Barb and Marianne edited
Barb Sekerak (left) Marianne Brooks (right)

What do you think of when you hear the word stewardship?  For most people, it means giving time, talent, and mainly (oh no!) treasure.  But Barb Sekerak and Marianne Brooks have made it their mission to encourage SJB parishioners to give their time and talent to the Church in a way that will result in a heavenly treasure.

Early Years

Barb Sekerak and her beloved late husband Jim grew up in the Aetna Road neighborhood of Cleveland and joined SJB in 1969.  As their three sons and one daughter attended SJB grade school, Barb and Jim participated in parent-teacher programs and served as devoted Eucharistic Ministers.

In 2002, an outside consultant conducted a survey of SJB parish members.  The survey findings characterized the parish as a very positive and generous body which had enormous potential, and proposed a long-term focus on growing stewardship education among the congregation.  In response to the survey results, Fr. Dave Liberatore invited various parishioners to a meeting about increasing member participation.  The outcome of that meeting was the formation of the Stewardship Committee, which initially consisted of a core group of six couples, including Barb and Jim.

Energetic Marianne Brooks, a wife and mother of two grown sons, taught PSR for five years and serves as a Parish Council member, lector, and Mass coordinator.  Marianne was recruited by Barb and Fr. Larry Jurcak to join the Stewardship Committee in 2017, and now co-chairs the group with Barb.

Goals and Activities

The goal of the Stewardship Committee is to motivate parishioners to discern their capabilities and find ways to dedicate those gifts to Christ.  Under Fr. Dave’s guidance, its first order of business was to prepare the SJB Parish Guidebook, which includes descriptions of each of the various ministries, along with contact information for the leaders of those groups.  The guidebook, which is printed free of charge by its advertising vendors, serves as a ministry information resource for parishioners.  Notes Barb, “Our hope was that we could get people to think, ‘This is my parish.  What can I do for it?’”  In its formative years, the Stewardship Committee worked alongside Parish Council and the Evangelization Committee to increase Church member involvement.

Revitalizing Stewardship

To promote stewardship, the Cleveland Catholic Diocese has taken its best practices from the National Stewardship Conferences offered by the Diocese of Wichita, KS.  Barb attended the conferences and worked with other Cleveland area parishes to compose a Diocesan-wide Stewardship guidebook.  “Over the years, we found that we needed to revitalize stewardship,” says Barb.  Some of the ideas that stemmed from these meetings include the Joyfully Gifted retreat, the Ministry Fair, and Stewardship Campaign Commitment cards.

“We’d like to help people who have a heart for the parish to grow in formation of stewardship,” says Marianne.  To achieve that end, SJB’s Stewardship Committee conducts the Joyfully Gifted retreat and the Ministry Fair on alternating years.  In the retreat, parishioners are invited to prayerfully reflect on their God-given spiritual gifts and discern how those talents might best serve the church community.  At the fair, representatives of 20 parish ministries communicate with parishioners about their group’s endeavors.  In this way, parishioners who have discerned their gifts may find the appropriate ministries through which to channel them.  Each year, the Stewardship Committee leads a campaign to encourage parishioners to fill out commitment cards to participate in these ministries.

Among its other activities, the Stewardship Committee holds semi-annual Welcoming Meetings for new parishioners and writes a monthly “Reflections” column in the bulletin.  Through their dedication and efforts, Barb and Marianne hope to engage us as disciples and build the Kingdom of God.