by Joe Bollig
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — In a keynote speech peppered with wit, wisdom and Scripture — and delivered in his own inimitable style — Archbishop Emeritus James P. Keleher gave the keynote presentation at a symposium held here on a topic near and dear to his heart: stewardship.
Archbishop Keleher spoke at “A Symposium on Stewardship: A Disciple’s Response,” on April 21 in the Keleher Center at Savior Pastoral Center.
The event celebrated the 25th anniversary of the publication of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ pastoral letter, “Stewardship: A Disciple’s Response.”
Approximately 130 people involved in Catholic stewardship from Region IX (Kansas, Missouri, Iowa and Nebraska) attended the event.
The symposium was hosted by the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas stewardship and development office and the International Catholic Stewardship Council.
Archbishop Keleher was a member of the USCCB Ad Hoc Committee on Stewardship that wrote the 1992 pastoral letter on the subject. He began by quoting fellow committee member Bishop John J. McRaith, who said, “Once one chooses to become a disciple of Jesus, stewardship is no longer an option.”
He recalled the Gospel story of how Andrew and John heard John the Baptist call Jesus “the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world,” and then they began to follow Jesus and became his disciples.
“What we need to be first is a disciple,” said Archbishop Keleher. “If you really are his disciple, and you know what he wants of you in this life, you’re going to do it. That’s why it comes before stewardship. You’ll be a steward if you really are a disciple.”
Building on a comment by Pope Benedict, Archbishop Keleher said that one must pray and have a prayer life to know what God wants you to do with your life and truly be a disciple.
But to be a good steward, one must also appreciate the gift of human life.
“As a disciple and a steward, we hold human life precious,” he said. “I am buoyed up to a degree by how, more and more, Americans are becoming aware of how important it is to preserve all human life. I think stewardship has helped me understand that we have to fight for life, so fight. We can’t give in.”
Catholics are initiated as stewards by the grace of baptism, he said. When candidates are baptized at the Easter Vigil, they receive those graces of baptism and the Eucharist.
“Good stewards will make sure they understand their responsibilities as a minister of the body and blood of their Lord and Savior,” said Archbishop Keleher.
During an “ad limina” visit to Pope John Paul II, Archbishop Keleher was impressed by how the late pope (now a saint) would spend a long time in a prayer of thanksgiving for receiving the Eucharist.
A good steward, said Archbishop Keleher, also appreciates how time is used. Use the time of your life to get closer to Jesus.
“I tell kids at confirmation, ‘Kids, there are two roads you can take,’” said Archbishop Keleher. “‘The first road is the “wide road” Jesus talked about. On that road, everything goes and looks very attractive. . . . The problem is at the end of this road is destruction of body and soul.’
“‘The “narrow road” can be a little difficult at times, but Jesus is walking there with you. If you get off the road for a time, he is always calling you back to get back on that road.’”
“‘That road,’” he continued, “‘leads to paradise. That road is fulfilling. That road is for stewards and real believers in Jesus Christ.’
“‘That’s the road to take, kids.’”
The archbishop said he tells the confirmandi to “pray for fortitude” to follow the narrow road.
He then ended his address with: “God loves us so much and gives us everything. God bless you!”