Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

The Bishop Writes

"Blessed in giving"

by Bishop William S. Skylstad

(From the Feb. 5, 2009 edition of the Inland Register)

A few days ago, I bought a tax program for my computer, worked on my income taxes, wondered about some unexpected news, finally completed my paperwork, made out my check for the “due” and mailed in my return.

There is the old joke about how there are just two certainties in life, death and taxes. Our government representing the people of our country has determined that it is mandatory to participate in supporting the common good by supporting that “good” with our financial resources. If I didn’t pay them, it wouldn’t be long before Uncle Sam would come knocking on my door. So this is serious business, as we all know.

In recent years in the Church, we have reflected upon the need for Christian stewardship. The late Archbishop Thomas Murphy of Seattle chaired a committee a couple of decades ago which published a pastoral letter on our responsibility as stewards of our time, talent and treasure in the Church.

The Catholic Church needs financial support to carry on the mission of Jesus and the Church. More importantly, genuine stewardship calls us to a change of heart and a keen awareness that everything we have is from God. The Church doesn’t make demands of us like government does, but we are asked to seriously consider how richly we have been blessed by God and how God calls us to assist one another. All of us are part of the mission of the Church in living out the life of Jesus and proclaiming the kingdom of Jesus.

We do have the responsibility of being stewards in the kingdom of God. Jesus in the Gospels talks about stewardship in the parable of the talents. This stewardship is a genuine expression of gratitude for many blessings in our lives. Make no mistake about it: we have been richly blessed. We remember the story of the 10 lepers who were cured by Jesus. Only one came back to give thanks. Jesus makes his point by questioning where the other nine were when only one came back to express gratitude.

Several years ago, I heard in a talk that the structure of the Church is the way we lay hands on our society and culture. Structure is what assists us with the ongoing work and mission of the Church. That structure needs financial support at every level. My spiritual desire to be a good steward of what I have and to share it with gratitude and generosity is what makes Church. Am I being a good steward of God’s gifts? A quick review of the check register of the last year will tell us a lot.

Once again, we are embarking upon our Annual Catholic Appeal. Everyone knows these are not easy economic times, but nonetheless, they are times that cause us to evaluate what is really of value in our lives.

As St. Paul reminds us, “God loves a cheerful giver.” A cheerful giver. A grateful giver. The result of giving is I am richly blessed even more. The reality is that God is never outdone in generosity.

I don’t need to tell you at this present moment that we as a diocese have serious responsibilities in carrying on the mission of the diocese and in recovering from our Chapter 11 settlement. We have striven on the diocesan level to be good stewards of the limited resources we have to serve the diocesan family. You will find specifics of that stewardship in the ACA materials in this issue of the Inland Register, as well as the information we have sent to individual homes. We willing do all we can to meet our responsibility to be open and transparent regarding our finances. One way we do that is through the excellent work of our diocesan financial council, whose members help with that stewardship and with important decisions that need to be made. That council has been invaluable the last few years as we have steered through some pretty choppy waters.

Finally, I must ask myself as your bishop: What is my responsibility to you and our local church? I cannot let myself off the hook. I am increasing my Annual Catholic Appeal donation for the 2009 ACA. The Lord has richly blessed me, and I need to be generous.

As I reflect on this past year, I am overwhelmed by the generosity and faithfulness of so many of you. We have come though some very difficult times together as a diocese, and your help has been an inspiration. The mission and ministry of the Church in Eastern Washington continue. Thanks be to God!

May God’s peace and joy be with you. We can continue to support and build up the Church. And we can accomplish this by working together.

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