Pope Francis on the Parish
I would like to stress one thing: the parish remains valid! The parish must remain. It is a structure that we must not discard; it is the home of God’s People. The problem is how the parish is organized!
There are parishes… who scare people off. Parishes with closed doors… But there also parishes with open doors, parishes where when someone comes to ask a question, they are told: “Come in, make yourself at home, what can we do for you?” And someone listens to them patiently, because caring for the people of God requires patience; it takes effort!
Managing a parish takes effort nowadays... The Lord has asked us to get a little tired, to work and not to rest… A parish is exhausting if it is well organized.
The renewal of the parish has to be a constant concern... It has to remain a place of creativity, a reference point, a mother, where inventiveness finds expression. When a parish does all this, it becomes a missionary disciple, a parish that goes forth.
He Could Have Done It on His Own
God could have done it alone. Take creation for example. He formed all of creation without the help of humans and that has been running pretty well without us for the past billions of years. So, through creation, God has proven that if he wants to do something on his own… he could do it on his own.
God could have saved humans on his own as well. Jesus could have come as a powerful ruler, a superhero, or an “ubermensch” and simply routed the foe and established his Church without the help of others. Of course, that would have made him a tyrant and us a little less than abject slaves. But he didn’t choose to do this.
Rather, the God who created all things on his own did not establish his Church on his own. Jesus Christ did not come as a tyrant, a dictator, or a Greek god to establish a Church by force. Jesus determined that the best way to establish a Church was to invite his disciples to share in the work of the Church. When Jesus Christ came he chose twelve Apostles and sent them out to “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them…and teaching them. (Matt 28:19-20)” These disciples in turn were tasked to make other disciples and to become “one Body in Christ. (Rom 12:5)”
Jesus Christ shared his work of salvation with his disciples. He made the members of his Church “stewards of God’s gifts (1 Pet 4:10)” and stewards of “the mysteries of God. (1 Cor. 4:1)” In other words, Jesus has so established the Church that we cannot be disciples without being stewards. Stewardship is the active element of our discipleship. As this year’s stewardship theme asks,
Who are you following?
Jesus constantly invites us to imitate him in the work of the Church.
This website is your opportunity to discern how God has invited you to live out your discipleship through your generous stewardship. Discipleship is your pledge to follow Christ as your Savior. Stewardship is your pledge to serve the Church even as Christ served (Mk 10:45). Like the rich young man (which is this year’s stewardship poster), God calls us to not only keep his commandments, but he also invites us to follow him in generous service.
Jesus could have established a Church on his own; but he didn’t. He chose to invite his disciples to share the work of his Church as stewards. How will you respond to Christ’s invitation to live out your stewardship?
Eight Fundamental Beliefs of Stewardship
Everything we have received is a gift from God (i.e., life, love, health, talents, family, vocation, etc.), therefore we are called to develop and share our gifts sacrificially, generously and proportionally
Stewardship is primarily about faith. It is an invitation by God for the faithful in each parish to grow in a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ
Stewardship is a spirituality that builds a way of life, expressed not in a single action or even in a number of actions but in an entire way of life. It is a committing of one’s total self to the Lord
Stewardship is characterized by hospitality, prayer, formation, and service
Our bishop, pastors, and parish leaders have a crucial responsibility to live stewardship and motivate the faithful to follow their lead in order for stewardship to be a spirituality that builds a way of life
Stewardship should be integrated into all aspects of parish and diocesan mission and ministry
The universal Church, including parish and diocesan missions, should be supported primarily by the generous, sacrificial, and proportionate sharing of time, talent, and treasure of parishioners to their parish
We are called in scripture to return to God the first of our fruits, through our tithe
A Brief History of Stewardship in Our Parish
Stewardship is a way of life and a vital part of St. Francis of Assisi Parish. Giving of our Time, our Talent and our Treasure and bringing us closer to God was a message Father Thomas McGread brought to St. Francis Parish when he was appointed Pastor in 1968. He brought with him a vision from the words of St. Peter:
"As each one has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of God's varied grace." 1 Peter 4:10
The vision was not to be denied by the 600 families of the parish at that time. Monsignor Tom's message was simple. Strive to share our gifts of time, talent and treasure for the service of God and all of His people. Do this out of thanksgiving to God for all that He has given us. Having initiated the Stewardship Way of Life, he encouraged this stewardship-inspired parish to grow and prosper. There was a sense of unity, harmony and spirituality as never before within the parish.
