Living the Mission
In this Issue
LIFE AS A FAITHFUL TESTIMONY OF PERSEVERANCE
Good Stewardship of Our Social Media
Passionate for the Stewardship Way of Life
Betty and John Gdovin
hough they have only been parishioners at St. Timothy for five years, parishioners Betty and John Gdovin have quickly become true exemplars of stewardship within our faith community. Betty is perpetually using her creativity for others — baking sweet treats, sewing with Creative Hands, and creating beautiful cards for the elderly — while John shines forth as an example of quiet fortitude through his commitment to prayer and faith formation. Both born to Czechoslovakian families who immigrated to America through Ellis Island, New York, Betty and John each grew up in devout Catholic households. “They were very humble, hardworking, and had a great love for God,” Betty says. “John came from a family of 11 children, though he and his sister Helen are the only two left living. Helen celebrated her 100th birthday on Feb. 29 and is so amazing.” continued on back cover
As We Grow Closer to Christ, St. Timothy Parish Reflects on Five Years of Stewardship Growth 6
Ed Suarez Reflects on Faith and Service A Lifetime of Discipleship — Learned and Living
17512 Lakeshore Rd. Lutz, FL 33558 www.sainttims.org
G O O D S T E WAR D S H I P O F
OUR SOCIAL MEDIA W
hen we talk about stewardship and how we care for the tools and gifts we have been given, we often do not stop to have a conversation about how we are caring for and using the gift of social media to positively spread Gospel values. However, this is an appropriate topic for us to consider when we are talking about the many young people, as well as adults, who gather online on a frequent basis. Therefore, it is important for us to think about how we are using the amazing gifts of technology. If you are frequently online — especially on Pinterest — there is a popular acronym that you may have already come across. While it is used in many different contexts, it seems very appropriate to follow as we find ourselves posting statuses and pictures on various social media sites. The acronym is T.H.I.N.K., and it invites us to consider what we are saying and sharing, and whether or not it should be said! Is what we are posting:
rue? Are we sharing factual information or a rumor that we heard, and if we think our information is factual, what is our source? Is it trustworthy? elpful? Is the information we are sharing something that can be useful to another person? We don’t need to over-examine all of our content to consider its “educational factor,” but is the content we are posting going to help someone learn about us, learn about a place or an activity, think about the world, reflect on life, engage us in laughter, and so forth?
nspirational? There is certainly no requirement to be a poet or an artist, but social media has become a wonderful outlet for positive self-expression. “Positive” is the key word — are we posting to inspire others about the good in our world, or are we posting to cut someone down or to simply rant?
ice? Have we considered the feelings of others when we include them in a status or post a picture of them? Will they be embarrassed? Are we using social media to humiliate and intimidate others, or are we using it to try to better the world and the lives of others?
ind? Social Media can be a great tool to compliment, show gratitude, and build the self-esteem of those you care about!
People often speak of social media in a negative way because of the content they see posted. T.H.I.N.K. is a great way for us to remind ourselves that we can be good stewards of our own social media use. A major part of living out the Gospel has to do with the positive way we approach this life and bring God’s light and love to others — and we can do just that by sharing an uplifting status on Facebook, a Tweet of gratitude to a friend, or a beautiful image of God’s inspiring creation on Instagram. What a great way to build the Kingdom of God!
A major part of living out the Gospel has to do with the positive way we approach this life and bring God’s light and love to others — and we can do just that by sharing an uplifting status on Facebook, a Tweet of gratitude to a friend, or a beautiful image of God’s inspiring creation on Instagram. What a great way to build the Kingdom of God!
