27. Introducing Stewardship to Hispanic Catholics

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Patti Gutierrez
Koren Ruiz

Show Notes patticc.com/27

Notas del Programa patticc.com/s27

Koren Ruiz shares his tips and strategies that have led to his success in involving the Hispanic community in the stewardship efforts of many parishes and dioceses.

Recommended Resources

Stewardship Enhancement Initiative from Koren’s firm Corresponsables de Dios

Koren & his wife can lead diocesan stewardship conferences or parish missions and will handle all the talks & music! Here is their music website & YouTube channel

U.S. Bishops’ Pastoral Letter – Stewardship: A Disciple’s Response Buy copes in English Spanish Summary

International Catholic Stewardship Council (Conference, Resources, Blog)

USCCB Guide & Training: Building Intercultural Competence for Ministers

USCCB Guide: Best Practices for Shared Parishes: So That They May all be One

From Patti’s Catholic Corner:

Catholic Translation Services – we can help you “transcreate” like Koren said to make sure that your stewardship materials speak to the Spanish-speaking Catholics in your area in a way that they can relate to

Simplified Commitment form for low literacy & other samples in the Stewardship Unit in our Gente Puente Facebook group

Patti’s eBook: 5 Cultural Differences You Need to Know to Success in Hispanic Ministry

Blog series on Building Intercultural Competencies

Introduction

Greetings Gente Puente! In today’s Episode, Koren Ruiz shares his tips and strategies that have led to his success in involving the Hispanic community in the stewardship efforts of many parishes and dioceses. You can find a summary of today’s show and all the resources mentioned at patticc.com/27.

We need to keep our efforts on educating the Latino community and inspiring them to become part of the mission of the Church and trying to get them to understand what God wants them to do through their lives and their gifts; but most importantly to really give people a different perspective to their lives and find true meaning to the call of being disciples of Jesus Christ.

Koren Ruiz

Si prefieres español puedes encontrar un resumen en español de la entrevista sobre la corresponsabilidad con la comunidad hispana y vínculos a todos los recursos mencionados en patticc.com/s27.

I am Patti Gutiérrez from Patti’s Catholic Corner. Our team serves Catholic ministers like you who want to connect with the Hispanic community. We make your ministry easier by sharing best practices, resources and encouragement through this Gente Puente Podcast patticc.com/gentepuente and our Facebook group www.facebook.com/groups/gentepuente. And we help you focus on your ministry through our Catholic translation services. Get a quote today at pattic.com/services.

In this episode I interview Koren Ruiz who has a consulting agency to help parishes and dioceses with their stewardship efforts, especially as it relates to involving their Hispanic/Latino communities. In this interview he gives a quick overview of the U.S. Bishops’ teaching about stewardship and then shares the strategies he uses in his Stewardship Enhancement Initiative to provide formation and training for Hispanic leaders in a parish which eventually leads to a parish-wide stewardship month. As you’ll hear, his strategy is not all about money, it’s about a long-term conversion of heart, helping all of us recognize how our mission is connected to the Church’s mission. As the Hispanic community continues to grow and become the majority in the Catholic Church, this is an essential piece of any ministry with and for Hispanics so we can all continue to build up the Body of Christ.

Now, let’s listen in to my interview with Koren.

Interview

Koren, welcome to the Gente Puente Podcast. Thanks for being with us today.

Thank you so much for having me, Patti.

Opening Prayer.

Koren, I really appreciate you taking the time to talk to us today. I know that you are very busy. For those who do not know about you, could you share a little bit about yourself, your background, and your ministry?

Sure. Again, thank you so much for having me here. My name is Koren Ruiz. I am married and have two children (two boys). Their names are Axel and Levin. I am originally from Sinaloa, Mexico. I am an immigrant. I came to this country about 20 years ago. I’m currently the President and Founder of a consulting firm called: Corresponsables de Dios. I’ve been involved in Youth Ministry and Hispanic ministry for about 20 years doing music ministry as well. I am a choir director at Ascension Parish in Portland, Oregon. A published composer and artist for Oregon Catholic Press. For the past 12 years, I’ve been involved in a ministry that was very new to me which is working with parishes and implementing stewardship, specifically with the Latino community. I spent about 7 years working for a consulting firm at the national level, and about 4 years ago, I started my own consulting firm implementing stewardship with the Latino community in the Catholic Church.

