By Barb Arland-Fye
As a Catholic business leader, husband, and father of 6-year-old triplets and an 8-year-old, John Cunneen strives to practice good stewardship. He defines stewardship as “living up to the responsibility we have as Catholics … to give back with increase all we’ve been given.”
Cunneen, president of Connecticut-based Cunneen Company, which is committed to finding solutions to enhance Catholic giving, will share his insights during a Stewardship Day for the Diocese of Davenport. He’ll make his free presentation twice, first on Oct. 11 at St. Patrick Parish in Iowa City and again on Oct. 12 at Holy Trinity Parish in Richmond. Both presentations begin at 9 a.m. and the day concludes at 3:30 p.m. A box lunch will be provided.
“We hope that parishes will bring a team of leaders who can utilize the process at the end of the day to develop their own parish stewardship plan,” said Dan Ebener, diocesan director of stewardship and of parish planning. Cunneen also offers a section on parish engagement that Ebener sees as a helpful approach. “We need to figure out ways of engaging our parishioners to be more active members of the Church.”
Another helpful approach involves communication. “Only when people know what is going on can they become involved,” Diocesan Development Director Sister Laura Goedken, O.P., observed.
Having grown up in the business his father began 32 years ago, Cunneen said he’s been exploring the concept of stewardship for years. He joined the firm right out of college and eventually bought the business that he and his brother James lead.
“I was probably 19 or 20 when I read the (U.S.) bishops’ pastoral on stewardship,” John Cunneen said. “It shifted our conversation from raising money for parishes to discussing stewardship in a more robust way. It’s not just about raising money. It’s about our responsibility as Catholics to give back,” observed the 40-year-old, whose company is engaged in offertory enhancement campaigns in the Davenport Diocese. But it’s also a matter of trust. “We as Catholics expect our churches and dioceses to be good stewards of our resources; it’s a two-way Church.”
Stewardship also involves a deeper understanding of the term “money.” In the Cunneen Company’s “A Practical Guide to Stewardship in Today’s Catholic Parish,” the author observes: “With my money … I can make a distinctive Christian difference in the quality of my life and others. I may not have the skills to become a heart surgeon, but I can give my money to fund a hospital and, in essence, ‘become’ the surgeon that extends life for the sick.”
Sr. Goedken notes: “So many of our parishes steer away from treasure because no one wants to ask for money. Yet it is easier for many people to give money than it is to give of their time. We all guard our time carefully. Cunneen says that when people give of their treasure they get more interested in how their money is being used and become more invested in the parish.”
The company’s leaders “argue that giving to the Church can build a sense of ownership and lead to stewardship of time and talent later,” Ebener said. “We have used the opposite approach, but now realize that both approaches have merit. Different people might become active in different ways.”
Asked what he hopes participants take away from Stewardship Day, Cunneen identified two key points:
• “There isn’t a wrong way to do it (stewardship).” Some parishes may look at the models of good stewardship and assume they are out of reach. But they can do something. “Building volunteerism (for example); that’s stewardship,” Cunneen said.
• Parishioners are responsible for building stewardship at a parish, but they also need the pastor’s support. “In parishes where it’s successful, you see the pastor is an active participant and vocal supporter, but you have parishioners as the people driving it. The energy has to come from the parishioners. Stewardship is about us.”
Sr. Goedken adds: “Stewardship is about conversion of heart. I must feel in my heart that God loves me and he has done everything for me. I must be grateful and say thanks over and over again to God. When an individual has this conversion of heart, stewardship is everything. It is not just time, talent and treasure. It is one’s whole life, faith, and relationship with others. It is about compassion and love and mercy. It is how we treat one another. It is being expansive of mind and heart.”
What: Building an Engaged Church: A Stewardship Day for the Diocese of Davenport
Two locations/dates: St. Patrick Parish, Iowa City, Friday, Oct. 11; Holy Trinity Parish, Richmond, Saturday, Oct. 12. Both days: 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Box lunch provided.
Sponsors: Diocesan Stewardship Commission and Cunneen Company
Focus: To help participants/parish teams build a stewardship plan for their faith community.
Cost: No charge.
Registration deadline: Oct. 3
Questions: Laurie Hoefling, firstname.lastname@example.org, or call (563) 888-4220