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Stewardship program challenges status quo

Parishes with high Hispanic populations are converting hearts for successful stewardship in the Archdiocese of Denver. The feat could bode well for the overall U.S. Church.

Hispanics have accounted for 71 percent of the growth of the Catholic population in the United States since 1960 and constitute about 40 percent of the nation’s 78 million Catholics, according to a 2014 report by Boston College. Unfortunately, the study, “Hispanic Ministry in Catholic Parishes,” also shows that parishes with large Hispanic populations tend to struggle financially and have fewer resources.

Luis Soto, executive director for Hispanic ministry and its center for pastoral and family resources, Centro San Juan Diego, is challenging the status quo with a stewardship program experiencing dramatic success. The results are so encouraging Soto has presented it to other dioceses.

“It’s amazing,” Soto said about the transformations the local program, established in 2005, has produced in financially poor parishes.

Within one year of participating in the program, parishes report growing the number of people involved in service and gaining a 70 percent to 100 percent increase in offertory collections.

“When I implement this program, it is for the entire parish, not just for the Hispanic parishioners,” Soto said, explaining that the key point he emphasizes among the faithful is their shared identity as Catholic Christians.

“Our first and most important identity is that we are children of God,” he said, “not that we are Hispanic or non-Hispanic.”

He also addresses the human inclination to blame “the other.”

“Both sides tend to think the other side needs to be giving more—that’s negative,” Soto said. “This is our church and each group needs to embrace that (responsibility)—every single person needs to embrace that.”

The stewardship program includes catechesis, personal witness, prayer and commitment. Central to it is highlighting that stewardship, traditionally seen as a sharing of time, talent and treasure, is founded on gratitude and faith. The Scriptural practice of tithing is simply giving back to God what came from him, Soto said.

“God sees us as his sons and daughters worthy of his trust to be good stewards of the resources he’s given us,” Soto said. “Our response should be one of a grateful heart. (Tithing) says thank you Lord for the blessings you give to me every day.”

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