Nun calls for spiritual approach to fund raising

BLACKWOOD — On Thursday Oct. 22, Sister Sue Mosteller spoke at St. Agnes Church here on the “spirituality of fundraising.” Sister Sue is a teacher, author, retreat director, and international lecturer who works and lives in community with disabled men and women at the L’Arche Dayspring facility in Richmond Hill, Ontario.

She was the longtime associate of theologian Henri Nouwen, and is executrix of his estate and on the board of the Henri Nouwen Society.

The lecture focused on the Christian call to stewardship.

Sister Sue noted that an individual’s gifts are God-given, “never really ours, but all on loan” and she called for a shift in thinking in two main areas of fundraising.

First, she pointed out the need for individuals to evaluate and transform their relationship to wealth and finances. Her description of Nouwen’s ability to give money away when he had it, and to ask for it when he needed it, with little concern for it as the central and driving force of life, was a model for radically reorganizing priorities.

Second, Sister Sue called on individuals to reflect on their prejudices and judgment concerning those with wealth.

Admitting her own earlier tendency to be “scandalized by the opulence” of wealthy donors, she described how a conversion and openness of heart was needed to correct a disconnect between some wounded and spiritually impoverished people with higher incomes and those called by God to minister to others in any number of ways. Her goal was to transcend the boundaries between these two groups of people, putting them in relationship with one another with distinct gifts to communicate and share. Each should approach the other with the promise and hope of deepening interpersonal connections, not with judgment or intolerance.

Inspired by Nouwen, she called fundraising a “vocation” and “the opposite of begging.”

In her view, just as the Gospels claimed that Jesus “spoke with authority” (Mt 7:29), those sharing in the prosperous work to build the Kingdom of God should speak with confidence of the enthusiasm, passion and necessity of their aims. Donors should be seen not as cash registers, but rather as partners in a holy mission. It is a worthy and dignified call in life to raise money to do good things for others, “spirit to spirit, not pocketbook to empty pocketbook. Ministry is mutual.”

Sister Sue summarized the call to such a vocation this way: “We aren’t what we do, or what we have, or what other people say about us. Rather we are God’s beloved daughters and sons. We need to believe this and live from it, to stand up in our vocations.”

Her talk included anecdotes about the true charity and joy involved in living with intellectually disabled people and her learning to grow to the Lord by placing her trust in his will for her life, both in financial matters and otherwise.

Earlier in the day, Sister Sue gave a similar presentation at Church of the Assumption, Galloway. Both conferences were sponsored by the Camden Diocese’s Office of Stewardship. Three more stewardship conferences will be held in the coming months.

— Stewardship Opens the Door for Increased Offertory, featuring Kevin Lynch, Lynch Development Associates; Lynn Cummings, Lynn Cummings Development Solutions; and Paul Harrington, the Cunneen Company, Nov. 19.

— Stewardship Guarantees the Success of Your House of Charity Annual Appeal, featuring Mariann Gettings, House of Charity, Jan. 14 and 21, 2010.

— Stewardship Leads to the Gift of a Lifetime, featuring Patrick W. McGrory, senior financial advisor, and Joe Mahon, estate planning attorney, Feb. 18, 2010.

For more information or to obtain a copy of Henri Nouwen’s book, “The Spirituality of Fundraising,” contact Russell Davis, Office of Stewardship, 856-583-6102.

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