Wednesday, May 7, 2008

More on Wichita

The Diocese of Wichita is known around the country for both the spiritual and material successes it continues to realize since adopting Stewardship as a way of life. Since the mid-1980s the diocese has been actively promoting it in all its parishes. One of the remarkable results is that Catholic education – both elementary and high school – is tuition-free to all Catholic students.

Stewardship as a way of life began in Wichita's St. Francis of Assisi Parish some 40 years ago. A glance at their home page gives an indication of its fruits:

When was the last time you attended Mass where the crowd was standing room only? Here at St. Francis of Assisi, it happens every weekend. Our school receives equally enthusiastic support with parents, faculty and staff working together to serve and strengthen the Body of Christ through the formation of our parish children.

St. Francis' Stewardship page provides a little more detail:

THE VISION Stewardship as a way of life began at St. Francis of Assisi in 1968 when Monsignor Thomas McGread arrived as Pastor. There were approximately 600 families in the Parish at that time. He did not come empty handed, as he brought with him a vision from the words of St. Peter, "As each one has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of God's varied grace." ( I Peter 4:10 ) This vision was not to be denied. Father Tom's message was simple: Strive to share our gifts of time, talent and treasure for the service of God and all His people. We do this out of thanksgiving to God for all that He has given to us. Having initiated the Stewardship Way of Life, he encouraged the parish to grow and prosper in unity, harmony and spirituality.

HOW MANY PARISHIONERS PARTICIPATE? The answer is always changing and probably known only by God. St. Francis is a very active parish of over 2600 families, with some 85% of our parishioners attending weekend Masses, more than 500 parishioners participate in Perpetual Adoration, some 750 students attend the Parish grade school, another 500 participate in the Parish School of Religion program and more than 250 attend the area Catholic high school. There are approximately 70 organizations active in the parish, made up of more than 1,900 volunteers. The Stewardship Way of Life has also significantly contributed to helping develop nine priests and six Religious from St. Francis since 1968.

St. Francis of Assisi School is obviously an integral part of the parish. One has to wonder how successful the parish would have been had its parishioners not had a strong sense of ownership in both their parish and their school.

Here in Monroe County that sense of ownership in a school will soon be limited to a mere 11 parishes, most of them relatively wealthy and most of them on the east side. I suspect that promotion of the concept of Stewardship as a way of life will have far easier sailing in those waters than it will on the west side in general and in the city in particular.

As for the five or so parishes that spent hundreds of hours devising plans to save their schools and raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to prove those plans feasible - in other words, those parishes that have clearly shown the diocese what they most want to do with their time, talent and treasure - I suspect Stewardship as a way of life will be an awfully hard sell.

[Note: The last paragraph was added a few hours after the rest of the post. It was a part of the original on my word processor but was missed in the copy-and-past operation that transferred the text. Sorry about that. - Mike]

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