My dear brothers and sisters in Christ:
The 10th declaration of our fourth diocesan synod states: “As a diocese committed to discipleship and stewardship, the community of Catholic faithful recognizes that everything we have comes from God and that He has given us gifts not just to use them for ourselves but also to share them with others. As faithful and generous stewards of God’s abundant gifts, those committed to discipleship and stewardship as a way of life pledge to share their talents, give of their time and contribute proportionately from their financial resources for the good of the church and those in need.”
This declaration makes clear the connection between discipleship and stewardship. The word “disciple” comes from the Latin word “disco,” which is not a dance, but means “I learn.” A disciple is someone who learns from someone else. A disciple of Jesus is someone who follows Jesus in order to learn from him and live accordingly.
A “steward” is a person whose responsibility it is to take care of something, specifically, a person employed to manage another’s property. As followers of Jesus, we learn that everything we have comes from God our Father. God not only created everything, but in a real sense he still owns everything. We are only caretakers of creation given the responsibility to manage the affairs of this world.
This is a radically different way of looking at things. If you ask most people who is it that owns their possessions, they would answer, “I do.” If you ask them who is responsible for acquiring these possessions, they would answer, “I am.” In contrast, if you ask a follower of Jesus who has embraced the discipleship and stewardship way of life who owns their possessions, they would answer, “God does.” If you ask them who is responsible for acquiring these possessions, they would answer, “God is, and he has given me these gifts to take care of them for him.”
The 10th synodal declaration also recognizes that our stewardship of God’s creation involves more than money. It includes our time and talent as well. Thus we say, “As faithful and generous stewards of God’s abundant gifts, those committed to discipleship and stewardship as a way of life pledge to share their talents, give of their time and contribute proportionately from their financial resources for the good of the church and those in need.” Some people have much talent to share, others may have more time (especially senior citizens who are retired and whose children are grown), while still others may be in a position to be more financially generous than others.
St. Paul wrote in chapter nine of his second letter to the Corinthians, “Each must do as already determined, without sadness or compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. Moreover, God is able to make every grace abundant for you, so that in all things, always having all you need, you may have an abundance for every good work … . The one who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You are being enriched in every way for all generosity, which through us produces thanksgiving to God, for the administration of this public service is not only supplying the needs of the holy ones but is also overflowing in many acts of thanksgiving to God.”
In the past few years we in our diocese have been learning more about the discipleship and stewardship way of life thanks to the helpful sharing of clergy and laity from the diocese of Wichita. People from our diocese have gone to Wichita to learn from them and folks from Wichita have come to our diocese to present workshops on discipleship and stewardship. While the diocese of Wichita did not invent stewardship, they are certainly at the forefront in providing a model for the stewardship way of life. There is also nothing unique about the diocese of Wichita that would account for their success other than their taking this way of life seriously. The diocese of Wichita defines 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.” I am confident that we can do this in the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois and indeed everywhere throughout the church if we set our minds and hearts to this with the help of God.
May God give us this grace. Amen.