Conference Encourages Generosity
By Margarita Mendoza, El Observador Editor
October 24, 2019
CHICAGO—The best practices of Catholic stewards were shared during the 57th International Catholic Stewardship Council’s annual conference Oct. 6-9 here. 
 
It was “an opportunity to be inspired by speakers, presentations, and workshops,” said Denise Dobrowolski, director of the Rockford Diocese Office of Charitable Giving. It was also a space “to learn and share resources with our peers,” she added.
 
Priests, lay workers and volunteers from the U.S. and countries such as Canada, England, Haiti and the Philippines gathered to share, network, learn new and improve old practices as Catholic stewards who are “grateful for the gifts of life” and many others gifts “that God provides,” said Msgr. Carlos Quintana, one of the keynote speakers
 
Msgr. Quintana is director emeritus  of the Office of Development for the Conference of Latin American Bishops, also known as CELAM. 
 
During his talk, Msgr. Quintana reflected on 1 Peter 4-10: “As each one has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of God’s varied grace.”
 
Sessions were in English, however for two days the conference agenda focused on the Hispanic community and how to reach out and understand Hispanic generosity. Sessions also stressed that there is not one homogenous Hispanic community. Instead people may be classified as “Latino Americano, Hispanic, Bicultural Hispanic, Nuevo  (New) Latinx, and Americanized,” according to Armando Cervantes, director of the Youth and Young Adults Ministry from  the Diocese of Orange, Calif. 
 
Basically, he said, the classifications are distinguished by the language one speaks, the traditions one practices and whether someone is first or a later generation.
 
In general, “it was a great experience,” said Sister María Ventura Chávez, OpSF, of St. Nicholas Parish in Aurora. 
 
“I learned about the importance of the work of the pastor with the people to be good stewards in the way they give to the parish and the diocese, as well how important is the transparency for the success of the stewardship,” she said.
 
Sister Ventura was part of a group of about 20 people who attended the conference from the Rockford Diocese administration and parishes.
 
Father Ariel Valencia, pastor of SS. Peter and Paul in Virgil, said, “The ICSC conference inspired me to do more for our parish. But to do so with patience; to be patient with the people and to be patient with myself. Stewardship will take place, but it will take time.”
 
The event had diverse speakers who talked about topics from “Stewardship: A Life-Giving Spirituality,” to “Missionary Families: How Stewardship Helps Busy Families Evangelize.” 
 
Featured speakers included Dr. Carolyn Woo, Distinguished President’s Fellow for Global Development at Purdue University and president emeritus of Catholic Relief Services, and Archishop Paul Coakley of the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City.
 
Dr. Thomas Jones, a veteran NASA astronaut who was among the first three Catholic astronauts to receive holy Communion in outer space, was the closing speaker. He lifted the spirits of conference participants as well as bringing joyful tears to the audience when he shared his experiences of faith beyond the earth. 
 
“Faith and prayer have helped in my career” he said.
 
The International Catholic Stewardship Council’s mission says it “promotes and supports Catholic teaching on stewardship by providing education and resources for dioceses, parishes, and institutions of the Roman Catholic Church.”
 
Dobrowolski agreed, saying, “The International Stewardship Conference was an opportunity to get inspired and connect with peers throughout the country. The sessions were well done and any down time was filled with conversations and discussions on how to be better in our roles within the diocese. We were fortunate that it was in Chicago this year as many parishes were represented.”
 
Attending from the diocese were: 
 
– Father Godwin Asuquo, pastor, and Carla Odahowski, St. Patrick, McHenry;
 
– Dianna Cruden, Holy Family, Rockford;
 
– Sister Ventura Chávez, OpSF, St. Nicholas, Aurora;
 
– Father Kenneth Anderson, V.F., pastor; Karen Sopcic, Cathy Finch, Kevin Rauch and Lou Ann Hayes, St. Thomas Aquinas, Freeport;
 
– Carol Foley, St. Mary of the Assumption, Maple Park;
 
– Father Ariel Valencia, pastor, and  Deanna Smith, SS. Peter and Paul, Virgil;
 
– Gail Quinn. St. John Neumann, St. Charles;
 
– Father Kevin Butler, pastor; Charles and Sandra Durancik, St. John the Baptist, Somonauk;
Geralyn Navarro, St. Katharine Drexel, Sugar Grove;
 
– Denise Dobrowolski, Office of Charitable Giving.