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Our Renewal brochure proclaims We Are Changing Lives! This is what I want to tell you about this morning.

I start with this question: Why am I here at St. Ed’s? I used this question to start my reflection, to remember why St. Ed’s is such a valuable place for me, and why that has been true for nearly 40 years. I will tell you parts of my personal story, my faith journey, to help explain how St. Ed’s has changed my life. I have also heard some life-changing stories from other parishioners that I will share briefly, too.

In the early years of our marriage, Leah and I were not good Catholics. Even though we both had 12 years of Catholic education, we rarely went to church. Easter, maybe Christmas – for several years, that was it. But, as time went on, this absence was bothering me more and more. I guess the Holy Spirit was tugging at me. In Advent of 1979 we talked it over and decided we should reconnect. I called the parish office here at St. Ed’s and asked to make an appointment to sit down and visit with the Pastor, to find out what we needed to do to get ourselves “reinstated.” I was told we could meet following a Communal Penance service one weekday evening.

Leah and I went in to the office and met with Father Bill Whittier. I told him that we had been away from the church and wanted to come back. He began, “Well, we just had a communal penance service here tonight…”

I interrupted and said, “Father, we attended that service.” Father Bill said, “Well, very good. Welcome Back!”

Welcome Back! I had been so nervous going in to that meeting, not knowing what to expect. Father Bill was so kind and caring. Leah and I were happy and relieved as we went home from church that night. We did become regular Sunday mass attendees after that. Our two young children were a bit confused about this change in our weekend habit, but soon they were going to faith formation classes. I am happy now when I recall that both of them received four sacraments here – Reconciliation, Eucharist, Confirmation and Matrimony.

A few years after that meeting with Father Bill, I began my volunteer work here, starting with teaching 6th grade faith formation. Later I taught confirmation classes, participated in the stewardship committee, became a member of the parish council and a trustee, and then a Stephen Minister.

But the resume is unimportant as compared to all of the people I met along the way. Very many of our good friends today go back to connections we made through participating in multiple activities here at St. Ed’s. People from whom I have learned a lot, things that have helped me grow in my faith. It was through a couple of fellow parish council members that I learned the real meaning of Christian Stewardship, that I give money not because the church needs money, but because I am to make a sacrifice in response to the great sacrifice that Jesus made for me. Everything that I have comes from God, and I am to return a portion of what I have received back to God.

Through Stephen Ministry I met the late Vern Paul who became my spiritual director for several years. Vern made a big difference in my life. He helped me to better understand my relationship with a loving God.

Over the years I have had the opportunity to meet individually with four of our pastors. In addition to Father Bill, I have had a chance to get to know Father Marty, Father Mike and Father Brian. Each of these pastors has their own unique strengths and gifts, and knowing all of them has enriched my life.

In preparing this talk, I asked for others to share their experiences with me. I know that mine is hardly an unusual story. I heard from many, and can give you only a few quick phrases here.

Lois Johnson told me, “St. EDs has always been there for us. My mother in law’s funeral when she did not have her own church. For our grandson’s baptism, our son who lives in Hawaii brought him here because it not just the brick and mortar, its home. Our daughter s wedding could have been in New York, but again was here because it’s home.”

Another said, “I enjoyed having so many opportunities for creative collaboration with other volunteers. Those experiences formed me; they opened the door to my relationship with the Holy Spirit”.

A former staff person and still a volunteer says, “St. Edwards impacted my life in so many ways – an awareness of what true commitment means, a sense of dedication to the Gospel message above all else, a belief in the wisdom held within all ages, the meaning of having a spiritual home, and a sense of communion of faithful witnesses.”

A choir member told me, “…through the music I was also spiritually nourished and fed. And I found that I really needed that strength and nourishment when my husband was diagnosed with colon cancer and endured years of chemo and several surgeries, and eventually succumbed. I believe it is the music–and the Scriptures that most of it is based on–that helped sustain me through all of that. Father Mike was there for both me and my husband.”

Several people reminded me of the wonderful work many parishioners do through our Social Justice commission. Sue Kellet has led many to Nicaragua to experience the life of our sister parish, to share our caring and some material aid, as has Ann McGuire who with others has helped and camped with the poor girls at Teresa Toda mission in the Dominican Republic. Many more help every week bringing meals and other services to the poor right here in Bloomington. I know that all of these parishioners learn much from the people they serve.

Finally, another woman shared a story similar to mine, saying, “I had been away from the faith for almost 20 years before it all caught up with me. As I walked in that first Sunday morning, I was very nervous; it had been so long. I found a place in the back, got on my knees and looked up at Jesus. In that moment, all that I had been carrying came to the surface, and in that same moment an overpowering sense of being home had come over me. I found myself in the very presence of God. There are no words to describe what St Edward’s means to me. It is the place where I met my Savior and my loving Father for the first time on a personal level. It is the place that has changed my life, provided me a sense of purpose and inner peace that can only come from our Lord.”

