Father Stephen Jones was describing the spirituality of Catholic stewardship and the bishop’s vision for fully integrating it into parish life in this diocese.
Patricia Lutz and her husband Brian were sitting in the front row.
“I had been on our parish stewardship committee back when it started,” Mrs. Lutz recalled. “When I heard Fr. Jones’s presentation, I said, ‘I want to be a part of this again.’”
Fr. Jones defined Catholic stewardship as “a grateful response of a Christian disciple who recognizes and receives God’s gifts and shares those gifts in love of God and neighbor.”
He said stewardship is anchored in the understanding that God is the source of all good things, which are given and made holy through His Son.
In fullness of gratitude, the Christian steward works to maximize those gifts in order to make a suitable offering to the Lord in the form of time, talent and treasure.
Fr. Jones, the diocese’s director of stewardship, mentioned that the diocese planned to eventually hire an associate director to help him prepare parishes to operate in a stewardship mindset.
Mrs. Lutz was immediately interested.
“One day out of the blue, I called the Chancery and asked if the position had opened up yet,” she recalled. “They said yes, so I sent my resume that day.”
Her experience included 26 years with Special Olympics Missouri, most recently as vice president of programs, along with hers and Mr. Lutz’s involvement in their home parish, Ss. Peter & Paul in Boonville.
She loved her job, but the idea of promoting stewardship throughout the diocese animated her heart.
“I want to help people become closer to God and be able to live out their faith better,” she said.
Bishop W. Shawn McKnight and several advisers evaluated each candidate’s credentials.
The bishop then set up a one-on-one interview with Mrs. Lutz and offered her the job.
She will serve as a resource to parishes as the diocese continues to move toward a stewardship model.
She will provide training to pastors, parish staff, school staff and parish volunteers who will serve in leadership roles on parish stewardship councils.
These councils will work in each parish to promote the pillars of stewardship: hospitality, prayer, formation and service.
Mrs. Lutz intends to provide a centralized location for parishes to gain access to the tools they need to educate, motivate and engage their parishioners to be active participants in the community and in the Eucharist.
“My hope is that through the Holy Spirit, we will create a hospitable, prayerful environment in each parish that is built on a solid foundation of formation and service,” she said.
Mrs. Lutz chose to be Catholic.
Her mother grew up Catholic, became Protestant and eventually returned to being Catholic.
Mrs. Lutz took part in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults and became Catholic around the time she got married.
“I didn’t join the Church because I got married,” she pointed out. “I joined the Church because I wanted to.”
In fact, she had already been moving toward becoming Catholic before she met Mr. Lutz.
Her father was agnostic but celebrated with her when she entered the Church.
“He raised me to be an independent thinker and respected my choice,” Mrs. Lutz noted. “And he had a lot of respect for my husband.”
She has learned that faith is a constant journey.
“You learn something new every day,” she noted.
For instance, she didn’t truly appreciate what the Eucharist is until she and Mr. Lutz served as chaperones at a Catholic youth conference sponsored by Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio.
“I had never experienced Adoration until then,” she stated. “That’s when it finally hit me: ‘Wow! THIS is the Body and Blood of our Lord!’”
Mrs. Lutz started out with Special Olympics Missouri as an administrative assistant.
She became steadfast in promoting the organization’s mission of helping people with disabilities train and compete at a level that helps them achieve their full potential.
She and Mr. Lutz went about balancing their roles as parents, active Ss. Peter & Paul parishioners and boosters and facilitators of the Special Olympics.
Their daughter, Rachel, a senior majoring in special education at Missouri State University in Springfield, caught on to the stewardship mindset. She attended five Steubenville youth conferences as a participant and served as a chaperone on two more. She helped with Vacation Bible School at their parish and served as a Totus Tuus youth missionary for two years. She now serves on the peer ministry team for faith formation with Catholic Campus Ministry at MSU.
Mrs. Lutz worked her way up to vice president of programs — managing grants, working with young people and overseeing the entire program staff who deliver the mission of Special Olympics to the athletes.
