by Jessica Langdon
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — To put it in Facebook parlance, the status of a good steward of the Catholic faith might be aptly described as: “In a relationship.”
And that relationship is with Jesus.
“We know that when our hearts are in love, they expand. They expand in charity toward others,” said Msgr. Gregory R. Mikesch, vice rector of Kenrick-Glennon Seminary in St. Louis.
“A heart that lives in prayer,” he continued, “is a heart that is in a relationship with Jesus Christ.”
Msgr. Mikesch’s address, entitled “The Grateful Heart Has Been Touched by Love,” was delivered April 19 to several hundred Catholics gathered at Savior Pastoral Center in Kansas City, Kan., for the International Catholic Stewardship Council’s Region IX conference.
The daylong conference brought together clergy, religious and laity from a four-state area, and included prayer, Mass and opportunities to delve into ways to share the gifts they have been given with others.
“True stewardship,” Msgr. Mikesch told the group, is “being open to receiving, letting the Word dwell within us, and then bringing forth the gift.”
He told the crowd about a moment in his childhood when his father ran to rescue him from a river’s rapids after he abandoned his inner tube in the rushing water.
“To this day, I can feel his hand on my shoulder. When I felt his hand, I knew I was safe,” he said.
That and many other moments sealed his relationship with his father, he said, and he hoped others would feel the same thing in their relationship with God.
“We have been blessed in so many ways with gifts we have received,” he said. “I hope and pray that you can feel the touch of the Father’s hand upon your hearts.”
Smaller sessions focused on issues related to the new evangelization and stewardship, best practices within parishes, formation, and stewardship within the Hispanic community.
Bishop James D. Conley of the Diocese of Lincoln, Neb., celebrated Mass, which was concelebrated by Bishop Edward J. Weisenburger of the Diocese of Salina and a number of priests who attended the event.
Bishop Conley described a call during the Year of Faith to reach hearts through an evangelical spirit, sharing the message of salvation with a wider audience.
He drew upon Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s first encyclical during his homily.
“He talks about how the holy sacrifice of the Mass was meant to draw us out of
ourselves, take us out of ourselves in a dynamic of self-giving united to Christ’s self-gift to us,” he said.
Touching on the work of both Pope Benedict and Blessed John Paul II, he pointed out that “it’s only in giving that we really discover ourselves.”
The conference also called on the audience to memorize the “Seven Pillars of Evangelization,” presented by Chris Stewart and Tony Brandt of the lay apostolate called Casting Nets.
The pillars range from being prayerful — modeled on actions Jesus himself took in every pivotal moment of his life — to being genuinely hospitable and inspirational.
Being “formational,” explained Brandt, is about introducing Jesus to others and walking with them.
Through simple conversation, he once built relationships with a group of teenagers who were helping him build a deck.
“Is there a difference in the way a Catholic builds a deck? Is there a difference in the way that a Catholic golfs?” he asked. “I hope so. I hope that the way we do everything is different. The way that we talk to each other, the way that we communicate with each other.”
Stewart said when people experience something good, they want to share it, whether it’s a restaurant or a movie. They want others to experience it.
“There is nothing more good, more true, more beautiful than Our Lord,” he said.
This desire to evangelize, agreed Michael Murphy, executive director of the ICSC, is at the heart of all stewardship efforts.
“We are a window that other people look through and see God at work,” he said. “We also believe that stewardship is the Eucharist in action.”
Weekend liturgies offer the greatest example of stewardship, he said. From the priest “who has given his life for the people gathered around the eucharistic table” to the deacons, servers, musicians, lectors and others, they have all gathered to enable every Catholic to have a “meaningful, substantive encounter” with Jesus.
“So the great stewardship question that we have to ask is: ‘If they can do all of that for us, what did we do during the week to bring our gifts to the table?’”
The International Catholic Stewardship Council will take place Sept. 22-25 in Dallas. For information or to register, visit the ICSC website at: www.catholicstewardship.org.