Stewardship: A Disciple’s Response

As the associate pastor at a Catholic parish which operates a school as its primary apostolate, one of the fun things that I get to do occasionally is accompany our students on field trips: since arriving here at St. Vincent de Paul in October, I have traveled with our students to visit the Missouri State Penitentiary in Jefferson City, to attend the National Catholic Youth Conference in Indianapolis, and to sing at the Crown Center in Kansas City. This week I will be with a group of our students in Oklahoma City for our Senior Mission Trip.

The week before last I got to go on a different kind of field trip, though—not with our students, but with two members of our school administration and staff. We joined 14 other people from across the Diocese of Jefferson City at the Msgr. Thomas McGread Stewardship Conference in Wichita, KS. There, we joined over 50 people from parishes all across the United States who are striving to embrace the stewardship way of life. At the conference we had the opportunity to pray together, share our experiences of the Catholic Church in different parts of the country, and hear from a variety of speakers—lay men and women, as well as priests, and one bishop—about how embracing stewardship has changed their lives and strengthened their faith.

For me, that was probably the most important take away from this field trip: that, aside from the practical matters like how to organize ministries in the parish and how to plan and execute an annual stewardship renewal, the real heart of stewardship is faith. The definition of stewardship shared with us at the conference—and which we are using for our stewardship process here in the Diocese of Jefferson City—is this: Stewardship is the grateful response of a Christian disciple who recognizes and receives God’s gifts and shares these gifts in love of God and neighbor. And each of the conference presenters emphasized in their own way that, when a parish seeks to implement stewardship as a way of life, it really needs to be about faith. It’s not a get-rich-quick scheme for the parish; it’s not a life-hack to increase school enrollment; and it’s not life-support for parish ministries. Stewardship is about growing in discipleship; it’s about asking ourselves—as individuals, as families, and as parishes—how we are being called to grow in knowledge and love of God; and it’s about helping each other grow in faith and holding one another accountable to the concrete commitments we’ve made to become more intentional disciples of Jesus Christ.

More than one of the conference speakers pointed out that to embrace stewardship as a way of life is simply to live out concretely what the Second Vatican Council proclaimed in its Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World: “Man, who is the only creature on earth which God willed for itself, cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of himself” (Guadium et spes, 24). Pope St. John Paul II was fond of repeating this idea, which he often called “The Law of the Gift.” Embracing stewardship as a way of life means acknowledging the magnitude of the gifts that God has given us: from the gift of life itself, to the gift of His Son, Jesus Christ; it means recognizing that, although we can never repay the Lord for the gifts that He has given us, we are most fully alive and fulfilled when we share the gifts He has given us as completely as we are able; it means recognizing the need we each have to make a gift of our very selves, and in so doing to conform ourselves to Christ, by whose perfect gift of self on the Cross we have been saved and set free from sin and death.

I left the conference both inspired and challenged, but also confident that we are well on our way. So I’ll conclude by making three practical suggestions, if you’re feeling inspired or challenged to grow or learn more about embracing stewardship as a way of life, too: (1) We were told over and over again at the conference that “the textbook of stewardship is the Bible.” So I’d encourage you to make a commitment to praying regularly with the Word of God, if you don’t already. (2) We were also told repeatedly that “the school of stewardship is the Mass.” So I’d encourage you to renew your commitment to weekly physical presence at Sunday Mass and on Holy Days, and I’d invite you to consider regularly attending daily Mass more often—as often as possible, actually. (3) Finally, I invite you to attend the Diocese of Jefferson City’s 2024 Stewardship Conference on Saturday April 13th at the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Jefferson City. We will begin in the school of stewardship with Mass together celebrated by Bishop McKnight at 8am, and spend the day hearing from several of the same presenters who spoke at the McGread Conference in Wichita, as well as Fr. Stephen Jones and Mrs. Trish Lutz in our own Diocesan Stewardship Office. To register go to . And don’t worry, the conference will finish with plenty of time to be back in Sedalia for our Sacred Heart School Hall of Fame celebration!