Wednesday, 17 October 2012 14:13
By Fr. Ken Van Haverbeke
I wasn’t quite sure why they were here. Were they looking for a parish church? Or a private school? This is a question every pastor with a parochial grade and high school must ask himself. That and – if their motives today are not the truest – can they be developed?
The couple before me were good people, concerned about the welfare of their children. Not fully practicing their Catholic faith, but seemed sincere. Yet, I was not fully sure whether they were looking for a parish community or a good safe school community for their children.
The Diocese of Wichita is distinct in her understanding of stewardship. We understand stewardship is the grateful response of a Christian disciple who recognizes and receives God’s gifts and shares these gifts in love of God and neighbor.
We understand stewardship is not about funding a mission, even if that mission is awesome, such as feeding the hungry at the Lord’s Diner, caring for the unemployed at Catholic Charities, educating children in the ways of the faith in our Catholic schools, or serving immigrants at our Hispanic ministry. No, stewardship is about our identity. We are grateful Christian disciples. Only from this identity flows our mission.
For active stewards in a parish, the parish does everything possible to include parishioners in the mission of the parish. This mission may be helping parishioners with rent or utilities through the St. Vincent de Paul society; this may mean providing sacraments, confessions, and other spiritual helps; this may mean providing excellent Catholic schools and religious education for children and adults at affordable costs.
But sometimes prospective parishioners see the mission of the Church and desire to participate in the mission, instead of Her identity. When this happens, we all fail. Saint Peter experienced this. He denied or forgot his identity. “Weren’t you with him?” But he denied it. (Luke 22:56-57) Peter was on a mission, trying to follow Jesus even when Jesus was arrested, but he denied his identity: a disciple of Christ.
When we forget our identity, then The Lord’s Diner, our charity, schools, and other services simply become social services.
After some prayer and further conversation with the couple wishing to join the parish and have their four children attend our Catholic grade school and high school, I prayerfully welcomed the family into the parish and into the parish school.
One of the joys of being at a parish for more than one generation is to see the fruit of one’s labor. Eventually not only did I welcome this couple and their children into the parish and her mission of Catholic school, feeding the hungry, and sacramental life, I had the honor of welcoming their grandchildren too!
Stewardship. A lifelong journey. Not something finished after you are fed, educated, or grown up.