A Letter From Our Pastor
Passionate for the Stewardship Way of Life Dear Friends in Christ,
ften when reading the Acts of the Apostles and Epistles in the New Testament, I recognize that the writers were genuinely passionate about having an opportunity to put into words an expression of the faith they have in Jesus Christ. I am inspired by the passion expressed by those who live what they believe. Having the courage and the enthusiasm to express their thoughts, and to embrace and cherish it as if it were the most important thing in the world, translates into a passion for Christ and a passion to be His disciple. I ask myself on a regular basis, do I have that same passion as Jesus’ disciples? I pray that I do. But if I don’t, I have to wonder why, and must reflect upon what is keeping me from being passionate about my faith. Without being genuinely passionate about our faith, can any of us genuinely embrace the stewardship way of life? The Food Network broadcasts a program called Chopped, which features professional chefs who are challenged to use designated ingredients to prepare a dish. Using the time they have been given, and the skills and talents they possess, they must compete against each other while attempting to impress a panel of judges. In what they say and do, their passion for who they are and what they can do with all that has been given them is more than obvious. They demonstrate confidence, enthusiasm, creativity and a desire to use their talent. Even if they get eliminated, they know they have done their best — and will continue to do so, with an ongoing passion. Should we not have the same kind of passion for being a disciple of Jesus Christ? Stewardship is the best way to passionately express and live out our call to be a disciple of Christ. The New
Testament is filled with passages that confirm the stewardship way of life. We should consider asking ourselves how passionate we are about using our precious time to use the gifts God gave us for His glory. How do we move from merely thinking that stewardship is something others do, to being passionate about it enough to live our lives as a committed disciple of Christ? It isn’t possible to be truly passionate about something unless we are genuinely convinced it is God’s will, and we know it and feel it in our hearts. Genuine passion begins in the heart. Through the gift of the Holy Spirit, our hearts are ignited to believe that the Word of God is calling each of us to express our love and devotion to Him — and we can do this by living out the stewardship life. Do you think we are up to that? Well, to do so is to be passionate about it. I pray and hope that we all become better and more passionate about being disciples of the Lord. I believe there is great potential for all of us. If we trust God enough to do what it takes to be passionate about the stewardship way of life, our lives will become the truest expression of discipleship. While the world tries to convince us there are other things to be passionate about, our hearts should be telling us loud and clear that the stewardship way of life is the most important. It always has been, and it always will be. Sincerely yours in Christ,
Fr. John Blum Pastor
As We Grow Closer to Christ, St. Timothy Pa
Reflects on Five Y T
his spring, the global pandemic that began changing the way Americans live — and worship — was an unprecedented event. While St. Timothy, like all Catholic churches across the world, had to adapt to new ways of serving God’s people, one thing remained the same — the strong faith and active discipleship of our parish family. Reflecting on the last five years, it is evident that stewardship has truly become a way of life for our parishioners. We are blessed that so many of the faithful here at St. Timothy have chosen to “remain in Him” despite the various changes that come with social distancing. In 2015, parishioners made 1,878 prayer commitments during our stewardship renewal weekend. By last fall, that number had risen to 4,905, representing a 160-percent increase over just five years! While sharing our talents with our various parish ministries has been more difficult this year due to the pandemic, prayer remains a blessing that can never be taken away. In addition, an increase in prayer leads to an increase in faith. For these reasons, we are especially grateful for the growing prayer life of our faith family. “The increase in prayer commitments has been pretty miraculous,” says Julie Pope, Stewardship Council Chair. “As I see stewardship at St. Timothy, it’s a way to help facilitate our parishioners coming closer to Christ. We think of it as all starting with prayer, and then what comes from that — the sharing of your time, of your talent and treasure, all of which comes from God. Our goal is to help our parishioners increase their prayer lives and their relationship with Christ.” In the last several years, St. Timothy has initiated Eucharistic Adoration and has also become a tithing parish, meaning that 10 percent of our collection goes to local and state outreach. Without a doubt, these two changes have brought many blessings to our parish. Parishioners have also increased their commitments to serving in ministries by 48 percent over the last five years, and our offertory gifts have grown by another 45 percent in the same amount of time. While it is wonderful to look at our stewardship activity “by the numbers” and see how our parishioners are committed to living as intentional disciples of Christ, there are also other ways the faithful have continued to serve, even as COVID-19 has temporarily suspended the activities of many ministries. One example is our St. Vincent de
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of Stewardship Growth