Wow! Thank you. Did you say the name of your wife? How long have you been married?

My wife’s name is Jessica, and we’ve been married for 11 years. As I’ve mentioned, we have two boys. One of the great things about our marriage and our lives is that we have the blessing of having the opportunity to minister together. We do music ministry together. We direct choirs together. That is an amazing thing that we share.

That is beautiful! We’ll make sure to link to some of your videos and songs, so that people can hear you. Now today though, instead of singing, you are here to talk to us about stewardship with the Hispanic community specifically. Before we get into the details of your projects and how you carry those out, can we talk about the basics of stewardship so we are on the same page? What does it mean when the U.S. Bishops say stewardship, and why is it so important for our Church?

There’re a lot of things that are involved in the whole concept. The way I understand it from the Bishops’ letter that is called “Stewardship: A Disciple’s Response” that was written by them in 1992 is basically understanding two very important ideas. The first one is to understand that God is the giver and owner of everything that we have, which means that if God is the owner and giver of everything that means we own nothing. The first invitation that the Bishops extend to us is understanding that we don’t own anything, and that everything that exits belongs to Him. We need to understand that we are actually only stewards, or people that are trusted with all of the blessings that we have. That takes us to the second idea that basically states that as stewards of all the blessings that we have, God has a plan for us. We are called to discern and try to discover what God wants to do in our lives to fulfill His plan. Those are the two main ideas that are introduced in the very beginning. Then, the Bishops talk about the characteristics of a good steward; that basically invites us to receive our gifts in a grateful way, to cultivate them in a responsible manner, to share them with others in love and justice, and finally, to give them back to God, or to return them back to God with increase. This is a document over 70 pages that basically gives us great information about this important concept. As you were asking me: “Why do they think it is important? or “Why do I think it’s essential for our Church?,” is because it has the power to inspire us and to guide us into becoming the disciples that God wants from each of us in understanding that if we are good stewards of our gifts and we share them in love and justice with Him, with others, and with the Church we can maintain the mission of the Church in a more sustainable manner.

Thank you. When I think about stewardship with Hispanics specifically, or when you work with Hispanics specifically, how would you say that the concept of stewardship is different? How do we as Anglo-Catholics address stewardship with the Hispanic community, where are they coming from, or what perspective might they be bringing if they are first generation, or second or third generation in our parishes or in our dioceses?

Stewardship is something that has been around in the American Church for many years. I’m fascinated every time I go to, let’s say to an English mass, where there are Anglo communities or second or third generation people that have been around the Church and have grown-up with the American practices, such as: making pledges every year, giving weekly using envelopes, or giving in a planned, proportionate manner. It’s just simply in their bones or in their daily or weekly practices. Obviously, everybody needs work; but when you go into a Spanish mass with mostly immigrants or first generation American or Mexican-Americans or Latin Americans, you can definitely see that there is really no formation or understanding. 13 years ago, when they hired me to start doing translations from English into Spanish with some documents about stewardship, one of the first challenges I had was to find the actual word to translate it into Spanish. It was because it does not necessarily translate literally, or there is no word in Spanish to translate the word stewardship. When I was directed to the letter of the Bishops, in the official translation they actually found the word “corresponsabilidad,” which is basically shared responsibility or that we are co-responsible for the mission of the Church.

There is a lot of work to be done that I can see with first generation or people that are immigrants here because they do not know the concept, or they don’t understand. They don’t even know the word that the Bishops use, so we actually have to go all the way back to the basics of explaining what stewardship is, the basic concepts, and even simple practices like registering at your own parish, or why do you make a pledge for capital campaigns, or anything like that. Basically, just working in a capital project as an active part of the community. There’s really no history of that, so the challenge or the calling is to introduce them to the very basic idea of understanding stewardship, and then moving on to implementing or introducing the basic practices.

Let’s dive into the specifics and the practical points of that. How do you accomplish that in your work with your consulting agency and maybe before in the other agency you worked for? How do you convince or involve more Hispanics into these stewardship drives or campaigns that are going on in their parishes and dioceses?

