Conference Challenges Faithful to Make Stewardship a Lifelong Journey


Nearly 200 people -- including lay leaders, clergy and women religious — participated in the a diocesan conference April 27, 2024, “Lord, What Do You Want of Me?” at Our Mother of Confidence Parish in San Diego.

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SAN DIEGO —“Stewardship is just about raising money, right?”

By the time that Koren Ruiz, founder and president of Corresponsables de Dios (Stewards of God), posed that tongue-in-cheek question at a recent conference on evangelization and discipleship, he could be confident that the approximately 180 conference participants knew that the correct answer was “no.”

The conference, which was co-sponsored by the diocesan Offices for Stewardship and for Evangelization and Catechetical Ministry, was held April 27 at Our Mother of Confidence Parish. The theme was “Lord, What Do You Want of Me?”

“Nothing that we have in this world is ours,” Ruiz said, expressing one of the “foundational ideas” about discipleship. “It is God who has been entrusting us with everything that we have, and we’re simply stewards of those gifts, who are called to share and manage those gifts according to His will for our lives.”

Stewardship involves the sharing of one’s time, talent and treasure with the Church, and all three components are “equally important,” according to Ruiz, who has led previous conferences at the diocese.

Likening time, talent and treasure to the legs on a three-legged table, Ruiz explained that each plays an essential role.

“Do you know what happens to a three-legged table that only has two legs?” he asked.

That’s why the person who leaves a sizeable donation in the collection basket shouldn’t consider himself thereby excused from volunteering at the parish. Nor should the person who is always there to set up tables for parish events or who shares his talent every week as part of the music ministry consider himself dispensed from making financial contributions.

Ruiz stressed that stewardship is part of a lifelong journey, not something in which we can ever expect to reach perfection and then become complacent.

“Stewardship is a way of life,” he said. “If you were giving $5 last week and you start giving $10 tomorrow, that doesn’t mean that you are already a perfect disciple. If you were giving two hours and you start giving five or six next week, that doesn’t make you a perfect disciple.”

“It’s not about the amounts,” he said. “It’s about equal sacrifice and giving in a proportionate way to the way that we have been blessed in our lives.”

Ruiz said that the U.S. bishops have identified certain characteristics that mark good stewards.

The first is gratitude.

“A good steward receives … and recognizes Go’’s gift with an attitude of gratitude,” he said, describing how the first thing that we should do upon waking up in the morning is to give thanks to God for another day of life.

With this mindset, people can be grateful even for challenges and disappointments.

“Sometimes,” said Ruiz, “a difficult situation is a gift that will teach us something.”

The second characteristic of a good steward is the ability to “develop” or to “multiply” whatever gifts we have received, he said.

Ruiz recalled the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30), in which a landowner entrusts some of his money to three servants before departing on a long journey. Two of the servants double the money during their master’s absence and return to him twice what they received; the other servant, who buries the money instead of investing it, gives back the original amount and nothing more.

“If you have a particular gift … you need to cultivate it and make sure that it grows in the right way,” Ruiz said.

The third characteristic is that a good steward shares his or her gifts “with love and justice.”

Ruiz asked participants if they had ever seen people who either do the right thing, while looking like they hate doing it, or who do what they love to do, without any concern about whether they are acting fairly toward others.

The “two ingredients” of love and justice are both essential, he explained.

“We are called to be grateful for our gifts, called to cultivate them, called to share them with love and justice, so that later on, we can return them back to God with an increase,” Ruiz said.

In addition to leading three plenary sessions, Ruiz also performed praise-and-worship music with his wife, Jessica. The couple are choir directors at Ascension Parish in Portland, Oregon, as well as published composers with Oregon Catholic Press.

The conference schedule also included breakout sessions led by Maryanne Russell, director of evangelization and stewardship at St. Brigid Parish; Father Efrain Bautista, pastor of Corpus Christi Parish in Bonita; and Father Edmundo Zárate-Suárez, pastor of St. Jude Shrine of the West Parish. Auxiliary Bishop Felipe Pulido led an opening prayer and, toward the end of the conference, there was a period of Eucharistic adoration.

Ian Mascarenhas, who serves as a volunteer at Our Mother of Confidence Parish and whose wife is a member of the parish staff, said the conference provided him with “a lot to think about, then definitely a lot to take back to my ministries.”

Roman Becerra, a member of St. Didacus Parish, also attended.

“My wife and I love to serve, and one of the biggest things that drew me to (this conference) is, how can I share that flame … (with) others, how can I get others in my parish more involved?”

Marissa Esparza Garcia, director of faith formation at St. Mary Star of the Sea Parish in Oceanside, came to the conference seeking “to be renewed and inspired.” She brought with her three young adults – Jhonathon Schloegel, 25; Michael Schloegel, 24; and Jasmine Cruz-Moreno, 18 – who serve as catechists at the parish.

She expressed hope that, through the conference, they too might “get inspired about stewardship and giving.”

Jhonathon Schloegel said that there was “good energy” at the event.

“I think a lot of people that are here want to be here,” he said, “because they want to be better, they want to do more.”

Marioly Galván, diocesan chancellor and director of pastoral ministries, and Manny Aguilar, director of the Office for Stewardship, reflected on the success and significance of the event.

“This conference comes at an exciting time for our local Church,” said Galván. “We are a mission-driven people and, as such, we must collectively work towards unity. … We need to take our call to be missionary disciples seriously, if we want to be the change we long to see in our Church.”

Aguilar said, “The conference was a tremendous blessing and very successful, especially given that this was our first diocesan-wide evangelization and discipleship event since before the pandemic.”

“God’s call to our brothers and sisters in Christ was answered,” he continued. “There were 41 parishes that participated in the conference, including 10 priests, two deacons, two seminarians, and three women religious … The feedback we received was extremely positive, asking for more events like this one.”


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