Paul Society, which has found ways to serve our community without interruption. “St. Vincent de Paul folks are still doing incredible work — it’s just different these days,” Julie says. “We’re seeing those that are in need, and that number increases as this economic and health situation continues, but St. Vincent de Paul has still been there to serve.” Parishioners have continued to serve others by tithing, and the St. Vincent de Paul food distribution still takes place twice monthly. Our Creative Hands Ministry made face masks. Children’s Faith Formation provided a virtual Vacation Bible Study for elementary school children, and the youth group constructed an outdoor Stations of the Cross for our community. Various faith formation activities and council and ministry meetings have moved onto virtual platforms such as Zoom. In August, a new parish outreach program came to life. “We began calling all the households in the parish to let them know we’re thinking about them, ask how they’re doing, and ask them what the parish can do for sacramental support or other needs,” says Parish Life Director Deacon Peter Burns. “Some aren’t doing well and need to make connections with a priest, or they might want to get married in the church or have questions about Baptism or faith formation. The calls have been very well received. I’ve heard some wonderful stories of appreciation for these callers.” With these phone calls, the parish was able to confirm parishioner addresses and contact information. Postcards were then sent out to follow up on the phone calls and provide further communication. With many of the atrisk or vulnerable faithful continuing to stay home during this health crisis, finding ways for St. Timothy to remain in touch with parishioners is a top priority. “One pillar of stewardship is hospitality and reaching out, so these postcards are a follow-up to say our thoughts and prayers are with everyone and we hope they are well,”
says Deacon Peter. “We also have a new pastor, so we want to put together a communication plan for folks to get a chance to know Fr. John Blum, and newly ordained Fr. Drew Woodke. We plan to have a live Facebook chat with them and explore other options as they come along." By finding new and creative ways to reach out to our parishioners, St. Timothy hopes to continue building on the wonderful foundation of stewardship in our parish. If we choose each day to “remain in Him,” surely the next five years will bring even more abundant blessings! “People have been away, and we want to encourage them to stay close to Christ, stay close to the Church, stay close to the parish family,” Julie says. “When we can all come back together, my hope is that the gates will be flooded. It’s probably more important than ever to have that hand of welcome and hospitality.”
Reflects on Faith and Service A Lifetime of Discipleship — Learned and Living
Ed Suarez (at right), his wife, Mercedes (at left), and his family gathered for the Baptism of granddaughter Sloan Marie Drees. With Ed and Mercedes are (from left) Son-in-law Sean Drees and Alicia Drees, holding Sloan Marie. Ed and Mercedes have passed along their life of stewardship and discipleship to their daughters.
ne could say that Ed Suarez’s upbringing was one of learning to live in discipleship with Christ and giving of oneself to help those in need. Today, Ed continues to live in that discipleship, and he has strived to instill in his children this same desire to do Christ’s work. Ed has served on the Board of Directors of Catholic Charities, Diocese of St. Petersburg for more than 20 years. As a member, he works with the other board members to give direction to the agency regarding its different programs and how funding is to be allocated. Ed’s work with Catholic Charities is one way he lives fully in stewardship,
offering his time, talents and treasure to help the agency assisting those in need. “Serving means helping others, doing God’s, Christ’s work, assisting those who need assistance,” Ed says. “It means supporting those in our community and society who can’t fend for themselves. It’s something I try to instill in my three daughters, and I feel we have done that, to have them do the same.” Ed first learned about living a life of helping others through his parents, who had escaped from Castro’s Cuba and lost everything when they fled. His father-in-law had the same experience. But after
they became established, they began helping others through their own time, talents and treasures. This life was demonstrated to Ed during his childhood, as well as for his wife, Mercedes, when she was growing up. “They instilled it in us, and we have instilled it in our kids,” Ed says. “We wanted our kids to be the same way, to live like that.” Ed was brought on board at Catholic Charities by Sheila Lopez, who was Chief Operating Officer with the agency until her retirement. While at Catholic Charities, she was one of the individuals who helped establish Pinellas Hope, the homeless shelter. She was a client of Ed’s in the continued on page 7
Ed Suarez early part of his legal career and they became close friends. “Then she ‘adopted’ me and my family as her family,” Ed says. “To this day, she’s 80, she refers to me as her son and my family as her children, and when you go to her office at St. Vincent de Paul in St. Petersburg, there are photos of my family. My mother, my mother-in-law, and she are friends. We all celebrate Mother’s Day together, the three moms. Sheila was the one who asked me to join the board and I’ve been on the board ever since.” Margaret Rogers, Executive Director of Catholic Charities, Diocese of St. Petersburg, says Ed serves the agency in stewardship in two ways. The first is his giving freely of his time through not only serving on the board, but also by conducting human resources training and helping wherever he is asked. “He’s also a good steward by spreading a good word for Catholic Charities,” she says. “He tells others about us and refers people to us. He’s a great advocate for our mission and we love having him on the board. And he’s funny! He puts in a lot of time and he doesn’t miss the opportunity to make sure we’re okay even when he’s on the road. He always takes the time to check on us. He’s appreciated. I know if I do need something, I can call on him.” Margaret cites one example that occurred during last year’s hurricane
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season. She found that Pinellas Hope urgently needed tents, but she couldn’t have any delivered in order to shelter the homeless at that time. She mentioned it to Ed. “He got us tents shipped, and his wife and his mother did the same,” Margaret says. “He had a colleague who also got tents. He took it upon himself to do this.” Engaging in a life of stewardship may appear daunting, but Ed offers some straightforward advice. “Don’t be afraid,” Ed says. “It may sound strange — so many people have great intentions but are afraid to act, get involved, or they are afraid if they do, they won’t fit in, or be smart enough or capable enough. A lot of times I’d see our Men’s Club gathering to build something and I was afraid to join because I wouldn’t know how to do things. It is a different type of work for me. I never had that skill. I backed away. I was afraid. And a friend encouraged me, ‘We’ll teach you!’ and ‘There are other things you can do.’
