In the fall of 2013, Sacred Heart Parish began a Stewardship Program called, Offertory Enhancement offered by the Catholic Foundation of Central Florida Corporation, Inc.
The parishioners of Sacred Heart parish were invited to prayerfully consider what they would like to give back to God in thanksgiving for all His blessings. This included the parishioner’s time, talent, and treasure, or financial resources.
As part of our Offertory Enhancement Program, we recommended that each household give 10% of their annual income back to God, 5% to the church, and 5% to a favorite charity. We recommended strongly that each parishioner prayerfully consider giving to one favorite charity rather than many.
STEWARDSHIP BREATHES NEW LIFE INTO PARISH PRAYER GARDEN
When Fr. John Murray, C.Ss.R., Past Pastor of Sacred Heart Catholic Church in New Smyrna Beach, talked to his parishioners about stewardship of time, talent and treasure, he prefers to speak in terms of prayer, sacrifice and mercy.
“Being good stewards of our time means developing our prayer life. Making the best use of our God-given talents means sacrificing for Him and the church,” said Fr. Murray.
The stewardship that blossoms from prayer will come full circle with the dedication of the new Father Browne Prayer Garden at Sacred Heart on March 29.
Establishing the garden had been a focus of discussion for quite some time, but Fr. Murray said it took a parish wide re commitment to stewardship to get the project moving forward.
“First we received a generous donation for a marble statue of St. Francis of Assisi, and that got things rolling. Then we started the parish Offertory Enhancement Initiative in the fall of 2013.”
He credits the 12-week program, conducted by the Catholic Foundation of Central Florida and sponsored by the Diocese of Orlando, with helping to “awaken stewardship at the parish.” To date the parish has seen a 19% increase in total offertory collection, as well as a rise in volunteerism, since the launch of the initiative.
“We needed contractors to prepare the grounds and lay red brick pavers. One of our new parishioners, who works in construction, walked into my office one day and said ‘Father, I’m looking to give back, and I want to do something for the parish.’”
Father Murray recommended the garden, and the project took on new life. Other parishioners stepped forward, making their own financial contributions and logging countless volunteer hours.
“Our parishioners are so generous. They’ve given so much of themselves, of their time.”
At the entrance way to the garden, a statue of the Blessed Mother beckons the faithful to pause in prayer. Once inside, visitors will find themselves surrounded by viburnum shrubs that should eventually grow into a fragrant six-foot hedge. The groundwork features a magnificent San Damiano cross fashioned from more than 1,000 memorial pavers and framed by cobblestones and a newly planted flower bed. Two memorial benches are tucked away in grassy corners formed by the arms of the cross.
The San Damiano cross, known for its association with St. Francis of Assisi, is one of the garden’s many tributes to Fr. Francis Browne, C.Ss.R., who served as the pastor of Sacred Heart from 2003 until his death in 2009.
A marble statue of St. Francis will rest to the right of the cross; in the center of the cross, a fountain depicting two children will serve as a permanent reminder of Fr. Browne’s love for the young people of the parish.
Eventually a marble statue of the parish’s patron, St. Alphonsus de Liguori, will stand to the left of the cross.
Although there is still more work to be done, the garden is already open to anyone who needs a moment to reflect and pray.
“More people are going there to sit and pray. One of the ladies who donated a memorial bench told me she visits the prayer garden every morning to say the rosary,” said Fr. Murray. “It’s a special, private place to be alone with God.”
The Catholic Foundation of Central Florida, Inc.
From the U.S. Catholic Bishops
To Be a Christian Steward
“As each one has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of God’s varied grace” (1 Pt 4:10).
What identifies a steward? Safeguarding material and human resources and using them responsibly are one answer; so is generous giving of time, talent, and treasure. But being a Christian steward means more. As Christian stewards, we receive God’s gifts gratefully, cultivate them responsibly, share them lovingly in justice with others, and return them with increase to the Lord.
Stewards of Vocation
Jesus calls us, as his disciples, to a new way of life—the Christian way of life—of which stewardship is part. But Jesus does not call us as nameless people in a faceless crowd. He calls us individually, by name. Each one of us—clergy, religious, lay person; married, single; adult, child—has a personal vocation. God intends each one of us to play a unique role in carrying out the divine plan. The challenge, then, is to understand our role—our vocation—and to respond generously to this call from God. Christian vocation entails the practice of stewardship. In addition, Christ calls each of us to be stewards of our personal vocations, which we receive from God.
Stewards of the Church
Stewards of God’s gifts are not passive beneficiaries. We cooperate with God in our own redemption and in the redemption of others. We are also obliged to be stewards of the Church—collaborators and cooperators in continuing the redemptive work of Jesus Christ, which is the Church’s essential mission. This mission—proclaiming and teaching, serving and sanctifying—is our task. It is the personal responsibility of each one of us as stewards of the Church. All members of the Church have their own roles to play in carrying out its mission:
- Parents, who nurture their children in the light of faith;
- Parishioners, who work in concrete ways to make their parishes true communities of faith and vibrant sources of service to the larger community;
- All Catholics, who give generous support—time, money, prayers, and personal service according to their circumstances—to parish and diocesan programs
- and to the universal Church.