She continues, “Thank you Dc Jim for your support and loving spirit, thank you Fr. Brian for sharing the very light of Christ each and every week, and lastly, I thank God for His great mercy and leading me to the Church of St Edward.”

She, like me, heard that wonderful message of “Welcome Back!”

 

“Lord God, You alone are the source of every good gift. Everything we are and everything we have belongs to You and is Your gift.”
-excerpt from the Church of St. Edward Stewardship Prayer

Fellow Parishioners,
Please meditate on the words above for just a moment. Let the words settle into your mind and your heart. Embrace them. They are the starting point for true stewardship—acknowledging that all we have belongs to God. We are stewards of who we are and what we have, in our possession for a time but only in safekeeping, not belonging to us alone. We receive all we have as gifts from God—for our use, but also to be shared with others. We return a portion of what we have received to God in thanksgiving.

At the Church of St. Edward we have a tradition that began more than twenty-five years ago of talking about “Stewardship as a Way of Life.” For many years this way of life served our parish well. Now we are making a major effort to renew it by sharing our time, talent and treasure—not based just upon the needs of Church, but based more importantly on sharing as a part of living our faith, a part of our spiritual journey. Giving is about our need as faithful Catholic Christians to give.

A book that has become very popular in recent years is The Story of a Catholic Parish Rebuilt by Michael White and Tom Corcoran. It describes a model for stewardship that is being used to guide our parish’s renewal effort. It challenges members to become:

Planned Givers: designating money in their budget to give
Priority Givers: giving to God first before other expenses
Percentage Givers: giving a percentage, not a dollar amount
Progressive Givers: increasing the percentage regularly

Following the “Four P’s”, we invite all parish members to move giving to first place in their household budget by first calculating how much to give as a percentage of income. Doing this will move members towards our recommended goal of tithing.

Tithing? Do people really do that? Actually, yes, some do. But most do not. Our committee recognizes that reality. However, setting it as your goal to be achieved over time, maybe over many years, and calculating your giving budget as a percentage of your income is a good way to start towards this goal. Remember the fourth “P” which asks that you be progressive—increasing the percentage that you give over time. Think also about the front of our parish envelopes which read, “Tithing means donating 10% of your income: 5% directly to the parish and 5% to the poor and other charities.”

This fall our parish has been blessed! Two anonymous donor families have stepped forward with exceptionally generous gifts to the parish of $100,000 each. One of these was received recently to coincide with the Feast of St. Edward. Another will be contributed soon. In the spirit of this great generosity, all the rest of us are asked to increase stated intentions for the next twelve months so that the cumulative increase is greater than $200,000. Notice that the enclosed intention card asks what you have given over the past twelve months and then asks that you record what you intend to give over the next twelve months. The difference between those two amounts will be each household’s contribution towards meeting the $200,000 increase. Our committee looks forward to calculating everyone’s cumulative increases, with the hope that it will exceed even the great generosity of our two special families.

Stewardship Renewal Month is also about the renewal of our giving of time and talent. Our goal is for all parishioners to go beyond Mass attendance and become active participants in the ministry of the Church—to become true disciples of Jesus. Many of you are active ministers already. Please indicate on the card your intention to continue in that ministry. Otherwise, write your area of interest and someone already active in ministry will contact you. While the card suggests broad areas of ministry, details about many opportunities for participation can be found on our website or Facebook page. Please visit those resources.

NEXT STEPS
Our Stewardship Committee asks that you take these next steps:

1. Consider and pray over your personal commitment to “Stewardship as a Way of Life”
2. Complete a “Stewardship Renewal Intention Card
3. Participate in our “Ceremony of Stewardship Intention” at all Masses on October 22/23

Our goal is to receive a Stewardship Renewal Intention Card from every member household. If you are unable to attend Mass on October 22/23, please mail your card to the parish office or drop it in the collection basket before the end of October. Stewardship committee members will gently reach out to households for which we do not receive a card.

Our Stewardship Committee has also been renewed recently—assembled anew after the parish was without one for a time. This committee is supported by Father Brian and all parish leadership. Going forward, Stewardship Renewal Month will be an annual event in October—the ONLY TIME during the year that everyone will be asked to reconsider and increase their giving. Other fundraisers will be for special purposes only and not the general parish budget. Our committee’s sincere hope is that with the success of our stewardship renewal, there will be enough funds available for all special purposes as well.

Please pray for our parish, that we may be blessed with great success in this Stewardship Renewal!

