Strong spirituality at heart of stewardship, says Gocsik



To further promote the theology of stewardship and advance the mission and ministries of the Catholic Church in South Carolina, a number of changes have taken place recently in stewardship and development efforts in the Diocese of Charleston.

The Stewardship and Development Department has been renamed the Office of Stewardship and Mission Advancement to better reflect its purpose. Michael Gocsik came to the diocese from Toledo, Ohio, in June to head the office. Jim Myers, Ph.D., of Columbia was hired as director of stewardship.

It is hoped that this new direction will further assist parishes, schools, and missions to meet their financial goals.

To help achieve the short-term and long-term plans, stewardship education is the key, according to Gocsik, a graduate of Ohio State University.

He said that stewardship theology has already been done, not just in the Diocese of Charleston, but throughout the country. “The barrier to success,” he said, “is implementation.”

“We are stewards of all God’s gifts,” Gocsik explained. The challenge for parish leaders, he emphasized, is, “How do we get that message to parishioners and keep that in front of them?”

Gocsik said stewardship should be incorporated into everyday life, “Not just when around the church or serving at the parish festival. It’s not just a Sunday thing, then we go home and don’t think about it until next Sunday.”

Stewardship affects personal life and work and is about much more than tithing and volunteering, he said.

There are a lot of great stewards in the Diocese of Charleston, said Gocsik, but there is room for a lot more.

“We’re focusing on all Catholics in South Carolina to live their lives as Catholics, in thanksgiving for all of God’s gifts, by giving back to the people and places in which they live,” he said. “It’s going to take maximum effort by each individual and a commitment by each to see total stewardship come about.”

According to Gocsik, who previously worked in fund-raising efforts for the Toledo Zoo, there is an energy and enthusiasm surrounding the Catholic Church in South Carolina.

“I come from a region where many take the Catholic Church and Catholic education for granted. Everybody I’ve come across here is committed to the Catholic Church, the growth of the Catholic Church, and the growth of Catholic education. The people I’ve seen in the pews want to be there. Our responsibility, not only as a diocese but as a community, is to nurture that spirit. Bishop Robert J. Baker has a vision for stewardship that goes way beyond money,” said Gocsik.

“Don’t automatically think of tithing,” the secretary for stewardship said. “Tithing is not a definition of what a steward is. It’s not the bishop’s vision. He has a holistic view to stewardship.”

In this way of looking at stewardship, first fruits go to the parish church to show thanks for God’s gifts in all of our lives, Gocsik said.

He continued, “Our goal is to help people find their place in the Catholic Church. To carve themselves a role. We want people to be proud of being a Catholic. To share insights and experiences with other denominations and the unchurched. We want people to live like Catholics every day.”

As for his plans, Gocsik wants to organize stewardship leaders in parish development for continuing education efforts.

He said a common misconception is that his department begins and ends with the Diocesan Development Fund (DDF).

“Our office is service oriented. We provide free consultation services on proposal writing, capital campaigns, endowment funds, grant writing, stewardship education, etc. We work with each parish to develop their own plan.”

Gocsik also said he strives to be “sincere, honest, and open with our parishes, donors, and parishioners. There’s nothing to hide here.”

The new diocesan staffer also expressed a desire “to be out there communicating with the parishes. I want to meet them. I will travel anywhere to meet anyone for any reason.”

He also emphasized that he did not come to the Palmetto State “to reinvent the wheel.”

“There is a lot of great material out there, a lot of people practicing stewardship in their everyday lives,” Gocsik said. “It’s not our role to go beyond that. Our role is to identify these individuals to help them share with us their beliefs and use all of that information in a stewardship education initiative.”

He continued, “Stewardship does not happen overnight. Our approach will be very individualistic. The goal is to strengthen the faith and the spirit of the Catholic Church in South Carolina. It will be the faith that carries us on, not the money. The church is built on faith, not money.”

However, to acknowledge important individuals who support the diocese with financial gifts a “Cornerstone Society” is being established by Gocsik. “We want to recognize these people,” he said. “Planned giving is a strong aspect of what the church will be about in the future.”

Also on the horizon is a stewardship education video series in which Bishop Baker’s vision regarding time, talent, and treasure is discussed by experts in the field from across the country.

A facilitator’s guide full of activities and lessons will be provided to go along with the video, according to Gocsik. He hopes to have the project completed by the summer of 2001.

To complement that effort, the Office of Stewardship and Mission Advancement wants to schedule planned giving seminars in parishes across the diocese.

Meetings will be led by a third party; not by the diocese and not from a specific financial company, said Gocsik. Although the presenters have yet to be chosen, they will help participants with financial planning and will walk them through the steps of a planned gift, he said.

And if all of the above-mention services weren’t enough, a DDF video is planned for the next campaign, and Gocsik wants to organize a Speakers Bureau as a year-round effort, not just timed for the DDF appeal.

While many plans are still on the drawing boards and are in the beginning of the implementation phase, one major change has already taken place inside the department.

A telemarketing effort was begun in connection with the DDF campaign a couple of years ago and proved to be successful initially as a way to open a line of communication to donors.

“However, after evaluating the successes versus the negatives, we’ve decided to suspend it,” said Gocsik. “We’re going to listen. We’re a service organization. It’s as simple as that.”

“All we have and what we are comes from God,” Gocsik said. “We need to give, it’s not about the church’s need to receive.”

He continued, “Stewardship education is a conversion, taking a step forward. People need to look within themselves.”

Gocsik sees his role as providing tools to churches as stewardship happens on the parish level.

To that end, he is sending a letter to all priests urging their attendance at a national stewardship meeting in Arlington, Va., in November.

Prior to that event, though, a Diocesan Stewardship Roundtable will be held at the Embassy Suites Hotel in Columbia from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 13.

Opening the lines of communication will be the main focus of the gathering, Gocsik said, who hopes to hold these meetings annually, in addition to hosting deanery meetings throughout the year.

“There are several different ways we can implement different initiatives throughout the diocese,” said Gocsik, who is undaunted by the challenge that lies before him.

“We are called to be disciples of Christ. Stewardship is the way we answer that call,” he said.

Getting new people involved will be key to achieving success in these endeavors, Gocsik emphasized.

To reach out to the average person in the pew, he will strive for each parish to have a Stewardship Sunday in November to address the theology of stewardship.

“The future of the church in South Carolina depends on it,” Gocsik said.