From the Heart of the Shepherd
By Fr. David Hottinger, PES - Pastor
From the bulletin for the Twenty-Sixth Week in Ordinary Time (October 01, 2023)
Stewardship: Part One
Parishioner engagement, I’ve said, is a growth priority for the parish. “Engagement” is the degree to which we dedicate ourselves to growing in our communion with God (i.e. living out Christ’s call to holiness) and with one another (living out that calling as a parish family), and participating in the parish mission (to share that call with others).
St. Mark’s is, of course, already a parish characterized by an above-average degree of parishioner engagement. We are a relatively small parish with a relatively large amount of activity. In fact, volunteer and staff burnout is a real danger at the moment, resulting from too few people trying to do too much for too long.
How can I possibly believe, then, that we need to be more engaged? In the first place, while many are indeed already engaged, and some perhaps over-engaged, there remain a good percentage of parishioners who are under-involved. Don’t get me wrong: I am very happy you come each Sunday and that you faithfully drop your envelope in the basket. But that is just the beginning! Just as the purpose of our lives is to become saints, so the very fabric of our lives should be the Church, which is the communion of saints on earth, and which we come into contact with primarily through our local parish.
Secondly, it may not be a question of “more” engagement, but better engagement with the parish. Oftentimes, people get “burned out” because they are stuck doing something for which they are not gifted. This is not to say that our lives should be free of all drudgery and discomfort. But it is true that when we spend ourselves in the employment of our God-given gifts, we might end the day exhausted, but we are satisfied because of the fruitful labor God was pleased to do through us.
Each October at the Church of Saint Mark, we dive into the spirituality of Stewardship. “Stewardship,” at some parishes, simply codes for “giving money”. At St. Mark’s we take a more holistic view. It is founded on the recognition that everything we have, we have received from God. And everything He has given is for a holy purpose: His glory and the salvation of souls. Acknowledging this, we strive to be good stewards, knowing that one day we will have to render an account for how well we employed what was entrusted to us: our time, our natural abilities and spiritual gifts, and, yes, our share of material wealth of this world. Time, talent, and treasure. It’s not just alliterative. It’s true!
In fact, time, talent, and treasure map pretty exactly on to what I mean by “parishioner engagement.” Time we consider chiefly in relation to our pursuit of communion with God. How much of my time am I dedicating to prayer and spiritual practices? Is it sufficient to ensure that my relationship with God is the most important one of my life, a relationship in which I can come to know Him and His will for me and receive the grace I need to accomplish it?
By talent, we refer to our engagement with the life and work of our parish and our employment of our skills and gifts to build up that community. Here, some discernment is needed to match interests and gifts with opportunities and needs. And especially in the context of the Archdiocesan Synod, we should take care to ensure that we are first receiving (through a small group, faith formation opportunity, or membership with a social group) and only then giving (through volunteer work at the parish).
Finally, by treasure we of course mean each one’s free-will offering in support of the parish and other worthy causes. And, boy, do we have need of yours! In reality, the need is mutual: as Christians we all need to give to support the Church (10% is the biblical standard!); and as a parish, we need your support, since roughly 70% of our expenses are paid for by the weekly collection.
In the coming weeks, we will dedicate one Sunday to each of these three T’s. At the outset of this important month, however, I invite each of us to dedicate a little time to an examination of conscience in three steps on our employment of God’s manifold gifts: a) how am I making use of my time, talent, and treasure; b) how ought I be using them; and c) what must I do to bridge the gap between (a) and (b)?