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Seeing things in a new light.

MissionInsite: Stewards of God’s Gifts, Servants of God’s People

In the last year, the Planning Office of the Diocese of St. Cloud engaged with a research tool called MissionInsite.

MissionInsite is used by many groups, not only Catholic communities. The results are generated from the U.S. Census Bureau for objective demographic data, and from Synergos Technologies and Experian for the self-reported aspects of beliefs, attitudes, and practices. Our report is dated December 21, 2022.

With any such tool, there are limitations and interpretation is essential. The data are anonymous and generated for the entire area of our One in Christ ACC; we do not have access to more granular breakdowns for individual parishes. The survey results on attitudes and concerns are naturally time-bound and reflect some of the strong current issues at the time of the surveys, particularly COVID, political conflicts, and the attention to racial tensions and economic challenges. As always, this is only a slice of a much larger population and represents the views of those who responded. One always needs to ask what concerns and ideas have not yet been heard.

We will share more of these results as time goes on, but I mention MissionInsite today as I look at the many opportunities presented simultaneously for works of charity. For among the results from this survey, 56.7% of respondents said “the church is too focused on money.” One can understand the concern from a certain perspective.

Falling in the same brief time frame we are invited to contribute to the Bishop’s Annual Appeal to support diocesan ministries that no parish can supply on its own; Pack the Porches and March’s FoodShare month to feed the hungry in our communities; Disaster Relief for the people of Turkey and Syria to recover from the massive destruction and loss of life from earthquakes; the Catholic Relief Services collection and Rice Bowls for the worldwide response on an ongoing basis to needs. Individual parishes are collecting funds or goods for Kids Fighting Hunger, Disabled American Veterans, the Pregnancy Resource Center, and support for upcoming parish festivals. Time and Talent efforts are also ongoing. Other community and civic organizations to which you belong are probably also soliciting needed funds.It seems like a lot of asking, especially when looking at the heating and groceries bills.

And yet your generosity inspires. How can we reframe these many “asks” in faith?

During the Eucharistic Revival, we are drawn to the central words of the Mass during the consecration: “This is my Body; this is my Blood … do this in memory of me.” The “this” Jesus is commending to us is not only the ritual of the Eucharistic celebration, but also what it is at its core: the self-giving love of Christ, even to death on a Cross. To live the Eucharist is to do this in memory of him, to enact according to our own circumstances and resources that gift of ourselves. We do it in time spent in prayer and intercession; in ministries of service to one another; in the love of our families and friendships; and in some part, also in financial contributions to trusted works of mercy. No one can support every good work and donate to every cause. Yet the many opportunities need not overwhelm us into doing nothing at all. The Scriptural idea of a “tithe” – a portion of one’s blessings offered back to God – was a very early form of budgeting. It says, “God has given me everything; this portion will be dedicated to do God’s will.” Works of mercy become concrete and meaningful ways prayerfully to return some part of our blessings to “do this in memory of me.”

Sometimes, it is true, the wallet, purse, and checkbook can feel like the target of many outstretched hands.

Perhaps the mystery of the Transfiguration this weekend can help us see things in a new light – less that “the church is too focused on money” and more that “the people of God do so much to live their faith and relieve the needs of friend and stranger alike.”

Fr. Tom

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