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When you think of “stewardship,” what comes to mind? Is it money? Is it the act of caring for our sacred spaces? Or, is it perhaps a dedication towards spiritual growth?

For members at Immaculate Conception Church in Celina, the parish has placed stewardship at the forefront for some time. Its Stewardship Commission started 10 years ago, said Eric Clausen, a parish member.

“For us, stewardship wasn’t about money,” he said. “It was about discipleship, it was about how we continue to encourage people about their own growth of discipleship. That’s why we want to try and change things. We’re messaging more about God’s gifts in action[, which] can be the use of your time, your talent or your treasure to reach out to the community to grow your discipleship. And that’s what we want to focus on—that stewardship encompasses more than money.”

Clausen defined stewardship as being Christ to someone else, and noted that, although financial contributions are welcomed, it’s about recognizing a need, stepping forward and resolving it.

“When you start growing your own discipleship, you realize you’re doing something every day or see opportunities every day to lend a hand, give a compliment to support a fundraising effort or assist, such as at Mass,” said Clausen. “When you start seeing that regularly, stewardship is what you’re doing—you’re representing Christ to someone else.”

The parish’s former priest was responsible for building the Stewardship Commission at Immaculate Conception, Clausen said, and the parish’s current priest, Father John Tonkin, strengthened the group’s efforts.

“[Father Tonkin] has said stewardship is a way of life in everything we do,” said Clausen. “Once you begin, it becomes second nature and a way of life.”

“At its core, Christian discipleship is a life of stewardship,” said Father Tonkin. “It is recognizing [that] everything we are and have is a gift from our gracious God Who shares divine life with us. Our God-given gifts and talents are not treasures to be tightly grasped to keep just for ourselves; they are to be gratefully unwrapped, dutifully tended and lovingly shared in building up the kingdom of God that encompasses all peoples. Once we realize this, we mature in Christian discipleship, and stewardship becomes second nature.”

This is true for Immaculate Conception members, as they now work with others in their Family of Parishes, St. Isidore the Farmer.

“Our team has a strong passion for what we want to do with stewardship,” noted Clausen.

Immaculate Conception’s multiple stewardship opportunities for parishioners are outlined in a handbook, including areas of worship, music, prayer, youth and outreach ministries.

“We are letting people know what we’re doing and how we can help the different parishes in these areas where there may be a need,” said Clausen. “We are here to support ministries and evangelization. We are promoting God’s gifts in action. Maybe people will say, ‘I have something to offer.’ Our hope is they realize … that gift … doesn’t necessarily have to be financial.”

“All growth in the Church comes from a conscious acknowledgment of who we are, God’s beloved sons and daughters, and what we are called to do: lead others into deeper relationship with God and each other,” said Father Tonkin. “That is being a disciple of Jesus Christ. That is stewardship in action.”

For parishes looking to begin their stewardship efforts, Clausen said, “It’s a growing effort. It took us time to get to this point and we realize that.”

But with Immaculate Conception’s solid stewardship foundation, Clausen hopes they can be an example or inspiration to other parishes.

“Discipleship isn’t easy, and we want to help people grow within that challenge.”

This article appeared in the November 2023 edition of The Catholic Telegraph Magazine. For your complimentary subscription, click here.

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