Stewardship, or giving, is more than a way of life—it’s the purpose of life, according to Father Andrew Kemberling.
“God puts in us the need to love, and my understanding of stewardship is the need to love is the need to give,” Father Andrew said. “This need to give is built in each one of us. The very purpose of my being here is the need to give, which fulfills my need to love and serve God in this world and the next.”
Father Andrew, a national speaker and pastor of St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Denver, proudly describes himself as a “second-generation stewardship Catholic.” As a young boy sitting in the pews at Mass in Tucson, Ariz., Father Andrew learned about the importance of giving to the Church, just as his father did. Today, he sits on the International Catholic Stewardship Council board of directors and donates from his own salary to the Archbishop’s Catholic Appeal (ACA) for the Archdiocese of Denver.
Part of the need to give is the need to support the Church. Father Andrew takes this to heart.
“The ACA reflects the needs of the local Church, so half of my giving should go to her,” he said. “And in this Year of Mercy we’re called to be merciful and show mercy to others. If I want our archdiocese to be merciful, then I need to give it the resources to help it promote corporal and spiritual works of mercy. The archdiocese can be generous and charitable because we have been generous.”
Father Andrew wasn’t always convinced about giving.
“My pastor talked about tithing from the pulpit. I thought he was crazy, like it was a gimmick to get money. I heard it, but I didn’t believe it.”
He also never forgot it. He later attended the University of Arizona and earned a master’s in art education. He knew he should give but struggled with the idea. Father Andrew described how he once felt compelled to donate $10 to a missionary from Africa after hearing an appeal to parishioners for support.
“I remember trying to let go of the $10, and I couldn’t do it. A funny thing happened—my hand wouldn’t open up,” he laughed, adding he eventually gave the donation.
At age 24, Father Andrew decided to give it all away. He entered religious life and took a vow of poverty as a monk at the Benedictine monastery in Canon City, called Holy Cross Abbey. The monastery abbot instructed him that before he could preach giving to the Church, he too had to give to the Church, or tithe.
“I looked at him like, Are you crazy? I already have a vow of poverty. What am I going to tithe?”
Although his salary went to the abbey, he decided to donate from his Mass stipends and any other extra income.
“It felt good once I started doing it,” Father Andrew said about giving. “I just had to get over that first hurdle. And I really moved into another level in my spiritual life. It made me think about the meaning of charity, sacrificial giving and true service to others. They’re all aspects of being generous and giving of oneself.”
Father Andrew, who became a diocesan priest and served at St. Thomas More Parish for 14 years in Centennial, preaches and gives talks worldwide about the meaning of giving, especially to the Church. At the beginning of the year, he decides what to personally donate.
“I give at the beginning of the year, trusting God will bless me like he did the last year. I always give a sizeable amount to the archdiocese,” he said about the ACA. “I give to all kinds of charitable causes in the Philippines and to Catholic Charities. I believe I have an obligation to do that.”
Donating money to the ACA is the beginning of giving a total gift to God, he added.
“Giving financially is a doorway to cementing that commitment we have with God,” Father Andrew said. “We’re committed to know, love and serve him in this world and the next. The money part comes first, then it’s time and talent—we have to give ourselves to him. Then I’m brought to the full purpose of why I’ve been created.”
Father Andrew’s take on giving
Q: What advice would you give someone who is thinking about becoming a volunteer or donor?
A: We’re created to know, love and serve God. The very purpose of my being here is the need to give. There’s two ways. There’s giving to a need or realizing that you have a need to give. The first approach makes you feel good but also leaves you with a false conclusion—that once the need is fulfilled there is no more need to give. The second approach is fulfilling our purpose. It’s built in us. My giving fulfills why I was made.
Q:What is your giving philosophy?
A: I give from my priestly salary at the beginning of the year based on what I made the previous year. I trust God will bless me again. I always give a sizeable amount of my income to the archdiocese. Half goes to the Church and the other half goes to all kinds of charitable causes, including Catholic Charities. I believe I have an obligation to do that.