Basically, one of the main things we do are conferences and workshops. One of the things we’ve been implementing for the past 4 years in different dioceses is something we call a “Stewardship Enhancement Initiative.” A Stewardship Enhancement Initiative is basically a process that we do at the parish level, usually in collaboration with the Diocese, and is basically a 5 to 6 months process of formation and training for the pastoral members of all ministries of the parish that lead into something we call a “Stewardship Month,” which is basically presenting to the whole parish community what stewardship is, how we can be better stewards of our parishes, by beginning the practice of a culture of stewardship renewal commitment once a year by filling out a pledge. In other words, we work with all members in all ministries and with the clergy to provide formation on stewardship and training, so that they learn how to inform, inspire, and how to commit their communities into the culture of parish stewardship renewal.

Do you do that during the masses when you get into educating the entire parish? Do you do that during masses, or when/ how?

Yes, but that is actually part of the last phase of the actual process. We do a process for about 5 to 6 months, and the first 4-5 months are actually training and formation for all members of all ministries when we come and talk about it and that is is done outside of mass. We actually select a date, an evening where we talk about what is stewardship, provide formation and training, give them responsibilities, formulate an actual plan that we have. Then, during the last month of the 6 months, that’s when everything is presented for the whole community. We take different weekends to provide information of what we are trying to do and provide awareness. Then we use a couple of weekends to provide some inspiration. There are usually testimonies and homilies around the concept of stewardship. Then, we get to what we call a commitment weekend, in which people receive an invitation to pray fully consider renewing their commitment of time, talent, and treasure with their parish community.

So, during the 4-5 months process that you are training the leaders, what is the material that you are using? Is it based on the Pastoral Letter, or did you develop something yourself? What do you talk about with the leaders to help them understand the concept of stewardship and prepare to train the rest of the parish?

In terms of the methodology that we use, it is mostly based on the Pastoral Letter from the Bishops. Concepts like the two main ideas that I mentioned earlier, like the four characteristics of a good steward, and different things that the Bishops suggest that we need to consider when sharing our gifts, like we need to do it in a planned way, in proportionate way, in a sacrificial way, and in a prayerful way. The whole model is something we have been creating for several years, and it is basically a model that includes a plan to involve all of the members of the different ministries into different teams that have specific responsibilities. For instance: some people help us with prayer and intercession throughout the whole process. Some other people help us in making the announcements; others help us involving the youth and the children in the initiative. Some other people help us organize an event that we do with the community. In other words, we basically involve all the pastoral and lay leaders into a whole plan.

During these sessions, 50% of the time is usually providing formation with stories or testimonies that are relatable to their cultures so that they understand the concept and reflect about what God wants them to do through their lives in their parishes and in their ministries. The other 50% of the time is spent typically providing them with training about the responsibilities that I mentioned, specifically directed to what team or what mission they’re going to have when we get to the public phase of the program, in which everything is presented to the parish community during the masses on the last month.

Is this entire effort that you are describing of the 5 months process all directed towards Hispanic leaders? Or is it something that is parish wide?

Typically, parishes want to do the whole Stewardship Month with everyone in the parish. Basically, whenever there is information, inspiration, or commitment weekend, a lot of parishes do it with all the masses. If they have English, Vietnamese, and then Spanish, they do it at all 3 masses (some kind of different effort). The first 4-5 months which are the formation piece of the whole program, 90% of the time when we are hired to do work with any parish or any diocese, we are specifically working with Hispanic ministers and leaders because the approach and level of understanding the concept is very different than other ethnicities.

Ok. Is there’s something specific that you would say is different in the way you approach, for example once you move into the weekends of Stewardship Month and you are working towards informing and educating the entire parish, things that you do differently at the English masses vs. the Spanish masses or the masses where there are more Hispanics present? How do you approach that differently with each group?

Well the way of presenting is very different. I’ve done many capital campaigns with bilingual communities for instance. I usually like to work with the English-speaking groups separately than the Spanish-speaking groups, not because I want to divide the two communities; but because the approach is different. Speaking about approach, there’s a level of understanding to the idea of registering at the parish, about why we make a pledge, about giving in a proportionate manner, things like that with the English-speaking community is more of a given concept. You don’t have to necessarily motivate so much or explain so much why we are doing what we are doing. With the Spanish-speaking community, because it is a new concept, even registering or filling out a pledge card, or planning or looking at how much you should be giving if you want to do it in a proportionate manner, that’s what takes a little bit longer because it is something that is very new. You need to take time to explain it in a way that makes sense.