Sincerely,

Bill Franke
Stewardship Committee Chair

Jerry Grebin
Joan Black
Warren Thiede
John Gray
Lois Johnson

Stewardship Committee Members

 

June 12, 2015

Electronic funds transfer is an easy way to be sure your Stewardship intention continues, even while you are away on a summer vacation. Our expenses don’t take a vacation and so this is one way that will allow us to do business as usual. Many households at St. Edward’s use electronic funds transfers to simplify their giving to the parish all year long. It is an easy and safe way to manage your Stewardship of Treasure. We encourage you to take a look at this and begin using this secure method of giving.

If you are interested in beginning electronic funds transfer, please talk with Sherrie Schroeder in the parish office (952.835.7101). The forms are available either in the parish office or in the pamphlet rack outside of the office. Please don’t hesitate to give us a call!

February 27, 2015

Pope Francis has said… Since the start of his pontificate, Pope Francis has spoken extensively on the rights of the poor and has stressed that faithful must help those on the margins. Pope Francis practices what he preaches: When a local Sri Lankan church donated more than Rs. 8.7 million to the Charity Fund of the Pontiff; the Holy Father refused the check, requesting that local churches use it to help the poor. Sri Lanka’s bishops have decided to distribute the money among the dioceses to help the poor.

Catholic Social Teaching Principle – Preferential Option for the Poor: Those who are marginalized and whose rights are denied have privileged claims if society is to provide justice for all.

ACTION: Reflect on How YOUR “Almsgiving” is truly helping the poor?

In Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, the Holy Father urged for all faithful to have a spirit of “generous openness,” and to care for the weakest members of society. During Lent, try taking Almsgiving to a new level of ACTION. Reach out to those on the margins, whom you do not ordinarily see, and figure out a way to Act with Compassion to show God’s love to them! There are so many organizations that you can give to that help the marginalized in our local community and beyond: Loaves & Fishes, Beacon Interfaith Housing Collaborative (FMF), VEAP, Bridging, Second Harvest Food Bank, or Feed My Starving Children, … and many more. Consider VEAP’s March FoodShare Month Collection!

Donate FOOD &/or $$ to our food drive during March – Our Goal = 1500 lbs.
The Minnesota FoodShare March Campaign raises more than half the food distributed annually at 300 food shelves statewide. At the beginning of every year, as the giving spirit of the holidays wanes, food shelves across Minnesota begin to struggle to get enough food donated to serve the people in need in their communities. Our goal is to raise 115,000 pounds or dollars throughout the month of March. Help us achieve this goal and keep our shelves stocked.

A helpful flyer to take shopping with you or envelopes for your convenience can be found on the poster in the foyer or on the VEAP food bins.

“Veggies-4-VEAP” Giving Garden is in the “Seeds of Planning” stage! We will meet Monday, March 9 at 7:00 pm to discuss the plan for this year’s garden for VEAP’s Food Shelf. Any new people interested in being part of this Team for coordinating our garden, please join us!

January 25, 2015

Dear Fellow Parishioners,

Recently I asked a priest friend and scholar to offer some thoughts on tithing. I thought you might find his response insightful. Let us continue to dialogue on how St. Edward’s has been and will be a tithing parish.

Peace, Fr. Brian

The origin of the term “tithe” is in scripture, where it means giving 10% to the Lord and to religious institutions directed toward the Lord. The scriptural prescription about giving alms or charity to the poor has no percentage requirement. The common use of the term “tithing parish” refers to parishioners giving 10% of their income to the Church and its religious activities. If one goes beyond the common understanding of members giving 10% to the Church; you could begin to speak of the parish tithing itself.

In the root scriptural meaning of that term “tithing,” a “tithing parish” would give 10% to the Lord and to the religious activities of the Church. St. Edward’s annually gives 8% to the Archdiocese in its assessment, and it gives donations to different religious causes, like, the Church and shrines in the Holy Land on Good Friday, the home mission Churches in the United States, the Propagation of the Faith, etc. When you add up all things, contributions that St. Edward’s make to the maintenance of the Church and the religious works of the Lord, it is clear that St. Edward’s is a “tithing parish” in giving 10% or more to the Lord and the works of the Lord.

It appears that some people at St. Edward’s have usurped the word “tithe” from its original intent to maintain the religious works of the Lord as scripturally prescribed at 10%, and they have transformed it into an injunction to give “charity” to the poor at a 10% rate. In doing this, they put greater emphasis upon charity to the poor than giving a tithe to the Lord. This transfer of the meaning of the term “tithe” has undertones of atheistic humanism – where an individual’s positive contribution to the need are very praiseworthy and humanistic, and their refusal to contribute to the parish and the archdiocese is really against God’s work in the Church and can therefore be said to be subtly, passively atheistic and of the secular spirit of the world.

