My Personal Journey of Stewardship

 

“How shall I make a return to the Lord for all the good He has done for me?”  (Psalm 116:12). This past Sunday we listened to a most engaging testimony by Alexis Salvador on her stewardship journey. Alexis’ journey reminded me of my own journey too, especially how my own mom influenced my stewardship journey that I want to share with you this Sunday as we go through our fourth Stewardship Commitment Sunday.

My family had more property than any family in the village. When my dad died, my mom gave one part of the adjacent property to the Catholic Church and the other part to the Protestant church. She saw that both churches needed the land and she simply gave. For me this was the first lesson of stewardship from my mom. She told us that God had given our family so much and she wanted to share with the village what God had given us.

As I grew up, every Sunday mom would remain at the church the whole afternoon for various meetings. She was the treasurer of the church and attended many meetings. The first time I heard the word “tithing” was from mom. She would never miss giving the first fruits after the harvest to the church as part of her tithing. Mom would always give us coins for the Sunday offertory collection.

During my seminary years, stewardship never featured in my life. Since my ordination in 1968, I was convinced that as a priest I have given my entire life to the Church and therefore there was no need to give more to the parish. I was wrong. My conversion experience started in 2013 when I decided to register as a parishioner. Next, I signed up on WeShare, our parish online giving web site and now give my life more consciously as a steward. Stewardship has made me a better priest: setting time to pray for the needs of parishioners and more time to deepen my faith in order to nourish you better. I have become more generous with the treasure God gives me, by giving more than 10% of my gross income to the parish offertory. What really transformed my life was a stewardship conference in Wichita, KS, February 2014. Speaker after speaker led me to realize that as pastor of my parish I had to live stewardship before I could give homilies about it.

Msgr.  John S. Mbinda

What is Commitment Sunday?

This will be our fourth experience of stewardship commitment Sunday.  This article helps to understand what Commitment Sunday is, and why it is so important. On Commitment Sunday, some parishioners will have already received a beautiful Renewal packet in the mail that contains a Ministry Catalog and a time, talent and treasure Commitment Card.  What will happen next Sunday which is our parish Commitment Sunday?

 

Commitment cards and pens will be in the pews. If you have already received your family card by mail and you have it with you, you do not need a second one.

At the beginning of Mass, the presider will announce that it is Commitment Sunday. 

The pastor will give the homily highlighting stewardship, and then he will guide parishioners as they fill out the Commitment Cards in the pews.  A suitable instrumental music may be useful at this time.

Completed Commitment Cards will then be collected by Stewardship Council members and ushers. Only your Commitment Card and pen will be dropped into the basket (not your offertory). After all Commitment Cards have been collected, the ushers will then come around for the regular offertory collection, and Mass will continue as usual with the offertory procession.

After mass, the cards will be placed in a secure box and carried to the office.  From the office, all Commitment cards will be sent to CSC in Georgia for analysis and preparation of a complete result. After that analysis is done, all cards are destroyed and all the parish gets is a tally of the results that help to see our performance.

If you have not yet signed a commitment card before; if you are new to our parish, take a step forward and sign one and commit yourself, your family to give to God what God has given you in time, talent and treasure.

Thank you all for your commitment to God and your parish. May God bless you abundantly.

 

By: Msgr. John S. Mbinda

Stewardship Purpose Driven Game Plan

Stewardship Purpose Driven Game Plan

In this catechesis, I would like to reflect on the purpose of our stewardship as a way of life. Our stewardship journey is purpose driven with intentionality. Everything we do is planned around our vision and mission. Our stewardship journey is transformative. From 2014 when we began this journey, stewardship became an instrument of transformation. Intentionally we moved from the way the parish had always been (status quo) to embracing change; from retreat to advance; from resistance to accepting change; and from disenchantment to engagement.

