George Sjogren: Says sharing his talents has been God-given gift

Categories: Around the Diocese,Called to be Stewards

July 19, 2013, edition
By Nikki Rajala

George Sjogren, since 2007 the diocesan director of Stewardship and Development and executive director of The Catholic Foundation, will step down Aug. 16.

“Each day I looked forward to helping the church and its people,” Sjogren said, “and being in relationship with pastors and lay people, helping them develop the sense of stewardship as a way of life. My position was about being a servant.”

During his six years, the Annual Appeal and The Catholic Foundation were steadily strengthened. Sjogren increased the visibility of his two offices through writing a regular column for The Visitor and the K-YES Radio program he’s done for over two years.

More than that, he said, his focus has been about developing relationships and helping people understand the spirituality of stewardship, a lifelong process. Those relationships are strengthened by a common mission and vision and the faith which is shared.

“I’ve enjoyed helping people understand the beauty of using their gifts and sharing them,” he said of the “encore career” he’s enjoyed with the diocese. “You get back so much more than you give.”

Grateful for his teachers

Many mentors influenced Sjogren; among them are his grandparents and his wife Joann. From the diocese he includes Cate Coghlan, Fathers Robert Rolfes, Tom Knoblach, Tony Oelrich and Marv Enneking, as well as pastors and lay people who were on fire to evangelize. From Banker Systems, where Sjogren worked for 20 years, were owner Bill Clemens and CEO John Weitzel, whose sense of generosity and vision made a huge impact.

“Another is Father Dan Mahan, who I met at an intense week-long stewardship institute. And Father Tim Nolan, a retired priest from the archdiocese and board chair for Pacem en Terris, a retreat center in our diocese.”

To guide himself — and teach visitors — of the ministry of his offices, he posted two quotes on his door. One read “Without God, I can’t. Without me, he won’t.” from St. Thomas Aquinas.

“God has given us gifts,” Sjogren explained. “We are his hands and feet on earth, working in concert with God and with his guidance to make things possible.”

The other, “The church has to move from maintenance to mission,” came from a priest in the diocese.

“The church has to become alive,” he said, “People are concerned about where the church is going or that it seems to be getting smaller. But we can’t just wring our hands and do the same thing over and over. We must move from maintenance, which is like going backward, to mission, reaching out. That’s what the Office of Stewardship and Development and The Catholic Foundation are all about.”

For Sjogren, stewardship is living a life of gratitude for all the gifts we’ve been given.

“We’re continually being made aware of talents we have and those we didn’t think we had but do. We use those gifts God gives us — our abilities and talents, our time, which for some people is more precious than money, our financial gifts.

“Stewardship is not about fund-raising; it is about faith. If you have faith and you trust God, you will want to share your gifts.”

Though retiring from the diocese, Sjogren looks forward to staying involved with boards he’s currently on, and volunteering. He will remain open to new opportunities which call him.

“And I hope to continue on radio,” he said, “talking about stewardship, evangelization, faith. This Year of Faith has been a wonderful opportunity to talk about our faith.”


Called to be Stewards: Don’t miss out on the excitement of life’s changesGeorge Sjogren

By George Sjogren

If you are like me, we hear people talk about change all the time. I remember when I was a kid, change was something other people got when they paid for something at a store. It was also something I didn’t receive because I only had just enough to pay for what I bought. (Does anyone remember penny candy?)

Change was also something you did with a baby’s diaper. I had plenty of practice with that since I am the third oldest of a family of 10 children.

Change is also thought about most often when we think about how it affects our lives. I find it interesting, when I think about it, that change in our lives is continual. Here are some examples: Each day is different, each day we are a day older, our relationships change as we get to know one another better, and fishing success can change depending on the water temperature.

Sometimes we take these changes for granted and sometimes they are a tremendous shock, as in the case of the loss of a loved one. Sometimes changes are exciting as in the case of the birth of a baby or reconnecting with an old friend, or, dare I say, the reception of a new fly rod. One thing that certainly never changes is God’s love for us and the fact that he is with us in all of our life’s changes.

God has given us the free gift of his love before we have ever done anything to try to earn it. In fact he continues to love us in spite of the things we have done, that in our own minds, might have driven him away.

What a gift that is! Sharing this gift of his love with others during times, we have all had, of difficult change, is what stewardship is about. It is truly giving back out of gratitude.

Change for me, too

As I said earlier, change can be very exciting. And for me, one of those changes is taking place.

I am retiring from my positions of director of the Office of Stewardship and Development in our Diocese and also from the executive director of The Catholic Foundation. The ability to be so involved with the life of the church has been a tremendous gift and blessing for me. Now, in retirement, I will continue to be as involved, as God would have me, with various things in an effort to give back as best I can. I know, however, that I can never “out-give” God.

Father, help me to always see you in the changes in my life and give me the excitement, energy and courage to embrace every change as a gift and an opportunity.

George Sjogren is executive director of The Catholic Foundation and the diocesan Office of Stewardship and Development. He can be reached at 320-258-7657.