By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger
As a newly ordained priest serving St. Columbkille Parish in Dubuque, Iowa, then-Father Thomas Zinkula observed the generosity of the pastor, who tithed to the church and charities. Father Pat Geary, the pastor, also tithed his time and talents. That impressed Fr. Zinkula, who recalled that his parents also gave generously to the church, even in the early years of struggle on the farm.
That good modeling, and the pastor’s example, inspired Fr. Zinkula to do the same. Giving some of his money away, “changed my life … that shifted things for me in a big way,” now-Bishop Zinkula said during the opening talk for Stewardship Day. The diocesan event, held March 6 at St. Mary Parish in Riverside, drew 120 people interested in exploring the deeper meaning of stewardship.
The bishop said that along with financial tithing, he began sharing his time and talents: giving retreats, serving on boards outside the parish and doing outreach. Today, he gives more than 10 percent of his income (he doesn’t keep track of the exact percent) and uses his investments to support socially responsible organizations. He has also designated in his trust that one-third of his money goes to Catholic Relief Services for hands-on help; one third goes to Catholic Campaign for Human Development, which focuses on structural changes to improve people’s lives; and one third goes to Catholic Charities.
Bishop Zinkula shared his stewardship story to emphasize the message that everything we have — our talents, time, treasure, our faith, our very selves — are gifts from God. The bishop referred to a new book by Diocesan Stewardship Director Dan Ebener that describes the transformation to a stewardship way of life. Ebener sees evangelization as a process in which God speaks to our hearts, and maybe through other people. Stewardship is giving from the heart, which flows from receiving God’s love and mercy. “That’s what I’ve experienced in my life, anyway,” the bishop said.
Stewardship Day itself flowed from the bishop’s request to the Diocesan Stewardship Commission to develop a two-year plan, said commission chair, Kathy Hammerly, who also coordinates stewardship for Sacred Heart Parish in Newton. The commission designed the half-day event to further participants’ understanding of stewardship and how to practice stewardship in their lives and in their parishes.
Commission members Jim and Kathy DeMong shared their stewardship stories and presented workshops on lay witness talks. “We feel very strongly that lay witness is an integral part of having a stewardship program in the parish,” Jim said. “When you start the lay witness process, the first place you start is prayer. You get your parish prayer warriors involved in this. It’s the Holy Spirit that does the heavy lifting here. That really came across. We couldn’t have had a better day.”
Jim, in fact, “made an opportunity to draw a lay witness talk out of one of the participants. It was very cool,” Kathy said. “Leading by example, that takes away some of the intimidation.”
“It’s good to get together as a larger church and feel all that energy,” said Deacon Joe Dvorak, parish life coordinator for Immaculate Conception Parish in Colfax. “I felt Bishop Zinkula’s address was inspiring and good.” Deacon Dvorak also discovered some helpful tips in the two workshops he attended, one on how to attract more people to church.
Presenter Andy Gaertner, diocesan director of development, prompted the deacon to give more thought to the exterior of the Colfax church building. “Does it reflect what’s going on inside the church?” Deacon Dvorak recalled Gaertner saying. “It’s good to be awakened to those ideas. I need to take a good hard look and see what needs to be spruced up and fixed.”
Father John Spiegel, pastor of St. Mary parishes in Oskaloosa and Pella, observed that “When we hear the word ‘Stewardship’ within the church, its reference is often limited to financial support.” It is “commonly only spoken of in Catholic parishes in connection to annual parish and diocesan financial support appeals. If the fuller sense of the word as a ministry of calling parish members to active parish service in and beyond the parish is to be known, then the word must be spoken in connection to the various ministries and works of the parish.”
As a pastor, Fr. Spiegel found it helpful “to hear of the work and experiences of those within parish stewardship commissions and that of our Diocesan Stewardship Commission going about the ministry of stewardship.” Finally, Fr. Spiegel said, “the bishop’s personal stewardship witness presentation resonated with me and affirmed my own stewardship story as he spoke of his coming to his own commitment in the areas of time, talent and treasure as a priest.”
For the Diocesan Stewardship Commission, the takeaway was this: “We want to continue those conversations we started and get out into the parishes to help them feel like they are being supported in their ministry of stewardship,” Hammerly said. “The team is willing and talented and has a wealth of knowledge and resources to support parishes.”
Diocesan Stewardship Commission members:
Judy Johnson; Father Jake Greiner; Sheri Benson; Jim and Kathy DeMong; Andy Gaertner; Dan Ebener; Deacon Bob and LuAnn Glaser; Bill Graf; Deacon Dennis McDonald; and Kathy Hammerly.
Stewardship Toolbox Workshops:
August 2018 – Lay witness talks, with Jim and Kathy DeMong
September 2018 – Marketing and Evangelization, with Andy Gaertner
October 2018 – Funding Parish Ministry, with Andy Gaertner
Stay tuned for specific dates and locations
View Stewardship Day presentations online: