Stewardship of Potential

For Church leaders, it is important to recognize and take proper care of the potential at hand — the expertise, creativity, and diversity of its people, together with investments, property, and the generosity of Catholics. In this session, we will discuss the many assets of the Church and how the Church can utilize those assets to strengthen the financial health of the Church.

This sessions speakers were Sister Nathalie Becquart, XMCJ, Under-Secretary to the General Secretariat of the Vatican Synod of Bishops, Amy Rauenhorst Goldman, CEO and Chair of GHR Foundation, and Kelli Reagan, Research Associate in the Catholic Social Tradition at the University of Notre Dame’s Center for Social Concerns. The moderator was Louis Damani Jones, Program and Mission Alignment Coordinator for Catholic Urban Programs.

A global institution with a presence in nearly every part of the world, the Catholic Church has spiritual, social, and financial resources that reflect abundant potential.

How to effectively steward this vast potential was the theme of a panel discussion moderated by Louis Damani Jones, the Program and Mission Alignment Coordinator for Catholic Urban Programs, a social ministry of the Diocese of Belleville.

“Our challenge is to instill the whispering of the Spirit into our processes, budgets, and programs,” Jones said in opening the discussion. “How can we be people of conversion personally and institutionally?”

Sr. Nathalie Becquart, XMCJ, an undersecretary to the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops, reflected on how synodality is an integral part of stewarding the Church’s potential.

 

Our Call to Synodality

“Synodality is a way of being ‘Church’ according to the dynamic of listening together to the voice of the Holy Spirit,” Sr. Becquart said. “I want to spread the fire of synodality that I have received through my experiences, which is the joy of the Gospel and missionary zeal.” The path of synodality is a fruit of the Second Vatican” “Council, especially the Council’s emphasis on the Church as the People of God. “The Synod is a call to be an inclusive Church: young, old, priest, bishop, lay woman, layman. We are all called to journey together,” she said.

In order to put into practice the principles of mutual listening, discernment and collaboration, Sr. Becquart highlighted the importance of leaders embracing co- responsibility and inclusion. “The way to implement synodality is to call everyone to participate so we are truly a missionary Church,” she remarked. “We are called to be protagonists.”

 

A Roadmap of Possibility

Amy Rauenhorst Goldman, CEO of GHR Foundation, described Pope Francis’ vision for the Church as “a roadmap” that can inspire us to understand stewardship of potential more deeply.

“Pope Francis also gives us a reality check to see that while the challenges are vast, positive change is possible,” Goldman said. Stewarding potential, she noted, has to do with not only strengthening individuals, but expanding the effectiveness and capacity of structures and institutions.”

She highlighted two GHR priorities from the foundation’s “Prepare the Future” portfolios as examples of stewarding potential and cultivating the resources of the Church’s vast network in service of the common good. The Laudato Si Movement, previously known as the Global Catholic Climate Movement, is “tapping the unparalleled depth and breadth of the Catholic Church globally to take climate action as individuals and leaders of organizations,” Goldman said. FaithInvest, an international nonprofit membership organization for religious groups and faith-based investors, fosters investing “rooted in solidarity, equity, and dignity.” These efforts, she said, demonstrate “creativity, urgency, and agility,” as they draw on the capacity of millions of people and billions of dollars in resources to impact change at the local, national, and global level.Goldman shared her optimism for the potential of capacity building in Church networks when it comes to interreligious cooperation, and racial and social transformation.

“Through the Synod we can hear the voices around the world across a range of issues,” she said. “I don’t think we quite understand the power that has.”

She urged Church leaders to “shift our mindset from scarcity to abundance” as we put Catholic Social Teaching into practice on urgent moral challenges such as climate change. “This is a moment to reimagine what is possible. Let’s partner boldly across the Church and with local communities to realize this prophetic future.”

 

Framing Potential through Catholic Social Teaching

Kelli Reagan, Research Associate in the Center for Social Concerns at the University of Notre Dame, spoke about Catholic Social Teaching as a framework for understanding stewardship.

“In the Catholic social tradition, we encounter the moral potential of the Church to inform, inspire and change lives,” Reagan said. “Stewarding the potential of the Church means stewarding a moral imagination based on such abiding principles as the dignity of the human person and the preferential option for the poor.”

Catholic Social Teaching is not meant to be the “Church’s best kept secret,” but put into practice in direct ways.

“Our financial decisions say something about our values, beliefs and faith commitments,” Reagan emphasized. “Our budgets are where the rubber hits the road.”

But incorporating Catholic teaching into leadership decisions is often a challenge, Reagan noted. In her research interviews with chief financial officers from Catholic institutions, she found that “decision-makers expect little from Catholic Social Teaching when it comes to financial stewardship.” While Catholic teaching is sometimes viewed as too “idealistic,” she invited Summit participants to rediscover its power.

“A Church that lives her teachings will be a Church that rebuilds her trust and becomes worthy of long- term sustainable generosity,” Reagan said. “This will be a transformational Church and a Church worthy of her mission.”

RECOMMENDATIONS: Stewardship of Potential

IMPLEMENT AN INCLUSIVE SYNODAL PROCESS

  • Stimulate interest and broad participation in the global Synod journey, communicating the unique opportunity for lay Catholics to share their ideas and perspectives through parish meetings and other formats
  • Communicate the significance of the ongoing Synod process to help establish a culture of inclusion in how the Church discerns the prompting of the Holy Spirit
  • Ask “Who are we missing?” from Synodal conversations and take intentional steps to include them in the process
  • Provide pastors with tools and training to actively cast a wider net to ensure diverse participation in the Synodal process
  • Train leaders to effectively facilitate engaging Synod consultations and to faithfully report on results.

PARTNER BOLDLY AND BROADLY

  • Establish structures of co-responsibility to infuse synodality into the culture, policies, and practices of parishes and dioceses
  • Study the inclusive governance of Eastern Rite Churches and other Roman Rite Churches to consider what practices can become a template for the Church
  • Ensure the Synod remains an ongoing process rather than a single program
  • Develop connections among dioceses, parishes, and Catholic leaders that encourage resource-sharing and collaboration on common themes raised during the Synod.

APPROACH STEWARDSHIP WITH AN ABUNDANCE MINDSET

  • Root financial investments and management of assets in the principles of Catholic Social Teaching, including solidarity, equity, and dignity
  • Utilize creativity, urgency, and agility in stewardship
  • Approach parish and diocesan budgeting and use of resources with an abundance mindset.


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