Stewardship calls for more than giving money; it calls for giving of yourself. This is something volunteers understand all too well.
Kathy Schmugge, assistant director of the Office of Family Life, said without volunteers, the diocese would not be able to function. They are referred to as the heart and backbone of organizations because they are essential to Christian life.
But most of these men, women and youth said they do not look for recognition. They volunteer because God calls them to, and it makes them happy.
Couples said they volunteer as a way to share experiences and maintain healthy relationships. Families find time to volunteer together to turn dinner-time prayers into real life. Individuals and all types of groups share their time and talent as volunteers because it is essential that they put their faith into action.
“So much of what we do depends on volunteers,” Schmugge said.
Families in action
Schmugge said it is important for families to volunteer together for many reasons.
It shows children that parents aren’t just giving lip service to their beliefs, but that they follow Christ’s steps with action.
“It’s not just preaching at the dinner table,” she said. “If we just teach the catechism it’s going to lie flat. They have to see it in action.”
She said even the youngest children can help at church-related events with jobs such as putting together prize boxes. Older children can help run booths, pass out flyers, set up tables, serve, and so much more.
“Don’t underestimate what young kids can do,” she said. “They can do it, and they really want to help.”
Schmugge added that parents should not be deterred by initial reluctance. “They might grumble at first, but once they get there and they’re able to help someone else, they always feel better about themselves and the church’s mission, which is to help and love others.”
Every volunteer she knows talks about how good it makes them feel. This is especially important for pre-teens and teens who have so many doubts about themselves and their place in the world.
Helping others puts the focus outside of self, and helps youth understand that all their perceived imperfections are just surface concerns. True worth is found inside, she said.
Her family, for example, enjoys pro-life events, such as the annual Respect Life March in Washington, D.C. Schmugge said worshipping and marching together for their beliefs is a bonding experience.
It takes two
Jim and Marty Rebuck were a young couple when they were asked, at a Marriage Encounter weekend, to think of an apostolate to undertake together. That was more than 40 years ago, but the volunteer pair is still going strong.
“We’ve always done [God’s work] as a couple because it’s a way to cement our marriage while still giving to the church,” Mrs. Rebuck said.
They are involved with the parish and hosted marriage encounter weekends at their church, Divine Redeemer in Hanahan, while their four children were growing up.
When their youngest daughter was a teenager, the couple began teaching family honor classes with her and also became foster parents.
“We wanted all of our kids to know you can’t just sit around and be grateful for what you have, you have to give back,” Mrs. Rebuck said.
The lesson stuck, she said, adding that all four children, grown now, are still involved with community and church life.
As for the couple, they show no sign of slowing down. Mr. Rebuck, 70, and Mrs. Rebuck, 64, are currently fostering two brothers, ages 2 and 6 months.
Mrs. Rebuck said she doesn’t need a lot of sleep, but it’s more than that. Each year they think about cutting back, but have never done so. Mrs. Rebuck said volunteering keeps them young, and it’s important to give back to the world.
Schmugge called the couple an inspiration to others.
“God will give you the energy if you’re doing His work,” she said.
Find your talent
Father Marcin Zahuta, chaplain at The University of South Carolina’s St. Thomas More Center, said he is constantly amazed by youth today.
“They want to improve society,” he said. “They are very willing to give their time if they see a good cause.”
Campus youth cook for others, paint and repair homes, and volunteer for mission trips. Over spring break, the USC Newman Club will travel to Jamaica to help children with HIV, Father Zahuta said.
Others may find it harder to squeeze volunteer time into hectic schedules. Father Zahuta said he believes that once a person has found their talent, the area that God calls them to, then they will also find the time.
Cheryl Duren, parish secretary at St. Francis by the Sea Church, encourages people looking for ways to volunteer to visit the church Web site, or ask for a list of programs.
Duren said the Hilton Head Island parish is very active. A lot of retirees are energetically looking for ways to give back to the community.
How they can help really depends on each person and where their interest lies.
Churches have Christian formation, stewardship ministry, ethnic ministry, ways to build the community, social outreach and more. Each of those categories contains dozens of specific ways to be involved.
The Rebucks said once a person discovers all the things that need to be done, it is impossible not to help.
“I feel like God calls us to do more than live our lives,” Mrs. Rebuck said. “And we have to witness our faith. That’s the most important part.”