March 4, 2005


Stewardship: How do we measure our success?

Stewardship is a way of life, an ongoing process, a journey that will last until the Day of Judgment, the day when we will all be asked to render an account of our guardianship of all God’s gifts—spiritual and material.

None of us (individuals or communities) can ever be perfect stewards, but we can grow in our understanding and practice of stewardship principles. We can grow as stewards. As individuals and as faith communities, we can make progress on the stewardship journey. How do we chart our progress or measure our growth as stewards? How can we tell that our commitment to stewardship is making a difference?

The only truly valid measure of our stewardship success is found in the U.S. bishops’ pastoral letter, Stewardship: A Disciple’s Response. The bishops describe a Christian steward as “one who receives God’s gifts gratefully, cherishes and tends them in a responsible and accountable manner, shares them generously with others out of justice and love, and returns them with increase to the Lord.” These four characteristics of a Christian steward (gratitude, accountability, generosity and the willingness to give back with increase) are the “benchmarks” of stewardship success. To measure our success (our growth as stewards), we must ask ourselves:

1. Are we a more grateful community (family, parish or diocese) than we were when we first began to practice stewardship as a way of life? Have we matured in our celebration of the Eucharist? Do we thank God daily for all his gifts? Do we pray more often? Do we say thank you more often—to God and to the people we live with and work with? Do we complain less? Criticize less? Covet others’ possessions less? Are we more grateful for who we are and what we have than we used to be?

2. Are we more accountable today than we were when we began to practice principles of Christian stewardship? Do we admit our ­mistakes and try to learn from them? Do we celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation regularly? Have we accepted our baptismal responsibility for the evangelical mission of the Church? Do we reach out to others through hospitality and through solidarity with the poor and with all who are in need?

3. Are we more generous? Have we grown in our willingness to share our time? Our personal gifts and talents? Our financial resources? Can we honestly say that as individuals and communities we are warmer, more caring and more generous now that we have committed ourselves to stewardship as a way of life? Are we giving what’s lef over—or are we sharing our very best, giving sacrificially the “first fruits” of all that we have and all that we are?

4. Finally, have we taken the gifts and talents that God has given us and helped them to grow—or have we buried them out of ignorance, apathy or fear? Have we brought out the best in ourselves and our parish and diocesan communities, using all our gifts to develop and grow the Church’s mission? Can we honestly say that we are growing in holiness? In prayerfulness? In our service to others? Do we gather at the altar to return God’s gifts with increase?

These are the only true measures of growth in stewardship—and the only genuinely effective benchmarks of what it means to be a “stewardship” family, parish or diocese: A community of faith that is on the road to stewardship as a way of life.

Let’s pray that the Mother of our Lord, who is the only perfect steward, will inspire us with her example and intercede for us with her Son—today and every day of our stewardship ­journey!

— Daniel Conway

(Daniel Conway is a member of the editorial committee of the board of directors of Criterion Press Inc.)


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