September 15, 2006

Seeking the Face of the Lord

Stewardship is still a key to carrying out Christ’s mission

When I think about the challenges we face in carrying on the mission of Christ in our local Church, I think a lot about our holy founders.

One of many striking features about the life of Blessed Mother Theodore Guérin is the courage of her faith. She put her life on the line for what she believed.

She didn’t have to risk her life crossing the stormy Atlantic Ocean several times on ships that were minimally seaworthy. Nor, at the time, did she have to establish her community in the woods of
primitive western Indiana. She did not have the money and teachers to establish schools for the poor, but she started them with conviction and prayer.

She risked much and compensated with hard work and prayer even while in very poor health.
We and countless others are the beneficiaries of her courageous faith and action.

The Servant of God Bishop Simon Bruté had been offered the position of physician of the French imperial court by Napoleon. He turned it down. Later, as a new priest, he was offered the position of
court chaplain by Napoleon.

Instead, Father Bruté chose to become a missionary in the new world. He could have lived a life of material comfort, but he chose rigorous missionary life in the most difficult circumstances. He also did so in poor health.

It is likely that he already suffered from tuberculosis when he sailed down the Ohio River to take up his mission as bishop of the new diocese of Vincennes.

Under his leadership, the Catholic Church in Indiana took root. He had not wanted to become a bishop. Yet, we and countless others are the beneficiaries of his courageous faith and humble obedience.

It is important to reflect on the fact that the vast majority of us Catholics enjoy worship and the availability of the sacraments, religious education and other aspects of parish life in facilities we didnot pay for.

Even if at present we happen to be members of a new or expanding parish and have contributed to, say the Legacy for our Mission campaign, we were probably reared in a parish where the facilities and services were handed down from past generations.

We all enjoy the fruit of the blood, sweat, tears and money of past generations; we have a responsibility to hand on to future generations the fruit of our generosity.

In doing so, we are only acknowledging that everything comes from the hand of God and belongs to him.

An ancient Hebrew tradition teaches that almsgiving restores God’s right order in the world, for through it we redistribute his gifts according to his plan.

A proper understanding of stewardship reminds us that even those things we “own” are ultimately not truly ours, but gifts from God to be shared.

We are involved in various phases of the Legacy for our Mission campaign. A substantial part of its contributions remain in our parishes. Parish communities need to be careful not to tightly clutch their facilities and endowments as if they are personal property of those who contributed to the campaign.

A tithe—a “gift” to the Church—is really a response to God’s generosity, a recognition that the standard for giving is set by him who holds back nothing from us. We humbly admit that even our
“hard-earned money” is a gift from God.

The current Legacy for our Mission capital and endowment campaign gives us an opportunity prayerfully to take a gauge of our stewardship.

Of course, stewardship is about a lot more than money. It involves our commitment to participate in the life of our local parish in prayer, sacrificing our precious time and putting our talents to work as best we can.

Stewardship also includes a healthy regard for our churches, schools and other parish facilities: treating them as if they were our own home.

But stewardship is also about money. Blessed Mother Theodore and Bishop Bruté risked their lives to obtain financial resources so that the mission of Christ’s Church could take root and eventually flourish in our archdiocese.

Our courageous pioneers of faith knew very well that the Church and her mission live in the real world. We can do no less.

The circumstances of our day make our ministries difficult to maintain, to foster and to develop with the faith and vision of our holy founders. We have many advantages and blessings which they never had or could even envision.

But with these advances have come contemporary forms of poverty. We do well to pray to our founding patrons, asking them to help us be courageous in faith as they were—and to work hard for the benefit of our children and generations to come. †


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