Tithing, A Way Of Life
By Father Rembert G. Rivera
The author is Chairman of the Commission on Mission in the Diocese of Kabankalan, Negros Occidental.
In 1990, in my first assignment, as parish priest of St Isidore the Farmer Parish, Moises Padilla, I had a dream of serving my people zealously in the Diocese of Kabankalan. I worked hard in building Basic Ecclesial Communities (BECs), the foremost program of our diocese under Most Rev. Vicente M. Navarra, now Bishop of Bacolod.
I read an article in Misyon, when the late Fr Niall O’Brien was editor, about the ongoing tithing program in the Diocese of San Carlos, under Bishop Nicholas Mondejar. Without much ado, I wrote Bishop Mondejar and later met him at the Bishop’s House in Bacolod. He refused payment for the five copies of the handbook of theModified Training Program and Self-sufficiency Program that he gave me. But he asked me to spread the idea among my fellow priests and lay people.
Study and implementation
After reading the handbook carefully, I understood that tithing is love without counting the cost of sharing. You must learn to use your talents, use your money wisely and give ten percent to the Lord or just give until it hurts.
I organized a group of lay people as ‘Street Workers,’ with a Tithing Coordinator and Zone Coordinator to make the work more easy and efficient. I implemented the theory of starting small, with P5.00 a week or a total of P20.00 or P25.00 a month. The strategy of Bishop Nicholas Mondejar really works because the people in the BECs are aware that giving to the Church is always synonymous with loving the Lord with your whole mind and heart.
In my experience, tithing, to be strong and relevant to the people, needs a vigorous prayer life – asking the Lord to enlighten you about material comforts. Sometimes if your stomach is full you don’t find time to pray or see the beauty of nature. The priest, coordinator, street workers, parish fiscal and finance council have a big role to play. Transparency and hard work by the priest for the people, organizing and evaluating the strategy and implementation of the program, are also necessary.
Sometimes priests find the program tiresome, taking from their time for rest and recreation. So tithing can die due to human frailty.
I honestly believe that successful tithing lets the people know why they share their money with the Church. If they see that the church is beautiful, clean, with an ambience that calls you to pray and the priest always welcoming, they will always share, giving and opening their hearts to the needs of the local Church.
In my ten years of promoting tithing, I’ve constantly told the people to try it and to see the goodness of the Lord, reminding them that ‘God loves a cheerful giver’ (2 Cor 9:7) and to ‘Seek first the Kingdom of God and everything will be given unto you’ (Mt 6:33).
I welcome you dear readers to write or email me so that you can receive modified tithing brochures plus simple self-made modules on tithing. Try it!