What I am suggesting is that a major component of the problem you are dealing with is misuse of language. The term “tithe” really is a term which applies to giving 10% to the Lord and the religious works of the Lord, and “charity” is the proper term for alms giving to the poor. There is a scriptural injunction to tithe 10% for the religious works of the Lord, but there is no scriptural injunction to give 10% of one’s income in charity to the poor.

I hope these thoughts might be helpful in your parish’s exploration into what it means for St. Edward’s to be a “tithing parish.”

June 8, 2014

We are coming to the close of our 50-day Easter journey this weekend with the celebration of Pentecost. This day in which the Holy Spirit descended upon the apostles is seen as the “birthday of the Church.”

In our ongoing efforts to understand this wonderful gift/responsibility we have received, I invite you to consider the wisdom and challenge presented by article 33 from Vatican II’s The Dogmatic Constitution on the Church:

“Gathered together in the people of God and established in the one body of Christ under one head, the laity, whoever they are, are called as living members to apply to the building up of the church and to its continual sanctification all the powers which they have received from the goodness of the Creator and from the grace of the Redeemer.”

The apostolate of the laity is a sharing in the church’s saving mission. Through Baptism and Confirmation all are appointed to this apostolate by the Lord himself. Moreover, by the sacraments, and especially by the sacred Eucharist, that love of God and humanity which is the soul of the entire apostolate is communicated and nourished. The laity, however, are given this special vocation: to make the church present and fruitful in those places and circumstances where it is only through them that it can become the salt of the earth. Thus, all lay people, through the gifts which they have received, are at once the witnesses and the living instruments of the mission of the church itself ‘according to the measure of Christ’s gift’ (Eph 4:7).

All the laity, then, have the exalted duty of working for the ever greater extension of the divine plan of salvation to all people of every time and every place. Every opportunity should therefore be given them to share zealously in the salvific work of the church according to their ability and the needs of the times.”

Yes, all Christians are called to continue Jesus’ good work through their membership in the Church.

This is an inherent responsibility received at Baptism. If someone says that they can be a good Christian and/or Catholic and do not have to be active within the Church, simply tell them that they are wrong. Invite them to read the Acts of the Apostles (which we have reflected on throughout the Easter season) and the documents of the Second Vatican Council. Clearly and decisively, God calls every Christian to actively support the Church. All have gifts to share.

Granted, how to live out this responsibility can indeed be a challenge, especially during the recent trying times within our local Church. However, our obligation to support the Church does not end because of our struggles with the leadership. All of us make up the Church. Remember, we are only as strong as our weakest member. Therefore, inactive or passive members need to be brought back home; and, active members need to be inspired to continue their efforts. We all must take our place at the table. Together we build the kingdom here on earth.

May the Holy Spirit continue to guide our efforts to be the Church!

Originally posted October 27, 2013

“RE-ENGAGE!” is the rallying cry of this year’s stewardship campaign.

I hope that everyone has received their stewardship packet by now (they were available in the church foyer these past two weekends and any not picked up were mailed out); or, stewardshipmore importantly, I pray that every parish family is taking time to seriously reflect on how they will share their time, talent and treasure here at St. Edwards. Yes, there is a great deal happening within our parish — for example, this weekend’s grand re-opening of the newly remodeled youth room — however, know that it cannot help without the support of everyone. Please take time to discern how you and your family will support our parish. We need you!

As a reminder of the good work that is made possible through your support, below is a thank you letter I recently received from VEAP our local social service agency.

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Dear Father Fier:

Thank you so much for the recent gifts from the Church of St. Edward. Your congregation’s gifts of $4,000 to support our annual operating and $10,000 for the Our Next Chapter capacity campaign are much appreciated and will help VEAP in its ongoing efforts to serve this community and families in need.

A lot is happening at 9600 Aldrich and construction crews are busy every day. The transformation is dramatic and each time I go over to the site, I marvel at how much it changes from day to day. The façade is taking shape and the interior walls are framed in. It’s very exciting to see the vision become a reality.

As you know, program expansion is a key piece of the campaign and much discussion and planning has centered on the teaching kitchen and nutritional programming. VEAP is very fortunate to be working in partnership with nutrition experts from the University of Minnesota Extension, General Mills and Betty Crocker. We anticipate that incorporating this educational and practical element into our food program will provide a great service to our neighbors in need.

On behalf of all the families and individuals VEAP serves, thank you again for your continued partnership and support of the Our Next Chapter campaign. Together we are making a difference in the lives of neighbors in our community.

Sincerely, Susan Russell Freeman, Executive Director

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Thank you everyone for the great work we are doing here at St. Edwards. Together we are building the kingdom. Keep the faith!

Autumn blessings, Fr. Brian