The course on Budgeting for Mission is essential to providing that "solid financial foundation" for the work of the new evangelization. Hopes and dreams are not in short supply at this new moment, but realizing them will depend, in large part, on budget.
Helping parishes become strong, stable, intentional, and effective centers of evangelization takes solid leadership. To that end, great care is needed when forming parish and collaborative staffs, making sure that the gifts and talents of current staff are being used well. Recruiting for open positions is done with an eye to getting the right person to serve the mission. Finance and Operations Manager is a new role generated by the collaborative model of leadership. Here is the job description:
"The Parish Finance and Operations Manager is a professionally qualified team member who reports directly to the pastor and serves in a key management position. This person assists the Pastor in fulfilling his responsibility for the administration of the parishes of the collaborative, and implementing the Pastoral Plan. In addition to supporting the New Evangelization, this position is responsible for ensuring proper stewardship of the parishes' financial, facility, human, and information resources."
The finance and operations manager wears big shoes! The person must understand and support the mission of the Catholic Church, and, along with other duties, provides, "leadership for a solid financial foundation that supports the work of the new evangelization" and takes a "leadership role in implementing the new evangelization as the central aspect of every parish and school of the collaborative." Even for the savviest business manager, carrying out these responsibilities takes training and formation.
Last week, 30 parish business managers completed a two-semester, 100 credits, Finance and Operations Certificate Program offered by the Archdiocese of Boston. A rigorous application process that included a personal interview with staff from the Human Resources, Financial Services, and Pastoral Planning offices winnowed down approximately 50 applicants to the program maximum of 30. Almost half are in Phase I and II collaboratives, 20 percent are in parishes that will be in Phase III in June, 2015. It was a knowledgeable group; several MBAs, at least one CPA, others with graduate degrees in business and finance, and all with parish finance experience. Pastoral Center staff and outside presenters provided instruction.
Of course the program included finance and budget courses. People may be surprised, however, that about one-third of the credits were in diverse disciplines: stewardship, change management, new media, discipleship, prayer, spirituality of administration, evangelization and new evangelization. The course on Budgeting for Mission is essential to providing that "solid financial foundation" for the work of the new evangelization. Hopes and dreams are not in short supply at this new moment, but realizing them will depend, in large part, on budget. Helping the collaborative prioritize goals, and assuring that there is money to fund initiatives is an important piece of the finance and operations manager's work. One student commented, "I walked away from the program realizing that my job is much more involved than just being a number crunching manager. There is a high level of responsibility associated with the title of finance and operations manager, and this program pointed that out."
As serious as presentations were, the program was not without its lighter moments. An exercise in role playing had participants laughing out loud -- even as they learned valuable skills to deal with a potentially awkward situation. And every so often, someone brought in homemade treats which were always well received and appreciated. When adults gather in a professional group, they learn from each other, and lunch breaks were frequently filled with sharing best practices or discussing a thorny situation a business manager was facing. New friendships with colleagues from throughout the diocese are valuable.
For some, the greatest challenge of the program was morning traffic. No surprise there. Some participants came from the northern border of the diocese, and round trip hovered at 100 miles. For one participant, the journey -- and that's what it was -- was two hours each way, but was not wasted time. She reports, "I embraced this quiet time in my car to recite the rosary." Taking an entire day away from parish and collaborative responsibilities was no small sacrifice either. Certainly more than once, a business manager left the Wednesday class at 4 p.m., went home and then right out to a parish meeting that ended after 9 p.m. "Cramming 40-plus hours into a 4-day work schedule often meant taking work home" but without hesitation, the student added, "Many sacrifices along the way but well worth the blessings I received in return."
The students can take justifiable pride in their perseverance and dedication to helping parishes become strong, stable, intentional, effective, centers of evangelization. Congratulations and thanks to this first class of the Finance and Operations Certificate Program.
More information about this program is available on the Archdiocesan website: www.bostoncatholic.org/HumanResources.aspx.
SUSAN ABBOTT IS COORDINATOR OF PARISH OUTREACH FOR THE ARCHDIOCESE OF BOSTON'S OFFICE OF PASTORAL PLANNING.
Susan Abbott is the former Coordinator of Parish Outreach for the Archdiocese of Boston's Office of Pastoral Planning.