Msgr. Thomas McGread, a priest of the Diocese of Wichita, Kansas who formed Christian stewards in his many years of ministry, often said the textbook of stewardship is the Word of God. The Diocese of Wichita has developed a series called “The Spirituality of Stewardship” to help parishes form the next generation of stewards.
“This formation series is an attempt to help people understand that the heart of stewardship is the truth that God is love and God’s love is life itself,” Fr. Lanzrath said. “This year, 2010, is the 25th anniversary since the Diocese of Wichita embraced stewardship in 1985. We have a second generation now, if you will, and the formation has to precede the service,” he added.
When Bishop Michael O. Jackels became bishop of the diocese in 2005, Father Lanzrath said, he knew the diocese was a stewardship diocese but was surprised when the parishes he visited had various understandings of what stewardship is.
“So he came back to the diocesan stewardship council and asked us in 2007 to come up with a clear, concise, easily-remembered, teachable definition of stewardship in 25 words or less,” Fr. Lanzrath said.
The council worked for a number of months and crafted a sentence inspired by the U.S. bishops’ pastoral letter on the subject: “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.”
Father Lanzrath said with a common understanding of what stewardship is, he hopes his office will be able to use that as the base foundation for stewardship being lived in the parishes.
“Some people mistakenly think that stewardship is about the treasure or it’s some kind of development or fundraising,” he said. “But, as a spiritual way of life, once one chooses to become a disciple of Jesus Christ then stewardship is not an option – and that’s the opening sentence of the bishop’s pastoral letter. That once one chooses to become a disciple of Jesus Christ, then stewardship is not an option because we’re living our faith and sharing the gifts that God has given us and we’re doing it with the intention of love of God and love of neighbor.”
There’s a big difference, though, between giving for love of neighbor and giving out of obligation. Father Lanzrath hopes that message gets to everyone in the diocese.
“The stewardship council of each parish will be formed using this new formation series and then, it is hoped, that the stewardship council will facilitate this formation of all parish leaders.”
Pope Benedict XVI’s first encyclical was “Deus Caritas Est,” God is Love, Fr. Lanzrath said, and 1 John 4:16 states: “God is love and who ever abides in love abides in God and God abides in him.”
God’s life is love itself and God invites us to share in the life of God, Fr. Lanzrath added.
“And if we lose sight that our destination is the kingdom of God then we become lost,” he said. “In a special way during Lent, the focus of many of the readings are that we are on a journey and that journey is God’s kingdom. And if in fact we become lost on the way, we risk our eternal salvation.”
So stewardship is the response with a heart of gratitude to recognize and receive God’s gifts and share those gifts, Fr. Lanzrath said. “And again…why am I doing this? Because somebody tells me? No, I’m doing this out of love, a love of God and a love of neighbor.”
Printed with permission from The Catholic Advance, newspaper for the Diocese of Wichita.