Also, the approach always needs to be using examples from our culture, using examples from our countries of origin that are relatable to the culture, but most importantly, that are coming from a spiritual perspective. As Latinos are a very spiritual community; not saying that other groups are not, but basically if anything is going to have the power to change the mindset or something that we’ve been carrying out from generation to generation, it definitely needs to come from something spiritual in trying to discover and discern what God wants to do in our lives. That’s what gives us the ability to invite people to pray fully consider getting involved in a stewardship project with the Latino community.

Thank you. When you say you want to provide examples and stories that connect with Hispanics culturally, what would be an example or maybe a short story that you could explain/share with the Hispanic community?

Sure. Something that is very common that I share with communities is, let’s say: when I was growing up in Sinaloa, my mom used to take us to Church. I always tell people that whenever we went, my mom was lecturing us the whole way to Church about how we needed to be good in Church, and how we needed to respect God’s house, and all these things; so, we knew we had to be good inside. We also knew that if we were good during mass, at the end there were going to be vendors selling all kinds of fruits, snacks, and different things. If we were good, she was actually going to buy us something. We also knew that during the celebration we had to be at our best behavior, but somewhere in the middle of the celebration, there was a little basket going around where people were putting money every week. We didn’t know why. We just knew that it was part of the whole celebration, and we knew that our mom kept her money in different sections of her purse. One was called “el monedero”, which is just a little bag where she would put all the coins. Another one was where she had a little zipper that was kind of hidden inside her purse among all the other thousand things that a woman carries in her bag. Whenever the collection basket was going around, she would take out that little bag with the coins, and she would give one peso to me and one peso to each of my other 3 sisters. We knew that we were supposed to put it there, and that was part of the whole celebration, the whole ritual.

At the end of the mass, if we felt that we were actually good enough with our behavior, we would just run outside. We would just basically go to a stand and ask for something. When we would get all the stuff, my mom would come and ask that person, “How much was it?” The person would say, “It was this much.” My mom would actually reach to that little zipper inside, where the big bills were and she would pay for the stuff she bought us. Things like that makes me look back and realize my mom was spending more money outside of the Church than what we were actually offering inside to give thanks for all the blessings we’ve had that week or that we had in our lives. I never really judged my mom or asked her personally. But I’m sure if I were to ask her: “Why were you doing that? Why were you spending more money buying us candy and different things outside the Church than what you were spending inside of the Church to give thanks?” I’m pretty sure she would say that’s because her mom used to do the same thing. If I were to ask my grandma, she would pretty much say: “Because my mom used to do the same thing.”

It’s basically not the idea that we don’t want to give. It’s not the idea that we can’t give. It’s basically the idea that we’ve never really had formation on how to actually take the time to see how we can give in a more planned and proportionate way. We grow up in Mexico or other Latin America countries with the idea that the Church is rich. That it’s there to help us, instead of us helping them. We don’t necessarily realize that it takes a lot to keep the Church open and providing for all of us, and that we are part of that big family. We need to also contribute and help out in so many different ways.

Thank you.

Break

We’ll hear the rest of my interview with Koren in a moment, but I wanted to take a minute to share with you the main service that my company, Patti’s Catholic Corner provides, which is Catholic Translation Services. Making sure your ministry materials are accessible to Spanish-speaking Catholics is a big part of making the Hispanic community feel welcome and that they belong in your parish or diocese. But it can be a challenge to find translators who understand your Catholic message and will use the correct terms for your materials. That’s why I have decided to put my years of experience in Hispanic ministry to work for you; and I have built a team of translators who also have ministry experience, so you can focus on your ministry and know that your translations will be done right the first time. If that’s something that you’re looking for I encourage you to visit us at patticc.com/services to get a quote for your next project.

Now let’s get back to my interview with Koren.

I don’t know if I gave you a chance to explain the entire process. I think you were going to lay out the Stewardship Enhancement Initiative. What are the different pieces in that, and what’s the timeline like?

