Teddy Roosevelt famously said, “Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.” The work I am charged with is helping to build a culture of Catholic philanthropy in the Diocese of Salt Lake City. Working in the vineyard of the Lord is definitely work worth doing, but it’s certainly not without its challenges.
Firstly, most faithful Catholics – those who support their parishes, bishop and local communities – don’t consider themselves philanthropists. They believe that philanthropy is reserved for the 1 percent, people with great wealth and last names like Carnegie, Rockefeller or Eccles. However, when we break down the word philanthropy we understand that it comes from the Greek words “philos,” meaning brotherly or sisterly love, and “anthropos,” meaning humanity. Therefore, philanthropy simply means the love and care for humanity. No doubt, faithful Catholics actively promote the welfare and goodwill of humankind.
Catholic philanthropy is inspired sacrificial giving, rooted in stewardship. Stewardship is the dynamic action of our discipleship. It is through stewardship that we live authentically as disciples and work towards achieving the bold mission of Christ. Catholic philanthropy is learning to give, coupled with acts of philanthropy, such as charitable donations large and small, volunteering, and sharing compassion and love.
In my line of work the term “stewardship” can be a bit of an occupational hazard because it can be over-used, lacking clear definition or misinterpreted to mean fundraising. Our Church defines stewardship through the three pillars of time, talent and treasure, but I believe that it is more simplistic and holistic to define stewardship as “service to God and the world simultaneously.” Stewardship is being the best caretakers of all He created, including the careful and responsible management of the Church He entrusts to us. When we embrace our roles as God’s stewards and Catholic philanthropists, we build up the Kingdom of God.
The philanthropist Jimmy Carter wrote in his 2018 book Faith: A Journey for All that God has given each of us “life, talent, ability, knowledge, freedom, influence, and plenty of opportunities to do something extraordinary.” When we fully embrace our roles as God’s caretakers – managing God’s blessings, God’s ways, for God’s glory – we do just that, something extraordinary. We build up the Kingdom of God.
Guided by the spirituality of stewardship, Catholic philanthropy will flourish in our diocese and the fruits of our Kingdom-building will be fully realized as we provide help to the homeless and hungry through support of Catholic Community Services of Utah; hope and spiritual care for the incarcerated and infirmed, through the diocesan prison and hospital ministries; and the realization of weekly Eucharistic celebrations in rural Utah, through the support of our seminarians, our future priests.
These are trying times for our Church in the United States, and some of our faithful are concerned that monetary support of the Church equals condoning the mistakes and abuses of some of the leadership. We must be reminded that we are the Church, and it is our duty to preserve what is right and just. So, when our faith is challenged, not in God, but in man, let us consider the words of the 20th century theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, “The Church is the Church only when it exist for others … not dominating, but helping and serving. It must tell men of every calling what it means to live for Christ, to exist for others.” Living for others is the very heart of our call to build up the Kingdom of God, and espouse and live our Catholic stewardship and philanthropy.
Karin Hurley is director of the Diocese of Salt Lake City Office of Stewardship and Development.