A Reflection on Stewardship and Financial Perception- Survey Series #10

Corresponds to Question 37 – 41 of the survey.

The financial health and vitality of your parish is in your hands.

I spent 25 years in the investment business. The thought that I’d one day be sitting here as the CFO of the Archdiocese never entered my head. I also never imagined that despite my previous career success, it would be this job that would demand more of my MBA than any other. “God put me in this job to teach me patience and humility.” That’s what I tell everyone.  There were only two finance guys in Jesus’ life: Matthew was a tax collector and Judas held the purse for the apostles. Patience and humility…

My wife and I have always been faithful and generous donors to our church and other charities. But it wasn’t until the capital campaign a few years back that I truly understood the connection between stewardship and the mission and growth of our parish. Our pastor laid out a vision: the goal of the campaign was to invest in a future “empty seat.” It was the empty seat that God wanted to provide in our new church for someone who was not yet here. If we made that investment, we’d make that space available. I realized then it wasn’t about a building: it was about the disciples we were going to make. Father then told us to ask God what we should give and to prayerfully consider the impact HE was asking us to make.

The rich and storied tradition of the Catholic Church has been perpetuated over the centuries by generations of families changing their communities through their gifts of time, talent, and treasure.  It is the foundation of every Catholic community in the Archdiocese. And yet, at its very core, it is about what Christ intended it to be from the very beginning: disciples intent on fulfilling His call each and every day to bring more people to Him.

I have seen it in action in our parishes on Sunday, when parishioners travel far and wide to add their voices to the chorus at Mass that unites us in communion across the world. I have seen it in the volunteers preparing meals in their parish communities to be served to the hungry at Our Daily Bread. I have seen it in our neighborhoods where schools and charitable programs are providing a safe and formative environment to prepare our youth for brilliant futures. I have seen this and so much more. At the center of all of this was the parish community, led by a dynamic priest convening dedicated legions of faithful followers to fulfill the great commission given to us so many years ago. We wanted to give to that!

As my wife, Mary and I were considering our gift, she told me the story of the parish priest at Little Flower where she grew up. He was a prolific fundraiser because he was determined in setting the vision for his local church community. It was personal for him and for his parishioners. She recalled her father’s story of parishioners asking the pastor what the church needed even when he did not ask them. They were so invested in the growth of their community that they were determined to know and support its needs. They were united with their pastor in understanding the present and securing the future of their parish. Mary said we needed to do the same. Let’s trust the vision laid out by our priest: invest the gifts that only God can provide and watch the disciples grow!

Some questions to ask ourselves as our parishes prepare our mission readiness statements and look to become every more effective centers forming missionary disciples:

  1. Do our parishioners truly understand the mission and needs of our parish and the broader Church?
  2. Does our giving fulfill a call to use our resources in a way that glorifies God?
  3. Does our giving represent a desire to invest the gifts that God has given us?
  4. Is the financial condition of the parish transparent to the parishioners?
  5. Are the fundraising efforts of the parish widely shared and engaged with enthusiasm and pride? Is it connected to the core mission of the Church to make disciples?
  6. Does our plan envision those future disciples and new members of our parish? Are we answering the call to join our pastor in growing the church?

I keep a quote on my desk that reminds me why we do what we do. It is from Fr. Walter Ciszek’s book He Leadeth Me:

“Yet in God’s providence, here we are. This was the place he had chosen for us, the situation and the circumstances in which he had placed us. One thing we could do and do daily: we could seek first the kingdom of God and his justice – first of all in our own lives and then in the lives of those around us. From the time of the apostles – twelve simple men, alone and afraid, who had received the commission to go forth into the world to preach the good news of the kingdom – there has been no other way for the spreading of the kingdom than by the acts and lives of individual Christians striving each day to fulfill the will of God.”

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