From 2014 to 2017 we have followed an intentional purpose driven game plan whose purpose has always focused on spiritual formation of all parishioners through the various gatherings: staff, leadership, ministries and parish-wide events. That spiritual formation is achieved through an intentional process: praying our stewardship prayer at the beginning of all our meetings; bible sharing by reading and sharing the gospel of the following Sunday. At staff and stewardship council meetings, we have an ongoing book study with each member reading before the meeting and sharing some thoughts during the meeting. Only then do we have the agenda  for the meeting. At the end of the agenda, we recite together our “Mission Statement” which is currently replaced by our capital campaign prayer. That intentional process has been implemented for the purpose of transforming the parish so we may get “to the next level of stewardship as a way of life.” Every year, we have a parish-wide stewardship retreat guided by a priest chosen by the Catholic Stewardship Consultants (CSC). We also have a leadership gathering in preparation for the Annual Stewardship Renewal (November 1). Then we have a lay witness weekend during which one parishioner shares his or her journey of stewardship in order to inspire other parishioners (November 4/5). The following Sunday (November 11/12), we have our parish Annual Commitment Sunday guided by the pastor at all Masses. For the last three years (2014-2016) there is observable significant change in our parish. Our ministries have increased from 51 to 61. Our parish has grown in numbers too. Between 2014 and October 2017, we added 443 households. That is why we need the One Community Center (our #1 priority in the 2015 pastoral plan.)  We have become a more vibrant parish community, thanks to our dynamic liturgical celebrations each Sunday.

 Msgr. John S. Mbinda

Our Parish Vision and Mission

Welcome to our new parishioners, visitors and all regular parishioners. In the coming Sundays, our catechesis will focus attention of stewardship as a way of life. We begin by affirming our vision that describes and affirms who we are: “We are a Catholic Christian community striving to get to the next level of stewardship as a way of life.” A clear vision-mission driven timeline with purpose and intentionality is necessary to guide us on every step on the way. As we strive to get to that level of stewardship, we will continually be driven by our parish vision and mission. In other words, stewardship as a way of life fuels our parish activities daily. To get to the next level of stewardship, we need a strategy, that is, a clear mission statement.

A mission statement responds to a deeper question. How do we get from where we are as a stewardship parish to the next level? What is our game plan? Our game plan is found in our mission statement that we publish every week on the front page of our bulletin. As part of our game plan, very intentionally we have devised a process for all parish meetings: a) we begin with our stewardship prayer; b) followed by scripture sharing (using the gospel reading of the following Sunday); c) the agenda; and d) conclude with our parish mission statement or currently our prayer for the Capital Campaign. Our mission statement becomes part of what we do in our parish. I encourage all parishioners to read our parish mission statement again in order to discover its richness and the very intentional purpose for being here in Mililani as a parish community. The very purpose of our being here is to share our faith in Jesus Christ with those who do not know him, and to bring back those who have known him but fallen astray. Now that is evangelization, the fourth sign of a dynamic Catholic. Be bold, be Catholic and be a dynamic Catholic who is not afraid to reach out to share the faith with others in the community.

Msgr.  John S. Mbinda

Confirmation Makes us Stewards of the Gospel

The Sacrament of Confirmation prepares the baptized to take on the role of missionary disciples – stewards of the gospel. With the reception of this sacrament, we are as it were commissioned to take up active ministry in the life of the Church. Confirmation should therefore prepare the candidates to encounter Jesus Christ profoundly so that they become more dynamic witnesses of the good news of Jesus Christ. Part of that good news is God’s incredible mercy and compassion which is greater than the total sum of our sins. The journey of stewards of the gospel has never been easy as St. Paul reminds us. “Let no one look down on you because of your youth, but be a continuing example of love, faith and purity to believers.” I Timothy 4:12

St. John Paul II had very inspiring words for the youth at the 1993 Denver World Young Gathering. “Young pilgrims, Christ needs you to enlighten the world and to show it the "path to life" (Ps 16,11)… Place your intelligence, your talents, your enthusiasm, your compassion and your fortitude at the service of life! Have no fear. The outcome of the battle for Life is already decided, even though the struggle goes on against great odds and with much suffering.”

The pope went on to say, “Do not be afraid to go out on the streets and into public places, like the first Apostles who preached Christ and the Good News of salvation in the squares of cities, towns and villages. This is no time to be ashamed of the Gospel (cfr. Rm 1,16). It is the time to preach it from the rooftops (cfr. Mt 10,27). Do not be afraid to break out of comfortable and routine modes of living, in order to take up the challenge of making Christ known in the modern "metropolis". It is you who must "go out into the byroads" ( Mt 22,9) and invite everyone you meet to the banquet which God has prepared for his people. The Gospel must not be kept hidden because of fear or indifference. It was never meant to be hidden away in private. It has to be put on a stand so that people may see its light and give praise to our heavenly Father” (John Paul II, Address, World Youth Day, Denver, August 15, 1993).

