By D.F. Kratzer WEST VIRGINIA— In an effort to increase participation in ministry, the diocesan Office of Stewardship and Development has kicked off the Parish Stewardship Initiative. More than 30 parishes and missions are currently taking part in the program, which began Sept. 27-28 and is designed to help churches attract more volunteers and ministers for outreach and ministry programs. “We’re trying to get them (parishes) to get more people involved in the parish. … The focus is really on trying to get the ministries either to establish new ministries or just get more people involved in the current ministries,” said Krissie Benson, director of the diocesan Office of Stewardship and Development. To do this, the Office of Stewardship and Development provided regional training programs throughout the diocese and urged parishes to form stewardship committees. After these two foundational steps, Benson said, there are three basic components to increasing ministry participation—parishes are encouraged to hold a commitment weekend, a presentation by a member of the laity who ministers and a ministry celebration. The ministry celebration, Benson said, is a fair-style event where each parish ministry provides an informational booth, showing “what that particular parish offers” in regard to ministry opportunities. An event like this, she continued, provides parishioners with the opportunity to learn more about what ministries the parish offers, what these ministries do and why they are important. Each church has a need for altar servers, Eucharistic ministers and lectors, Benson said, but there are a number of other ministries that are unique to parishes, offering services specific to the community the parish or mission serves. “Parishes can adapt our stewardship materials for local use, with the end result being an annual renewal of gifts of time, talent and treasure,” said Bryan Minor, executive director of the Office of Stewardship and Development. “Our recommendation is that each parish have an annual renewal so that the faithful have an opportunity to be generous by supporting the pastoral plans of their communities.” Heidi Sforza, assistant director of the Office of Stewardship and Development, said that the goal of the Parish Stewardship Initiative is to “get people more excited to spend more time with the parish” and learn about the opportunities available to them to serve the parish and the community. Many parishes, Sforza continued, see the same group of parishioners involved in ministry and “we are hoping that they (parishes) will be able to bring in more parishioners to volunteer and give up their time and talents.” The initiative, Benson said, is going to be an ongoing project and “we will continue to offer the services of our offices” to parishes interested in increasing the number of people involved in ministry. Increasing the number of people involved in the parish and contributing to the parish’s ministries is important because “it makes us a better family” and “makes people feel like they are part of something bigger,” Benson said. “Jesus gave His life for us,” she continued. “What are we doing in return? It (stewardship) is one of the ways we can give back for all the gifts that we’ve been given. It’s another way for parishioners to share the blessings that they’ve been given. In a sense, it’s a sense of duty but it’s also a sense of just sharing and giving back what we’ve been blessed with.” To offset the cost of the Parish Stewardship Initiative, Minor said, 10 percent of funds secured via the Catholic Sharing Appeal were earmarked for the diocesan-wide initiative.