My dear brothers and sisters in Christ:
This weekend represents the start of the annual diocesan appeal. Since 1962, this appeal has been called the Diocesan Development Fund (DDF). Recently, after consultation with the clergy, religious men and woman, laity, and diocesan staff, I made the decision to change the name of the Diocesan Development Fund to the Bishop’s Stewardship Appeal. I feel that this new name best embodies the spirit of this annual effort. As our diocese collectively moves forward in our stewardship journey, the Bishop’s Stewardship Appeal will help us translate the concept of stewardship into our everyday lives.
Your past generosity enabled the Bishop’s Stewardship Appeal to reach a new height last year. Our appeal this past year surpassed our goal, raising more than $1.9 million to support our numerous ministries, parish and mission churches, Catholic schools, vocations, upholding the right to life, and evangelization efforts throughout South Carolina.
Stewardship lies at the heart of our faith and moral life. We must constantly remind ourselves that what we own is only on loan from the Lord, that all is a gift from God, and that we are held accountable for the gifts God has given us for our use.
The National Council of Catholic Bishops, in their pastoral letter on stewardship (1992), define a Christian steward as “one who receives God’s gifts gratefully, cherishes and tends them in a responsible and accountable manner, shares them in justice and love with others, and returns them with increase to the Lord.” By baptism and confirmation each one of us is called to be a steward. The Lord invites us to live our lives in a journey to reach a level of stewardship that is pleasing to him.
As we begin the Bishop’s Stewardship Appeal for 2001, we have an opportunity as individuals or families to take an inventory of the many blessings and gifts that we have received from God and to evaluate how we have used these gifts and blessings to build up his kingdom.
As Christian stewards in the Diocese of Charleston, we have a responsibility to use our many blessings and gifts to aid other people. The Bishop’s Stewardship Appeal is one opportunity each of us has to demonstrate stewardship by providing critical funding needed to support the many programs and ministries provided by the Diocese of Charleston.
I am asking each individual in our diocese to consider contributing 5 percent of one’s income to one’s parish, 4 percent to charities of one’s choice, and 1 percent to the Bishop’s Stewardship Appeal. This is in addition to sharing of your time and talents with your parish and community.
Ultimately, what you decide to give is a decision between yourself and God. What I am asking is for you just to begin. Stewardship/tithing/sacrificial giving is a journey. I call on you today, to begin that journey by responding to my stewardship appeal. May God bless you, and may God bless the many men and women throughout the Diocese of Charleston who have embraced stewardship as a way of life.
Gratefully yours in Christ,
Most Reverend Robert J. Baker
Bishop of Charleston