Growing Faithful Stewards: 2010 Diocesan Education Conference
Mercer, PA. On Saturday, September 25, twenty-six participants representing ten parishes across three states (OH, PA and NY) gathered at Camp Nazareth for the twenty-fifth annual ‘Know Your Faith Diocesan Educational Conference.’
The day-long Conference, entitled Growing Faithful Stewards, opened in the Camp’s Ss. Cyril and Methodios Chapel with a Moleben of Thanksgiving and Stewardship, celebrated by Father Ken Bachofsky, Director of our Diocesan Apostolate for Christian Education.
Camp Director Father Stephen Loposky, Pani Daria and their children hosted a light breakfast following the Moleben, during which the participants were immediately set to work completing a Personal Survey Questionnaire that was designed to establish some baseline information on the participants’ definitions of Stewardship, and specifically how children and youth learn stewardship directly and indirectly in their parishes.
The participants were then assigned to small groups in which they became acquainted with one another and developed lists of the essential characteristics of a good “steward.” They also identified effective ways in which our young people can learn about stewardship in their parishes and families, as well as how they might also be receiving incorrect messages about stewardship.
Father Basil Aden, pastor of our Christ the Savior parish in Rockford, IL, and Professor of Religious Studies at Rock Valley College in Rockford, then assembled the small groups together, and facilitated a full discussion of their findings to identify areas in which we as a diocese can both build upon good stewardship practices already in place, as well as areas in which we should be striving to make improvements.
Following a short break, Deacon Steve Hall of our St. Thomas the Apostle Mission parish in Waldorf, MD, presented an extensive word study entitled God’s Economy – Our Stewardship, prepared especially for the Conference by Diocesan Stewardship Commission Chairman Father Frederick Watson, pastor of our St. Elizabeth Mission parish in Woodstock, FL. Using the history and development of the Biblical Greek term oikonomia, (from which we get our English word economy) Father Frederick’s study developed two themes in which that term is used in New Testament texts, especially in the letters of St. Paul; first as descriptive of God’s master plan of salvation for mankind, and then more specifically of how we, as the crown of His creative activity, are called to give glory to Him through our own participation in His divine plan – through our stewardship, both individually and as cooperating members of His Body, the Church..
Following lunch, there was a time of light-hearted activity as small groups were again formed and each was given biblical passages (parables and stories of our Lord) with stewardship themes; how Biblical figures shared their Time, their Talents and their Treasure with one another. The participants developed skits to be presented in charade format to the group as a whole. The winning group was the one that was able to correctly identify the most stories performed by the other groups. Father Basil challenged the groups to put the stewardship theme of each passage into easily understandable principles.
Father Basil then turned to a more serious presentation entitled First Fruits Living, aimed at promoting good stewardship as a way of life, which by the way, is the ‘motto’ of the Diocesan Stewardship Commission – “Stewardship: A Way of Life.” Father began his presentation with the Old Testament teachings to God’s chosen people on the subject of recognizing that the harvest is a blessing from God, and that His people are to express their thanksgiving by returning the first fruits of the harvest to Him. Father then developed the theme further, on into the New Testament, and ultimately reaching into the Divine Liturgy as a way for us to understand the reciprocal nature of offering up our gifts to God in Thanksgiving (Eucharist!) in full faith that He will consecrate them and be faithful to return them a hundredfold to us.
As with many interactive programs, discussion was lively, and there was more material to present than there was time to present it. A Workshop on writing objectives for teaching and learning stewardship in the parish had to be postponed until another opportunity. But sufficient time was reserved at the end of the day to conduct a ‘Feedback Forum,’ or Listening Post. The participants’ views on how the Commission might best go forward with its current three-year stewardship education program were solicited, and these will be used to enhance the future work of the Commission.
The day ended with the Service of Vespers and a (hopefully) enlightened journey home to share the fruits of the day’s labors in the participants’ local parishes.
And a short P.S. – One of the Conference’s discoveries was that the Resource Material distributed by the Diocesan Stewardship Commission at and following this summer’s closing session of the Sobor apparently has not been widely shared within the parishes. These materials are now also available at http://acrod.org. Under the Stewardship: A Way of Life logo on the Home Page, click on Download Resources. Please make use of these materials in your parish bulletins, sermons, educational programs, and especially, in your WAY OF LIFE!