Some very proud aunts celebrated the Baptism of their niece — (from left) Isabel Suarez-Solar; Mom Alicia Drees holding Sloan Marie; Cristina Suarez-Solar.
“There’s always something for you to do,” he adds. “Don’t be afraid. You don’t have to be a financial person to get involved in, say, the Finance Committee. Just get involved. Be a part and you’ll grow into it. Let your heart lead you.” Parents also can pass their lives of stewardship on to their children. “Teach your kids by example to help those who need help,” Ed says. “Pay it forward.”
“Don’t be afraid. It may sound strange — so many people have great intentions but are afraid to act, get involved, or they are afraid if they do, they won’t fit in, or be smart enough or capable enough. A lot of times I’d see our Men’s Club gathering to build something and I was afraid to join because I wouldn’t know how to do things. It is a different type of work for me. I never had that skill. I backed away. I was afraid. And a friend encouraged me, ‘We’ll teach you!’ and ‘There are other things you can do.’” — Ed Suarez
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17512 Lakeshore Road Lutz, FL 33558 813-968-1077 www.sainttims.org
Betty and John Gdovin
continued from front cover
John and Betty were married 65 years ago on Feb. 19, 1955. They have been blessed with three daughters and two grandchildren. Over the course of their marriage they’ve experienced their fair share of trials, most notably the sudden death of their daughter, Debra, in 2006. This was a particularly trying time for Betty and John, causing them to question their faith. Yet, they persevered, describing faith and their activism in the Church today as a bedrock in their lives. “We worked hard to find our faith again with prayer after Debbie’s unexpected passing and now we are very strong,” Betty says. “Stewardship has played a big part in this, making us feel stronger towards God and each other.” The couple has chosen to live out stewardship in a wide variety of ways over the years, both here in Florida and previously at their parish in Meriden, Conn. They have served as Eucharistic Ministers, helped prepare dinners, been committed Eucharistic adorers, and have served in the Hospitality ministry. John has been an usher and, until recently, a faithful Bible study participant, while Betty joyfully pitches in whenever she can, be it helping with children and teen projects, making clothes for children in need, or attending a Women’s Club meeting. Each
of these offerings has helped the couple draw closer to God, each other, and their faith community. “Stewardship has made me feel closer to God,” Betty says. “Being at St. Tim’s, in particular, has been a wonderful experience, providing us with a sense of closeness and making us feel part of a larger family.” “It’s just a great feeling to help others and serve God,” John adds. “Not being able to be as involved recently due to health issues has left me feeling a bit lost.” Though the journey hasn’t always been easy, the couple remains thankful for God’s many blessings. They look forward to continuing to serve in whatever ways they can and inviting others to join them in the vineyard. “We’ve been through 65 years of ups and downs, and God keeps blessing us in many ways,” Betty says. “I would extend an invitation to others to please join us by getting involved in the church. It truly enriches your lives in so many ways.”
Saturday Vigil: 5:30 p.m. • Sunday: 7:30, 9, 11 a.m. & 5:30 p.m. • Daily: Mon-Sat 9 a.m. • Holy Days: 9 a.m. & 7 p.m. Vigil: 7 p.m.