A Christmas Farewell
Dear Fr. Zagloba,
Something unexpected has happened. We’re moving. My wife and I have wanted to live in the country for years now, and the house right next to her parents has come up for sale. Unbeatable price, perfect location. The lot that falls to me is my delight.
Unfortunately, this means we’re going to be moving to a new parish… actually a different diocese. I say new but it’s the church where my wife was baptized. New for me. It will be a good change, but it means that I’m going to have to resign from the Pastoral Council. Things are moving pretty quickly and we’re hoping to move during my Christmas vacation. It’s a bit of a whirlwind. So here are a few parting thoughts.
Keep the right focus
One of the things that I’ve learned in helping you raise money for St. Catherine’s is that the devil wants to keep us focused on the “how”, specifically on “how on earth are we going to raise the $????????? to do (fill in the blank)?” It’s a question that can literally bedevil us until we are completely paralyzed and can’t accomplish anything. God, on the other hand, wants us to remember His instruction, “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and all these things will be added unto you.” If we’re focused on understanding WHAT He wants us to do and WHY He wants us to do it, He’ll give us the resources we need to make it happen. As the old Southern fundraising aphorism goes, “If it’s God’s will, it’s God’s bill.”
As you’re seeking God’s will for St. Catherine’s, don’t be afraid to be bold. God calls the saints to be audacious in His service. He calls them to do impossible things. That little corner of the city needs the Gospel. You’re responsible for getting the Word out. Don’t let the devil scare you with the “how.” Instead, stay focused on why God put you here and what His plan is for your little flock.
When you do get to the question of ‘how’ remember that failure is not an option. It’s mandatory. You will try fundraising strategies that will flop terribly. You won’t get the response you expected, you won’t get the volunteers you needed, you will feel like you’re trying to build a pyramid by yourself with a rusty hammer. This is the cross of fundraising. It’s good for you. It’s miracle grow for the virtue of humility. Get up and try again. Seek God’s will and the ways He wants you to raise the money for His plans to come to fruition. Test new fundraising strategies and hold onto those that work. Discard those that don’t.
Ask, Ask, Ask, Ask, Ask
Jesus said, “Ask and you shall receive.” You can also read that and understand, “Don’t ask, and you won’t receive.” I’ve heard too many times from people that they would like to raise money like George Muller, the English Protestant who made an agreement with God that he would start an orphanage if he never had to raise any money for it. Mind you, he never asked anyone (besides God) for money, and was given enough funds to serve thousands of children for decades.
Yes, God can inspire people to give directly. It’s true. But asking for money is not an evil. It’s an opportunity. It’s a ministry. It’s a way to invite people into the mission. There are a lot of people out there who don’t have the flexibility to go be a missionary on another continent. But they’re more than happy to be a part of the mission by providing the resources needed to put the missionaries on a plan. Or build a school. Or a cathedral, for that matter. You’re giving them the opportunity to do something good that they could never do without you.
When we think about Jesus’s disciples, our minds automatically go to “the Twelve”. But they were not alone in following and serving Jesus. There were others behind the scenes. During his ministry, Jesus was supported financially and materially by Joanna and Susanna, as well as others. Since He is God, He could have created everything He needed out of nothing, but instead, He chose to invite some to participate in His mission through their generosity. These women helped him to build His kingdom just as surely as His apostles did but in a different way. God meets us where we are and uses our gifts to accomplish His purposes.
Mission from God
“You were not made for comfort. You were made for greatness.” This quote from Pope Benedict XVI should stir your blood. I love it. The call of the Gospel is not about teaching everybody to be nice so we can live out our lives with a minimum of unpleasantness. It’s a ringing challenge to become a saint and shake the pillars of creation.
Remember the mission. “Go therefore and make disciples…”. At St. Catherine’s, you are the disciple maker. You’re the one that calls people out of their safe little boxes, trains them, and then sends them out on mission. No one can replace you… you’re ordained by God to do it. I know it’s sometimes hard to think of your parishioners as disciples, but just look at what Mrs. Sanderson and Mr. Jenson have done in putting together the food pantry. Every month, new people are being touched by the Church and by the Gospel because you said, “Yes”, to a little old lady who wanted to feed the poor.
This means you’re going to have to knock on a lot of doors. There are people in the parish who have talents that they should be putting at the service of the Gospel, but they need you to invite them into the mission. Until they begin to engage in their divine mission, they are only living a shadow of a life. You might have to shake them out of their comfort and give them a taste of the greatness that God has in store for them.
I bet many will surprise you. I never would have thought that Mrs. Sanderson was the anointed one for starting our ministry to the poor. Or that she would be able to convince Mr. Jenson to help her. Now they’re rolling along, they’re getting more and more people involved. Every disciple that you make will begin to multiply. Disciples make more disciples.
Now, it’s not like I’m disappearing into the African Congo. I still work in town and will be happy to brainstorm fundraising ideas with you over tacos. I’ve enjoyed helping you raise money for St. Catherine’s more than I can tell you.
Besides, I think you’re ready to fly on your own. You’ve started stewardship, online giving, major gifts, and an endowment. You have parishioners who have learned how to do mission fundraising. You still enjoy the brownies from the bake sales, but you know there’s an easier way to fix the roof than spending the next two years in the kitchen.
May the Lord bless you, inspire you, and encourage you in your ministry. May He multiply your flock. And thank you for allowing me to serve.
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