Diocesan Stewardship Conference moves parishes closer to ‘dream’

Photo Caption: “Imagine if stewardship became the norm in your parish,” said Mary Foley, keynote speaker. “What would be different?”

By: By Tom Dermody

Mary Foley has a dream she would love to see come true at your parish.

“In a perfect world,” she said at the Diocese of Peoria’s recent Stewardship Conference, “I dream that all of our parishes will practice stewardship to such a level that we will never need additional capital campaigns, volunteer recruitment drives, or other fundraising programs.”

Ways to move Catholics closer to a stewardship spirituality were explored at the May 27 conference that brought parish representatives from across the diocese to the Spalding Pastoral Center in Peoria.

Reaching that dream is an uphill climb in our consumer culture, admitted Foley — president of Chicago-based Foley Consulting, a marketing company serving chiefly religious, educational, and social service organizations.

“Stewardship is a countercultural way of looking at who we are, and Whose we are,” she said in a spirited and often humorous keynote address.

“It’s not a program, it’s not an activity,” she continued. “Stewardship is a way of life that has a profound impact on absolutely everything we do and how we do it.” Those who practice Christian stewardship, said Foley, keep God at the center of their lives, have an attitude of heartfelt gratitude, and recognize that service to God and others brings fulfillment.

While usually discussed in terms of the “3 Ts” — time, talent, and treasure — stewardship, when fully developed, has more to do with “faith, gratitude, and prayer,” said Foley. She focused on all three in her presentation.

Conference attendees received a 47-point “Stewardship Checklist” for parishes to gauge how they measure up in promoting stewardship concepts in areas including a welcoming spirit, vibrant liturgy, prayer promotion, children’s education, ministries, communication, and leadership.

“We have to find as many ways as possible to talk about this,” said Foley. “We want it to permeate everything we do.” Catholic education, she believes, affords a prime opportunity.

“With our children, we have a long spread of time to really inculcate this . . . since we start pre-school now about an hour after labor and delivery,” she added with a laugh.

“We should be able to change the world if we just focus on the kids,” said Foley.

The changing world of communication technology was the focus of the day’s second presentation.

Julie Enzenberger, an associate in the diocesan Office of Development and Stewardship — sponsors of the conference — explained the advantages of using social media such as Facebook, Twitter, and blogs.

“Every parish at a minimum should have an online presence somewhere,” said Enzenberger, starting with a basic website.

“That’s how we’ll get young people interested,” said Enzenberger, who maintains several Catholic online efforts including the Facebook page for the Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen Foundation that has nearly 500,000 followers worldwide. “People are a little afraid to walk into a church without at least ‘Googling’ you to find out what you’re about.”

Enzenberger offered the technical assistance of the stewardship office in developing online strategies. But advice she repeated was to “be Christ” in the digital world, and to work with technical people who embrace the church’s teachings.

“Always pray about what you’re posting,” said Enzenberger. She shared a favorite prayer: “Lord, help all those who meet us see Christ in us, and help us see Christ in all we meet.”

In opening remarks, Msgr. Paul Showalter — vicar general of the Diocese of Peoria — thanked all who work to promote stewardship in parishes and especially “the many wonderful people who without much recognition make sacrificial offerings that help us continue our ministry.”

SPALDING PASTORAL CENTER | 419 NE MADISON AVENUE | PEORIA, IL 61603 | PHONE (309) 671-1550 | FAX (309) 671-1595
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