Time, Talent, and the Fish with a Golden Tooth

By | June 21, 2017

Dear Fr. Zagloba,

I just read a book that you need to look at. We need to discuss it in depth, maybe as a Pastoral Council. It is called ‘Grateful and Giving’, by Deacon Don McArdle. He founded a company that specifically focuses on training parishes how to do ‘stewardship’. He starts with the story of the person who seems to have started the whole ‘Time, Talent, and Treasure’ ball rolling.

If you’re like me, you’ve never heard of Msgr. Thomas McGread. He served in the Diocese of Wichita, Kansas. Early in his priesthood, he searched for a theological foundation for the financial aspects of running his parish. He was dissatisfied with asking people to ‘give until it hurts’, and thought that there must be a better way. He stumbled on a book written about tithing, and this helped him see that the best possible reason to give to the Church is as response to God’s loving generosity to us.

I don’t actually know if he’s the one who coined the phrase, “Time, talent, and treasure,” but he used it to knock the ball out of the park. He didn’t focus on offertory… he didn’t want people to just give money to the Church and sit like blobs in the pews for an hour on Sunday. He wanted them to invest their lives in the parish. To get involved. To BE disciples. And to steward their time, talent, and treasure so that God gets His fair share FIRST.

It worked like gangbusters. It worked so well, in fact, that the whole Diocese was transformed by it. In fact, it served as the inspiration for the Bishop’s Pastoral letter, “Stewardship, a Disciple’s response.”

Good disciples are good stewards

Msgr. McGread rightly focused on forming his parish into Catholic disciples and got them excited about participating in the mission of the Church. He used the call for ‘time, talent, and treasure’ to get people involved in doing big things for Jesus. Or small things, for that matter, as long as it was SOMETHING. As people got more involved, they also began to preach tithing of income, giving of your ‘first fruits’ to God and the Church. A remarkable thing happened… people listened and started getting involved and giving more.

At a certain point, his Bishop took notice and decided that the whole Diocese was going to do stewardship the McGread way. On last report, the Diocese of Wichita is flourishing. They opened four new parochial schools last year, and all of them are free to students. ‘Stewardship’ foots the bill for everyone who wants to attend. They have a tremendous number of vocations to the priesthood, as well as a good number of ministries to the poor that are run by parishioners who volunteer.

To help take this vision and make it a reality at an individual church, Msgr. McGread used a very well developed and traditional fundraising process, the annual campaign, and gave it a supernatural focus.

Continuous renewal

Msgr. McGread developed what the book calls ‘stewardship renewal campaign’, which is what Deacon McArdle and his company help to set up at new parishes. They include a number of different components:

1: Regular preaching and teaching from the pulpit about what it means to be a disciple and how to live a stewardship lifestyle. Everything starts with ‘Calling’ people to live the Gospel more fully.
2: A monthly newsletter focused on stewardship that includes personal testimonies about people living stewardship and practical ways to get involved.
3: An annual ‘ministry fair’ where people can get acquainted with the different ministries offered at the parish.
4: A survey of Parishioners to find out what needs exist that aren’t currently being met by the parish.
5: A ‘stewardship committee’ that helps the pastor to plan and execute the annual ‘Stewardship renewal campaign.
6: Annual retreats for church ministry leaders focusing on the spirituality of discipleship and stewardship.
7: Two testimony Sundays from active ‘steward’ members of the parish, followed by Annual ‘Commitment Sunday’. Everyone is asked to prayerfully commit to giving of their time, talent, and treasure for the following year. Parishioners write down their commitment on pledge cards, which are collected by the stewardship committee. The leaders of the various ministries use the responses to get people involved. Financial pledges are recorded by the office for followed up.

Now this isn’t the only way to run an annual campaign, but it is both comprehensive and effective. We can think about which parts we want to use and how to add them to what we’re doing.

The pastor CALLS

Fr. Zagloba, you have a very special role to play in all of this. Remember when Jesus said, “My sheep listen to my voice: I know them and they follow me.” As the pastor of this little sheepfold, you are His voice. Alter Christi. When you call to the sheep, they will listen and follow you, because you don’t speak in your own name, but in His.

Here is a critical point though – if you don’t call them, they won’t follow. If you don’t invite them into a life of discipleship, who will? You have been given both the responsibility and the authority as pastor. You are irreplaceable because you are standing in the place of Christ as shepherd of the little flock at St. Catherine’s.

This is daunting, but it is also extremely exciting. It means that you are supernaturally empowered to call the members of our parish into a life of discipleship. What Jesus said contains a promise… when you call in His name, His sheep WILL follow you. A tremendous responsibility, but Pope Benedict XVI said, ‘You are not made for comfort, you are made for greatness.” The call be a pastor is a call to greatness – to lead your flock so that you fill the Church with new Saints. Powerful. St. John Vianney, pray for us.

The Fish with the Golden tooth

I think Msgr. McGread and Deacon McArdle struck gold – literally. Their approach to fundraising is keep the ‘main thing’ the ‘main thing.’ What do I mean by that?

One of my favorite incident’s in the Gospel, just for its sheer supernatural weirdness, is when Jesus tells St. Peter to go fishing to get the money that he needs to pay the temple tax. St. Peter obeys and, behold, the fish that he catches has a gold coin stuck in its mouth that is sufficient to pay the tax.

Now, if we take this to mean that we just need to go to the lake to find the funds we need for the new roof, I think we’re headed in the wrong direction. When we look at this story, we need to understand the spiritual sense of the passage. Jesus called St. Peter to be a fisher of men. If he focused on being a ‘fisherman’, then the resources that he needed would be in the mouth of the ‘fish’ that he brought into the kingdom.

This passage is about keeping the’ main thing’ the ‘main thing’. The ‘main thing’ for the parish is not to raise enough money to keep the lights on and put on a new roof. The ‘main thing’ for our parish is to be a house of worship and prayer, and to form our parishioners into missionary disciples and provide them with the spiritual nourishment that they need to live the Gospel fully. If St. Catherine’s is focused on being what God intends, and doing what God commands, all of our financial needs will be met. That’s what it means to catch a fish with a golden tooth.

Most importantly, St. Peter was focused on ‘fishing’, not raising money. We can’t ‘do’ stewardship as a means to increasing our offertory. We must do discipleship and stewardship, period. And trust that God will put the right fish on the line at the right time.

Blessings,
Nathan – The Almoner


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