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Parish embraces stewardship in spirit of faith and hope

St Dominic’s in Downham Market is one of the latest parishes to have embraced the Diocese of East Anglia’s stewardship programme, Faithful Stewards of God’s Gifts, in a spirit of faith and hope.

The programme was run over three weekends in October and parish priest, Fr Erico Falcao, was keen to run it, post-Covid, to help bring the parish together.

“The programme came along when it was really needed,” said Joe Walton, a member of St Dominic’s parish stewardship team.  “It has helped to focus our minds on our parish life and what our parish means to us in the context of our faith.  I hope it’s opened up conversations and encouraged more of us to get involved in our parish life.”

Janelle Cleghorn, the parish treasurer, delivered some of the talks, explaining everything in a warm, authentic and friendly way.  Presentation and tone are so important to engaging with parishioners and making strong and meaningful connections that will bear fruit.  A pack of information is available to give to anyone who missed the talks and the programme is ongoing and is really just the start of things.

“We have been coordinating our response,” Joe said, “and contacting those parishioners who have volunteered their time and talents.  Some have already begun to help, with welcoming at Mass, serving tea/coffee or cleaning.  We are keen to make them feel valued and more involved in our parish life.  Some have taken up leadership roles.”

As a result of running the programme, some parishioners not only agreed to volunteer their time and talents but also to review their financial commitment to the parish, leading to a significant increase in the value of standing orders.  The parish will also benefit financially as the number of Gift Aid donors has gone up, too.

Over a dozen parishes have already run the programme, said  Diocesan Stewardship and Fundraising Coordinator, Sandra Portas, with many more parishes planning to run the programme in 2023.

Summarising his hopes for the programme at St Dominic’s, Joe said: “We will all benefit.  We will grow in confidence.  New ideas and initiatives will emerge.  More cooperation and collaboration will follow.  We will talk to each other more and communicate better.  We will get to know each other.  As more parishioners get involved, it will strengthen the bonds between us and build us into a more united community, with its foundations on a strong, missionary faith.

“At first sight, perhaps, we may have individually felt that the programme is not for us, that we are not able to help or have nothing to offer due to our personal circumstances.  It’s important that no one should feel judged or excluded.’

“Just remember the little acts and words of kindness, the considerate gesture, the warm greeting, the friendly words of welcome to a stranger, the smile.  The expressions of faith, reverence and witness.  They are all so important to our parish life, its very heart and soul.  Their power and influence should never be underestimated,” said Joe.

“We each have our unique personality, gifts and talents to offer.  We are each loved and cherished by God.  The great treasure we all share is our faith: we can pray.  God needs each of us to help build up His kingdom here in our community and beyond.  He entrusts us each with a mission to proclaim His Good News and be a witness to His message of love and forgiveness.  And we are called to be faithful stewards of God’s gifts.

“So, let’s not become demoralized nor feel inadequate, daunted or afraid.  Let’s be filled with the Holy Spirit and take heart from the Word and eternal love of God,” said Joe.

“We have a church where we can gather to worship and pray as a community with our parish priest; to meet for study and spiritual growth; to do works of outreach from; to enjoy each other’s company at social occasions.  This is only possible because the parishioners who came before us were faithful stewards.  Their legacy to us is not only a church building fittingly adorned and well-maintained, sound parish structures and organisation and good facilities but indeed our parish community and very faith, which has been handed down from generation to generation. 

“We owe them so much for being such faithful stewards of God’s gifts.  Let us in turn strive to be good and faithful stewards to assure our legacy to future generations, a legacy worthy of the great treasure we have each inherited.”

If you would like more details of the diocesan stewardship scheme, please contact Sandra Portas at:  stewardship@rcdea.org.uk or on tel: 07821 876170.

Pictured above are the St Dominic’s parish stewardship team.