SAVANNAH, Ga.—Giving of one’s time, talent and treasure as a way of life was the focus of a regional conference held May 1 in the Diocese of Savannah.
Matthew Dwyer, director of stewardship and development for the Diocese of Charleston, said more than 300 people attended the ninth annual Regional Stewardship Conference.
They represented the Archdiocese of Atlanta, and the dioceses of Charleston, Charlotte, Raleigh and Savannah.
South Carolina sent 25 people from 10 parishes and all deaneries. Dwyer said St. John the Beloved Church in Summerville had the most with seven people.
The regional conference, which started in 2002, educates people about the concept and principles of giving of themselves, and offers advice on how to promote that way of life at all levels of parish life.
“The basis of stewardship is first and foremost recognizing everything we are and everything we have is a gift from God,” Dwyer said. “We can carry out that message by being good disciples, and one of the ways we do that is by sacrificing and managing our time, talent and the treasure that God has given us.”
Dwyer said it is important to spread the message that stewardship is more than just giving money. Instead, a true stewardship mentality means a person is willing to give back to their parish and community on many different levels.
The keynote speaker was Bishop emeritus Sylvester D. Ryan, of Monterey, Calif. He discussed “The Spirituality of Stewardship,” including theological foundations of stewardship and how it is promoted in the Gospel. Bishop Ryan described how the Eucharist is the true embodiment of sacrifice, and should be the inspiration and foundation of all discussions about sacrifice as part of stewardship.
Breakout sessions focused on topics including the importance of witness by the laity, parish communications, how to welcome newcomers to a parish, and developing effective stewardship based on the foundations of Hispanic culture.
Stewardship is an all-encompassing concept, Dwyer said, and it should carry over into every aspect of daily life.
He said people can give time through volunteer work or service to others, using personal talents to help strengthen the church’s mission and message, and with financial help to the church and charities.
“It can be carried out in our churches, our faith, in our communities where we live, in our personal lives with our families and friends,” Dwyer said. “There is no one specific sacrifice. They are all by-products of living out stewardship as a way of life. It’s about committing yourself completely to God and your faith.”
Dwyer said stewardship is especially important in South Carolina because of the challenges parishes face, including rapid growth, limited space to accommodate new members, and a decline in offertory revenues because of the sluggish economy and the high jobless rate in some counties.
“The message of stewardship is more important and more valuable than ever,” he said. “The message is to gather and to kind of rally as a community behind our faith, and to commit ourselves spiritually, intellectually and financially to supporting the mission of our local churches and parishes.”