PARAMUS-The sixth annual Stewardship Day conference, held Nov. 3 at Paramus Catholic High School and sponsored by the archdiocesan Office of Development, celebrated an understanding of stewardship and its importance to the Church.
The conference, which attracted 325 attendees, presented a diverse group of speakers and programs, which offered spiritual insights as well as practical ways to implement stewardship programs in parishes.
Carla Gonzalez, executive director of the archdiocesan Office of Development, explained that stewardship consists of giving time, talent and treasure to God as a gift of gratitude for all the blessings we have received from Him. The essence of stewardship involves helping those in need.
The high point for many attendees was the presentation by keynote speaker, Mary Higgins Clark. Clark, a best-selling author of suspense novels, shared her Catholic reflections on stewardship and how God has acted in her life.
During her keynote address Clark recalled her days growing up in New York City. Her father died of a heart attack when she was 10 years old and, in order to earn money for the family, her mother converted the upstairs of the home to a boarding house. One day her mother came upon a troubled tenant getting ready to sneak out of the house, saying he could no longer afford the rent. Her mother told the distressed man there was no reason for him to leave and then gave him the last two dollars she had in her pocket.
Gonzalez said the heartfelt story demonstrated an act of kindness and stewardship on the part of Clark's mother-reaching out to help this man get through a difficult period of his life even though times were tough for her.
"She (Clark's mother) had enough faith to help this man even though she was in need," Gonzalez said.
The story illustrated a key aspect of stewardship, which was highlighted by Gonzalez in a recent commentary article (see The Catholic Advocate, Oct. 10). "When you give from your substance rather than your abundance, a conversion takes place," she wrote. "The things you think you need are placed second to helping those who lack basic necessities. You begin to act on a belief that security lies in your relationship with God and not in your material possessions."
Born Christmas Eve, 1927, in the Bronx, New York, Clark went to secretarial school in order to get a job to support her mother and two brothers. After working for three years in an advertising agency, she became an airline stewardess in 1949. Clark's debut suspense novel, "Where Are The Children," first published in 1975, is now in its 75th printing. She has written 24 novels and her books have sold more than 80 million copies in the United States alone.
Following Clark's keynote address, there were seven individual breakout sessions, which focused on different aspects of stewardship. The breakout session programs included: Deacon Joseph A. Dwyer Jr., vice chancellor of administration for the Archdiocese of Newark, "Stewardship as Discipleship"; Father Larry Evans, parochial vicar of Our Lady of Mercy in Jersey City, "Diggin' Stewardship-Reality vs. Theory"; Kevin Lynch, president of Lynch Development, "Strategic Planning for Capital Campaigns"; Kay Furlani, director of the archdiocesan Office of Human Concerns, "Human Concerns and Stewardship"; Tracey Vieira, associate director of youth ministry for the Archdiocesan Youth Retreat Center, "Youth Ministry in the Parish"; Ken Di Paola, associate director of the archdiocesan Office of Development, "Stewardship for Dummies"; and George Ruotolo, president of Ruotolo Associates, "Practical Solutions-Capital Campaign Case Studies."
Another highlight of the event was the announcement of the winners of the Stewardship for Youth Contests. Four hundred third, fourth and fifth graders submitted drawings depicting the true meaning of stewardship. In addition, there were 300 essays submitted by junior high and high school students that explained the meaning of being a good steward and related volunteer activities.
Monetary prizes of $1,000 were awarded to the schools attended by first place winners, Jillian Hojsak from Our Lady of Mount Carmel School in Tenafly; Gabrielle Gubernat from Saint Bartholomew Academy in Scotch Plains; and Anna Lee Rice from Immaculate Heart Academy in Washington Township.
The second place winners, Chinchu Jacob from Transfiguration Academy in New Milford; Patricia Palanca from Our Lady of Mercy School in Jersey City; and James Stewart from Paramus Catholic High School each had $750 donated to their schools.
The third place winners, Megan Brockmeier from St. Peter the Apostle Church in River Edge; Andriana Kranjac from Our Lady of Mount Carmel School in Tenafly; and Thomas Flaim from St. John's Parish in Leonia each won $500 for their parish or school.
Stewardship Day began with an opening prayer led by the Father John J. Galeano, the parochial Vicar of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish, Jersey City. Concurrent with the English language presentations, there were also a series of Spanish language stewardship talks that included: Father Galeano, the keynote Spanish presenter, "Stewards: We are the Keepers of the Treasurers of God"; Father Bill Halbing, pastor of Saint Antoninus Parish in Newark, "Biblical Perspectives on Stewardship"; and Father Luis Gonzalez, pastor of Our Lady of Good Counsel in Newark" The Offering that God Desires."
Lynn Gully, associate director of Stewardship, said the archdiocese is planning another Hispanic Stewardship Day on March 29, 2008, following the enthusiastic support of this year's event (see The Catholic Advocate, May 9). Contact Gully by phone at (973) 497 4589 or via e-mail at email@example.com for more information on stewardship programs. The Office of Development/Stewardship is located at the Archdiocesan Center, 171 Clifton Ave., Newark.
Gonzalez was grateful to the generous sponsors that supported Stewardship Day: Emerson House Coffee LLC, Spring Lake; Graham-Pelton Consulting Inc., Summit; Habitat Visual Communications, Linden; Institutional Commodity Services Corp., New York; J.S. Paluch Company Inc., East Brunswick; Lynch Development Associates, Huntington, NY; Our Sunday Visitor, Huntington, IN; Ruotolo Associates, Cresskill; Supreme-Lite Industries Inc., Englishtown; SVO Printing Inc., Rockaway; and Trinity Fund Raising Consultants Inc., Commack, NY.
(Editor's note: Ken Di Paola, is the associate director of the archdiocesan Office of Development and was an organizer of Stewardship Day.)