March 12, 2017
by Leisa Anslinger, author and co-founder of Catholic Strengths and
Engagement Community (CSEC), reprinted with the permission of International Catholic Stewardship Council
From the outset of the US Bishops’ pastoral letter,
Stewardship: A Disciple’s Response, we are asked to look honestly at the challenge of teaching stewardship and the choices those who walk the stewardship path must face. They name many of the “isms” of contemporary society, and speak of the temptation to be “of” the world, prioritizing the things valued by our surrounding Western culture. Additionally, the bishops name the challenge of trying to build up the Christian community in a time that prizes individualism: “For example, although religious people often speak about community, individualism infects the religious experience of many persons. Parishes, dioceses and church institutions appear impersonal and alienating in the eyes of many. Evangelization is not the priority it should be. How to use people’s gifts and charisms, how to empower the laity, how to recognize the role of women, how to affirm racial, cultural, and ethnic minorities, how to overcome poverty and oppression— these and countless other issues remain vexing questions, as well as opportunities.” (SDR, Introduction) The challenges the bishops named twenty-five years ago remain “vexing questions,” and if anything, even more pressing now than when the pastoral letter was first published.
Many parish and diocesan leaders have recognized the importance of building up the community of faith, in ways that embrace the tremendous diversity of men and women of differing cultures, races and gifts and talents as expressions of the magnificence of God who is the creator and redeemer of all. These communities have found that an engaging community that celebrates and builds on the unique persons the members are, also compel people toward Christ by living as Christian people in the world. Engaging people as stewards in community has lasting impact on individuals and the parish or diocese, as well as those who are served in the local community and in the world. How is your community engaging people in the life of the Church by celebrating and drawing on their unique talents and gifts? In what ways does your diocese or parish help people to recognize and respond in gratitude to the many gifts and blessings in their lives?