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 This was a key takeaway at the First Annual Stewardship Conference held at the Diocesan Pastoral Center on Dec. 3. Organized by the Diocesan Office of Mission Advancement and sponsored by Our Sunday Visitor, the all-day conference drew 250 people, primarily from parishes.

 The deeper theme of stewardship was reflected in the keynote address of Dr. Hosffman Ospino, PhD, an Associate Professor of Theology and Religious Education at Boston College. He challenged some of the literal concepts and phrases often associated with stewardship campaigns in the Church.

 “The way to stewardship is not primarily through time, talent and treasure,” he said. “Stewardship begins with us witnessing the presence of God in our lives. We give because we have been loved.”

 Some attendees from parishes said the Conference echoed steps they have been taking to strengthen fellowship and discipleship before asking for financial contributions. At St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Rialto, small faith communities and hospitality after Mass help lay the groundwork for improved stewardship said Debbie Aguilera, Business Administrator.

 “We have to be more engaging of people rather than being individualistic,” she said. “It’s like, ‘I don’t know you but let’s share our faith.’ ”

 Afternoon presentations by Our Sunday Visitor representatives underscored the consequences of not engaging parishioners enough in the life of their parish. The so-called “Catholic Giving Gap” is the result of parishioners not feeling ownership of their parish, according to the presentation.

 A detailed tutorial of “How to Generate Greater Giving” was then offered. Foundational ideas of building a sense of mission were explored along with tactical steps like distributing commitment cards, creating media materials and personal testimonials from donors.

 Our Sunday Visitor is an Indiana-based publishing company that has expanded to include stewardship ministries. The organization partners with dioceses nationwide to hold conferences such as the Dec. 3 gathering in San Bernardino.

 “It’s a win-win when parishes become more successful in all aspects of stewardship because it benefits the diocese,” says Monica Lewis, Senior Campaign Consultant for Our Sunday Visitor.