Friday, August 14, 2009

Parish Management Program launched for new pastors

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One would think that many "old pastors" might be able to take advantage of it also! It's my understanding that three years of theology doesn't leave room fro much in the way of financial planning and administrative and personnel management. The Church makes its priests the head of large corporations (the parish) and doesn't train them for it other than maybe a year watching a pastor who didn't receive any training either.

If there were enough priests, it would be great to send a newly ordained priest out to a parish "internship" for a year and then send him back to school for some management training for another year, the equivalent of an MBA without the dissertation.


An innovative program designed to strengthen the skills of Catholic pastors in the critical fields of finance, administration and personnel management has been successfully launched. The program, Pastors for a New Millennium: A Toolbox for Parochial Management, drew 28 priests from 13 dioceses across the country for six days of comprehensive training in July at the San Alfonso Retreat Center near the New Jersey shore.

A Toolbox for Parochial Management was hosted by the International Institute for Clergy Formation (IICF) at Seton Hall University, and the National Leadership Roundtable on Church Management (NLRCM). The goal of organizers is to equip new pastors for the increasingly complex challenges they face in today's parishes.

“People expect their pastors to be well informed on a wide variety of pastoral, moral and administrative practices, so we need a corresponding array of resources to readily meet that demand,” said Father Kevin Kennedy of the Catholic University of America.

The inaugural training session consisted of 15 intensive classes led by a faculty of bishops, priests and lay leaders who are recognized experts in their fields of church management and administration. Participants heard from Bishop Arthur Serratelli from Paterson, NJ, on the new missal and liturgical renewal; Professor Charles Zech from Villanova University on parish internal financial controls; Ms. Kerry Robinson, executive director of the Leadership Roundtable and former director of development of Saint Thomas More Catholic Center and Chapel at Yale, on Christian stewardship; and Father Jack Wall, long-term pastor and president of the Catholic Church Extension Society, on pastoring and administering a mission-driven Church.

At the invitation of Newark (NJ) Archbishop John J. Myers, the priests responded to a call from their respective diocesan directors of continuing education, making the ensuing week of training a unique opportunity to reflect on their role as pastors, to engage in dialogue with experts, and to acquire the tools necessary to serve Catholics more effectively in their parishes.

The new pastors also welcomed the opportunity to delve into the Leadership Roundtable's Standards for Excellence, which provided a comprehensive framework and template for implementing the variety of leadership and administrative lessons learned during the course.

The first-ever session of A Toolbox for Parochial Management was met with near-unanimous praise from participants. After listening to Father Jack Wall, a member of the Roundtable's board of directors, one participant called his presentation “prophetic,” adding, “he understood where we are on our journey.”

Said another participant of the presentation by Jim Lundholm-Eades from the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis, “He drove home issues that I've been dealing with,” adding that the practical tools for church management which he offered were “powerful” and will be “very useful for the newly ordained.”

Father Paul Holmes, executive vice president for administration at Seton Hall, explained the rationale behind the training program. “Pastors can reap immeasurable benefits from strengthening their critical skill sets in the areas of administration, finance, and personnel management in order to assist parishes in the stewardship of human and financial resources,” he said.

Thomas Healey, treasurer of the Leadership Roundtable and a central organizer of the conference, praised the collaborative effort. “This is a model of best practices where senior leaders from a Catholic University, Catholic nonprofits, and the Catholic philanthropic community joined hands with bishops, priest-formation directors and subject matter experts to deliver a valuable and practical learning experience for new pastors.”

Michael Brough, director of planning at the Leadership Roundtable and a presenter during the program, underscored the fact that participants now had the opportunity to join an online community of practice for pastors where they could engage in an extended conversation with priests from dioceses across the country, learn from one another, and share best practices.

Father Holmes noted that pastors will further benefit from a soon-to-be-published book summarizing the material covered in the Toolbox seminar. The program is expected to be offered again next year to meet the growing demand. Seton Hall University

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