We’ve been doing the Stewardship Enhancement Initiative with the Archdiocese of Seattle, Portland, and Orange County. It’s basically a process from June to November, where we begin to provide information and training to members of all ministries. Once a month I meet with members of all ministries, and I have a specific purpose and a specific methodology and training to do at each one of those 6 sessions because it is 6 months. It’s basically working with them, assigning them responsibilities, providing them with manuals that give them specific responsibilities for what they’re going to be doing, their homework, prayer journal so that they can actually stay in prayer until we meet at the following session. Then when we get to session five everybody should be ready to present the initiative to everybody else. There’re people that help us with prayer. We have printed materials. We have a video that is made for the parish with the Pastor speaking and people from the community. We have a whole communication strategy that will allow us to make sure people understand what we are trying to do. Then we have lay testimonies and activities with children and youth to inspire everybody to understand they are called to be stewards of God’s gifts. Everything culminates with the idea or invitation to renew the commitment to the parish of time, talent, and treasure to be able make it a culture, so that the next time in the Fall again, they actually do Stewardship Month and they renew their commitments to the parish of time, talent and treasure.

Thank you. That’s really great! How would you say the program has met its goals? Do you feel that the long term, short term goals have been met, and what have you learned along the way that you’ve been able to improve over time?

Like I said, we’ve been doing this for 4 years with several dioceses and multiple parishes in each of those dioceses. We have been breaking ground in so many ways in our programs and collaborations. I’ve been blessed with a model that I was mentioning and approach that has been well received by the people we encounter. One because it is culturally appropriate, meaning it is not a translated version of an American model like many other programs or processes out there.

Also, because we talk about stewardship as the response that we are called to give as true disciples of Jesus Christ, which means that everything begins from a spiritual perspective. People may give money or participate with time for a specific need at a parish for instance, but they actually become involved and share their whole beings when they become part of the mission of the Church, especially when their own life’s mission feels connected to the mission of their parish. Our approach consists of conveying that idea to people in a culturally and spiritually appropriate manner. That is how we’ve been successful.

The challenge will always be that we are talking about a life conversion, and about changing patterns and behaviors that culturally speaking, we have been carrying for so many generations. Like I said, we’ve been successful in introducing the concept and it has been very well received, but there’s still much work to be done. One program is not going to be able to change everything in the Church. We really need support from the Church leaders and from Bishops to give stewardship the importance that it deserves, so that our mission can be sustainable. The support comes from the leaders of the Church.

You said that the most successful situation is when the Hispanic community can feel that their mission is connected to the mission of the parish. To me that sounds like this is a much broader objective than just a 6 months training, specifically about stewardship. But that maybe there’s some kind of prep work or background work that is required in a parish before reaching that step. Would you say that there are things that parishes need to do to foster that shared mission even before starting a stewardship campaign?

I would say everything that the parish is doing is great because they are carrying out the mission, they are evangelizing, they are forming our kids and providing all kinds of ministries and services. I would think that the biggest thing parishes can do before we get there is try to work in a sense of belonging or in a sense of identity, especially for immigrants.

I remember when I came 20 years ago, I was only coming for one year to learn how to speak English, and then I had plans to go back and begin my college education back in Mexico. I started going to this parish, and after one year I didn’t register. I didn’t get registered because: 1) We don’t do that in Mexico, and 2) Because I knew I was just going to leave. Then I decided to stay here and go to college here, and I knew I was going to stay another 4 years. I was already the Youth Minister, and I was already the Youth Squire Coordinator, and I didn’t even register because I knew after my fourth year, I was actually going to go back and that was going to be the end of it.

I had been at that parish for 10 years and hadn’t registered, and it is basically the same situation for so many immigrants, for so many Latinos here in the U.S. It’s not so much about the idea of signing a paper and registering. It is more about the idea that we don’t necessarily feel we belong or like the parishes are our homes; or that we belong to that specific parish community.

So why would you be worried about sharing your time, talent, and treasure in a community where you kind of feel like a visitor or like you are here for a little while and then you are going to leave, right?

Exactly, so I think that plays a big part in it. It is one of the biggest things that we try to do with our programs. Our programs are not necessarily the salvation or something that is going to change everything forever, but it is a great starting point. It is an injection of motivation, formation, and also specific suggestions/recommendations and strategies that people or parishes can use to continue to developing this culture of implementing stewardship as a way of life in the community.

We will certainly put your contact information, so that if a parish wants to invite you to do that kind of consulting work, they will be able to do that. What will be your advice for a minister that might be listening and wants to begin a similar process in their area? What would you say to them?

