30 September 2011
How is our parish or school community faring in terms of stewardship? What can we do to make stewardship more ‘intentional’?
These questions were just two of the many facing participants at the two-day Stewardship Institute in Wellington at the end of August, attended by more than 320 people from each parish of the archdiocese as well as from other dioceses and chaplaincies.
Opening the event, Henare Walmsley of Te Kainga marae (Maori chaplaincy), welcomed guest presenters Ed and April Laughlin from Florida, US, in a powhiri which began with the sound of the purerehua (butterfly) and the putatara (shell conch). Dianne Tapara, also from Te Kainga, performed the Karanga.
In his welcome, Archbishop John Dew said he had attended a similar conference in Australia two years ago. Afterwards, he realised how much stewardship challenged him to live a life of discipleship and not just talk about it. ‘People say we are already doing this – and this is a regular response.’ While this was true, ‘if we are open, this will become more intentional’.
Throughout the weekend, the Laughlins developed this theme of intentional stewardship, sharing their understanding of its being a giving of ‘time, talents and treasures’. It was not a programme, but rather ‘a total philosophy of life and spirituality, an attitude of gratitude.’
The couple’s conversion to this attitude of gratitude came out of a life-changing event, an accident in which their toddler son suffered third-degree burns. (He is now a healthy adult with his own family.) The experience led to a life of giving out of gratitude, not from a sense of obligation or duty, and moving out from their own family to the school and parish family. They spoke of ‘radical gratitude versus perpetual dissatisfaction’, explaining that instead of the current culture of complaining, Christians were called to ‘gratitude and generosity’.
The couple’s willingness to share their own struggle caught the attention of Kamilo Lui of St Bernadette’s Naenae. ‘I appreciated that all the points April and Ed covered came from things they had experienced themselves in their life – and that’s what grabbed me.’
Roy Scoon, chair of St Joseph’s Upper Hutt, summed up the challenge of making stewardship intentional as: ‘For us the opportunity is to build up a stronger relationship, bringing the school and parish community into one.’ He liked the idea of asking college students who were former pupils at the local primary school to become mentors to the younger children. ‘Otherwise you have silos and no one talks to each other.’
The key for Shane Connolly of St Anne’s, Newtown, was that ‘the giving is out of gratitude – recognising the things that we take for granted and being grateful and encouraging others to be grateful.’
That parishes were already doing much of what the Laughlins spoke of – albeit under a different name – was an often heard comment. A Parish Stewardship Report Card gave participants an opportunity to reflect on how well their parishes were doing. Asked about life in the archdiocese in terms of stewardship, Director of Pastoral Services Lorraine McArthur said that many programmes fitted the criteria for stewardship in action.
The sense of hospitality and belonging was alive in all its schools. She cited St Theresa’s in Plimmerton where the school community has a powhiri for each new entrant. At St Bernadette’s in Naenae, the lay pastoral leader and the school principal planned together to minister to people in both parish and school. Side-by-side mentoring had also ‘really taken off in our parishes’.
Parish schools working more closely with parishes was something Ingrid Jacobs, from St Teresa’s, Karori, was keen to explore further. ‘We regularly have class Masses in the church along with parishioners, but I’d like to look at finding ways for the children to mingle more and get to know parishioners better.’ She envisaged having children invite parishioners back to the school for refreshments, and showing them around. This could lead to older parishioners becoming a ‘Grandparent buddy’ – especially valuable for children whose grandparents live overseas. ‘Older people have a lot to offer, for example, coming into the class rooms to read to pupils. We could start slowly.’
Principal at St Joseph’s in Levin Stasia Kennedy said the school was already running a merit award system at the school similar to that described by the Laughlins. Service was a fundamental part of the Award for Excellence and involved service to the parish and school and the wider community. The school also has four student leaders and a school kaupapa around ‘living wholly’, based on seven ‘resiliencies’, with one term each year based on stewardship. The challenge was ‘to go back and re-frame some of our other programmes around the concept of stewardship.’
For Heath Hutton, Ss Peter and Paul, Johnsonville, much of what is done at Challenge 2000 where he works, would definitely fit under the term stewardship. ‘We try to live this each day: social justice, social responsibility and enabling the dignity of each person. It was a good reminder.’ But he had also been challenged to look further than the parish and the schools. ‘So how do we be stewards to people who are not in these places?’ A session on ‘Possessing Loosely’ – things, people, traditions and the past, and to let go of these and let God – also struck a chord for him.
Another common theme among participants was a new desire to change what they were doing in their parishes or schools from ‘good to great’.
Andrew Kim of Our Lady of Grace, Heretaunga planned to talk with his parish community about the possibility of a stewardship committee which would enable several parishes to work under one umbrella.
Vicar for Maori Mgr Gerard Burns said the idea of stewardship could relate to a number of concepts and practices in Maori life such as kaitiakitanga (guardianship), whanaungatanga (family) and manaakitanga (hospitality). This will be taken by Maori participants at the Institute to hui around the diocese.
How the fruits and guidance of the Stewardship Institute will blossom in the archdiocese remains to be seen. Guest speaker Ed Laughlin summed it up for Wel-com: ‘As our family reached out in stewardship ministry, our children worked alongside us. In the car one time after a workshop, one of them said, “Do you really think we make a difference?” What we concluded after discussion was that the bottom line is that you are planting seeds. There’s an old proverb that says, “Wise people plant seeds under whose trees they may never sit.” We are planting seeds – we may not know the outcome.’
For more information: www.stewardship.org.nz
• Called and Gifted workshops are planned for around the archdiocese.
• A stewardship retreat is to be held towards the end of this year.