Giving to the Labourers of God
The GIFT campaign supports many needs of the archdiocese. Lydia Lim, a lay Catholic who helps others discover their personal vocations, shares why the need to give to the people who are giving to the Church stands out for her.
In his prayer that opens the GIFT booklet distributed to parishes in November 2016 at the launch of the Archdiocese’s fundraising campaign of the same name, GIFT (which stands for “Giving in Faith and Thankfulness”), Archbishop William Goh asks God to “unleash the generosity in your people”.
“Give us all a willing heart to serve you in your Church, a prayerful heart that listens to you, and a giving heart to provide what is necessary for your will to be done on earth,” he prays.
The virtue of generosity
According to Greek philosopher Aristotle, from whose writings the great Catholic saint and doctor of the Church Thomas Aquinas drew much wisdom, virtues are not simply isolated actions, but a habit of acting well. In each specific situation, the virtuous action is a balance between two extremes.
The virtue of generosity, to highlight the way of life at the heart of the GIFT campaign, is the mean or midpoint between between wastefulness and stinginess. A generous man will give to the right person, the right amounts and at the right times, writes Aristotle in his Nichomachean Ethics. Such a man will also take proper care of his possessions.
Generosity does not depend on the quantity of the giving but on the habit of the giver, which takes into account the amount which the giver himself has and is able to give away.
Every Catholic is called by God in a unique way to use his or her gifts to serve others and the Church. We are not meant to squirrel away the gifts we have been given, or to hoard wealth for ourselves and our families as the material world tempts us to do. We are called to follow Jesus in living lives of generosity, and the closer we are to Christ, the freer we will be in our giving.
Giving by serving
A small but growing number of lay Catholics are called to serve the Church as fulltime workers.
I have met some of them. They are from diverse backgrounds. Some are young and are just starting out in life. Others are older and have families to support.
The work they do is essential for the life of the Church. They draw up curricula and train the volunteers who catechise our children; they organise retreats and spiritual formation programmes for youth and adults; they oversee the Church’s outreach and care for the poor and needy and its humanitarian aid overseas; they work in parishes so that we have ready access to activities that help us grow spiritually and deepen our knowledge of the faith. They do so through the archdiocesan organisations they staff and in the 31 parishes islandwide, all of which rely on the funds raised from parishioners.
Such work can no longer be undertaken by priests, friars and nuns alone, with the help of unpaid and often overworked volunteers. That is because the amount of work has grown and the quality expected has also risen.
The Church benefits greatly from the services of these fulltime lay Catholic workers and it is likely that over time, the need for such workers will rise.
Just wages for the workers
Scripture teaches us that labourers deserve their wages as a matter of justice. The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us that “a just wage is the legitimate fruit of work” (2434). But a just wage is not that which will merely provide enough food, clothing and shelter. Indeed, in Singapore, the last is a stretch target for many fulltime church workers who find housing unaffordable and struggle to buy their own homes.
To live at subsistence level is to live at the minimum condition of human dignity, and as St Thomas Aquinas wrote in the Summa Theologica, “No one is obliged to live unbecomingly”.
It is thus a matter of justice that those of us who have access to greater material wealth through our jobs in the government or private sectors, should share some of what we have with those who labour fulltime for the Church, for our benefit.
The Gospel of Luke teaches us: “Give, and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For the measure you give will be the measure you get back” (Lk 6:38).
The funds collected from the GIFT campaign will help provide for just wages for the many Church workers spread out in archdiocese organisations.
The launch of the GIFT campaign is a very good time to make generosity a habit, and giving a way of life.