Implementing stewardship with the Latino community is actually quite a bit of a challenge. I personally don’t know any firms that are doing it with the intention of actually making it a more lasting solution. If anybody is thinking, even a pastor who is actually thinking about introducing this in a successful way or in an effective way, I would say:

  • #1) is coming in with no assumptions. Do not assume that the Latino community is going to change the way they give just because we tell them the same way that you tell your English-speaking community. Do not assume they understand stewardship or that they know how to use envelopes or all those practices because they don’t. You have to explain how to do it, but before that, why we actually do it. Do not assume that they don’t want to give, and do not assume that they are poor and that they can’t give. The invitation is for everyone.
  • #2) You probably are going to back me up with this: do not simply translate, but instead “transcreate”. There are lot of people, consulting firms, and parishes that simply literally translate material. The idea here is that we want the same message with the same impact to touch a different community, and if you simply translate sometimes that message does not have the same strength. So, don’t translate, transcreate.
  • #3) Don’t forget about using an appropriate spiritual and cultural approach when talking to the Latino community. The same stories, the same examples, the same things that you use in English (again) they don’t always go exactly the same way. So, you have to look for ways, examples, and testimonies that are relatable to the culture.
  • #4) Make sure you have a clear plan. If you are going to involve all members of the ministries or you are going to actually do an initiative at your parish where you are going to be able to make an invitation, make sure you do the invitation in the right way and at the right time. Most importantly that you have a process where you provided formation and education about what you are doing and why you are doing it before you even make any pledge or invitation.

Perfect. Anything else that you wanted to share with us about this ministry and stewardship in general?

In general, I would probably say that it’s a big blessing. I had no idea about this concept before I got contacted to do translations about 13 or 14 years ago, but it is definitely the key to a sustainable Church. I would say that when it comes to educating Latinos in this concept, we are about 10-15 years behind. Right now, we are looking at statistics, and we are seeing that the Catholic Latino community is almost half. But if you look at the numbers of youth, we are actually about 2/3 of all Catholics in the U.S., which means we are rapidly going to become the majority. We are actually talking about becoming the majority of Catholics in the U.S. in the next 10 years.

We definitely need to do something to ensure the sustainability of our Church, and so I would say that it is very important that pastors understand that. It is more important that Bishops know it and understand it, so that it becomes more of a priority for the things that we are doing as the Catholic Church in the U.S. We recently had the V National Encuentro. We’ve been talking about so many different things of how wonderful it is that we are becoming the majority and that we need to evangelize and do all these things that are extremely important in part of the mission.

But we also need to think about how we are going to be able to sustain that mission with a community that does not has an understanding about what stewardship is and most importantly how we can be good stewards of our parish so that they last for a long time. We really need to take the time and the resources to educate our community. I would love to say that I wish there were more consulting firms that were serving the Latino community in this specific area, but most importantly, that our Bishops and that the Office of Hispanic Affairs at the national level will be doing something at a national scale to be able to make this a priority and start providing more formation tools to be able to ensure our future as the Catholic Church as we become the majority of Catholics in the U.S.

Thank you, Koren. We are going to change topics just a little bit. Being that you have led ministries in many different areas, I want you to share with the other ministers that are listening something that you have learned in ministry that you could share with them.

The biggest thing about ministry, specifically stewardship, is that it has impacted my whole life and the way I look at life itself because stewardship, ministry, and God Himself is everywhere. We are called to be good stewards of our families, good stewards of our material goods, our talents, our parishes, and our entire lives. In other words, we are stewards of everything that we have been entrusted with. In prayer, I try to reflect in the different areas of my life and I try to keep a good balance by trying to be able be a good steward of my gifts. Sometimes I tend to travel too much to do stewardship work, but I’m also a father of two boys, a husband, a choir director, a composer, a friend, a brother, a son, etc.

One thing that has helped me is understanding that I’m not perfect, and that I can’t be in two places at the same time. So, I try my best with all my flaws and limitations at whatever places God takes me, understanding that nothing really belongs to me, and that I’m a simple steward of God’s gifts and blessings with the calling to pray and discern where God wants to go in my life. In my experience, it is when we are faithful and willing to follow Him that somehow God makes sure things fall into place.

