FAIRPORT — Stewardship and evangelization are two sides of the same coin, said Lorene Hanley Duquin, coordinator of the Buffalo Diocese’s Come and See evangelization initiative who was keynote speaker at the Rochester Diocese’s fifth-annual Stewardship Day.
She defined evangelization as bringing the good news of Christ into every human situation and said stewardship should be the natural work of Christians, once they have been evangelized.
“Evangelization is what leads you to become a disciple of Jesus, and once you become a disciple of Jesus, what are you supposed to do? You become a good steward,” she said.
Stewardship Day drew 300 people — including 25 pastors, 10 deacons, 10 pastoral administrators and various parish representatives — to Church of the Assumption on May 9, said Mark Clark, an even organizer who is associate director of the diocesan office of Stewardship and Communications.
Bishop Matthew H. Clark, who spoke in an introduction to the event, lauded those involved in parish stewardship for helping parishioners to effectively use their time, talent and treasure. He noted that even in this difficult economic climate, most of the collections in parishes have remained steady, and in some cases have increased.
“I do believe through your awareness of stewardship that people have a sense of their priorities and want to support the work of the Lord,” Bishop Clark said.
In addition to talks by Duquin titled “Stewardship and Evangelization,” “Stewardship and Style” and “When Catholics Don’t Go to Mass,” Charlotte Bruney, pastoral administrator of St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Churchville, and parishioner Joe Dombrowski spoke about their small parish’s success with sacrificial giving. Assumption’s pastor Father Ed Palumbos and a team of parishioners spoke about the parish’s technology ministry and how it helps the parish with evangelization and stewardship.
Each month, more than 1,000 people watch Mass, weddings, baptisms, funerals and other Assumption events over the Internet, said Father Palumbos, noting that Stewardship Day was being streamed live over the Internet as well.
“As good stewards, we are expected to use all our means to preach the Gospel,” he remarked.
Assumption has five cameras that record Mass and other events. The video feed from the cameras is mixed and edited live by volunteer video technicians, and then is streamed live over the Internet as well as onto flat-screen televisions located throughout the church. The televisions broadcast parish announcements when there is no video feed available. The church’s video technicians number more than 35 and are split about evenly between teens and adults, Father Palumbos said.
The church recently debuted its ability to receive online contributions; one memorial contribution has already been received in this manner, he said.
“(Technology) is never going to replace a personal connection with people, but until you get close enough to people to touch them physically, you reach them through digital communications,” Father Palumbos said.
Duquin — author of such books as Why Do We Have to Go to Mass? When a Loved One Leaves the Church, Century of Catholic Converts, Could You Ever Become Catholic? and Could You Come Back to the Catholic Church — advocated for various ministries to reach out to the alienated and unchurched. She said one way to help people connect with the Catholic Church is to help them identify their gifts and ways they can put them to good use.
“As stewards, we have work to do in helping the people in the pews recognize we need their gifts,” she said.
She suggested identifying parishioners’ gifts at the time of new parishioner registration, and providing all parishioners with a handbook or handout listing all the ministries and organizations at the parish. To help people and keep them connected to the parish, Duquin suggested “companion” ministries, including those that accompany a person through the process of an annulment, a cancer fight or grieving.
She said the outreach to parishioners should be an ongoing thing. At her own parish in Williamsville, all parishioners are contacted by phone or in person every five years.
The emphasis on evangelization and stewardship was welcomed by one attendee. Shirley Nagg, a parishioner of St. Felix in Clifton Springs who is a core-team member of the Northwest Ontario County Planning Group’s pastoral-visitation ministry, said she believes there should be a greater outreach to alienated Catholics in the diocese.
“If there are programs (for reaching out to alienated Catholics), they are the best-kept secret in this diocese,” Nagg remarked, adding that she believes outreach programs to the laity also are critical.
Duquin agreed that the work of evangelization and stewardship is crucial.
“We are not just doing this to make our parishes better,” she said. “We are doing this to build the kingdom of God, and we will be held accountable for not just how we use our gifts, but how we help others use their gifts.”