I never thought about becoming a pastor. As many of you know, I entered the Franciscans as a “delayed” vocation. That’s a nice way of saying I wasn’t in my 20’s any longer. But generally, “delayed” means someone in their 30’s. Fr. Tim Corcoran, the pastor at St. Mary’s in Lutz, a long-time parishioner at Sacred Heart, was already retired as a Federal judge when he entered the seminary. Does that make him, “double-delayed?” I fall in between, received into the Franciscans at the ripe old age of 48 – maybe “delayed plus”? Like Fr. Tim, I entered having discerned that my Time and Talent was meant to be given as a priest, serving the Church and the people of God. It was a decision about Stewardship, which in simple terms, is the act of putting God’s priorities before our own. Good Stewards do four things…
- Receive God’s gifts gratefully
- Nurture God’s gifts responsibly
- Share God’s gifts justly and charitably
- Return those gifts to God abundantly
I hope that I have done those things well and freely in my priestly and Franciscan life.
Like you, God has given me 168 hours each week. Clearly I spend a great deal of time at church and doing parish things, so you might be thinking, “that makes it pretty easy to tithe 10% of his Time to God.” If tithing means to give God the first and the best, recognizing that God is the owner, and we are only the managers of his time, am I doing that? Or do I give to God what’s left over at the end of a long and busy day? Is my own use of Time a sign of my love to give the first and the best to God? Am I a person who is a good steward of God’s time? It is not a simple calculation of “how many hours do I work in the parish?” Am I fully engaged in celebrating Mass or is my mind racing with a list of things that needs to be done? (Sound familiar?) Do I carry a compassionate heart and pay attention when speaking with a parishioner, even as I see someone else I really wanted to talk with? I could go on, but I think you get the point. Where and when are moments that I have given God the first and best? Do I have 16.8 hours per week of tithing my time to God?
Like you, God has gifted me with a varied professional life, education, and a reservoir of experiences in life. With almost 30 years of life experience in the working world, a couple of Master’s degrees, and some knowledge, skills and abilities I picked up along the way. Not too sure my nuclear-power submarining technical skills come into play here in the parish, but there were certainly experiences during my naval service that contribute to the person I am today. My years of volunteering at parishes along the way contributed to my discernment of where my Talents might best serve the parish. Leading Bible studies was revealed as a passion and (if I do say so myself) a talent for making the study of Sacred Scripture engaging. The cauldron of experience and practice has improved my homilies (as someone recently told me, “You’re getting good at homilies. I remember when you first got here you were so stiff!”).
As I said, I never thought about becoming a pastor – and then one day Fr. Andrew was reassigned, Fr. Sean said nothing and simply pointed my way, and next thing you know I am pastor. A parish is not a business, but it is “not not” a business. There are days when I think to myself, “If I had wanted to stay in business, I could have done just that.” But I remember to pause, take a breath and remember – receive, nurture, share and return. My business acumen is not mine but are gifts from God and I am to return them in the service of God. And return them abundantly.
If the above talks about being a good steward of my Time and Talent, that leaves only Treasure. As Franciscans we are required to give away our worldly wealth before our final vows and we may not give it to the Province! In distributing my wealth, I hope I did well in being just and charitable in sharing God’s gifts. So, all done, yes? Not really. If I want to be a good steward of my Treasures I have to ask myself if I continue to be a good steward of my treasures – even though the amounts are way different now. I receive a monthly stipend and gifts from parishioners. I have the same challenges as you. Did I receive the gifts gratefully, do I nurture them, share them and return them to God? I try to do those things. As an individual I use online giving to contribute to Offertory, True North, and APA. As a community of friars, we contribute financially to the parish, fund certain parish events, and give to local charities.
Friars, staff, parishioners – all of us who make up the Catholic community of Sacred Heart — we are all called to live as good stewards, to put God’s priorities before our own. We are called to receive, nurture, share, and return the gifts which God gives so abundantly. This is what it means to begin to live life as a good Steward of the Time, Talent and Treasures given. It is a way of living in the world. It is a spiritual stance in the midst of our incredibly busy lives.
The start of Sacred Heart being a Stewardship Parish is for each one of us to be good Stewards in our own lives.