Answering the invitation:
‘Our challenge is to help people see how much the
Church can benefit from what they have to share’
By David Myers
Southwest Kansas Register
Four questions were recently submitted to several priests of the diocese asking just how important parishioners are to the work of the parish.
The answers present a diocese brimming with gifts often taken for granted by the individual, but which can be beneficial in serving the parish, each other, and in so doing, bringing themselves closer to God.
The answers paint a picture of a people who perhaps don’t realize how gifted they truly are, and just how much the parish needs and appreciates them.
Do you think that there are gifts people have, that they don’t realize they have?
Father Warren Stecklein: “We definitely know there are many gifts and charisms within our people. Because of shyness, humility, a fear of drawing attention to themselves or criticism from other people – many of these gifts lay dormant. We also have the challenge of ‘thinking outside the box’. We have lifelong patterns, habits and routines that we are slow to change. It is more simple to place our energy in the same places we always have.”
Father Ted Stoecklein: “I know that the gifts are present. I believe that the Holy Spirit gives us all the gifts that are needed to accomplish the will of the Father. None of us has all of the gifts and everyone has some of the gifts. The key is to help people accept them, grow into them and offer them back to God in gratitude.”
Why is it beneficial for people to serve their parish?
Father Rene Guesnier: “Their faith is strengthened.”
Father Matthew Kumi: “The benefit is that they feel internally fulfilled and also receive compliments from parishioners for all the help they give.”
Father John Strasser: “Volunteers take a greater ownership and support of their parish and the larger church, even greater than the ownership and support which led them to volunteer in the first place. Volunteers also grow in appreciation for their fellow parishioners who also serve the parish and larger church.”
Father Rene Labrador: It develops their talents/skills; it gives them a sense of joy in serving the people/parish; it deepens their faith in God and deepens their love for the church; it develops their sense of generosity, sacrifice, fellowship and service to the people; they become role models to their children or the younger generation.
Father Warren Stecklein: “I believe for every person that chooses to share their gifts, time, talents and more, no less than 10 people are positively affected by the smallest thing they have to offer. In many cases, the entire parish and community is positively affected. Pope Francis has called all of us to evangelize. By sharing themselves with the parish, they are doing just that – evangelizing to family, neighbors and friends.”
What gifts have you seen in the people who serve the parish?
Father Rene Labrador: “The ability to work hard; ability to organize and lead a particular group of parishioners; ability to work with the youth; generosity to share their time/talents; gift of faith and deep concern for the good of the parish/church.”
Father Rene Guesnier: “Generosity and kindness. They do it freely and joyfully without extracting ‘a pound of flesh’. If they don’t serve freely I ask them not to serve in this capacity.
Father Matthew Kumi: “In St. Michael-La Crosse, Holy Trinity-Timken, and St. Joseph-Liebenthal, the parishioners have a listening skill. They are hardworking and enjoy volunteering to help in several ways. It’s enjoyable to work with them. In our annual Stewardship Renewal and other church events several people are ready to make presentations.
Father Warren Stecklein: We see many gifts from all facets of life. In many cases the gifts have not always been used for the Church, but in other areas of community and family life. Our challenge is to help people see how much the Church can benefit from what they have to share, and by offering them through the Church, they can impact even more lives.
What do you or your parishes do to invite people to serve the parish in some capacity?
Father Rene Labrador: “Bulletin announcement; sign-up form; I write a personal letter of invitation to parishioners (especially those serving in the parish commissions and councils); I also give them a phone call.”
Father Warren Stecklein: “Our Stewardship Council is in the process of preparing ministry renewal forms for this fall’s stewardship campaign. At this time it is by personal invitation from me, council members, our religious sisters, and lay ministers. We have also included invitations in our bulletins and newsletters.”
Father Ted Stoecklein: “I know that I could do better than what I’m doing, and I’m sure I’m not alone on this. I think most parishes have some form of survey that they use to encourage people to volunteer. Sometimes I’ve seen advertisements in the bulletin asking for volunteers. But I think these means have limited success. I think most people are waiting for a personal invitation and an acknowledgment of their gifts before they take ownership of getting involved.”