Program helps strengthen parish ministries

Father Gregory Dobson

“I see this increased offertory program as an opportunity to provide greater stability to our diocese and to our parishes."

--Father Greg Dobson

Parishes in the diocese will participate in a program throughout the fall that aims to strengthen their ministries and give them more stability.

Parishes have the option to participate this fall or in fall 2011 in “Strengthening Our Faith Together.” It is a program that offers parishioners the opportunity to take part in the principle of giving of their finances and gaining a stronger sense of connection to their parish.

Father Greg Dobson, pastor of St. Mary of the Angels Parish in Olean served as chairperson of the stewardship advisory committee. He said the committee sought a company that could help parishes so pastors and parish personnel would not be overburdened.

“I see this increased offertory program as an opportunity to provide greater stability to our diocese and to our parishes,” Father Dobson said.  Father Dobson also sees the program as an opportunity for parishioners to support the work of the Church.

“The Scriptures tell us of the holy ones who supported the ministry of Jesus and St.Paul,” Father Dobson said. “We are called to live, to the best of our ability, the generosity extolled by St.Paul throughout his letters to the early churches. The sharing of our resources with the local parish is one way for us to do that, and as Paul notes, God promises blessings for that generous spirit.”

The program is a logical progression after the Journey in Faith and Grace which restructured parishes in an effort of good stewardship. The new program will attempt to foster the biblical concept of stewardship which will help both parish and parishioner.  

Father Eugene Ulrich

“We need gratitude for all that has been given to us and the generosity that it is not ours, but it is our to share."

              --Father Eugene Ulrich

“It is much more than a program where a company from the outside comes in and helps ask for funds,” said Father Gene Ulrich, pastor of Annunciation Parish in Elma. “Our experience has been that you make a commitment to be good stewards.”

Annunciation Parish took part in the program in fall 2009. Father Ulrich said that parishes have the unique opportunity to build on the efforts of the Journey in Faith and Grace.

“The program works because we are inviting people to see that they have a moral and a spiritual responsibility to help their parish,” Father Ulrich said. “They take ownership of it because they see that we are accountable to them.”

Father Ulrich said his parish did a lot of preliminary work to make sure parishioners were fully informed. Part of that preparation included the importance of understanding the biblical mandate to live with gratitude and generosity.

“We need gratitude for all that has been given to us and the generosity that it is not ours, but it is our to share,” Father Ulrich said. “There is really nothing in our lives that we can hold on to. Ultimately, all is a gift. This is very much a biblical insight; that we appreciate that everything has been given to us. It is a sense of God’s providence. Then we live with that generosity and that gratitude.”

Father Ulrich said it is faith and a sense of spirituality that helps people understand they should be sharing financially. He said there are some benefits to following the biblical principle.

“Once people are invited to give financially, it can also lead to a deeper prayer life and spirituality because they are taking ownership for it,” Father Ulrich said. “It is not just that people are giving to the Church, but that there is a sense of stewardship.”

“The program is about strengthening each individual parish to provide appropriate ministries in their own parish,” said David Kersten, director of the Foundation of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Buffalo. “The diocese will actually provide 25 percent of the total cost of each parish in the program.” Each parish will have the opportunity to shape its own program and what it asks parishioners to consider in terms of financial support. A pastors advisory committee helped the diocese select a company which will help parishes with the program.

Kersten said that whatever increase results from the program will be used by the parish to strengthen its ministries.

“This is another step in that process of good stewardship,” Kersten said. “We need to make sure parishioners understand there has to be an active commitment and that their membership means something very active and committed so parishes can remain vibrant and effective.”

Father Ulrich said it is important that the program is presented properly and that parishioners have the proper spiritual outlook.

“It is not just that people are giving to their church,” Father Ulrich said. “There is a sense of stewardship. Spirituality can lead to a greater sense of giving financially and once you go down that path of giving a portion of your resources to your church or a charity, that becomes a dynamic of living the faith.”

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