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.”

COMING UP: Q&A: USCCB clarifies intent behind bishops’ Eucharist document

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Last week, the U.S. bishop concluded their annual Spring meeting, during which much about the Church in the U.S was discussed. In particular, the bishops voted to draft a document on the meaning of Eucharistic life in the Church, which was approved by an overwhelming majority.

Since then, speculation about the nature of the document has run rampant, the chief of which is that it was drafted specifically to instigate a policy aimed directly at Catholic politicians and public figures whose outward political expressions and policy enactment do not align with Church teaching.

The USCCB has issued a brief Q&A clarifying the intent of the document, and they have emphasized that “the question of whether or not to deny any individual or groups Holy Communion was not on the ballot.”

“The Eucharist is the source and summit of Christian life,” the USCCB said. “The importance of nurturing an ever
deeper understanding of the beauty and mystery of the Eucharist in our lives is not a new topic for the bishops. The document being drafted is not meant to be disciplinary in nature, nor is it targeted at any one individual or class of persons. It will include a section on the Church’s teaching on the responsibility of every Catholic, including bishops, to live in accordance with the truth, goodness and beauty of the Eucharist we celebrate.”

Below are a few commonly asked questions about last week’s meeting and the document on the Eucharist.

Why are the bishops doing this now?

For some time now, a major concern of the bishops has been the declining belief and understanding of the Eucharist among the Catholic faithful. This was a deep enough concern that the theme of the bishops’ strategic plan for 2021-2024 is Created Anew by the Body and Blood of Christ: Source of Our Healing and Hope. This important document on the Eucharist will serve as a foundation for the multi-year Eucharistic Revival Project, a major national effort to reignite Eucharistic faith in our country. It was clear from the intensity and passion expressed in the individual interventions made by the bishops during last week’s meeting that each bishop deeply loves the Eucharist.

Did the bishops vote to ban politicians from receiving Holy Communion?

No, this was not up for vote or debate. The bishops made no decision about barring anyone from receiving Holy Communion. Each Catholic — regardless of whether they hold public office or not — is called to continual conversion, and the U.S. bishops have repeatedly emphasized the obligation of all Catholics to support human life and dignity and other fundamental principles of Catholic moral and social teaching.

Are the bishops going to issue a national policy on withholding Communion from politicians?

No. There will be no national policy on withholding Communion from politicians. The intent is to present a clear understanding of the Church’s teachings to bring heightened awareness among the faithful of how the Eucharist can transform our lives and bring us closer to our creator and the life he wants for us.

Did the Vatican tell the bishops not to move forward on drafting the document?

No. The Holy See did encourage the bishops to engage in dialogue and broad consultation. Last week’s meeting was the first part of that process. It is important to note that collaboration and consultation among the bishops will be key in the drafting of this document.

Featured photo by Eric Mok on Unsplash