Presented last weekend at all the Masses. Thank you, Kathy for sharing your heart, story, and appreciation for stewardship with us all.
Good (Morning, Afternoon, Evening,), my name is Kathy Struttmann. Father Jack invited me to speak to you about my stewardship experience. I have been a parishioner of St. Mary for over 25 years, this is home.
I prayed about what experience I should share that would resonate with each of you and prompt a “time out” to reflect about your own stewardship journey and how you can best use the gifts that God has given you, that ultimately give Him glory.
So my story begins…I grew up in a traditional Irish Catholic family with 4 sisters and 1 brother. We were raised in St. Louis about a half a mile from our church and school. My dad’s best friend was a priest by the name of Father Condon. He was a frequent guest at our dining room table, and his visits ended with asking each of us kids “What have YOU done for the Lord this week? And “Have you been to confession?” I was always prepared with my list of good deeds in one pocket and my list of sins in the other, keeping tally that my deeds list was longer than my sin list.
My childhood view of stewardship was simply doing good deeds. We were raised that “if you could physically do it, then you did it”. To think any further about this was of selfish intent. We knew that we were to be of service to others, not be served; and we should be self sufficient so that we did not inconvenience others for our needs. At a very young age I associated my self worth and identity with my ability to give.
This concept of stewardship seemed to be working well until about 16 years ago. By this time, I was living what I thought was the perfect world, married, raising 3 small children and balancing a nursing career….when I suffered 2 massive brain aneurysms that left my world not so perfect. After the surgeries, I had some permanent brain injury and I was in debilitating pain, from nerve damage. I was now alone in raising my children, not able to be gainfully employed-therefore without an income, and I was restricted in the activities that I could perform for myself and for my children. I felt helpless and in despair! So…. I prayed and I prayed and I spent time with the cross.
In the midst of this crisis, my perspective of stewardship was forever transformed. I was blessed by the ongoing hospitality, service and prayers of my St. Mary faith community in ways undeniably from God. Meal and groceries delivered, household chores and transportation provided, financial assistance arranged. I learned that in order for hospitality to be given, it had to be received. Giving AND receiving were interdependent for stewardship to occur.
This was a mystical experience of God’s grace received through the many acts of stewardship. I knew that I was not alone in this journey….life long friends ensued. What an answered prayer!
I had an overwhelming desire to give back to this community of faithful. As I became stronger, I dove head first and signed up for whatever task came my way. I let it choose me. How could I say “no” after so much was shared with me? I resumed my way of thinking that if I could physically do it, I should. I thought this was being a good steward. I met myself coming and going, over-extended and exhausted…my health declined. I was frustrated with the unpredictability of my physical ability and stamina with my desire to do good. So….. I prayed, and I prayed in search of answers...
And one day, the answer was laid before me.
I was up here at St. Mary visiting with a former priest about my annulment, when this spiky haired gel-toting priest asked me “Kathy, do you think that you are a good steward?” I had an immediate flash back to my childhood with Fr. Condon, so I whipped out my resume of good deeds and began to recite them. I waited with anticipation of his reply of “nice job, my good and faithful servant”, when he peered over his color-coordinated, side panel spectacles and said “Really?!” I think he used the word “martyr” to describe my behavior, not “steward”.
He continued offering his gift of wise counsel and left me with 3 questions to discern.
1- Had I taken a TRUE inventory of the gifts of God’s grace?
2-Was I utilizing these gifts wisely, by being led by the Holy Spirit's urgings to do His will OR
Was my involvement satisfying a need that I had that may be ego-driven or my will.
3-Does this involvement bring me closer to God, with a sense of peace and joy OR is it a distraction from God, time-filler?
These were questions that I had not ever entertained due to pride. I was humbly reminded that these gifts were given by God’s grace alone, not by something that I did or deserved, and my responsibility in being a recipient of these gifts was to use them wisely, ultimately to glorify God.
Humility settled in as I began to discern. I went home and took a “time out” and reviewed my list of involvements and asked God to help me with the answers. This took some time and with time came clarity in how I was to move forward.
Today, my list of commitments to the parish is not as extensive as it once was, however I feel that it is a more suitable use of my time, talent and treasure. I feel a sense of purpose, peace and joy in sharing these gifts. I believe that this is one of the fruits of careful discernment.
I am learning that the setting of my stewardship may change from time to time, as may my abilities; but my responsibility is the same—to take these “time outs”, re-evaluate and renew my spirit of stewardship in light of His will.
I will end with a scripture that resonates with my stewardship experience.
Do not conform yourselves to this age, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind.
That you discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.
Thank you and may God bless you in discernment of how you will manage your gifts during our Stewardship Renewal!