I had never been to Denver City before. The oil rigs along the road differ from my view of cows and corn on my drive home. Nevertheless I understood St. Williams parish to be a closeknit and thriving community.
As soon as I arrived I could tell this parish was a living example of stewardship. The youth I was speaking to Sunday morning were given a warm meal provided by parish volunteers. Hospitality 101: Feed them and they will come!
We began our evening with prayer and an exercise. Each teen was given an envelope. In the envelope was "monopoly" money in varying quantities from $0 to $100. I felt bad about the $0 envelopes but I'll explain why I had to do it. There were stations set up throughout the room with housing, food, clothes and there was a church collection. Each station had varying levels of items. For example, the housing options included a cardboard box (free), apartment with a rommate ($2), A house ($5) and a mansion ($20). I did the same for food and clothing and I left the church collection as an open basket.
The teens were asked to go shopping. I told them they needed a house, food and clothing but not everyone got the message. It was evident with we were all sharing what was bought that some teenage boys shared they got 3 slices of pizza and 2 cheeseburgers. No house, no clothes, but they were fed. Clearly the mind of a teenage boy.
Now to those who had $0. I kept my eye on them as they opened their envelope and it was heartbreaking to see what they found. Some even came to ask me why their envelope was empty. I told them I would explain later but I encouraged them to find a way to get housing, food and clothes. Some gave up and sat down. Others had friends who offered to help and some asked for help.
We gathered together after all the money was spent and donated. I pointed out the following:
Everyday you wake up God has given you what you need for that day. These envelopes represnted that.
Some people have more than enough to get through the day. Others have nothing.
I asked those who had nothing how they felt. Their reponses varied from "I felt left out" "I felt invisible" "I felt worthless" then I asked them what they did. Some sat in their chair and continued to feel left out. Others asked for help. And some were even offered help by people who noticed they had no money in their envelope.
The most eye opening experience was the collection basket. I counted up the money in the basket and it was 2% of the money that was available in the room. I noticed that those who gave to the church collection only gave because there was nothing in the room they could buy with their remaining money. Those who gave only gave what was left over. Most didn't even give.
Then I began my lesson on the Spirituality of Stewardship. It includes lessons like everyday if a gift from God. Every blessing is from God. What you give to God he multiplies and gives back to you. By trusting in God you will have all you need.
What did I do next? I gave the collection basket money to those who had $0. While it was only 2% by splitting it between the few kids who had $0 those kids ended up with the most money in the end.
After all was said I done I revealed my special teen. This girl was given an envelope but told not to open it until I said to. I gave this envelope to the prettiest girl in the room. She had on more make up than me and was dressed very stylish. We'll say the Spirit moved me to. After the lesson on Stewardship I asked her, where would you like to spend you money? The first thing she did was give money to the Church, before she even went shopping. Then she gave some of her money to those who had $0 and after that she went shopping for herself!!! What a EUREKA moment!
Here are some guys shopping for cheeseburgers I bet!
After this eye opening exercise I split the teens into groups: Time, Talent, Treasure, Vocation, Earth and Faith.
They were asked to pledge how they would be stewards of their chosen group.
They all wrote down ways they would take care of these blessings in their life.
Stewards of Time: pledged going to Church every Sunday, time in adoration, going to confession, praying everyday, etc.
Stewards of Talent: pledged volunteer time in a parish ministry, etc.
Stewards of Treasure: pledged donated money to their parish and other charities, they pledged helping fellow students who are hungry or don't have enough school supplies
Stewards of Vocation (intentionally given to a group of guys): pledged discerning a religious life and the priesthood
Stewards of Earth: pledged caring for nature, their church grounds, etc.
Stewards of Faith: pledged learning more about the Church, researching saints and church teachings, etc.
One representative presented their group's pledge to the rest of the room. Everyone signed their pledge and they were given to Fr. Heriberto.
Following class I was invited to mass at St. Williams and asked to speak to the congregation on the message of Stewardship. It was a wonderful morning that was repeated the following Wednesday for their other confirmation class.
Thank you Jesse, Virginia, Andy, all the teens and Fr. Heriberto for embracing stewardship as a holy way of life!