Being in ministry, specifically doing stewardship and trying to be faithful (even though we make mistakes), be faithful and be willing to follow God has brought so many blessings in my life. Even though we always have rough patches and difficult times, if we continue to have faith and continue to do His will, He makes things ok, good. That is just part of what gets me through all the traveling, all the problems, and all the difficulties of going out there.

Could you say a few words of encouragement to a minister that is listening that maybe is feeling frustrated or has hit a wall in their ministry, maybe specifically with stewardship. Maybe they’ve been trying to involve the Hispanic community more and they are not really seeing that change happening. Could you give them some words of encouragement?

When it comes to stewardship, a lot of people think of it as a need to raise money, a need to raise offertory, a need to get people to pledge, and that is precisely the worst understanding of stewardship that you can have.

I would explain it with a little example I often share. I often talk about 2 types of pastors while working with stewardship. One is the angry pastor. He is always angry. He doesn’t know the Latino community very well, but constantly complains that we do not give or respond in the same ways as other communities. The other type of pastor is the paternalistic one, who says we are poor, we are in need, and that we need to send all of our money back to our countries of origin to support our families, and that we can not give to the Church under the same stewardship American practices like envelopes or pledges. I often ask both pastors about when was the last time they invested time and resources in providing formation to the communities instead of complaining or deciding for them if they can contribute or not.

My answer to the matter is always the same. It has nothing to do with raising money. I always say we simply need three very important things in order to develop better stewards of the Church today: 1) formation, 2) formation, and 3) formation. As long as we keep our efforts into educating the Latino community as to what the best practices are, as long as we focus our efforts in inspiring them to become part of the mission of the Church and trying to get them to understand what God wants them to do through their lives and their gifts; I think we are definitely going to find new ways to improve our stewardship ministries, but most importantly to really give people a different perspective to their lives and find true meaning to the call of being disciples of Jesus Christ.

Thank you. That reminded me that I forgot to ask you, would you be able to share a specific story of kind of a success, where you saw a community grow through the process as you accompanied them in the area of stewardship?

Sure. I can’t think of one in particular because we’ve done about over 20 parishes with the Archdioceses of Seattle, about 10 parishes here in Portland, and about 15 parishes in Orange County. We did two parishes last year with the Diocese of Yakima, and we are going to do five more starting next month. We are beginning with the diocese of Spokane.

What I can tell you in general in combination of different parishes is that I have parishes that have tripled their offertory (if you are looking at that specific part). Most importantly is that at the end of our programs there is always one person from the parish staff or the pastor himself, that comes to me and says: “I thought this was going to be completely different. I thought this would be only about money and trying to put pressure on people, and I was against this. I didn’t want to do it, but I was getting pressure from the Diocese. It was because of a silly thing called a Stewardship Enhancement Initiative that now I see more lay involvement. I see people with a different view. I see people that actually had a conversion and changed their mindset, and I’m surprised to say that I see way more people being open to register and to use envelopes. But most importantly to find out what the needs of the Church are, so that they can become part of the mission and now, I always ask them how they can help.”

To me that is one of the reasons why I continue to travel so much and continue to leave my family sometimes to go to different states and different dioceses because people are very grateful, and people do amazing things when they let themselves be guided by the Holy Spirit. I consider myself extremely blessed in this ministry, but most importantly, I feel very blessed when I hear their testimonies. It is a very rewarding ministry. I hope that this is something that can motivate pastors and motivate bishops and motivate other people to start thinking about spending the resources and spending the time to do stewardship with their parishes.

Me too. Thank you very much. Would you mind to close with a prayer for all of those who serve the Church?

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Lord, we thank you for another day. We thank you for this moment, for our families, for our friends, for our children, for our parishes, and for the leaders of our Church. We ask you to inspire us, to continue to pray and discern about what you want us to do in our lives.

We ask you to guide us, to give us wisdom, and most importantly to give us strength to endure all the problems, all the obstacles that we face in our ministries. We pray for the Latino community in the Catholic Church in the U.S. as we become the majority of Catholics in the U.S. so that you guide us.

And we pray that we may work together to become a Church of good and grateful stewards. And that our Church leaders may guide us towards a path that allows us to carry out our mission in a sustainable manner for the end of time. Amen.

