By Christopher Luke
NEW ORLEANS – October second through 5th, diocesean and parish representatives from across the world came to New Orleans to participate in the International Catholic Stewardship Conference (ICSC). The Catholic Diocese of Jackson was represented by Bishop Joseph Kopacz, Rebecca Harris, director of Stewardship and Development for the diocese, Father Lincoln Dall, pastor of Tupelo St. James, and Dale Persons, a member of Greenwood Immaculate Heart of Mary and others. With 80 sessions and several keynote speakers, Dale Persons said the conference had a “tremendous amount of information to absorb: “like drinking out of a firehose.”
ICSC gives attendees the opportunity to learn more about innovative ways to implement stewardship in their parishes. Stewardship is most commonly known by the catchphrase of ‘time, talent, and treasure,’ but it is much more than that.
“Many people do not really understand stewardship,” said Persons. The road toward living a life of stewardship is paved through evangelization and intentional discipleship. Father Dall explained how speaker Catherine Doherty, a Russian baroness who founded the Madonna house, spoke greatly of the stewardship mission. “Stewardship pertains to everything, and I am responsible for my part of that everything,” she said.
“I love her quote’s sense of responsibility for our own little slice of God’s universe in the imperfect reality of our human lives. Our life of discipleship is to permeate our lives. Stewardship is to permeate our lives as well,” said Father Dall.
Stewardship is not a program the church implements to raise money; it is a call to build a true individual relationship with Jesus Christ.
We are called to the challenge of becoming mature disciples when we answer the call of Jesus Christ. It is a choice to live a way of life in stewardship, not a series of actions completed over a time period. Bishop Kopacz said he appreciated the diverse presentations. “The conference explained stewardship in a lot of ways. Giving our life to the Lord means caring for his body the church. Dedicating ourselves in whatever way our time and resources allow us to. The church is the body of Christ, and caring for the church is all throughout scripture. Caring for family and community in a unique way leads us to better lives as Stewards of Christ,” said the bishop.
This conference explained stewardship and the keys to a successful stewardship program. Stewardship is being mindful, prayerful, grateful, gracious, committed and accountable. Being mindful of our present reality, making the most of our moments because they will never come again. Having an open prayerful relationship with the Lord. Being grateful for every moment in a day and giving every moment and action to the Lord; being gracious and bringing Jesus to everyone that needs Him; being committed to the calling of stewardship and how great of a blessing it is; being accountable and holding each other accountable.
Father Lincoln explained that the call to evangelize in parishes comes from the top of the leadership chain. “Pope Francis and Pope Benedict XVI have challenged us to a new evangelization where our own community and our own parish are the mission field, where we grow in our relationship with Christ, and out of that relationship, we are able to evangelize others. I see this as the foundation and context in which we practice stewardship,” he said
“I highly recommend that more people from our diocese go to ICSC. In addition to learning new ideas for stewardship, attending ICSC has made me prouder than ever to be a Catholic and more committed to being a better, more involved Catholic,” said Persons. “I saw firsthand the fact that devout Catholics at this conference are fun, fun-loving, have a great sense of humor, smile, laugh, genuinely happy, and are wonderful people with whom to spend time,” he added.
“I really enjoyed the ICSC in New Orleans this year. I am very grateful that the diocese gave this opportunity to attend. I want to encourage other pastors and members of the stewardship committee in parishes to attend in the future,” said Father Dall. “This conference helped me reflect upon the different facets of stewardship as I try to bring a sense of stewardship to my parishioners here in Tupelo,” he added.
Next year, the 55th Annual ICSC Conference will be in Atlanta, Georgia, from September 17-20. ICSC is offering a Super Early Bird Discount. For more information about the conference or to find out what the Office of Stewardship and Development can do for individual parishes, contact Christopher Luke at email@example.com or (601)-960-8481.
(Christopher Luke is the Coordinator for Stewardship for the Diocese of Jackson.)
By Christopher Luke