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Parish looks to foster active discipleship through stewardship

070122stewardship intro stjb 

Given the topic "Loving Treasure," St. John Bosco parishioner Judy Tarne suggests "just talking to people (at Mass)," and "sending cards to let people know they are missed at church" as ways to welcome back Catholics who haven't returned to worship since the COVID-19 pandemic suspended in-person activities for several months more than two years ago. Tarne and almost two dozen others joined a discussion on June 15 about forming at Stewardship Commission in their Hammond parish. (Marlene A. Zloza photo) 


BY MARLENE A. ZLOZA / Northwest Indiana Catholic


      “Give and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap. For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you.”

-       Luke 6:38

      HAMMOND – Twenty parishioners at St. John Bosco accepted the invitation to dip their toes into the stewardship waters on June 15, and are now discerning if they are willing to take the plunge and “dig deeper so you can blossom and help others to blossom.”

      That is the aim of an initiative to create a core Stewardship Commission within the parish and, eventually, “a Pastoral Council, a practical; Finance Council and a collaborative Ministry Council,” according to Father Jeff Burton, pastor.

      As a start, three members of the Diocese of Gary’s Stewardship Commission, Judy Holicky of Whiting and the administrative assistant for the diocesan Office of Stewardship and Development; Mike Catania and Mike Johnson, both originally from St. John Bosco, facilitated an Evening of Prayer, Reflection and Discernment for the parish group that responded to Father Burton’s call out.

      Arranged in small groups, participants started with an icebreaker discussion connecting stewardship to a word or phrase unique to their group. From “sharing talents” to “loving treasure,” parishioners offered their description of how to express the phrase they were given – from hosting parish fundraisers to sending greeting cards to people they haven’t seen at Mass recently.

      “(By your answers, I can tell) you are already working on what stewardship is about,” encouraged Johnson, later noting that stewardship is not just about what you do for others, but what you do for yourself.”

      “We are not here to teach you what stewardship is, but to help generate conversation and get you to experience a different level of stewardship,” said Catania. “We are here to accompany you.”

      Toward that goal, St. John Bosco will host a discernment process involving six, 90-minute sessions starting on Wednesday, July 13, at 6:30 p.m. and continuing in three-week intervals. The formation process will involve three aspects: spirituality and prayer, a challenge to each participant to share with one another, and modeling what good stewardship is, based on the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) book, “Stewardship: A Disciple’s Response.”

      “So far you haven’t committed yourselves to anything but being here tonight, but if you decide to continue, you will expand your understanding of stewardship and (participate) in the formation of getting to know each other so you can model (stewardship) for the rest of your parish,” explained Catania.

      Father Burton, who added responsibilities as administrator of St. Joseph in Hammond on July 1, pointed out that “There’s fewer ‘me’s’ (priests) available, so we need more of “you’s” to keep the ball moving forward.”

      Just as the five Merrillville churches have merged into one parish, a day may come when the seven Hammond parishes may face consolidation, Father Burton said. “One of the things that makes (St. John Bosco) a potential (cluster) site is our school … I see so much potential in what we are doing here. We have a great ability to continue to build on the welcoming spirit of our community, and continue to build on that legacy. Sign up (for the formation process) if you feel you want to be here.”

      “According to (author and motivational speaker) Matthew Kelly in one of his books, only 6-7% of parish members get involved in their parish; we hope to increase that here,” Holicky said.

      With a mission to “accompany and guide parish leadership groups,” the diocesan Stewardship Commission has an established vision for “parishes to embrace stewardship as a means to build the Kingdom of God by fostering active discipleship, transforming people’s relationship with God and enhancing their interpersonal relationships and engagement in the community.”

      “How do we tie discipleship to stewardship?” asked Catania. “Do it joyfully; when we walk with Jesus we can’t hide our elation! For me, I do prayer, do service, do gratitude. We all have different gifts from God, they can help us do what we enjoy and build up St. John Bosco,” he added.

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