What makes a stewardship diocese different from other dioceses?

What we’ve learned about Stewardship
By Fr. Ken Van Haverbeke
The Office of Stewardship in the Diocese of Wichita receives many questions about the diocesan practice of stewardship. What they are often really asking is: How is a stewardship diocese different? In what ways is the Diocese of Wichita implementing stewardship differently?
In response, we have composed the following thoughts. These elements may not be exclusive to the Diocese of Wichita, but are certainly found here:
• Stewardship in the Diocese of Wichita is well defined, as opposed to being vague. We have defined stewardship as “The grateful response of a Christian disciple who recognizes and receives God’s gifts and shares these gifts in love of God and neighbor.”
• Stewardship is a “climate” in the Diocese of Wichita. A climate is often defined as a “prevailing condition or environment.” The prevailing environment in the Diocese of Wichita is that as disciples of Jesus Christ, we share our gifts generously, sacrificially, and proportionately, in a committed manner, in love of God and neighbor. Outside of this environment, we wither and die spiritually.
• Stewardship in the Diocese of Wichita is a spirituality, meaning stewardship is not about funding ministries. Stewardship is not a gimmick to get money for worthy causes. It’s about eternal salvation. It’s about heaven or hell. It’s about accepting God’s gifts and using them, not burying them or hoarding them. It’s about our baptismal call.
• Stewardship in the Diocese of Wichita is preached year round especially by the bishop. Since the diocese collectively decided to be a stewardship diocese in 1985, we have received three different bishops since then. Each bishop has embraced the Stewardship Way of Life, and has preached it in his own words, using his own experiences to explain it. Even though each bishop is unique, the message remains constant because the message is from the Gospel. It is a simple message: Everything we have is a gift from God, and we will be held accountable for how we have used these gifts. (Matthew 25:14–30)
• Stewardship in the Diocese of Wichita is not just in certain parishes. We live the Stewardship Way of Life in rural and urban parishes, English/Vietnamese/Spanish speaking parishes; all parishes, because once one decides to follow Jesus, stewardship is not an option; and all of our parishes follow Jesus.
• Stewardship in the Diocese of Wichita is not seen as money, but contributing our money is seen as act of stewardship. Money represents security. When we sacrificially, generously give a proportion of our income, this is an act of trust in the Lord. Parishioners tithe to their parish; parishes tithe to the Diocese; and the Diocese tithes to the Universal Church. All of us are placing our security not in our bank savings but in the Lord!
• Stewardship in the Diocese of Wichita is proclaimed and preached by the laity, not just the priests. It is the leadership of the parishioners in the pew which brings the message of stewardship to other parishioners.
They speak a common language of worries about children, employment, and bills. It is through the laity of the diocese that stewardship is preached primarily. This is accomplished through our Catholic schools, PSR classes, Lay Witness talks, sacramental preparation, and simply one on one
• In the Diocese of Wichita, development is seen as an act of stewardship. Our parish and diocesan ministry budgets do not depend solely upon development. We have no annual Bishop’s appeal, but the Bishop appeals to the parishioners to be a grateful steward for one’s ongoing holiness. Our development opportunities build on the foundation of stewardship. Development provides opportunities for parishioners to share their gifts, by informing, inspiring, and inviting stewards to give to specific needs that might not be otherwise recognized. For us, development is an act of stewardship.
• Finally, in the Diocese of Wichita, nickel and dime fundraising is strongly discouraged. The Diocese of Wichita made a collective decision in 1985 to stop relying upon fundraising to pay for the various missions of the church.
Instead, each family and each parishioner was asked to sacrificially, generously, and proportionately tithe a portion of their income. No more Bingo! No more selling of candy. No more operating a restaurant out of the parish buildings, and no more second collections at Mass to fund a worthy project.
As a diocese, we promised if parishioners would simply tithe generously, sacrificially, and proportionately, the diocese and parish would not “nickel and dime” them with fundraisers and second collections.
This does not mean the youth group will not have a car wash, or that the Knights of Columbus won’t give out candy, but it does mean our parishes will not depend upon fundraising to pay for its ministries; rather they will depend upon stewardship tithing. Repetitively having fundraisers, nickel and diming people for funds is a sure way to hurt stewardship as a way of life because of the sole focus upon money.
These are just a few ways the Diocese of Wichita implements stewardship which may be different from other dioceses.
In recognizing the blessings we have received, and realizing the challenges of continued growth in the Lord through the stewardship way of life, our diocese must not become arrogant or proud because of the fruits we have received. In fact, “Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more.” (Luke 12:48)
Continued growth in the stewardship as a way of life will be challenging, but if we continue to choose to become a disciple of Jesus Christ, stewardship will not be an option.
Always a challenge, always a blessing, for it means that we are being led by the Holy Spirit. This means we must love and trust enough, to have as our only security, his guidance.