 Msgr. John S. Mbinda

Sacrament of Confirmation

“I have baptized you with water; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit”. (Mark 1:8)

The New Testament shows how the Holy Spirit was with Christ to bringing the Messiah’s mission to fulfillment.  On receiving the baptism of John, Jesus saw the Spirit descend on him (see Mk 1:10), and remain with him. He was led by the Spirit to undertake his public ministry as the Messiah, relying on the Spirit’s presence and assistance.He later promised his disciples that the Holy Spirit would help them to bear fearless witness to their faith, even before persecutors (see Lk 4:17-21).

By the Sacrament of Confirmation, the baptized are strengthened by the gifts of Holy Spirit in order to bear witness to Jesus Christ. The Sacrament of Confirmation is administered by the laying-on of hands and anointing with chrism accompanied by the prayer: “Receive the Holy Spirit.” The chrism is blessed by the bishop and the bishop or a priest delegated by him administers the sacrament. All baptized persons can and should be confirmed.

In the Sacrament of Confirmation, we receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit to strengthen us and sustain us in fulfilling our calling. We receive seven gifts of the Holy Spirit: wisdom, understanding, counsel, knowledge, fortitude, piety and the fear of the Lord. Confirmation deepens our baptismal life which calls us to be missionary disciples of Jesus Christ in our families, neighborhoods, society, and the world. Our faith life is deepened and becomes more intense with greater emphasis given to the person of Jesus Christ, who has become our Lord and Savior.

By:  Monsignor John S. Mbinda

First Holy Communion

“Let the little children come to me.” (Mt. 19:14) In the bulletin of last Sunday, we gave a brief overview of the Sacrament of the Eucharist. That leads to the present article on First Holy Communion. As Catholics, we know that the Holy Eucharist is the source and summit of our faith. The Eucharist is the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Pope Francis has called it the “Sacrament of Love”:

 

“The Eucharist is at the heart of ‘Christian initiation’, together with Baptism and Confirmation, and it constitutes the source of the Church’s life itself. From this Sacrament of love, in fact, flows every authentic journey of faith, of communion, and of witness.” (Pope Francis, General Audience, February 5, 2014)

 

In the revised order of the Sacraments of Initiation, children who have reached the age of reason (7 years) will be prepared to receive their First Holy Communion at the same Mass they receive their Confirmation. Obviously, this will be preceded by preparation for their First Sacrament of Reconciliation or Confession. Apart from the catechesis for these sacraments, much administrative work by the RE Team is implied.

 

What makes the First Holy Communion so special the first time is the same thing that makes it special every time! Jesus comes to us in a unique way in the Holy Eucharist. When He comes, we receive Him into our body and our soul. This is very beautiful, personal, and intimate. We should not take it for granted! This is why the first time a family member makes their Holy Communion, it is and exciting event for the whole family. The boy or girl preparing for this sacrament is going to be profoundly united with Jesus in a way that they never have before!

 

We should also make it special for our children. It is usually a tradition that children receiving First Holy Communion wear special garments. The girls often wear white dress and veils, and boys wear white shirts with ties. The color white symbolically points to the white garment they wore on the day of their baptism. It is also a sign of purity as the children come forward to receive, for the first time, the Body and Blood of Christ.

 

Msgr. John S. Mbinda

The Sacrament of the Eucharist

The Second Vatican Council Document on the Church, describes the Holy Eucharist as "the source and summit of the Christian life" (Lumen gentium, # 11; cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1324). This means that the Eucharist is central to Catholic faith and practice. The Holy Eucharist is the sacrament, instituted by Christ, who is really present in the Holy Eucharist, even when not being received. It is therefore to be honored and adored. The whole Christ is present in either kind and is received by the communicant. We believe that the substance of bread and wine are truly changed into the flesh and blood of Christ by the priest in the words of consecration, so that only the appearance of bread and wine remains. The sacrament effects union with Christ; it nourishes us and increases grace in us.

