My friend was attending Mass at the University of Notre Dame, just like any other weekend with her friends in graduate school. She was always drawn to this one particular priest who happened to be celebrating Mass that day. This priest was tall and large in stature, he had a boisterous voice that seemed to reach throughout the chapel easily, with or without a microphone. He had a way of drawing people in. His homilies always spoke to her, he remembered people’s names, and he knew about their studies. He celebrated the Eucharist like it was his last.
Mass was going along as normal, however, at the time of the offertory, Father seemed stunned. Right before the basket started to be passed, he abruptly stopped the ushers. After signaling to stop, he turned his stunned face to the students and said, “Oh my goodness, oh my goodness, I totally forgot!” Finally catching a breath, he calmly stated, “I know how hard it is to be a student sometimes, the pressure, the cost, the schedules. I appreciate your willingness to share what you can with our community. Thank you. And, as the basket goes around today, will you take from it? If you need something, just go ahead and take it.”
I know what you may be thinking. “Why would he be advocating for someone to take what is not theirs?” At some point or another in your life, you may find yourself taking from the offertory basket. I am not referring to taking cash from the basket, but what the basket represents. The offertory is so much more than the cash envelope one places in there. The offering is our opportunity to reflect on the life of a steward: How can I pray this week, how can I serve this week, and how can I give generously? It is the opportunity for us to realize just how blessed we are and how we can gratefully share those blessings. When you participate in the offertory, regardless if it is a cash donation or the commitment to pray and serve your parish, you are making a spiritual deposit into your faith life. The deposits over time add up. You will find yourself withdrawing from the deposit during your lifetime. How so? Think about the ministry life of the parish and all who support, teach, serve and give of themselves to make parish life happen. Each time we tap into that metaphorical parish account, by needing sacraments, prayers, support, or fellowship, we are withdrawing from our parish offering.
Many of the parishes in the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois are beginning a stewardship discernment process over the month of October. This Season of Stewardship is the opportunity to consider how you will respond to God’s call. Consider sharing your time in prayer with your parish family. Join the parish for Mass in person or online, make a commitment to go regularly, or to add time during the week to attend Mass. Consider your talents, the blessings God has given uniquely to you and how you might join a ministry in your parish. Do not be afraid to start a new ministry. Where you see a need, so will others. Acknowledge that all we have is graciously given by God, and consider how you might increase your generosity this year to your parish. Many parishes have been hurting during the COVID-19 pandemic, and if you are able, your increased financial support is incredibly helpful for your parish family at this time.
I could never repay what my home parish in Peoria provided to me when I made a large withdrawal from that parish in 2010. It was the year my father passed away when I witnessed what this metaphorical withdrawal process looked like. The many parishioners who offered prayers, cards, or dinners were plentiful and we needed the support the parish family was providing. I never “deposited” anything that could amount to the generosity that we received. I hope one day I can be there for another family who needs to make a withdrawal, and until then, I will keep making deposits into the account with my prayers, service, and giving.
Katie Price is the director of the office of Parish Vitality and Mission Advancement for the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois.