Stewardship survey shows growth of trend in diocese

St. Matthew’s Parish in Champaign has decided it will no longer hold “ministry fairs” to promote Christian stewardship and encourage Catholics to volunteer for parish ministry.

Stewardship is such an important part of living the Catholic faith that it should be celebrated, so in the future St. Matthew’s will plan “Stewardship Festivals,” according to Judy Troxell, co-chair of the Stewardship Council of St. Matthew’s Parish.

Troxell made that announcement in a short talk at the annual Diocesan Stewardship Conference, held Tuesday at the Spalding Pastoral Center in Peoria. The conference featured guest speakers and an overview and comparison of the results of diocese-wide stewardship surveys taken in 2005 and 2008.

Mary J. Foley of Foley Consulting, Inc., said the survey results “indicate a significant and impressive trend toward greater implementation of a stewardship orientation across the diocese.” The diocese is poised to “go on to the next level of excellence” in stewardship, she said.

Attended by about 100 pastors and parish stewardship committee members, the Stewardship Conference began with a Mass celebrated by Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, at St. Mary’s Cathedral.

The essence of Christian stewardship, the bishop said, is the humble acknowledgement that God is the true owner of everything that exists, and that all we have is a gift from him that is entrusted to our care.

It also means getting our priorities in order and placing spiritual things ahead of temporary material blessings, he said.

“Stewardship” is a spiritual outlook on life. It is a ‘thanksgiving’ way of life,” said Eric McArdle, president and co-founder of Catholic Stewardship Consultants, in a morning talk at the conference.

Troxell and Connie Morris of Sacred Heart Parish in Moline were invited to share their parishes’ experiences of learning and living the concept of stewardship.

The successful implementation of stewardship principles at St. Matthew’s is what enabled the parish to retire the last of its building debt on Monday.

“If you’d like to join us on Pentecost Sunday, you are all welcome to come and see us burn the mortgage on our parish center and performing arts center,” Troxell said.

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