By 1980, those 600 families had grown to 1250 and the decision was made to establish St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish to ease the crowding at St. Francis. But St. Francis continued to grow, averaging over 2500 families. Once again, another west Wichita parish was established in 2008; St Catherine of Siena. God's Blessings continue to pour forth and multiply on the Parish of St. Francis of Assisi.
In 1985, seventeen years after the vision of Stewardship was first brought to St. Francis of Assisi, the first Stewardship Committee was formed. It consisted of twelve members selected by the Pastor. The committee met weekly to study, refine and further develop the Parish structure to insure that the gifts of time and talent were utilized so that all parishioners had the opportunity to serve and be served. The committee was increased to twelve couples in the mid 90s. The top priority of the committee is year-round stewardship education with emphasis on the spiritual, as well as the annual Stewardship Renewal in November.
Today, more than 80 groups, ranging from the spiritual to the social, minister to the various needs of parishioners and to the community. Perpetual Adoration began in 1986 and continues today 24/7 with over 300 participating in the devotion. This has contributed to the development of 10 priests and 8 men and women who have professed vows to the religious life from our parish. Boy Scout Troop 762 began 50 years ago with 100 young men from this troop earning their Eagle Scout Award. Some of the parishioner's visions that inspired many volunteers to join in were: Guadalupe Clinic, Habitat Homes, St. Anthony of Padua Parish Library, and Generations of Faith. Stewardship Hall was built almost entirely by parishioner's hands in 2007.
Education is at the forefront of Stewardship at the parish. RCIA and RCIC average over 20 participants each year. Parish School of Religion has over 400 enrolled. Our parish grade school has over 650 students and a pre-school was added in 2007. 166 volunteers aid the parish school in the resource room, classrooms and lunchroom.
This commitment to living the Stewardship Way of Life by parishioners was naturally ingrained in the families. There are many second and third generation families in the parish living the Stewardship Way of Life, and many others are spread throughout the country fostering the concept. It is the sense of ownership in the parish that helps develop spirituality and the on-going activities of the parish. It is this ongoing conversion of parishioners and priests that makes St. Francis a vibrant, growing, spirit-filled community of believers.
St. Francis of Assisi Parish became nationally known as the parish to model after in regards to Stewardship. The U. S. Bishop's 1992 Pastoral Letter, "Stewardship, A Disciples' Response" had its beginnings at St. Francis some 24 years before the release of the pastoral letter. Because of the success at St. Francis, the Wichita Diocese became the first fully Stewardship Diocese in the country in 1985. National recognition included: one of eight featured parishes in a book titled, "Excellent Catholic Parishes"; Father McGread received the Christian Stewardship Award in 1993 and St. Francis Parish was presented the Archbishop Thomas J. Murphy Memorial Parish Stewardship Award by the National Catholic Stewardship Council in 1998. St. Francis was the first to receive this award for the parish which best displays a long-term commitment to stewardship as a way of life and exemplifies spiritual growth and community outreach.
May we remember that God has Blessed St. Francis of Assisi parish from day one and many gave of themselves for the success of this parish. In the words of the Prayer of St. Francis, "It is in giving that we receive."
