By Celine Klosterman
CLINTON — Their son brought Jewel and Joseph Howard back to God, and Prince of Peace Parish’s efforts to foster stewardship are bringing them back into church life.
Amid a busy schedule, the spouses had fallen away from faith, said Jewel, who was raised Catholic but never confirmed. They reevaluated their commitment as their son Ben, now 7, a student at Prince of Peace Catholic School, shared his interest in Catholicism with his parents.
“We realized we wanted to get back to the heart of it,” she said. So she and Joseph, who was raised Methodist, began taking classes for the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults this year.
Since then, the Howards have signed up to take part in ministries including choir and feeding people who are homeless. Jewel said her family did so in response to efforts Prince of Peace began three years ago — including holding ministry fairs, mailing stewardship commitment cards to families and youths, and following up with a phone call to Catholics interested in church ministries.
“I really liked the commitment cards because they showed there were opportunities for every personality.” Since returning her family’s card this year, “We’ve gotten numerous calls from people wanting us to be part of the church,” Jewel said with appreciation. “They’re really good at following up with you.”
Since 2010 Prince of Peace has seen nearly 200 of its 1,673 registered families, including 49 so far this year, sign up for ministries for the first time. Offertory donations also increased from 2010 to 2012 after the parish hired Georgia-based Catholic Stewardship Consultants (CSC), which has been guiding it for two-and-a-half years.
Over that time, Prince of Peace has held retreats for ministry leaders, launched a newsletter to highlight church life and parish ministries, and expanded the parish’s annual stewardship renewals. Such efforts are part of a long-term endeavor to help parishioners embrace the spirituality central to sharing their gifts of time, talent and treasure.
That endeavor began in 1996, when parishioners Odelia Schrunk, Dave Schnier and Bev Putnam attended a stewardship institute through the Diocese of Davenport, Schrunk said. After the institute, Prince of Peace formed a commission that developed ideas to foster stewardship.
“At the time we were using two churches, so it was difficult to get started,” Schrunk recalled. But after Prince of Peace replaced those buildings with a new church in 2009, some of the commission’s ideas — like holding ministry fairs — seemed more feasible, she said.
Hiring consultants “was a way to fast-forward us a bit. We’d been doing things before them, but it was laborious trying to feel your way through,” Kathy DeMong said. She is a previous chairperson of the Stewardship Commission, which Ryan Steines now leads and Schrunk belongs to.
CSC offered materials, a step-by-step framework and timeline. The consultants also put together Prince of Peace’s monthly newsletter and offer a web application that helps track parishioners’ and ministry leaders’ responses to stewardship renewals.
“It made my job a lot easier because they’re so well organized,” DeMong said.
Cost for CSC ranges from $2,500 to $3,500 per month depending on services requested, according to Schnier, business administrator for Prince of Peace. The parish is nearing the end of a three-year contract, but may continue using CSC after that term ends, he said.
One of the ministries that has gained volunteers in the past couple years is feeding homeless people at the Victory Center Rescue Mission in Clinton. In 2010, parish volunteers were preparing and serving two meals a month there, said Pam Deluhery, the ministry’s coordinator. During Prince of Peace’s stewardship renewal in 2011, enough parishioners signed up to add a third meal per month. After seeing responses to the 2012 renewal, “We know we can get a fourth night easily,” she said.
It’s relatively easy to dedicate a few hours once a month, Deluhery added. “People get a lot of enjoyment out of being able to serve others.”
Prince of Peace hopes to help more parishioners feel that joy. “We talk about stewardship as a way of life,” Father Ken Kuntz, pastor, said. When he served at St. Mary Parish in Iowa City before coming to Clinton, he created the acronym TAG to remind Catholics to be thankful, accountable and generous in using God’s gifts. That message appears in each week’s bulletin at Prince of Peace.
“People are getting accustomed to the idea that this isn’t something we do just once a year,” Steines said. “It’s becoming part of the culture.”
But cultural change requires patience. “It’s kind of like watching corn grow,” Fr. Kuntz said.
First, parishioners must understand the importance of sharing their time by attending Mass and praying. Then, they begin to feel called to share their talents in a parish ministry.
“Once people are coming to Mass and getting involved in something, the third ‘T’ — treasure — will take care of itself,” the pastor said.
“Ultimately it’s about discipleship. That’s our real goal. We want people to be committed to building the kingdom of God.”