 The Eucharist is the greatest sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving to the Father. The Liturgy of the Eucharist ends on a high note of dialogue when the presider says or chants the Doxology “prayer of praise” to signify that the whole sacrifice is offered “Through him, with him, in him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit” and that all glory and honor is to the God the Father. We then begin preparation for receiving the Holy Eucharist as we say or sing the “Our Father”, which leads to the exchange of peace, signifying our reconciliation with God and with one another before we are invited to receive Holy Communion. The presider then begins an important dialogue saying, “Behold the lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world. Blessed are those called to the banquet of the Lamb,” and we respond, “Lord I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”  We then go in all humility to receive the Body and Blood of Christ. As we come forward, the priest says, “the Body of Christ.” And we respond “Amen” which means I believe. The moment we receive the Holy Eucharist is a deep experience as we received the Son of God; God himself!

 Msgr. John S. Mbinda

Why Godparents?

Godparents are an important part of the sacrament of baptism. They are there journey henceforth with the newly baptized and support the parents in bringing up their child in the Catholic faith. During the actual rite of baptism, the godparents take an active role ‘standing up for” the person being baptized. This involves promising to guide the person in the faith.

The primary responsibility for forming a child after baptism resides with the parents. Sponsors however promise to help them in serving as guides, role models sources of encouragement and support. For an adult baptism, the godparent accompanies the new believer on their journey to baptism (RCIA) and participate actively in the rite of initiation and thereafter through life’s journey of faith.

Who can be a godparent?

The question of who can be a sponsor is important. Often time we have parents who have no knowledge of the criteria for choosing a godparent for their child. Once in a while we have parents who choose a godparent because he or she is a relative or close friend. The following are the criteria:

v A Catholic who is in good standing, which means, one who is a practicing Catholic. Baptism and confirmation needs authentication from their parish with a letter from the pastor of the parish showing the dates when these sacraments were received.

v If married, he or she must have married in the Catholic Church and a proof of their Church marriage is required.

v A practicing Catholic who actually goes to Church and receives the sacraments. This is important because if a godparent is not practicing, how will he or she help your child as role model?

v A Catholic who is 16 years and above.

v A godparent must be prepared to attend a preparation session for the sacrament with the parents. This commitment is important.

Msgr. John S. Mbinda 

What Happens at a Baptism

Since Baptism is an incorporation into Christ’s Body, the celebrant (priest or deacon) begins with a reception (welcome) of the child or children being baptized. This reception symbolizes being received into the community of believers. At this time, the celebrant asks for the name by which the child will be called. This is a sign of identity, just like in every family every member has a name. This is also the name by which the child is baptized. Then the celebrant reminds parents and godparents of their responsibility of forming the child in the faith of the Church beyond the baptism as the child grows. At the end, on behalf of the whole community, the celebrant, parents and godparents trace the sign of the Cross on the child. Finally The introductory rite concludes with the Liturgy of the Word, a brief homily and General Intercessions.

The actual baptism begins with the blessing and invocation of the Holy Spirit upon the Baptismal Water. This is followed by the renunciation of sin since baptism requires us to reject sin and re-assess our values, decisions and lifestyle. Next we profess our faith in the one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit in whose name the child is to be baptized. We also profess our commitment to the Church’s beliefs, values and vision. A very pointed question is asked at this point to parents and godparents: “Is it your will that this child be Baptized in the faith of the Church, which we have all professed with you?” All respond “It is.”

The rite of Baptism consists of:

The pouring of water or immersion;

The words: “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” (cf. Matthew 28:19)

After Baptism, the newly baptized is anointed with Holy Chrism that symbolizes our consecration inviting us to Christ’s discipleship that calls us to holiness and the practice of charity. The celebrant then give the newly baptized a white garment that symbolizes the new life the we have received. Finally, godparents light a candle from the Easter Candle and hold it before their baptized child. The celebrant reminds the parents and godparents to keep that light of Christ burning until Christ comes again. The rite of baptism concludes with a beautiful blessing for the mother and father of the newly baptized and for those present.

 

Msgr. John S. Mbinda