By JULIE DOWNS
for The Miscellany
COLUMBIA Financial discussions took a backseat to inspiration and “enthusiasm for the faith” at the diocesan Stewardship Day Sept. 24.
The Diocese of Charleston’s director of Stewardship and Development, Sandy Ferencz, conceded in her workshop that when most people hear stewardship they think of one thing: money. But keynote speaker Father Thomas J. McSweeney set a spiritual tone for the day, discussing how shared gifts and shared stories hold the key to communicating the true meaning of stewardship.
“Stewardship is not about building the Kingdom of God. Stewardship is about recognizing and disclosing the Kingdom of God in our midst already,” Father McSweeney said.
Introduced by Ferencz as the “quintessential communicator,” Father McSweeney’s speech was titled “Communicating Stewardship.” He said stewardship theology, which emphasizes giving time, talent and treasure as an outgrowth of the baptismal call, complements the mission of The Christophers, the organization which the priest has headed for a year. The Christophers is dedicated to recognizing and uplifting good works. Father McSweeney discussed how to inspire in others the sometimes outdated idea of service by communicating stories of those good works and living out the “burning desire to share God’s presence with all we meet.”
This year’s Stewardship Day, the third the Office of Stewardship and Development has sponsored, attracted the largest crowd thus far, with 200 people in attendance. “The exciting thing for this office was to see the excitement and enthusiasm among those in attendance and the number of lay people who took time out of their day to learn more about stewardship,” Ferencz said.
The day’s activities started with a prayer service led by Teresa Riley and the choir of St. Joseph Church in Columbia. After prayer and preaching in the morning, participants turned to four workshops and two panel discussions, designed to be practical applications of stewardship, where they got a chance to share some of their own stories of success and failure in their work.
Father McSweeney shared a number of stories with the audience. Those stories live out The Christophers’ motto of lighting a candle as opposed to cursing the darkness, he said, and show how big and small acts of kindness and giving communicate to others the idea of being a Christian and the call to service that is at the heart of stewardship theology.
“You make a living on what you get, but you make a life on what you give,” he said.
Few gave more than Mother Teresa, and stories of her life played a prominent role in both Father McSweeney’s talk and the following talk delivered by Bishop David B. Thompson. The bishop also spoke of another Teresa, St. Therese of the Little Flower, who will soon be named a Doctor of the Church. He found in her words another motto: “‘I will spend my heaven doing good on earth.’ What a motto for our own stewardship program in the Diocese of Charleston,” he said.
The bishop also found resonance in Father McSweeney’s call to participants to share their “enthusiasm for the faith” and listen to others’ needs. In a panel discussion on “The Seven Signs of Stewardship,” Bishop Thompson commented on how those two ideas were “two of our bywords in the Synod and Synod implementation.” The bishop was joined in that discussion by Father McSweeney; Msgr. Charles Rowland, pastor of St. Joseph Church in Columbia, who served as moderator; and Sue Zedek, pastoral associate at Prince of Peace Church in Taylors.
Zedek, along with Prince of Peace pastor Father Chester Moczydlowski, also led a workshop titled “How to Implement a Parish Stewardship Journey,” where they laid out the keys to the successful stewardship program at Prince of Peace. Zedek said among those keys was the Synod implementation process, the service-oriented goals of which are embodied in a commitment to stewardship.
“(Synod implementation) can help make stewardship a way of life in the parish,” she said.
Making people see how stewardship can be a way of their often hectic, everyday lives was the focus of the workshop “How to Incorporate Stewardship Theology and Practicality,” led by Ferencz. Attorney Jim Kuyk of Charleston took participants through a step-by-step approach to planned giving in his workshop, and fund-raising consultant David Phillips offered the essential elements and analysis of running parish and school campaigns.
The two later joined Ferencz and moderator Msgr. Sam R. Miglarese, vicar general, in the second panel discussion, “Let People Experience the Joy of Giving.”