By Mark Reidy
A stewardship conference in Sydney has sparked a wave of enthusiasm in two Perth parishes, with calls to expand the concept throughout the State.
When the word “Stewardship” is mentioned, the parishioners at St Saints John and Paul Church in Willetton will no longer respond by simply reaching into their money pockets.
After almost 1000 people attended a Ministry Fair on the weekend of June 14-15, there is now a broader understanding that stewardship is about building the Church community on the collective time, talents and treasures of its individual members.
The seeds for the weekend were planted over a year ago when a Parish Stewardship Committee was formed to encourage the coordination of the many individual ministries that existed within the parish.
However, according to chairman Simon Bowen, the impetus for the weekend’s success came when assistant parish priest Fr Richard Rutkauskas attended a Stewardship Conference in Sydney earlier in the year and returned with such a passion for the concept that he ignited and focused the Committee in its endeavours. “His eyes were on high beam when he returned”, recalled parish priest Fr Greg Donovan, “And his extraordinary enthusiasm inspired us all.”
The new understanding that Father Richard received through the Sydney conference drew from the Stewardship revival in the United States, which has inspired growth in all the parishes that have adopted it, according to Mr Bowen.
“Because the concept is basic to being a disciple, it will create a vibrancy in any parish that embraces it,” he said. “It is about recognising that all we have is a gift from God, and because we are so grateful for what we have received, we freely share those gifts with others…”
Several months before the Ministry Fair, the Willetton Stewardship Committee placed regular Gospel-related messages in the weekly Bulletin reflecting how the utilising and sharing of one’s gifts was integral to the growth and well being of a church community.
This coincided with a successful Name Tag program that has nurtured a more community friendly environment. The Committee’s desire was to lead parishioners to the understanding that collectively they make up the church and that each individual is able to contribute to it in their own unique way.
They wanted to alter the perception that giving financially to their parish was the only aspect of stewardship and create an awareness that the giving of one’s time and talents is of equal importance.
By presenting the various groups available within the parish in a single venue, parishioners were provided with the opportunity to not only recognise and acknowledge these ministries, but to find out how they could become involved and, if need be, how to access each one.
The committee’s initial enthusiasm for the stewardship program has been further bolstered by the excitement and energy generated by the crowds that gathered after each of the weekend Masses.
They now wait with great expectation to see how passionately parishioners will respond to the words Fr Richard spoke during his homily, “Jesus doesn’t say, ‘Do this and I will love you’, instead He says, ‘I love you…how will you respond?’”
For more info on the Willetton Stewardship initiative go to www.johnpaulwilletton.org.au