Fort Myers | Representatives from Parishes across the Diocese of Venice gathered in Fort Myers for Stewardship Day to focus on the best practices of sharing the principles of ownership, responsibility, accountability and the rewards of adopting stewardship as a way of life.
An outreach of the Diocese Office of Stewardship and Development, the Oct. 3 gathering at Our Lady of Light Parish stressed the importance of stewardship and how it will help fire up the faithful to become more actively engaged in the Church.
Carla Repollet, Director of the Office of Stewardship and Development, said stewardship needs to be at the heart of what everyone is called to do in service of the Lord. This effort begins with our ongoing dialogue with the Lord, and is not something that can happen overnight but requires a continuous effort from the entire Parish community.
The keynote speaker was Deacon Don McArdle of the Diocese of Savannah, Georgia. The author has travelled to Parishes across the country to reinforce and promote stewardship as a way of life. This is because stewardship, the giving of oneself in service of the Lord, which can take many different forms, helps us grow and allows God to stir the faith that resides within.
“The practice of stewardship, what I do with my time, talent and treasure, is a practical way to help us grow and live our faith,” Deacon McArdle said. “It is a means for people to better connect to their faith life in a way that has a deeply profound and lasting impact.”
Deacon McArdle said only about 30 percent of Catholics are actively participating in their Parish; that includes those who only attend Mass each week but participate in nothing else. Parishes across the country which embrace stewardship can change that number to be greater than 80 percent. He gave examples of how to achieve this success, noting that it starts with hospitality.
Other tips include: creating a community newsletter, with real news that is different from the bulletin; leadership retreats to help focus staff and volunteers on the mission of the Parish; surveys to receive real input; and a ministry fair which is not to recruit volunteers but to let people know all of the good that is taking place.
“It’s all about growing disciples and letting everyone know they are part of the Parish and Church,” Deacon McArdle said.
Bishop Frank J. Dewane celebrated the Mass for the conference and thanked the attendees for lifting the Church through what they do and in their presence.
“You bring life into Parishes. Your actions bring a voice to the Lord by helping your community get into the mindset of giving,” Bishop Dewane said.
The day also included breakout sessions in English and Spanish and included tips on implementing a stewardship program; the use of technology; the spiritual elements; reaching youth and young adults; having a long-range outlook; and engaging the unengaged.
Repollet sent forth the 150 attendees armed with the best practices to plan and maintain a clear and consistent stewardship message for Parishes and schools.