Amen. Thank you so much, Koren, for coming and sharing your experiences and for all that you do to serve the Church in your many, many ministries. Thank you very much.

Thank you for having me. It was a pleasure. Thank you for what you are doing. Continue doing it please. We need more resources like you. God bless you in your ministry and in your work, and God bless you and your family.

Thank you.

Conclusion

I just loved hearing Koren’s perspective on stewardship as it relates to the Hispanic community! And I hope you did too! Here are some takeaways:

  1. A sense of belonging is key. Like what happened with Koren, many immigrants come to the U.S. with the idea that they will only be here, or at least in a given place, for a short period of time. They don’t feel at home. Even if they show up for Mass at a parish doesn’t mean they necessarily feel a sense of belonging there, they may not identify as a part of the parish. So why would they consider sacrificing time, talent and treasure in a parish they don’t really feel part of? One of the joys I have had in my ministry is being able to see the transformation of the immigrant community in the small parish where I served for 11 years as they began to feel a sense of belonging and eventually ownership of the parish. My favorite resources about this topic, which I have spoken about many times, come from the USCCB. One is called Best Practices for Shared Parishes: So That They May all be One and the other is the Guide & Training called Building Intercultural Competence for Ministers which is the basis for my eBook about how cultural differences can affect ministry. Both of these resources outline the natural progression that a new cultural group will move through in a parish from Identity to Belonging to Ownership, the milestones of each stage and what a parish can work on in each stage. Find links to these resources, my eBook and my blog series in the Show Notes page patticc.com/27
  2. There needs to be a spiritual foundation for any discussion of stewardship. It’s about a change of heart that only God can orchestrate, but we can be his instruments. Like Koren said, this shift in perspective can really change people’s lives and the way they view themselves and their life’s mission. But it takes time to help people understand the foundation of God as the giver and owner of everything and our role as faithful stewards.
  3. Culturally appropriate formation and training are key elements to successfully involving the Hispanic community in stewardship initiatives. Since there are patterns and behaviors that have carried on for generations, it’s going to take time introducing the main concepts of stewardship that Koren summarized from the Bishops’ pastoral letter. You can find links to the pastoral letter and Koren’s outline for the stages of his Stewardship Enhancement Initiative in the Show Notes at patticc.com/27.
  4. Involve others. One thing that I really love about Koren’s approach is that right from the beginning he involves others. He starts with forming the leaders in the parish by providing them information, but then training them for the many different efforts they will help lead in the broader parish during the Stewardship month. What a great model of Pastoral de Conjunto and in this way he leaves behind a group of formed leaders who can carry on the work and lead the Stewardship Month each year.
  5. Efforts for promoting stewardship need more of our attention, especially when it comes to ministry with Hispanic Catholics. As the fastest-growing cultural group in the U.S. Church, I think it’s safe to say that the sustainability of the mission of the Church in the U.S. is closely tied to the level at which Hispanic Catholics identify with the Church, feel that they belong in the Church and have a sense of ownership in the Church. The message of stewardship has a key role in inspiring each Hispanic Catholic and helping them to see their important role in the mission of the Church.

I hope you found the interview inspiring and helpful for your ministry too! Please consider sharing it with another Catholic leader who may be struggling with how to involve the Hispanic community in their parish or diocesan stewardship efforts. Make sure to visit the Show Notes page to find all the great resources we mentioned at patticc.com/27.

The next episode I will interview musician Rudy Lopez. He has partnered together with other OCP musicians to provide liturgical formation and training for Hispanic pastoral musicians. So, he will share what they do, what has been working and how they can serve your parish or diocese. Be sure to let the Hispanic musicians in your area know, they don’t want to miss it!

I would also love to have you come over and join our Gente Puente Facebook group! We are an online community of Catholic ministers who want to encourage one another and share resources that we have found helpful in our ministry. If you come over look for the Stewardship Unit where I’ll share some extra resources like the simplified stewardship commitment form I used at St. Michael’s where many of our parishioners cannot read English or Spanish. Come check it out at www.facebook.com/groups/gentepuente today!

And lastly, don’t forget to subscribe to the Gente Puente podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts or your favorite podcast app so you don’t miss any future episode!

Thanks for listening today. May God bless you and your ministry as gente puente!

35 episodes available. A new episode about every 10 days averaging 42 mins duration .