May 20, 2016
A pastor’s job extends far beyond nurturing souls. Oftentimes, running a parish involves keeping an entire physical and spiritual community afloat — paying bills, meeting fundraising and membership goals, and managing a full staff of employees and volunteers.
While priests are often well trained in philosophy and theology, they may find themselves lacking the practical skill set needed to keep their parishes operating smoothly.
Meeting this need was a special workshop offered this week by the School of Theology and Religious Studies at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. The three-day workshop, “Management as Ministry,” included lectures on real-world challenges priests face today: everything from finance and accounting to strategic planning and new media.
The event, which was co-sponsored by The Tim and Steph Busch School of Business and Economics, is intended to provide seminarians and newly ordained priests with a foundation in best business practices.
According to business school Lecturer Paul Radich, who organized the workshop, the event was started last year at the request of rectors from nearby seminaries. The rectors saw a need for more business training among young priests.
“The philosophy school and the theology school, they do a good job of training men in those areas, but we sometimes forget that a parish is in a sense a small business,” Radich said. “These men spend maybe a few years as an apprentice and then they become pastors and they don’t necessarily have the skills they need.”
Over the course of the workshop, participants heard from more than 16 faculty experts, as well as visiting priests. Keynote addresses covered topics like strategic planning and leadership.
During his keynote address on May 17, Rev. Bill Byrne, pastor of Our Lady of Mercy Parish in Potomac, Md., spoke about his experiences developing strategic parish plans. To the approximately 30 priests in attendance, Father Byrne spoke about the importance of involving parishioners, setting goals according to realistic budgets, adjusting parish life to fit changing area demographics, and learning to say no “without making people feel like their heads are bashed in.”
From a non-business perspective, Father Byrne said the two most important things a pastor can do to build parish vitality are scheduling a regular time for Eucharistic adoration and preaching effectively. Once a parish has an active community, he suggested ways in which to engage the community to meet evangelization, education, and service goals.
“We need to remember that all management has as its one goal — the salus animarum (health of souls),” he said. “We are out to win souls for Jesus Christ and if you’re not thinking that every encounter is a potential encounter to save a soul, then you’re going to lose souls because you’re going to forget.”
For more information on the program and curriculum, visit managementasministry.org.