Judy Travers Witness Talk

Judy Travers  Witness Talk on Grateful Giving

November 2017  Mary Immaculate Parish, Bellport, N.Y.

All my life my parents have been regular churchgoers, and one of the lessons I learned from them was that we must support our church financially through weekly giving. Every Sunday I saw my parents put their offering in the collection, and every Sunday they made sure that my siblings and I did the same by giving us change each week to throw in the basket, too. When I was in my 20s and living independently I continued to go to church on Sundays, although on a much more hit or miss basis. But when I went I followed my parents’ example and continued to throw something into the basket every time I attended mass. 

However, what I contributed was my “excess,” shall we say, and this was particularly true once my husband and I married, bought a house in East Patchogue, and had our first child. As you all know, money can be tight in that season of life, and so I believed that I couldn’t afford to contribute very much to the church. It was $5 here, $10 there -  whatever was left over after I paid for the mortgage, utility bills, food, car repairs, and also new books, vacations, movie tickets, and fees for my son’s innumerable sports teams.  In other words, I gave to the church what I thought I could spare after I paid for all of my necessities and wants.

But then I began to attend Renew 2000, which some of you may remember.  This was a spiritual renewal program, designed to build community and strengthen faith through small faith-sharing groups.  My group met for several years and this sharing enriched my spiritual life in numerous ways; certainly by becoming more familiar with scripture, and also by building friendships and connections with some of my fellow parishioners.  In fact, these friendships have continued over the years, as has my practice of reading scripture on a regular basis.  But it also led to a transformation of how I thought about myself, both as a Catholic and as a parishioner of Mary Immaculate.  I began to understand and embrace the fact that my identity as a Catholic was not just an adjunct to my other identities as a wife, daughter, mother, and professor. It was not something that I could compartmentalize and take out on Sundays at 9:00.  Instead, my faith permeates and informs my whole life.  And as I increasingly felt this and realized this, it led me to understand, among many other things, that “the church” itself was not someone else’s church. Rome’s church is also my church, and this physical building and plant are my home, not just Fr. Hanson’s.  And at this point, I found that I wanted to contribute more to my church, through greater involvement in service to others, in worship, and in financial support.

As my faith has deepened and my commitment to my parish family and others grown stronger, I have found that my contentment with life has increased.  That doesn’t mean that I am happier than ever before or that my life has become easier.  Life is not easy for any of us; we all have crosses and burdens that we carry, and at times, those burdens are very heavy.  However, the more I give, both financially and through service to others, the more I feel a certain rightness within me:  I know that I am sharing the fruits that God has bestowed on me and that I am living the life all of us are called to: a life of service and commitment to others.