She held eight titles in the course of her time with the organization.
“They say my ninth title will be volunteer,” she stated. “The athletes and the volunteers are amazing. They know I want to stay connected.”
Mrs. Lutz and her husband have become more active in the life of the Church since he began discerning a possible calling to the permanent diaconate.
They were together at a meeting of aspirants for the diaconate and their wives when they heard Fr. Jones’s presentation on stewardship.
“I’m thoroughly convinced that it was a God thing, part of God’s plan,” said Mrs. Lutz. “Because it fits in really well with what I’m passionate about and with my husband and me committing more of our time and talent to the Church.”
She noted that her parish has been actively promoting stewardship for about 10 years.
“It’s been kind of a way of life for us as parishioners,” she said. “We’re fortunate in that we’ve had pastors who are very much agents of change and are very supportive.”
She has found that people have a much easier time accepting change when they understand why it’s important.
“People want to know why,” she said. “If you have the basis of the ‘why’ and it’s something you consistently share in a message to everyone, your message is going to have a positive effect.”
All the more so when people see that message being put into practice, in season and out.
“People will respond to you if they see you truly making an effort to be a disciple of Christ and living a stewardship way of life,” she said.
Fr. Jones talked about some of the things that made Mrs. Lutz an ideal candidate for her new role.
“She and her husband are imbued in the life of their local parish — a pro-stewardship parish — and have a willingness to grow in knowledge of what stewardship is theologically,” he said.
“She has great people skills,” he added. “And she’s a doer with a proven track record of being able to accomplish goals.”
Fr. Jones is excited about working with Mrs. Lutz on day-to-day tasks and on bringing big ideas to fruition.
“It’s a team effort with a shared goal in mind,” said Mrs. Lutz, “which is implementing the bishop’s vision for stewardship.”
That vision is for the members of every parish to adopt a stewardship mindset and to pledge one-tenth of their time, talent and treasure to their parish.
Each parish, in turn, will tithe their offertory collections to the diocese, which assists all parishes in their ministries.
Once people start recognizing the fruits of putting their faith into action in this manner, “they’re going to get really excited about what they see,” Mrs. Lutz predicted.
A necessary response
For the past year, Fr. Jones has been visiting parishes on weekends, preaching and teaching about stewardship and its inseparability from the call to discipleship, and meeting with all the people involved in the leadership of the parish.
“I talk to them about being active participants in their parish life and how becoming more educated in their faith is going to help them grow closer to God and be able to live a joyful life,” he said.
He emphasized that stewardship is an ongoing response to the invitation to be a disciple of Jesus Christ.
“Authentic stewardship is about our response to the love that God has shown us — the gifts He has freely bestowed on us,” he said. “It is about our faith, our trust and our response to an encounter with the living God, which unites us to Him.”
It is what motivates followers of Christ to invest themselves fully in becoming disciples — followers of Christ — and in making disciples.
“It is the difference between being faithful Catholics and faith-filled Catholics,” Fr. Jones noted.
He and Mrs. Lutz will now work together on teaching stewardship committees at each parish how to carry-out their mission.
Parish stewardship committees will assess the available talent in the parish and help find practical, achievable ways to channel it into service for God and one another.
The parishes Fr. Jones has visited have received the message well.
“Once they hear what it’s all about, the people are like, ‘Okay! Let’s go, let’s do it,’” he said. “They know the why, so they say, ‘We’re on board. This is our Catholic faith.’”
The long view
Mrs. Lutz asked for prayers for guidance and patience as she takes up this new opportunity to serve God.
“It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon,” she noted. “It’s going to take a while to see the fruits of all of our work.”
She’s confident it will be well worth the work and the wait.
“You’re going to have truly active parishioners who are on fire with the Holy Spirit, who want to give of their time and talent and share those gifts with others,” she said.
“This our calling,” she stated. “It’s what we’re created to do, to love and serve one another. And the Holy Spirit is going to fill us with inspiration.”