Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops’ Conference: Pastoral Letter to all priests, religious seminarians and laity. Published Sunday 4 February 2018, World Day of Prayer for Consecrated Life.

Stewardship in the Service of the Church and God’s People
A Pastoral Letter of ZCBC To all Priests, Religious, Seminarians and Laity
Sunday 4 February 2018, World Day of Prayer for Consecrated Life
Stewardship is about taking active responsibility of that which is entrusted to
our care through managing, nurturing, controlling and proper administration
so that the available resources meet the needs of the present without
compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. The
term stewardship means custodianship, utilization with responsibility
bearing in mind that the vineyard belongs to the master as indicated in 1 Pet,
4:10-11 that; “As each one has received a gift, use it to serve one another as
good stewards of God’s varied grace. Whoever preaches, let it be with the
Words of God; whoever serves, let it be with the strength that God supplies, so
that in all things God may be glori􀃶ed through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs
glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen” .
Stewardship entails the use of resources, money, time, talent and service in a
responsible manner that promotes the growth of the individual, organization
and community. In imitation of the wise steward of the Gospel in Lk. 12:42;
16:2 Christians ought to exercise a responsible administration over resources,
personal and corporate, because these resources are ultimately not theirs but
the Lord’s. According to Stravinskas (1991), the practice of stewardship means
that Christians forsake a self-aggrandizement and prefer instead a
glori􀃶cation of the One Who is over all, and an ardent attention to the
common good. The concept of stewardship is premised on the idea of
exploring, sharing and preservation of resources at our disposal. Stewardship
demands trustworthiness, an unsel􀃶sh attitude that advocates for an equal
distribution of available resources for the common good. The Church is the
vineyard and the master is the Lord Jesus Christ who has assigned his servants
to manage, control, nurture, develop and have authority over the property
dear to his heart. The fact of the matter is that the master gets offended by
servants who abuse their authority to destroy the vineyard, compromising
the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) in their pastoral
letter on stewardship observes that identifying stewardship as safeguarding
material and human resources and using them responsibly are one answer; so
is generous giving of time, talent, and treasure. But being a Christian steward
means more. As Christian stewards, we receive God’s gifts gratefully, cultivate
them responsibly, share them lovingly in justice with others, and return them
with increase to the Lord. Stewardship is about responsibility, accountability,
transparency and production.
Stewardship as discipleship:
Jesus calls his disciples by name to be in fellowship with him and he revealed
the secrets of heaven to them. Likewise Jesus calls us by name to be in
fellowship with him as his disciples who participate in the progression of his
ministry by administering the vineyard of His Father using our gifts, talents,
and resources.
It is the duty of those entrusted to take care of the church, bishops, priests,
religious and the laity, old and young to imitate the Lord Jesus Christ through
performing acts of compassion and love that bring people together and
promote life in the spirit of the common good. True discipleship requires that
we become faithful to the calling, exercising charity, hope and trust in the
Lord. No one disciple can perform better if he or she is not convinced that
Jesus is the compass of all vision and action or when one is divorced from the
master. Simon Peter showed deep conviction and belief that there is no hope
without the master in John 6:68. Stewardship mirrors our spiritual and moral
Stewardship is good management of someone’s property just as stated in the
Psalms 24:1 “The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it, the earth and all who
live in it”. Discipleship means the act of being a convinced and adherent
follower of someone or certain doctrine. Within the Christian circle we cannot
talk of discipleship without stewardship and neither can we talk of
stewardship without discipleship, the two are both sides of the same coin. As
Christians, we are Jesus’ disciples, and this means we must walk in the
footsteps of Jesus who is our Savior and Redeemer.
We are full time and not part time disciples of Christ. Our whole life must be
centered on the life of Jesus who is our master and savior. Christians today
urgently need to revive their commitment to whole-life discipleship because
many times we think being a disciple of Jesus is only a Sunday commitment
and not a daily experience. This is where we lose focus of Christianity, because
as disciples we are also stewards of God, we play a very important role in the
administration of God’s creation.
Stewardship as authority:
Authority means the ability to teach, govern, control and determine the
course of action for a particular group, place or people. Exercising authority
entails the power to control and govern the environment and all creation.
After His resurrection from death, Jesus in Matthew 28:18 said all authority in
heaven and on earth has been given to me. He meant that he became the
supreme ruler whose power to govern will have no end. That is why His
authority should be a model for Christians to emulate. Because Christians
draw their authority from Jesus Christ, they should exercise this right to
exploit the earth and control resources wisely and not devastate it. The same
applies to the way we administer that which is entrusted to us by the Church.
As good stewards, it is pertinent that we exercise our authority to protect
those who look up to us and the property at our disposal in a way that
propagates life giving experiences.
