From the Heart of the Shepherd
By Fr. David Hottinger, PES - Pastor
From the bulletin for the Twenty-Ninth Week in Ordinary Time (October 22, 2023)
Stewardship: Part Four
I went to college without much of a plan for my education. Including by which major the stem cell of my life would begin to be specialized. So I fell victim to the first subject that fascinated me. It was macroeconomics. So the Plinko chip began to fall towards priesthood!
What captivated me was the notion that money is a store of value. Before cash, one’s work is “trapped” in the product of your labors. The work of a fisherman produces, alas, just a bunch of fish. However many hours the painter paint, he shall never generate (himself) anything with which he can feed his family. But with the advent of currency--be it clamshells or coins--labor is liberated. Like a lithium battery that can be charged and depleted, money (when honestly obtained!) is endowed with the power of our work, which it can apply towards anything money can buy. Now although dad is an insurance agent, the sweat of his brow and cramps of his hands can obtain food for the table, schooling for the children, and even (oh the joy!) help to finance the national government.
Do not believe, therefore, that money is unholy or unspiritual. It is as holy as the uses towards which we put it, as spiritual as ourselves when we earn or spend it! By how we spend our money, in a real sense we determine towards what our work is contributing: producing widgets and no more, swelling the kingdom of our selfishness, building up the kingdom of men, or advancing the Kingdom of the Lord of Heaven and Earth!
The world provides many opportunities for the first three options. St. Mark’s, while not the only one, is at least a good option for ensuring your work (and that of your forefathers) is put to not just a holy purpose, but the greatest one imaginable: the worship of God and the salvation of souls! Dollars given to the parish are put towards three holy buckets: who we are (personnel), what we do (parish apostolate), and where we do it (our beautiful but dated facilities). Whatever your profession and however many clamshells you control, we invite you to collaborate in our labor for the Kingdom through the marvel that is your money! In fact, your collaboration is not just welcome, it is most necessary! A little less than half our operating budget comes from fundraising and rental income, and we hope to grow those income streams according to our possibilities. Nevertheless, well over half of our ordinary expenses, and all of the extraordinary, are covered by contributions from the faithful, in the form of the Sunday collection and one-time gifts and bequests.
I won’t sugarcoat it: the needs of the parish are great! Years of deferred maintenance have left us with a string of expensive repair projects (bricks, roofs, and boilers, oh my!) and a long laundry list of work to be done. Years of maintaining the school has left us a couple of million of dollars due to the Archdiocese for unpaid assessments. But we don’t want to just get back to even: we want to grow! Improve and update our facilities, grow our bare-bones staff and over-extended volunteer base, transform our corner of prime real estate into an oasis of holiness, truth, beauty and Catholic activity from which the Gospel emanates and to which the “tribes” of Merriam Park are irresistibly attracted to be transformed and incorporated into the Body of Christ and Kingdom of God. A place where people find purpose and healing, children are educated in the faith, and the poor have the Good News proclaimed to them.
And so, a word of encouragement. Help the parish grow by growing your giving! At the financial pledge next weekend, take that leap of faith by moving towards tithing your gross income; if you are currently giving 2% move towards 5. If you are throwing a twenty in the basket each weekend, sign up for electronic giving and prayerfully determine how much of your work and wealth you want to put towards building the Kingdom at St. Mark’s. And if all you are down to your last two widow’s pennies and know not whence your meal shall come tomorrow… well, know that you have a blessed and tangible opportunity to place all your trust in the Lord and “dare” Him, as it were, to let you down, which from all eternity He has yet to do for those who trust in His love!