Giving back

  • November 7, 2013

Governor General David Johnston should be commended for a new initiative that is Catholic in everything but name. Launched by Johnston on Nov. 4, My Giving Moment is a national campaign to encourage Canadians to improve society by volunteering time, giving money and providing expertise to charitable and other community causes. Johnston calls this philanthropy, the Church calls it stewardship — the obligation to give our time, talent and treasure as part of our Christian call to live with joy, compassion and generosity.

Johnston hopes to mould a “kinder and more caring” nation by encouraging Canadians to deeply engage in their communities. To that end, he has persuaded several large corporations to bankroll a four-year multi-media campaign to urge citizens “to give back and give more,” as financial donors and community volunteers.

“This may be pushing the (role of) the governor general a little bit, but we believe that this office — which has to do with the fundamental values of Canada — should be reinforcing the sense of giving and helping one’s neighbour, because it makes for a better country,” Johnston told the Globe and Mail.

We are all called to forge a better society through stewardship. That involves more than fighting poverty. Care for the poor is certainly vital, but stewardship also entails contributing to the common good through everything from volunteering in education and health care, to coaching sports and youth programs, to reaching out to those impacted by crime, to engaging in church ministry. It means becoming fully and generously engaged as stewards of the community as a sign of gratitude for our own God-given gifts.

People too often expect government to cure all of society’s ills. Government plays a role, but building a more compassionate Canada should be a grassroots movement that rallies individuals to lay the bricks and mortar of a better society. Whether that movement is called stewardship or My Giving Moment, it involves more than fundraising. As Cardinal Thomas Collins has written, stewardship is a profound inner conversion that fosters a spirit of generosity that comes alive in acts of sharing our time and talent. More than simply being generous with money, it is living generously in every way.

This has also been a recurring theme of Pope Francis. He has challenged us to become dedicated to unselfish causes for the sake of “love, charity, service and goodness.” He has called on Christians to live with humility and kindness and to use their God-given talents in the service of others.

The governor general is now echoing that sentiment. Perhaps he has been listening to the Pope. If so, that is a good thing. Johnston has delivered a Christian message to a self-centred society and that is commendable, no matter what you call it.

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