The Church cherishes good stewards who advance the cause of charity,
justice, mercy and trust; those whose authority is that of service and not
dictatorship or power. Dominion means taking good care of things, the whole
of creation, things given or entrusted to us or those that we produce through
our own efforts. This is what is meant in Genesis 1:26 when God pronounced
that; “Let us make man in our own image, after our likeness. Let them have
dominion over the 􀃶sh of the sea, the birds of the air, and the cattle and over all
the wild animals and all the creatures that crawl on the ground.” As humanity
was created in the likeness of God, it therefore means that humankind should
share the same mentality and intention of nurturing the environment and
good governance of all things not for ulterior sel􀃶sh motives but to improve
and better the livelihoods. The idea of stewardship as authority is not about
individualistic ends that promote self- aggrandization, voracity, power
hunger, theft and corruption. This kind of authority is mostly exercised by
political dictators. People in authority have the power to in􀃸uence or
command thought, opinion, ideology or behavior. Authority means power
exerted over the minds or behavior of others. It is the right to govern or rule or
determine the conditions or systems that bind human existence. Humanity’s
ability to subdue the earth means it has authority to manage and improve the
Good stewardship and authority should posses the characteristics of the
willingness to serve, cooperate and collaborate. The exercise of authority is
not a one man band but there are partakers whose role is to support how
authority is discharged. That is why it is always important to involve the
participation of people around us wherever our services and authority are
required. Parishes, missions, schools, health centers and all church institutions
need good stewards who govern with positive authority whose main
objective is to promote community development through the participation
of all. It is important to remind ourselves that our authority over people, goods
and services does not turn into dictatorship but remains open to encourage
dialogue, growth and participation of the people of God. Authority in
stewardship should facilitate responsibility in the control of the Church’s
property. It means that we have jurisdiction in the management of goods and
services that belong to the church, hence we act in place of the owner treating
whatever is under our control as if we are the owners.
Stewardship as leadership:
Leadership is the act of inspiring subordinates to perform and engage in
achieving a goal.
All leaders should be accountable to GOD the owner of everything and
everybody. Leaders are those entrusted with, that is, given trust to take care
of human and material resources to serve the Lord. They do not own but are
entrusted. Every leader should have a stewardship lens.
God gave us dominion over all creation but take note that the way we treat
material and other living things must be different from how we treat people
created in the image of God. Human beings are led towards organisational
goals. Leaders are given authority over people but should remain
accountable to God and be faithful stewards themselves (Luke 16). All
authority on the human plane is delegated authority. All authority on earth
comes from the Sovereign of the universe. Note Romans 13:1-2: “Every person
is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority
except from God, and those which exist are established by God.”
God owns all leaders and gave them the leadership role, hence the need to
use it to serve the Lord through others, 1 Peter 4:10, “As each has received a
gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.” All
what is exposed to us should not only be used to serve the interests of leaders
as superior beings (superior priest/religious/parent) for we are not special but
only called by God to be stewards. So leaders must humbly serve and bless
those under them. They must not be guided by pride for the 􀃶rst shall be the
last and last shall be the 􀃶rst according to the teaching of the Lord Jesus that:
“Rather, let the greatest among you be as the youngest, and the leaders as the
servant ” (Luke 22:24-27). Good leaders must inspire fellowship not through
coercion but through living exemplary lives worth emulating. Bishops,
priests, religious and the laity should be living examples of Christian
stewardship so that the world can draw principles of exercising power from
people led by faith.
Authority bestowed on leaders is not theirs but comes from God like the
disciples were given authority to cast demons and heal the sick; “Then He
called his twelve disciples together, and gave them power and authority over
all devils, and to cure diseases” (Lk. 9.1).
Good leaders should not concentrate on the power they have to command
respect, action and obedience but should be concerned about the
effectiveness of their in􀃸uence on their subordinates. It is not about whether
you call yourself a leader or not. It is about what you have to show to people as
a leader, the potential, capabilities and self-worthiness. It is this kind of
leadership that transforms our leadership into stewardship. Many institutions
have been ruined by imposing the leadership on people. People are tossed
around, decisions are made without consultation, Parish leadership is handpicked
by the Parish priest because they protect his personal interests and
Church property is treated as if its individually owned. If the Church should be
the voice of reason on good governance and stewardship to governments
and world leaders, the Church should examine its conduct, lest it become
worse than those it seeks to give direction. The Church leadership must
demonstrate this by the way she treats her people and how she takes care of
resources in her custody.
It is the responsibility of every leader to take care of the interest of their
organization and consider their own personal interest last. Leaders must be
people centred than material centred since people are the most precious
resource that need to be cherished. Those in leadership are bestowed with the
authority to rule over others. However, this does not make them into
demigods but must always remember that people belong to God and must
not be abused but be led to God their Creator.
Stewards who are Christians must be concerned with:
· the welfare of subordinates as individuals, help people with life issues
not just work issues.
As stewards of God, we should not treat people as machines by only
stressing on the work that needs to be done and forgetting the welfare
of those doing the job.
