Column: Gratitude is the foundation of a spirituality of stewardship


by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann

Barry Clayton, one of our seminarians, studying at KenrickGlennon Seminary in St. Louis, is doing a pastoral year serving in St. Joseph Parish in Josephville, Mo. The Archdiocese of St. Louis is completing a $50 million campaign for capital improvements for the seminary, as well as building an endowment to help fund its operational expenses.

At a gathering of our Kansas City, Kan., seminarians over the Christmas holidays, Barry related a story about a third-grade boy who is a member of St. Joseph Parish. Last year, the boy received his first holy Communion. He received $150 in gifts from family and friends. The boy wanted to give all that he had received away. He gave $75 to the Missionaries of Charity who serve the poorest of the poor in North St. Louis. Hearing about the seminary campaign at Sunday Mass, he decided to give the other $75 to the seminary.

Barry brought the boy to the seminary so that he could personally present his gift to the seminary rector, Msgr. Ted Wojcicki. The rector and the entire seminary community were very touched by the boy’s generosity. With his obvious interest in the seminary and love for priests, Msgr. Wojcicki asked the boy if he was considering a priestly vocation. The boy said that actually he wanted to be pope, but he seemed to understand that it would be best for him first to be ordained a priest.

While it seems unlikely that this young man will be the first American pope and slightly more probable that some day he will actually become a priest, he certainly has a well-developed understanding of stewardship. Obviously, he could have chosen to spend his first Communion money on games or toys that he would enjoy. With wisdom beyond his years, he chose to give the gifts that he had first received to help the poor and to assist with the formation of future priests.

During these weeks of January, you are being asked in your parishes to make a donation to our annual Archbishop’s Call to Share campaign (ACTS). Call to Share is the financial life stream for many of our archdiocesan pastoral and charitable ministries.

ACTS helps Catholic Charities provide emergency assistance to those suffering during these difficult economic times. Call to Share provides scholarships for students attending our Catholic elementary schools, as well as helps to fund formation opportunities for Catholic school teachers and catechists teaching in Schools of Religion. ACTS provides financial support to our campus ministry programs at the University of Kansas, Emporia State College and Washburn University. Call to Share provides funding for Prairie Star Ranch (our archdiocesan youth camp) as well as funds our youth ministry office, which brought to Kansas City this past November the National Catholic Youth Conference. ACTS funds our prolife ministries, helping to provide abortion alternatives to those facing a crisis pregnancy. Call to Share supports our Hispanic ministry efforts, making it possible for the church to reach out to our brothers and sisters in Christ who are recent immigrants.

This list could go on and on. Suffice it to say that much of the pastoral work of the church of northeast Kansas depends on the success of our annual Call to Share campaign.

I have been gratified by the generous support the Catholic community of northeast Kansas provides to the church. However, last year during these difficult economic times, I was particularly heartened by the generosity of so many throughout the Archdiocese. Realizing with higher than normal unemployment rates more people would be unable to give and more families would be requesting assistance from the church, many individuals increased their donation to ACTS.

The foundation for the spirituality of stewardship is gratitude. It is the realization that everything we possess is ultimately God’s gift to us. Our life, our health, our talents and abilities, our families and friendships, our educational and employment opportunities find their ultimate source in God.

We honor God by using his gifts to provide properly for ourselves and our families. At the same time, the Lord is asking each of us to give a portion of what he has entrusted to us to support the mission of his Church and to help others. Many people wonder: With the responsibilities to support and care for their own family, what is the Lord asking me to give to his church and to charity?

The answer to that question is a personal one for each of us. In this area, as with every dimension of our life, we need to pray, asking God to enlighten our decisions.

A guideline that many Catholics find helpful is to give 10 percent of what God has provided to them to the church and charity. Many choose to give five percent to their parish, one percent to ACTS, and the remaining four percent to other charities of their choosing.

Please pray over what the Lord is asking you to give Call to Share this year. The more he has blessed us, the more generous we are called to be. For those unemployed at this time, your very valuable gift will be to pray for the success of ACTS and the fruitfulness of all the ministries it funds.

Unlike the third-grader in Josephville, God is probably not asking any of us to give 100 percent of his gifts to Call to Share. However, the Lord is asking each of us to make some sacrificial gift.

Think about it. Even more, pray about it. If we each do that and follow what God reveals to us in our prayer, I am confident that Call to Share will succeed again this year — but more importantly, the church in northeast Kansas will continue to thrive.

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