By Charlie Barebo
The feast of St. Matthews was September 21. Matthew was a tax collector when Jesus called him to be a disciple. In those days, tax collectors were despised. But rather than looking down on them, Jesus took time to share a meal with those whom the world had rejected. This act made an impression on the Pharisees and they criticized Jesus. That gave Jesus an opportunity to define the nature of his ministry: “I have come to call not the righteous but the sinners.” It is easy to dine with those of good standing or high reputation. But they are not the ones who need to know that God loves and blesses them.
Bishop Paul created the Saint Matthews Society as a vehicle for recognition of those who had made large gifts or provisions for such gifts in their estate planning. Bishop Paul’s intent was the gifts would be directed to the donor’s home parish. To support the creation and recognition of such gifts Bishop created the staff position of Missioner for Development and the Saint Matthew’s Steering Committee. Our original steering committee included some of the real movers and shakers in the diocese. Char Horst, parishioner of St. Barnabas in Kutztown and a lawyer, helped mold the steering committee into a cohesive unit. In the first two years of existence over 100 individual gifts to local parishes were created and identified.
Today ongoing St. Matthew’s programs are operating in half a dozen parishes in the diocese. Over 125 potential gifts have been identified. Roughly 12 local parishes have realized gifts. These gifts have provided the means to fund the purchase of vestments, bibles, chalices, crosses, building renovations, made buildings handicap accessible and funded outreach. In some isolated incidents they have funded routine operational expenses for parishes experiencing financial duress. During this economic downturn roughly 35% of the parishes in the diocese are expending principle from their DIT accounts to fund operations. While endowments are never a replacement for stewardship they can help bridge the gap during a period of short- term crisis.
This year changes are afoot in our St. Matthew’s program. Char Horst resigned her position in March. Bishop Paul called me to become our new Missioner for Development on June 1. As a matter of my personal discipleship I am doing this work for no monetary compensation. I used to work for silver, now I work for life. Parts of my responsibilities are to breathe new life into the Saint Matthew’s program.
We are starting by creating regional pods of St. Matthews. Ultimately we will have six pods. This year we are blessed that Father Charles Cesaretti has agreed to help organize our first pod in the Northern Tier. This will entail recruiting and motivating the clergy and a key lay person in each church. Each Vestry should adopt resolutions that provide for overseeing endowments if one is not already in place. A regional Will’s Workshop in the Northern Tier, one adult forum in each church, developing a parish specific booklet that guides a parishioner through the steps taken should a loved one pass, and creating a vehicle for ongoing communications are part of our plan. By 2014 we will have created the opportunity for every viable church in the Diocese to create their own St. Matthew’s program. Any parish interested in starting or re-invigorating their existing program can call me at 610-509-8767. We can start now!
We have all rested in the shade of trees that were planted by those who went before us. Let us insure we are planting trees for those who will follow.