What Christian stewardship can mean for Hispanics Catholics in the U.S.

September 12, 2023

Scott Whitaker, secretariat director for Stewardship and Development of the Diocese of Austin, speaks during one of the keynote presentations during the second annual Archdiocesan Parish Engagement Conference at Prince of Peace Catholic Church in Houston on Aug. 19. More than 260 people attended the conference, which was hosted by the Archdiocesan Offices of Development and Communications, with keynotes and workshops focused on using the tenets of stewardship and effective communications to engage the faithful in parish communities. (Photo by James Ramos/Herald)

When I heard the word “stewardship” for the first time, I did not find a Spanish translation that satisfied me or was easy to understand. Stewardship in Spanish means “administration,” so it was difficult for me to translate it into action within the Church since I was wondering: How can I be an administrator or have co-responsibility in the administration of the church?

As an immigrant from Mexico and a new parishioner at St. Martha Catholic Church in Kingwood, stewardship was a new term for me because my idea of involvement within the church was only in the form of occasionally helping out, volunteering my time in different ministries and donating money during the Sunday collection.

As a Hispanic Catholic and migrant woman in the U.S., I thought that sharing my gifts, talents and time in my church community was more than enough. This was because in my home country of Mexico, as well as in other Spanish-speaking countries, this shared responsibility is not a common practice as most parishioners take a more passive role and expect the church to take care of all their spiritual and social services needs without thinking beyond what is required to meet all those needs.

In general, the church is seen primarily as a place to worship and pray, practice the traditional Catholic faith, and a source for the fulfillment of the Sacraments that are the foundation of the Catholic faith.

It was not until I was invited to participate as a family in the “Capital Campaign” in Spanish that I realized all the responsibilities and obligations that the church has to the community, such as financial obligations, payroll, new and continued support of ministries, growth projections, short and long term needs, as well as all the benefits my family and community receive from the church.

At this moment I began to understand the need for my active participation within the community and the idea of being a “steward” of the resources, gifts and talents bestowed within my church. I also understood that “Stewardship” is a biblical term, which means that we are no longer the absolute owners of our lives; we are administrators and co-responsible for our gifts and talents granted by God when we were created and for the benefit of our neighbor.

When we talk about “stewardship,” the family is the best example. Each family is sacred and unique before God. The family is the foundation of society, and it is our first Church, our first evangelizing seed where faith and love for the Sacraments are sown as responsible Catholics and faithful Christians. Each member has roles and responsibilities within the family nucleus, but some responsibilities are also shared within the family. I, as a woman, for example, have some unique responsibilities within my family, but at the same time, I share many responsibilities with my husband. We were both providers and stewards of gifts, talents and time for our children, while they, too, had their own roles and responsibilities that increased as they grew older.

In general, all family members must have a shared responsibility and be co-responsible for the well-being of all its members. When I thought about my domestic Church, my family, and the way we share responsibilities and manage all the blessings bestowed on us, I understood exactly what stewardship means and my active role as a steward within my church and community.

I now believe that it is our responsibility as Catholic Christians to raise awareness and educate ourselves about the stewardship of gifts, talents and time. Even though this shared stewardship is not as common in our home countries, one as a Catholic immigrant to the U.S. must adapt and make family changes to integrate into the culture and customs of this country more quickly, as well as customs within the Church.

It is our duty as Christian Catholics to use the gifts and talents that God has given us to contribute and have co-responsibility in the hospitality of the church, supporting with prayer, formation and service in the different ministries for the benefit of our community.

The participation of Hispanics in this shared responsibility must include not just a monetary way but also participating in councils, capital campaigns and ecclesiastical committees for the positive and permanent impact of future generations of Catholic Hispanics in the U.S.

“Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established” (Prov 16:3). 

Olga L. Najar is an associate director with the Office of Aging.