· Create a good working relationship that makes them happy, allow
them to grow and improve, don’t let the organisation grow while
workers suffer. The people you lead are not yours they belong to God
therefore give what is God’s to God
· Encourage people to interact, build team work and grow to become a
better institution that joins the global village in thanksgiving to God.
· Be in authority and under authority. God gave you authority over others
but you still need to remain under authority of God.
Leaders as stewards must introspect, look at their character 􀃶rst, then their
position last, they must be the 􀃶rst to obey God, must ask their attitude
towards others. People are not led by what you say to them; but are led by
what they see you do. Steward Leaders are self-leaders. Leadership is an art
expressed by the demonstration of characters worthy of imitation, emulation
and inspiration. It is neither a title nor a position but a service.
When you are a steward it’s not about utilizing power to assert yourself while
subordinates become subservient to it, but to serve all. Do not be led by pride,
demanding people to serve you but you should serve the people and people
will serve you.
A steward leader should correct those who stray from the truth, remove from
the 􀃸ock those who refuse to repent so as to protect the rest, and bless God’s
people by instructing them in His ways. St. Paul’s words (Titus 2:15), “speak and
exhort and reprove” indicate that different approaches are needed with
different people. The way we run places entrusted to us depends on how we
treat people who serve in those places. The same attitude will affect the way
we take care of the utilities of the place.
Stewardship and integrity:
A good steward must be someone with self-worth, good reputation and
possesses some personal dignity to command respect in a community.
Integrity generates trust for the steward by his/her master. Having integrity
means doing the right thing in a reliable way. It’s a personality trait that we
admire, since it means a person has a moral compass that does not waver.
Stewardship and Church property:
The Church is the vineyard entrusted to us by God to run it. Everyone has the
duty to take care, guard, use and improve the resources at our disposal.
Church property ranges from human capital, talents, material, infrastructural,
􀃶nancial resources and all that supports the system of evangelization. As
good stewards entrusted to run Missions, Schools, Hospitals, Charity
Organizations, Seminaries and Spiritual Centers, Church personnel should
endeavor to render their service for the common good and not for their
personal ulterior motives. The goods and services that the church owns are
important to support the material and spiritual life of the people of God. There
is need for a deep spiritual formation for priests, religious and the laity so that
they understand their role in the administration and protection of the
Church’s property. Lack of spiritual formation, maturity and detachment from
materialism has contributed to the serious abuse of the Church’s resources by
those standing in as stewards. Stewardship ministry is a great way to care for
the Church by putting the necessary measures that help in the leadership,
management, control and use of resources. Developing guidelines that help
in the management and control of property is paramount but above all,
stricter formation of heart, positive attitude and understanding one’s role in
the ministry is key. The Social Teaching of the Church observes that; “The
Church is concerned with the temporal aspects of the common good because
they are ordered to the sovereign Good, our ultimate end. The Church strives
to inspire right attitudes with respect to earthly goods and in socio-economic
On top of a positive attitude, the Church seeks to move with the signs of times
in the management of its property. Leaving everything to chance should not
be acceptable in Church institutions while a one man band practice has for
years devastated the mission of the Church. It is important to identify quali􀃶ed
personnel who can assist in the running of Missions, Parishes, Health Centers,
Schools and other institutions. Also, records and inventories should be put in
place to minimize abuse and disappearance of property including 􀃶nancial
resources. Although stewardship has to do with delegation and
accountability, it also means monitoring and evaluation of progress. Overtrusting
because one is a priest, religious or long time Christian often leads to
monopoly of ideas and resources by those in charge and at the end crumples
the system.
Psalm 24 states that “The earth is the LORD’s and everything in it, the world
and all who live in it.” Christ the Lord, did not in the least wish to destroy the
very rich heritage of the law but he brought it to completion in a new and
higher way – thus Governance and Stewardship in the Church. St. Paul does
not deny the importance of discipline in the Church (cf 1 Cor. 5 and 6).
Discipline implies accountability, transparency, good governance and
orderliness which are fundamental for the common good. A high level of
good governance and stewardship in the Church with all implications for the
behaviour of the Church does not happen by chance. It is a result of planning,
commitment, goal setting, and being stewards with depth of character i.e.
being highly transparent and accountable. May God help us all to take active
responsibility of that which is entrusted to our care through managing,
nurturing, controlling and proper administration so that the available
resources meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of
future generations to meet their own needs.
+ Michael D. Bhasera, Bishop of Masvingo and Apostolic
Administrator of Gweru( ZCBC President)
+ Robert C. Ndlovu, Archbishop of Harare and Apostolic
Administrator of Chinhoyi( ZCBC Vice President)
+ Alex Thomas, Archbishop of Bulawayo (ZCBC
+ Albert Serrano, Bishop of Hwange
+ Paul Horan, Bishop of Mutare
+ Rudolf Nyandoro, Bishop of GokweZimbabwe Catholic Bishops’ Conference Pastoral Letter on Stewardship