“As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord” (Jos 24:15).
At St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Sicklerville, stewardship is strongly encouraged by Father Michael Matveenko, who has served as pastor there for almost four years.
“We’re constantly stressing the importance of stewardship to our parishioners,” explains Father Matveenko. “If we are going to be serious about our faith, we need to be actively involved.”
But the impetus to service doesn’t get its start in the pews. Charity — and stewardship — truly begins at home. If you have any doubts about that, just ask the Ryan family.
Sean and Kathy Ryan are “cradle Catholics” who joined St. Charles Borromeo in 1998 with their small family. In that time, their family — as well as their commitment to their parish —has grown. Today, they and their six children are very active in parish life, giving back to the church that has done so much for them.
“We like to help out. We use so much of the parish’s facilities for our kids,” says Sean, a computer programmer by trade who got involved with St. Charles’ information technology committee, helping to set up the parish office’s computer network. Sean has also taught religious education and is a Eucharistic Minister.
“We’ve been blessed with all the kids and feel we should help out where we can,” adds Kathy, also a former religious education teacher, and currently a Eucharistic Minister. “People expect things of a parish. But things can’t happen if there’s no one helping to run them or participate in them.”
“We teach our children that faith is important and you should help your church community. I’m hoping they pick up the lessons learned and continue it on.”
From all accounts, the Ryan children have learned those lessons of stewardship very well. Brittney, now 25, and Patrick, 21, both taught religious education. In fact, each of the four older siblings has helped out with the parish’s religious education program. Kaitlyn, 19, is continuing that tradition this summer. Plus, she and her brother Matthew, 15, actively participate in the 7:30 a.m. Mass. Kaitlyn switches between being a lector and running the flat screen TVs that have replaced the song books. Matthew is an altar server, following in the footsteps of both Patrick and Kaitlyn.
“My older siblings were altar servers and it seemed pretty cool,” says Matthew. “I look up to them and wanted to do what they got to do.”
Assisting with the 7:30 a.m. Mass is an ongoing commitment for the two young parish stewards. The parish’s schedule — which has them serving every other week — can be quite a challenge for two young people who aren’t always early risers.
“When it’s hard to get up some Sundays, you think, ‘I should just do a later Mass,’” says Kaitlyn. “But after you go, you feel good that you got up and did it.”
As for the youngest of the Ryan family: Megan, age 11 and Madison, age 9, they’re soaking it all in. Mom and Dad are sure to get them involved, although according to Kathy, they may be too shy to be altar servers. “We’ll get them in there soon.”
Father Matveenko is appreciative of families like the Ryans, as well as the many other parishioners who help make St. Charles Borromeo a vibrant faith community through their involvement and stewardship.
“I think it’s a wonderful witness to have a whole family who’s involved in ministry for the parish,” says Father Matveenko. “It’s a tremendous witness to the other members. We need people like that.
“Almost everything we do would not be possible without the stewardship of our parishioners. It’s not enough to just come and sit in the pew. There are so many things that they’re called to do. We do have whole families, as well as older parishioners and single parishioners, who are involved in our responsibility to be stewards of the mission of the Gospel. We need to continue that. We need to spread that. More are needed to take up that challenge.”
For their part, the Ryans are also encouraging other parishioners to get involved. Kaitlyn is constantly asking her friends to join her. In fact, one friend is helping her to teach religious education classes again this summer. “I pulled him in,” she joked.
Matthew feels that being a young steward of the parish is a powerful witness. “It’s important for young people to get involved. It sets a good example for everyone. I mean, if the younger kids are doing it, you should too.”
For the family’s patriarch, Sean, becoming more involved was as easy as four simple words: “I’ll lend a hand.” And it certainly doesn’t hurt to volunteer with your soul mate. “I do everything with Kathy. She’s been my best friend ever since we met. It really makes it fun to spend time as much time as I can with her.”
Giving back is also contagious. “It’s important to help where you’re needed,” says Kathy. “It makes you feel good when you help out and someone appreciates that help.”
According to St. Charles’ web site, the parish has several five-year goals which pertain to stewardship, including developing a stronger evangelization effort through parish ministries; making stewardship a way of life for our parishioners, utilizing their time, talent, and treasure to the fullest; implementing new initiatives to attract and hold junior and senior youth group members through their high school years; the continuation of long range capital planning that focuses on necessary building and grounds improvements; and providing a well integrated total religious education program for children, youth and adults.
For more information on stewardship contact Deacon Russell Davis, Office of Stewardship, at 856-583-6102.