Magazine article Momentum

An Alternative to Tuition - the Story of Stewardship

Magazine article Momentum

An Alternative to Tuition - the Story of Stewardship

Article excerpt

Tithing as a matter of justice benefits Florida parish and school

If you pick up any Christian magazine today you will find at least one article on the woes of funding for parishes and schools. Many offer clever ideas for raising money to meet a temporary need-the failing roof, the new carpet. But there seems to be a crisis in consistent giving to the church. News media carry many stories about giving to timely, popular needs. But the every week consistent support of the church is a struggle for pastors and parish councils everywhere. Add to that a bustling school that uses a large percent of its budget for salaries and you have some immediate needs that can't be ignored for very long.

Why it this such a problem? In America, Catholic schools have been around for more than a hundred years. Although the price for educating a child today is higher than ever, so is the average income. Lifestyles today tend to endorse private education more than at any other time in our history and yet we seem, as a collective group, to be hesitant to pay for it.

A few schools and parishes have adapted to this problem and found that the solution is a simple one. It's called stewardship. Stewardship is the understanding that God has created all that we have, and out of gratitude to him, we care for, share and give back a portion of what he has blessed us with. At Blessed Trinity Catholic Church in Ocala, Florida, stewardship has become a way of life. For more than 13 years the parish has undertaken what is called Total Stewardship. In a nutshell this means that families who are active, tithing members of the parish have access to all the ministries of the parish, free of charge. The most notable advantage is Catholic education.

Considering the Stewardship Solution

The parish began by visiting Father Tom McGread's parish, St. Francis, in Wichita, Kansas, in 1992, ironically the same year the American bishops published the document, "Stewardship, A Disciple's Response." This simple letter has been the building block for many parishes instituting stewardship. After visiting in Wichita, Blessed Trinity pastor Father Pat Sheedy and deacon Vernon Krajeski were convinced that stewardship was the right thing to do and they resolved almost immediately to do the following:

1. Establish a parish stewardship commission. The members would have to have a strong, active belief in the Eucharist, be presently active in parish ministry and already be, or willing to be, tithing from their gross income.

2. Prepare for and conduct an annual parish stewardship renewal involving the same three ingredients: spirituality, service and treasure.

3. Give a tithe of the parish offertory to charity, i.e., non-parish budgeted items such as foreign missions, national and international disasters, mission appeals, local poor, etc.

4. Never again take up a second collection after Communion. All causes were to be included in the first and only collection.

5. Establish perpetual adoration.

6. All parish ministries, including Catholic education, would be free of charge. Material fees would always be assessed. (The daycare/preschool was an exception.)

In 1972, the U.S. bishop's pastoral letter declared that parents had a right to a Catholic education. On the 25th anniversary of that letter, the U.S. bishops restated their goals- "that serious effort be made to ensure that Catholic schools are available for Catholic parents who wish to send their children to them."

By and large, Blessed Trinity, like many Catholic schools, was populated by families who could afford to pay. Many who wanted to come, but who could not pay the steep fees, would not request help. Even when there was a subsidy system in place, most families who needed it would not apply. It was humiliating for them. Father Sheedy knew that a Catholic school is a wonderful evangelistic tool that is responsible for many families coming back or coming into the church for the first time. …

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