By George Gregory
Special to The CS&T

UPPER UWCHLAN – The parable of the talents teaches us that the gifts God gives us gain nothing if we bury them in the ground. Rather, they are to be shared, and the stewardship committee of St. Elizabeth Parish in Upper Uwchlan has put this parable into action.

St. Elizabeth’s parishioners gathered April 9 for their first Stewardship Day of Service, where they helped organizations throughout Chester County with the simple goal of showing God’s love by example. Following Mass in the morning, the volunteers went to the sites of their service projects.

“One essential component of a well-developed parish stewardship program is providing regular opportunities for parishioners to share their God-given gifts of time and talent not only with others within one’s own parish community, but with others outside the parish community,” said Msgr. Thomas Mullin, pastor of St. Elizabeth Parish. {{more}}

The Stewardship Day of Service was a concept proposed initially by the stewardship council five years ago. “It seemed like a daunting task as a new and fast-growing parish with so many initiatives ahead of us,” said Thomas Ciarlone, a member of the council.

Planning for the service day began two years ago, and a committee started coordinating the many tasks, including marketing the idea, choosing service sites, encouraging parishioners to volunteer and matching the services requested by particular organizations to the ages and capabilities of the volunteers.

“There is an instant gratification that you normally don’t receive with charity, because when you give monetarily, you usually don’t see the money at work,” Ciarlone said. “Seeing the talent at work makes it worth everything.”

Ciarlone and his family helped with projects at Camilla Hall, the retirement and nursing home for the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in Immaculata. “Spending time and working with my family for a common good help strengthen our commitment to God’s work,” he added.

Parishioner Sheila Williams was part of a group that volunteered at the Chester County Food Bank’s orchard and farm in Glenmoore.

“Unfortunately, the weather did not cooperate with the work we had planned, but we did do some landscaping on the property,” Williams said. Another group worked in the Food Bank’s kitchen and warehouse. “Some volunteers expressed an interest in continuing to help the Food Bank on their own,” she added.

A long-term goal of the project is for parishioners to form a bond with the organization they helped and then return there to volunteer, according to Genevieve Miceli, the parish’s service director.

“We were praying and hoping for 200 volunteers, and we were blessed with 311,” she said.

Other service sites included the Arc of Chester County in West Chester, Brian’s House in Coatesville, the Coatesville Senior Center, the Crime Victim’s Unit of Chester County, Good Works in Coatesville, the Lord’s Pantry in Downingtown, Misión Santa María in Avondale, Safe Harbor in West Chester, Pembrooke Health and Rehabilitation Residence in West Chester and St. Martha Manor in Downingtown.

Parishioner Maureen Tedesco was impressed by the number of young people who participated in the service day.

“If we want to build on our stewardship plan, it is imperative that our youth feel they are an important part and that we value what they have to offer,” she said.

“The entire program was well planned, well organized, well implemented and very well received, both by participants and the recipient agencies,” Msgr. Mullin said. “God has richly blessed our parish community, and the Stewardship Day of Service is a concrete way to express our gratitude to God by offering service in Jesus’ name.”

George Gregory is a parishioner of St. Cecilia Parish in Coatesville.