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Locals donate time, talent to make stewardship conference success


Msgr. Cornelius M. McRae, pastor at St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Norwood was one of the local speakers and volunteers who helped the Stewardship Conference possible. Pilot photo/Christine Williams

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BOSTON -- Catholics from the Archdiocese of Boston shared their time and talent at the annual International Catholic Stewardship Conference held at the Hynes Convention Center from Oct. 1-4. Presenters, participants and volunteers from the archdiocese have been stewards by sharing their knowledge and their gifts.

Archdiocesan officials and parish leaders from Boston attended the conference, sponsored by the International Catholic Stewardship Council.

Presenter Msgr. Cornelius M. McRae, pastor at St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Norwood, told The Pilot that he has received so much help from the archdiocese and its Catholic Foundation that he was glad to give something in return.

“I figured I had to pay back,” he said.

Msgr. McRae said he was “delighted” to share ideas during his presentation on the topic of planned giving and that he has received much information from the conference as well.

Thomas P. Scholler, director of planned giving for the Archdiocese of Detroit, also spoke at the presentation.

In his remarks, Msgr. McRae encouraged pastors and pastoral associates to ask parishioners for charitable donations like planned giving. Many parishioners do not put their parish or diocese in their wills because they have never been asked to give in that way, he said.

Msgr. McRae added that the painful recent history in the Archdiocese of Boston has shown how important stewardship is. The archdiocese is in great financial need but must reestablish trust with Boston Catholics before regaining lost ground.

“We’ve been battered here in Boston,” he said. “If they don’t trust us, they won’t give in response to our request.”

Joan Broderick from the Catholic Foundation agreed with Msgr. McRae’s comments, adding that facing the clergy abuse crisis and other problems in Boston has been a real challenge.

“You think you’re struggling alone,” she said.

The conference has shown Broderick that Catholics across the country are struggling to build up the Church. Many of them have overcome problems, and Broderick hopes to initiate some of their ideas in Boston, she said.

Father George Szal, SM and Robert Gadbois from Immaculate Conception Parish in Revere said they also want to bring home practical tips and energy from the conference.

Father Szal said Immaculate Conception recently hired a consultant to come to the parish to help boost the collection. This provided a temporary hike but was not enough for a long-term change, he said.

Instead, Father Szal said that the parish leadership needs to build a community of service at the church so that the community can follow God’s call to build a civilization of love. Through stewardship, the Church can provide Catholics with the opportunity to be a part of this greater mission, he said.

Gadbois said that many Catholics are caught up in survival, and with all the demands on their time find it difficult to even attend weekly Mass. The Church must help those people to understand that if they place their priorities in God and their families, they will find time to fulfill other commitments, he added.

Ed Sampson from St. Patrick Parish in Lawrence said that the conference is meant to provide ideas for promoting stewardship through lessons learned by other parishes. All are encouraged to take strategies home and fine-tune them for their own parishes, he said.

Ed and his wife Kathy presented the workshop “Stewardship and the Family Budget.”

St. Patrick’s, located in the poorest city in the state, instituted a stewardship program five years ago and has since increased collections. In a separate effort, the parish has also raised enough money to open the Cor Unum Meal Center last week. The center’s goal is to serve the poor three hot meals everyday of the year and never turn anyone away, Ed said.

In the presentation, Ed encouraged pastors and pastoral associates to make their parish needs apparent to parishioners and outline expenses in an annual report. The report can show parishioners that the need is often more than Sunday collections, he said.

The annual report needs to focus on the time and talent aspects of stewardship, not only the treasure. It can show how the contributions of volunteers has helped the parish expand services, the Sampsons added.

“We’re focusing on treasure, but stewardship will be a failure if that’s all you talk about,” said Kathy. “When you put the emphasis on time and talent, the treasure just happens.”

Parishioners should also know that responsible sharing for the benefit of others shows gratitude to God, they said.

Ed has given local presentations on stewardship in the past and will present at an upcoming workshop at St. Julia Parish in Weston on Oct. 28.

Other local presenters at the conference included St. Patrick’s pastor Father Paul B. O’Brien, executive director of the Catholic Schools Foundation, and Seán P. Dunlavy, Father David A. Costa and Ernest Collamati from Sacred Heart Parish in North Attleboro.

Many Boston Catholics also volunteered to assist in the preparation of the conference and participate in its liturgies.

Two choirs from the archdiocese, the choir from St. Malachy Parish in Burlington and the Black Catholic Choir, sang during Masses. Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley celebrated the conference’s closing liturgy.

Ruth Villard, a parishioner at St. Angela Parish in Mattapan and member of the Black Catholic Choir, said that the conference has given her a better insight on stewardship. Villard said she better understands that all her gifts come from God and that she needs to share her talents with the Catholic community.

“We have to learn as a people how to give back and nourish our Church,” she said.

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