When Saint Victor Parish in Bairdford began as a mission nearly a century ago, many of its founders were farmers. Without realizing it, parishioners today are following their example of sowing seeds.
“For the first time we have a seminarian from Saint Victor, and through Our Campaign for The Church Alive!, our parish will be able to help those studying for the priesthood,” said Father Charles Speicher, pastor of Saint Victor. “Before the campaign, parishioners here hadn’t thought much about the cost of educating seminarians. On a practical level, that will bear fruit for future generations.”
Recently at Mass we heard the Parable of the Sower in Matthew 13. “A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and birds came and at it up. Some fell on rocky ground, where it had little soil. It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep, and when the sun rose it was scorched, and it withered for lack of roots.
“Some seed fell among the thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it. But some seed fell on rich soil, and produced fruit, a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.”
The campaign addresses the urgent needs in the life of our church—to sustain and strengthen parishes, invigorate evangelization, revitalize sacramental life, support education and formation in the faith, train pastoral and lay leaders, and serve the poor, elderly and marginalized.
Father Tom Burke, pastor of Saint James Parish in Sewickley, sees powerful parallels between Saint Matthew’s message and the historic diocesan-wide initiative.
“With the campaign, some people first hear, ‘the church just wants my money.’ They’re not really listening. It’s negative, like the thorn choking the message,” Father Burke said. “But other people respond. They fully understand and pray about it. That’s the rich soil, and we grow stronger together.”
Deacon Jack Miller, who ministers at Saint Teresa of Avila Parish and the diocesan Office for Stewardship and Development, says faith is the seed, and good works are the results of the seed.
“In order to get fruit, you have to plant something,” Deacon Miller said. “Sacrificial seeds are the most productive, where you experience the true joy of giving.”
“When the Church asks for my support, do I respond, ‘All the Church ever does is ask for money’?” Deacon Miller asked in a homily on generosity. “Or is our response, ‘How can I find ways to be generous?’ It’s not about what we have—it’s about what we give.
“Are my game tickets, cars, vacation, house or status the focus of my life? Or is my faith the center of my life?”
Bishop David Zubik said the key is understanding the meaning of sacrificial giving.
“What great joy comes whenever we give of ourselves more selflessly for others,” Bishop Zubik said. “A joy that no trinket, no possession could ever satisfy us. It’s a joy that comes in giving to others that is the definition of Christ’s love.”
Father Burke believes the metaphor of sowing seeds applies both in the campaign and in our faith lives.
“We need to think about it—rotate the soil, plant the seed and nurture it,” Father Burke said. “Help the roots grow stronger. Then it grows.”
“We need to be people of prayer,” Bishop Zubik said, “because it’s in that prayer that God lets us know what he wants us to do, and that we receive the grace to make the sacrifices that we’ll make not only in this campaign, but for the work of the church to truly be great in the eyes of God.”