happily Ever After?”
Rhonda Goodloe, regional coordinator for Marriage for Keeps, said that a healthy marriage requires friendship, fun and romance. And there needs to exist a desire to communicate, and to develop mutual interests and goals. A good marriage, she said, requires that the couple do not put too much attention on the children or on their careers.
“If you put your career, children, sports, hobbies, etc…, before your mate, nothing you can buy or give will really satisfy,” she said. “To have a growing marriage, your relationship with your spouse will need to be a higher priority than other relationships and activities.” She said it’s important that couples are each others best friend, “being the one person the other can always count on being emotionally safe.”
Eric Haselhorst: “Stewardship Best Practices”
“You want to do something that works?,” asked Eric Haselhorst, Director of the Stewardship Office. “This lecture has it. The information delivered has been taken directly from work completed by researcher Chuck Zech of Villanova University. He studied Catholic and Protestant Churches across the United States and found what works to increase parish stewardship.
“There are seven stewardship activities that have a direct impact on increasing each parish family members giving of time, spirituality, and treasure. Themes that have the biggest effect include: impact of a stewardship committee, impact of lay witnesses, parish stewardship formation and educational programs, impact of welcoming and community building activities, parish communication on stewardship, parish teaching on giving. Each topic included very practical ideas to engage each member of the parish where they are in their spiritual walk. For specific information, contact the stewardship office today!”