Tithing—or “God’s math,” as some people call it—is a way of giving one’s “first fruits” back to God that dates back to the Old Testament. And Father James Stuhrenberg and many other Catholic pastors and parish communities are choosing tithing as their way of supporting their parishes and other charitable causes. Glenmary Home Missioners is one of the beneficiaries of tithing efforts of a number of parishes, including the two led by Father James.
He is now the pastor of St. Francis of Assisi and St. Frances of Rome in Jefferson and Sparta, N.C.—both former Glenmary missions. But he first witnessed the impact of a tithing program when he was a seminarian and deacon serving at another Charlotte-diocese parish. “I really liked the idea, the way it was carried out, and the way parishioners responded,” Father James said. “I also believed in it because of my own previous personal experience of tithing.
“So when I became pastor of my two parishes, I decided to introduce the same kind of program, like several other parishes in our diocese. When we’re tithing and giving our first fruits, we’re showing our thanks and love for God, who has given us everything in our lives.
“I truly believe that God blesses the parishioners and parishes that tithe. And I’ve tried to inspire our church members to see the value of this approach. I believe it’s had a beneficial effect on parishioners’ attitudes toward giving. I think they feel good that they are supporting these charitable causes in our communities and beyond.”
He says the traditional tithing guideline is for a parishioner to give the first 10 percent of income. But understandably, this percentage varies depending on each person’s circumstances.
In turn, when the parish tithes, it takes 10 percent of the offertory amount and gives it to charities. At each of Father James’ parishes, the community life commission recommends a list of charities as beneficiaries—for example, local right-to-life efforts, pregnancy centers, ecumenical food pantries, and other ministries to the poor. Then he rotates his choices monthly and gives a portion of the tithe to the charities designated for each month. In addition, he sends part of the tithe to a religious organization such as Glenmary, again on a rotating basis.
He also publishes monthly beneficiary lists in the parish bulletins and periodically provides brief profiles of the recipients, so parishioners know exactly where their donations are going.
As a pastor, he said, he also has to encourage stewardship because volunteers are essential for parishes to function well.
His parishes’ inclusion of Glenmary in out- reach efforts is a testimonial to the longtime connection they’ve had with the home missioners. St. Francis of Assisi was a Glenmary mission from 1963 to 1998, and St. Frances of Rome from 1976 to 1998—before becoming diocesan parishes.
“Our parishioners are extremely grateful to the Glenmarians who served them,” said Father James. “We want to keep supporting Glenmary’s important work because they make such a difference in people’s lives. Their ministry is to establish missions in counties without a Catholic presence, then later return them to their dioceses for continued pastoral care. At that point, the missioners move on to still other counties that need a Catholic presence—but Glenmary needs financial help and prayers to make their work possible.”
Father James also explained in his own words the term “God’s math,” which is used in reference to tithing: “When I was an engineer before I became a priest, I learned about tithing from personal experience, too. It shouldn’t be the case that if you give more, you’ll have more money. But I found that, because of God’s blessing, when I tithed I somehow had either more funds or fewer expenses. That was my own experience, and that’s why I have tithed and why I still tithe as a priest. It’s also one of the key reasons why I’ve encouraged our parishioners to do the same.”
Thanks for Tithing Assistance
Glenmary is grateful to the following parishes, groups and schools for their current generous support of Glenmary’s ministry through tithing—some dating back to 1988:
• American Martyrs Church, Manhattan Beach, Calif.
• Bethany Community, Pittsburgh, Pa.
• Guardian Angels Church, Cincinnati, Ohio
• Immaculate Conception Church, Columbia, Ill.
• St. Andrew Church, Rochester, Mich.
• St. Andrew the Apostle Church Altar Guild, Norton, Ohio
• St. Charles Church/CHOW Committee, Staten Island, N.Y.
• St. Edward Parish, Medfield, Mass.
• St. Frances of Rome Church, Sparta, N.C.
• St. Francis of Assisi Church, Jefferson, N.C.
• St. John School/St. Theresa School, Gonzales, La.
• St. John the Evangelist Church, Twin Lakes, Wis.
• St. Joseph Church, Maumee, Ohio
• St. Jude Church Social Concerns Committee, Cedar Rapids, Iowa
• St. Lawrence Parish, Killingworth, Conn.
• St. Mary Parish, Milford, Mich.
• St. Maximilian Kolbe Parish, Liberty Township, Ohio
• St. Patrick Church, Wellington, Ohio
• St. Pius V Church, Buena Park, Calif.
This article and sidebar first appeared in the Spring/Summer 2016 Home Mission News newsletter.