Our time begins at birth and ends on this earth with death. For most, it is about 25,000 days. Our time is precious and cannot be stored up like grain in a barn. Once a moment passes it is gone forever. God wants all of us to reach heaven; that is why He created us and why He sent us Jesus. Our life on earth is a pilgrimage toward heaven. Each day, each week, each month and each year we must be progressive on our pilgrimage. We cannot do this unless we give some time to God.
Through daily prayer, we develop a close personal relationship with God, sharing with Him our successes and failures, and asking for His guidance in our daily lives.
Reading Scripture daily helps us reflect on God's word. It also tells of God's great love for us.
Assisting individuals and organizations is another way to share our personal time to the glory of God. We also show our love for Him by letting Christ use our feet, our hands, our eyes and our voice.
Your gift of time is unique, because you are the only one who can give it.
All of us have special talents or gifts, which are a sign of the power and majesty of God, who can do all things. These talents and gifts are not given to us just for our own use, but are given to us for the enrichment of the lives of others and so that we can serve God better.
St. Peter in his first epistle tells us, "Each one of you has received a special grace, so like good stewards responsible for all these different graces of God, put yourselves at the service of others."
All of Christ's works need to be done in our parish and community. As you know, Christ is not physically present in our parish to:
- Visit the sick and elderly
- Feed the hungry
- Teach those who want to learn
- Console the lonely and sorrowful
- Pray for the needs and to give a helping hand and a kind word
Christ depends upon each one of us to do these Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy in His name. That makes us co-workers with Christ in the Holy Works of Redemption. What a privilege!
Your gift of talent is a special gift only you can give. Remember the words of St. Francis of Assisi: "It is in giving that we receive."
The Christian need to share our gifts of Treasure may be best illustrated by the well-known parable of the talents, Matthew 25:14-30, which speaks of a man preparing to travel to a far country. Before departing, he gives talents or money to his servants.
- The first servant receives five talents and works to build them into five more
- The second servant, who receives two talents, doubles their value as well
- But the third servant, who receives one talent, buries it
When the master returns, he praises the first and second servants, but he takes the one talent from the third servant because the servant was not a good steward of the money, having done nothing to increase its value. The lesson of the parable of the talents is that we are to make good use of material gifts given to us by God. To be less than frugal with our material goods is a sin. To do nothing with them is just as wrong.
When we do make the most of material possessions, Sacred Scripture points out two ways we can show our gratitude to God for his gifts.
First, because God is the Giver, some percentage of what is received must be returned to Him as an act of gratitude. (The Old Testament people were expected to give a tithe of 10 percent. This practice is mentioned 39 times in the Old Testament and 11 times in the New Testament, so we know it is God's will that the practice be continued.)
Secondly, there should be some sharing of our money and material goods with those in need in our family, community, diocese and world. Paul 11, Cor. 9:1-15.
Your gift of treasure is a direct gift only you can give. Remember the words of St. Francis of Assisi: "It is in giving that we receive."
Stewardship as a way of life began at St. Francis of Assisi in 1968 when Monsignor Thomas McGread arrived as Pastor. There were approximately 600 families in the Parish at that time. He did not come empty handed, as he brought with him a vision from the words of St. Peter, "As each one has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of God's varied grace." 1 Peter 4:10
This vision was not to be denied. Father Tom's message was simple: Strive to share our gifts of time, talent and treasure for the service of God and all His people. We do this out of thanksgiving to God for all that He has given to us. Having initiated the Stewardship Way of Life, he encouraged the parish to grow and prosper in unity, harmony and spirituality.
How Many Parishioners Participate?
The answer is always changing and probably known only by God. St. Francis is a very active parish of over 2,700 families, more than 300 parishioners participating in Perpetual Adoration, some 700 students attending the Parish grade school and Pre-School, another 300 participating in the Parish School of Religion program and more than 250 attending the area Catholic high school. There are approximately 90 organizations active in the parish, made up of more than 2,100 volunteers. The Stewardship Way of Life has also significantly contributed to helping develop 1 bishop, 17 priests and 7 religious from St. Francis since 1968.