In 1992 the U.S. Catholic Bishops released a pastoral letter on stewardship entitled: “Stewardship: A Disciple’s Response.” The Bishops described a Christian steward as one who:
- Receives God’s gifts gratefully
- Cherishes and tends them responsibly
- Shares them in justice and love
- Returns them to God.
What is stewardship?
It is difficult to teach or practice stewardship, unless we have a clear understanding of exactly what stewardship is. If we wish to embrace stewardship, we must gradually learn to embrace every definition or aspect of stewardship.
- Scripture Based All of the teachings of stewardship come directly from the Gospels, the Old Testament and the letters of the New Testament. Stewardship is not a new fad, or environmental word. Stewardship is the way God has expected His people to live since the beginning of time.
- Dependence on God Stewardship is recognizing that everything we have is a gift from God. We can take credit for nothing. Everything we have and everything we do is a result of some gift that God has placed into our hands.
- Gratitude Stewardship is living a life of gratitude – taking the time every day to recognize the gifts that God has given and to be grateful for them.
- Giving Back Stewardship is returning a portion of our gifts to God. The gifts we return are our time, our talent and our treasure. We return these gifts not because God or our Church needs them but because we feel an overwhelming need to show our love and gratitude to God.
- Transformative Stewardship is transformative. Once we embrace the stewardship message it changes the way we look at every decision we make. Stewardship becomes a total way of life.
- A Love Response Once we allow God to truly take up residence in our hearts we become so overwhelmed by His abundant love for us that we just naturally feel the need to join our lives with Him and dedicate our time, talent and treasure to carrying out God’s work here on earth. Our generosity comes from within and not from any external pressure or reward.
- Proportionate Giving Stewardship calls us to realize that each of us is called to give as God has given to us. We no longer base our giving on what others are giving. We no longer excuse ourselves from giving because we do not see others giving. Rather we give in proportion to all that God has given to us.
- Prayer - Spending Time with God Stewardship involves spending time with God. Recognizing that every day is a gift from God, we strive to spend some of each day with God, through prayer, Mass, Eucharistic Adoration, scripture reading, quiet, meditation and other spiritual activities. During this time we ask God how He wants us to use the gifts He has given to us.
- Participation - Sharing Talent Stewardship involves sharing talent. Recognizing that God has given each individual unique skills and talents so that together we can do the work of Our Lord, we strive to share our own talents and to encourage and welcome others to also use their talents to participate in the mission and ministry of the Church.
- Generosity - Giving Treasure Stewardship involves giving treasure. Giving time and talent does not excuse us from giving treasure. Throughout the Gospels, Jesus challenged us to give as it has been given to us. Aware of our tremendous financial blessings, we strive to give generously to support the building up of God's kingdom. We recognize tithing as an important sacrificial goal Although this level of giving may not be immediately possible, we are aware of what percentage we are giving back. We regularly strive to increase our generosity, taking small incremental steps toward giving a full tithe.
- Trust in God Stewardship is trusting God. We believe that our generous God will always provide for us. None of us will ever have all that we want, but we will always have all that we need.
- Accountability Stewardship calls us to recognize that just as in the Parable of the Talents, each of us will someday be asked by God to give an accounting of all that we have done with the gifts that have been given to us. Likewise, parish communities that embrace stewardship must be accountable to the community for the way in which the parish uses the gifts entrusted to it.
- Thankfulness Stewardship calls us to be ever grateful for the gifts that God has given. Not only are we called to be grateful to God, but we also must be grateful to one another. Just as we thank God every day, a stewardship parish must also show gratitude, recognition and appreciation to those who have given generously to the support of the parish.
- Counter-Cultural Stewardship is counter-cultural. While society encourages us to continually strive for more and more, stewardship helps us to recognize that we already have more than enough. In fact, we have enough to share.
- Discipleship Stewardship is discipleship. We strive to put God first in all things and to follow where Our Lord might lead.
The 12 Gardens of Stewardship
by Bishop Robert Morneau
Auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Green Bay, WI
One of the authors of “Stewardship: A Disciple’s Response.”
-from Office of Stewardship, Archdiocese of Santa Fe
- GARDEN OF THE BODY
- Get proper nutrition, exercise and rest; avoid chemical abuse, smoking, obesity.
- GARDEN OF THE SOUL
- Cultivate a life of prayer.
- GARDEN OF FAMILY AND FRIENDS
- Take the time to nurture relationships with those important to you.
- GARDEN OF THE GLOBE
- Care for the environment; recycle; don’t waste natural resources.
- GARDEN OF EMOTIONS
- Aim for an emotional balance in life; work at being in good humor.
- GARDEN OF THE “POLIS”
- Be politically aware, be an informed and involved citizen and vote; participate in community meetings.
- GARDEN OF THE MIND
- GARDEN OF DECISIONS
- Make well-informed choices; work toward understanding and consensus; keep the vision and mission of Jesus in mind.
- GARDEN OF THE CHIP
- Use technology for good purposes.
- GARDEN OF HISTORY
- Know and value the thinks of the past; keep the lessons of history fresh in the mind.
- GARDEN OF THE ARTS
- Listen to, read, and watch the best in books, music, movies, theatre, artwork, radio and television.
- GARDEN OF MONEY
- Use financial resources well; set and keep a budget; set spending limits; ask how much money is enough.