SALT LAKE CITY — Eight months after the diocese began focusing on stewardship as a way of life, "we’re starting to see very palpable signs of stewardship," said the Most Rev. John C. Wester, Bishop of Salt Lake City.
The bishop was the opening speaker for the May 5 diocesan stewardship workshop at the Saint Vincent de Paul Benvegnu Center. Representatives from 24 parishes attended, coming from as far as Logan and Cedar City.
"Stewardship is an integral part of our diocese – it’s not something that’s here today and gone tomorrow," Bishop Wester said in his opening remarks. "Stewardship is about gratitude – recognizing what there is to be thankful for in our diocese. Gratitude is at the heart of our faith, in the Eucharist, and in the Gospel Jesus calls us many times to give thanks to Father."
To develop the skill of being grateful, people must learn to cultivate an interior silence, "where I can be in the present moment, not living in the past with guilt or in the future with fear but in the present with awe and gratitude," Bishop Wester said. "That requires a certain silence of inner turmoil. It’s my conviction that if we do this, we will be grateful for all the good things that are going on in our lives."
Stewardship is a way of life, Bishop Wester said. "It is a spirituality. It is not a program – a program is something you start, and it has a middle and an ending. This has no ending. This goes on into eternity, and then we’ll be thanking God forever. So it has literally no ending – not even death can end it."
For the most part, stewardship in the diocese is going well, Bishop Wester said in an interview, adding that some parishes are ahead of expectations, others are on pace and some are lagging. "We expected this," he said, especially with parishes that recently have had a significant effort such as a building campaign.
The diocese will continue to monitor parishes’ progress, he said, but "there’s a sense of prayerfulness and gratitude in parishes that wasn’t there before."
To help parishes develop stewardship, the workshop presented numerous resources. Shannon Lee, director of the diocesan Office of Stewardship & Development, discussed how to form a successful parish stewardship council.
"As Catholics we are already doing stewardship in our parishes just by the virtue of having ministries," Lee said. "Every ministry in the parish should have a stewardship component."
Among those who attended the workshop was Michelle Welch of Saint Thomas Aquinas Parish in Logan, who is a member of her Parish Council as well as the Stewardship Council for both her parish and the diocese.
Welch attended the workshop to "see what other parishes are doing, what’s working for them," she said, adding that at St. Thomas Aquinas, "even though people are practicing stewardship, the concept of it is still a little foreign."
Nevertheless, the stewardship effort – particularly the ministry fair – has helped draw together her parish’s Spanish and English communities, she said. "That was, I think, one of the greatest things that we had come out of that. I am hoping that will continue for us."
At Saint Martin de Porres Parish in Taylorsville, "we’re proud that we’ve been doing many, many of these things" already, said Mary Martinez, who is the finance director and member of parish stewardship council. "All of our ministries are running quite well."
However, with the new emphasis on stewardship, "we are seeing a difference," Martinez said. "Our Mass attendance is greater. We’re getting more new faces that are staying longer and not becoming so transient. We’ve discovered that we have to find ways of involving people."