by Ann Siverling
The memories that the word, “stewardship” conjure up have much to do with my former work as a pastor. Images of “stewardship drives,“ “stewardship campaigns,” “stewardship Sunday,” and “stewardship pledges,” bubble to the surface of my thoughts, and with them, all the anxiety I felt as a pastor, always trying to make sure the stewardship efforts were financially successful.
I pushed these memories aside and then came a wonderful memory of my father. I grew up in a very rural farming community in South Western Minnesota. The soil in that part of the state is dark black and heavy and is especially rich with all nutrients that plants need to grow. One day I was out with my dad, walking the fields. I don’t remember how old I was, but I do know I was old enough to know that my family made their living off the land with the crops we produced and sold. I was also old enough to understand that sometimes finances could get tight in this farm life and in our family.
As my dad and I walked around the fields, I noticed one 40-acre plot of land that hadn’t been planted with a crop that year. My dad called these, “idle acres.” In my young and naïve mind, I asked my dad why he didn’t just plant those acres too, because then we would have more money. I remember my dad smiling gently at me and saying, “Ann, the land needs to rest.”
In that moment I learned so many things about my dad. I learned that he didn’t just own the land or work the land; rather, he had a relationship with the land—a relationship of caring for it and taking care of it. (This was at a time when the government didn’t pay farmers some money to leave some land idle.)
I could not have said these words back then, but now I can say that my dad was a great steward of the gift (the land) with which he had been entrusted. In a way, this reminds me of the sisters of St. Paul’s Monastery and their relationship with their own land. As stewards of their land, they have left some free and natural (The Priory Preserve), and then used their land to help others:
• Maple Tree Childcare Center
• Harriet Tubman Center East
• Common Bond Communities
• Hill-Murray School
They also share their space for the enjoyment of what people create, worship and retreat, through the following things:
- Art Gallery
- Benedictine Center
In each of these many and varied ways they are sharing the love and beauty of God.
Each morning as I pray the Oblate’s Prayer, my imagination is captured by the following small paragraph of the Prayer:
“May we be models in our homes, neighborhoods, and communities of wise stewardship, dignified human labor, sacred leisure, and reverence for all living things.”
What really strikes me is that the thing that is mentioned FIRST for us oblates to model is wise stewardship. Even before dignified human labor, sacred leisure and reverence for all living things, the wise stewardship comes first.
Unlike my father and the sisters, I do not have any land of which I can be a good steward. I do work hard in my own way to be a good steward of my:
But recently, I feel that God is inviting me to be a good and wise steward in other areas of my life, particularly my:
I invite all of you to embrace the Benedictine Value of Stewardship and see where God is directing you to engage in wise stewardship for you.