It was one month ago that I spoke at all the Masses and introduced a nine-week initiative entitled, “Make a Generous Return to God.” This initiative will continue for several more weeks as we continue to reach out to all our parishioners. For the past few weekends I have been reflecting on this initiative as a way to encourage you to become a true disciple for Christ. Among the issues we face in the Church today has been the formation of Catholics in the way of discipleship. In this regard, there are a very large number of Catholics, but many of them do not practice the Faith. And of those who do come to church regularly, there is a disconnect between what they profess on Sunday and what they do during the week.
As one author put it, “parishes have been good at sacramentalizing but not evangelizing” Catholics. Fundamentally speaking, most Catholics today do not manifest a high level of conviction to the Faith when outside the church building. In addition, they tend to view the church as the place where they receive the sacraments. In other words, we have been formed to see what we do in the church building as “the Faith”, and the rest of our lives is ours to do with it what we want. The same has been true regarding financial support of the Church.
The popular Catholic author Matthew Kelly did a survey of Catholic giving and discovered that 6.8% of regular church attendees give over 80% of the regular parish income. He also found that only 6.4% of parishioners contribute 80% of the volunteer hours. To be honest, it appears that his statistics are true in our parish, especially with regard to financial support. It is this trend that we hope to address in the coming weeks and months. At the heart of this new initiative is the formation of Christian discipleship. A true Christian disciple is generous with all three aspects of Stewardship, that is, giving of their Time, Talent, and Treasure. As this particular initiative continues, we will be emphasizing the Treasure dimension. As I said previously, money is not our mission but it does support our mission. It is our hope that every family prays about their gift to the parish and, where possible, make an increase.
By this time, you may have received several letters asking for a prayerful commitment. Returning the response card is particularly important for several reasons. The most important of those reasons is the written commitment you make after praying about your regular gift. To put a commitment in writing adds a dimension of seriousness to that commitment. Even if you do not intend to increase your regular offering, we ask that you return the included response card or go to the website (generousreturn.weconnect.com) and indicate how much you intend to give regularly. It is my hope that we will have a 100% response rate by the end of the initiative.
As I close these reflections, I would like to thank you for your attention to this new initiative and for giving so much to the Lord. Years ago I gave a presentation to Confirmation candidates on Stewardship and after listing the three “Ts” of Time, Talent, and Treasure, one young man in the group raised his hand and told me I had left a “T” out. To be sure I was puzzled and curious. So I asked which one, and he said, “Togetherness.” I always remember his comment as it is tremendously insightful. The good things we accomplish for God require every member to pitch in and do his or her part. I look forward to working more closely with you in the future as we work together in spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ.