Those who have been following my reflections over the last 11 years readily understand the three priorities that I have established in an attempt to shape the vision of my leadership. They are Catholic Identity, Evangelization and Stewardship. Much emphasis has been placed on Catholic Identity and Evangelization.
Catholic Identity is who we are. What is it to be Catholic in this modern age? The difficulty is presenting and maintaining our teachings in a society that holds our teachings to be countercultural. But, as Catholics and the Church, we know that it is imperative that we present the truth. It is the truth which forms us on a path that leads to a closer relationship with God through His Church. We have often been dismissive of the truth of the Church; that the Church was established by Christ to lead us to salvation. We should not be embarrassed by this absolute truth of the Catholic Church but celebrate this gift given to us. The Church must be true to its mission and we must be faithful to the Church. We have been called from the very beginning to proclaim Christ. As both St. John Paul II and Pope Benedict have said, today’s world stands in great need of witnesses — not so much of teachers, but witnesses. It’s not so much about speaking, but speaking with whole lives, living consistently, the very consistency of our lives. This consistency means living Christianity as an encounter with Jesus that brings me to others. Witness is what counts.
This is the Easter season, and we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus who mandates us to go out and baptize in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Evangelization is our mission. It is what we do. I care about my soul and I care about the souls of those entrusted to me. Therefore, I desire that the faith be presented to those who have become dormant in their faith. They claim to be Catholic but do not worship on Sundays and know little about the Church’s teachings, why it teaches what it teaches and the necessity to challenge those who have yet to truly encounter the Savior. Through Evangelization, we grow in our relationship with the Lord. In evangelizing ourselves, we deepen our personal relationship with Jesus and realize that this relationship is meant to be shared.
The third priority is Stewardship. This priority can often be quickly dismissed. I know that you have heard it said that stewardship is time, talent and treasure. Many will interpret Stewardship as simply contributing a sharing of the treasure. Certainly, many have been generous in their donations. Without those donations, we would be a poorer Church (I do not mean that as a pun). Where your heart is, there your treasure shall be. Stewardship is how we accomplish the mission that we are entrusted to perform. Contributions support the mission. Our evangelical brothers and sisters will often speak of “tithing,” a biblical concept that directed that one-tenth of all that was produced should be paid to the representatives of the Lord. This was a sign acknowledging the Lord’s dominion and to thank God for blessings received. The late Francis Cardinal George, when asked about tithing, stated that the position of the Church is that everything belongs to the Lord. Although the Catholic Church has never demanded “tithing,” it is not a bad measurement as to the use of the goods entrusted to us. There are many charities that demand our attention, but the Church is more like family and it demands a primary place in our consideration. When we make our assessment of our distribution, we must make sure that the family is given its proper due.
As I get older, I marvel at the “talent” that has fashioned the archdiocese: the religious women and men, the laity who have utilized their talents to build what we enjoy today. Many of these religious individuals could have enjoyed successful secular careers, but instead devoted their lives to the various communities that served the mission of the Church. Every parish history is replete with names of individual men and women who shared their talents in administration, finances, cooking, teaching, music, organizing and other areas. These individuals had skills, and used their skills to fulfill the dreams of our parish communities to proclaim the mission.
Perhaps the one area most difficult to assess is “time.” All of us have only a finite number of days to our lives. Every minute draws us closer to our judgment before our God. The exact moment we do not know, but it will be upon us. As Catholics, we will be held accountable, not only for our actions, but for how we used our time allotted to us in this world. Time is a precious commodity. I am very aware and thankful that you are reading this Herald of Hope column. This is a gift of your time to do so. In the area of Stewardship, how do we use the gift of time to further the Church’s mission? Prayer takes time and it is time well spent in building the relationship we have with our Lord and His Church. Take time in prayer and pray with confidence that God hears the cries of the poor. Please pray especially for our Church during this time in our history.
Servant leadership is a key component to success. Our community is served by the sharing of time in pursuit of worthy projects that support the mission. The army of volunteers sharing their time began more than 175 years ago in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. The corporal works of mercy (feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, sheltering the homeless, visiting the sick, visiting the imprisoned, burying the dead) were fulfilled through the hospitals, schools, charities, orphanages and parishes — many that continue to this very day.
Take time with your family, making sure that your sense of the importance of the faith is made known to them — passing on the faith and ensuring that the faith is practiced by the next generation with the same passion or greater that we embrace.
We will soon reinitiate the suspended “Love One Another” Capital Campaign. We do so because it is our “time” to demonstrate our commitment to the mission of the Church. Proclaim our pride in being Catholic, encourage our brothers and sisters to practice the faith and to spend our time, treasure, and talent in developing our examples to Love One Another.