The Summit is Stewardship

Sometimes people wonder how an event like the Summit is connected to Stewardship and why this office coordinates what is clearly an event whose primary goal is evangelization and time for renewal for the faithful.  However, the Summit and its goals fit perfectly into both the definition of stewardship given to us by the US Bishop’s Conference in the Pastoral Letter, “A Disciple’s Response” and in our own pillars of stewardship as outlined in the “Characteristics of a Stewardship Parish”.  A Disciple’s Response defines a Christian steward as one who “receives God’s gifts gratefully, cultivates them responsibly, shares them lovingly in justice with others and returns them with increase to the Lord” (p. 42).  One who receives God’s gifts gratefully . . . What is the greatest gift we have received from the Lord?  It is our salvation and the grace and mercy which He so generously offers us each day.  Therefore, the Summit was, for all who attended, an opportunity to receive this gift from God once again.  The Summit also provided an opportunity for many to share this gift lovingly in justice with others.  The Ambassadors in particular, intentionally invited and encouraged many parishioners to come to the Summit.

The Summit also gave us the opportunity to practice many of the aspects of our Stewardship initiative.  The Ambassador’s training in June was, among other things, an in-depth training in the art and importance of invitation (Generous Hospitality:  Welcome, Invitation, Fellowship) and the Summit, an opportunity, for those trained to develop that practice in their lives.  One of the characteristics under “Key Characteristics of an Inviting Parish” reads in part, “our parish offers . . . planned, regular evangelistic retreats and/or programs.” The Summit itself was also an opportunity to practice intentional Welcome and to look for ways to schedule time for Fellowship.  In our second pillar, Lively Faith, we read, “The fundamental mission of the Church is to lead people to encounter Jesus Christ in a way whereby they are changed and transformed into His Body.”  In our planning, this was our guiding principle, we were striving to provide a place where those who came could encounter Jesus.  Our primary reason for offering a youth track was to be faithful to the characteristic which says, “Our parish leaders conscientiously work to make parish formation opportunities accessible to young families.”

Our challenge now is to accompany those in our parishes who did have a real and concrete encounter with Jesus at the Summit.  This accompaniment is crucial to Formation.  Tony Brandt shared with the
Ambassadors on the night before the Summit that it isn’t enough to provide those who came to the Summit with a powerful experience of Jesus.  In fact, it could actually be harmful to their faith if they have a powerful experience but we fail to follow-up with them afterwards and help them to incorporate the experience into their daily life.  We run the danger of having people begin to question whether or not what they experienced was real.  We also run the danger of inadvertently encouraging people to seek one “big moment” after another in their lives, relying only on the emotional feelings attached to such an event to base their relationship with God on.  Instead, we must continue to encourage one another to teach, lead and support one another in a deeper discipleship.  I hope and pray that the Summit was a wonderful beginning for some and a true renewal for others. But it is just that and nothing more. 

The real work of “making disciples” happens now and it doesn’t happen because of any parish or diocesan sponsored “event”.  It happens in the day-to-day walk with one another; in relationship.  I am praying for all of us, that we know clearly how to return with increase the gift and graces of the Summit to the Lord. And “Do not be afraid!”  As we were reminded in the Liturgy of the Hours on Tuesday, the Feast of the Guardian Angels: “He has given his angels charge over us to guard us in all of our ways. . .Even though we are children and have a long, very long and dangerous way to go, with such protectors what have we to fear?  They who keep us in all our ways cannot be overpowered or led astray, much less lead us astray.  They are loyal, prudent, powerful.  Why then are we afraid?  We have only to follow them, stay close to them, and we shall dwell under the protection of God’s Heaven.” (Office of Readings, Sermon of St. Bernard)

 

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