Standing before a room of religious sisters from around the country in June, Catholic University Finance Professor Luanne Zurlo taught a lesson on the differences between finance and accounting.
“Finance is about quantifying and putting numbers to the future,” Zurlo explained to the sisters. “Accounting is like the rules of a language, while finance is the prose you write with that language.”
Zurlo’s talk was part of a three-day management training program, which was intended to provide sisters with the managerial skills needed to act as leaders in their congregations, ministries, and schools.
Nearly 50 religious sisters from around the country gathered for the workshop, which was sponsored by the Busch School of Business. In addition to Zurlo’s class on strategic planning and budgeting, the sisters also attended lectures on human resource management, fraud prevention, communication, auditing and controlling, crisis management, and other topics.
Mario Enzler, professor of finance and director of clergy formation at the business school, said the goal of the workshop was to give religious sisters the tools and strategies necessary to face challenges within the Church. The program comes after the Busch School’s establishment of the Masters in Ecclesial Administration and Management program for clergy, as well as an annual Executive Bishop Program offered for recently ordained bishops.
“By taking inspiration from the best practices of the secular business world and transmitting them to Church leaders, these programs seek to aide in the formation of well-equipped servant leaders,” Enzler said.
Sister Deborah Wilson, a Missionary Servant of the Most Blessed Trinity, said she decided to participate in the program because of her new role in her order’s leadership council, which has required her to learn about human resources and fund development.
“My previous experience in ministry and retreats really didn’t prepare me for some of the administrative stuff I have to do,” Sister Wilson said. “I think many of us [religious sisters] are in this situation where we come to a congregation with a certain skill set in ministries, but none of that necessarily gets you ready to do the kind of management of departments that you need in leadership.”
Similarly, Sister Veronica Cahill, a sister of the Holy Spirit from San Antonio, said she believed the workshop was valuable in connecting religious sisters with the answers they needed to operate successful organizations.
“We all have the same difficulties and the same questions,” she said. “I think it’s important that we have more knowhow and that our leadership knows what to watch out for so that we’re not naively going into major business decisions.”
Zurlo said she wanted to participate in the program so that she could help religious sisters handle their finances more calmly and confidently, so as not to distract from their faith lives.
“In our modern age, proper stewardship over temporal goods has become increasingly complex,” Zurlo said. “The objective of this program is to teach priests and religious enough about administration and governance in order for them to ask the right questions and work more constructively with lay experts so that they may live out their vocations as intended."
— Katie Bahr, Assistant Director of Communications and Media Relations. Bahr can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.