The Archdiocese of New York and Villanova University signed an agreement last week to formally collaborate on a program to enroll up to 50 people annually for two years in an online master of science degree in Church management that will train business managers for work in the archdiocese’s parishes.
Cardinal Dolan and representatives of the Pennsylvania university signed a memorandum of understanding in a March 11 ceremony at St. Joseph’s Seminary, Dunwoodie, where the first students will meet their professors and each other during a three-day residency program the first weekend in June.
Speaking at the ceremony, the cardinal said the archdiocese “was proud to usher in this program that’s going to train lay leaders in a much more formal way in Church management.”
The cardinal, in his remarks, noted that one of the areas raised “over and over” by parishioners as the archdiocese conducted listening sessions during the first phase of the Making All Things New pastoral planning initiative was the necessity of having qualified lay people “participate in the proper management of our parishes.”
Among those attending from the archdiocese were Msgr. Gregory Mustaciuolo, vicar general and chancellor, and William Whiston, chief financial officer. The cardinal credited both for their work that led to the agreement with Villanova.
Also present were Deirdre Fonseca, the accountant at Resurrection parish in Rye, who was the first applicant from the archdiocese for the master’s program, and the parish’s pastor, Msgr. Donald Dwyer.
She said she considered her enrollment as “a wonderful opportunity to expand my knowledge.”
“I am delighted to be considered for this,” said Ms. Fonseca, who has worked at the Westchester parish for 11 years.
In addition to augmenting the skills of valued employees, Msgr. Dwyer said the training of parish business managers will enable pastors to concentrate on the spiritual and pastoral work that is the heart of their priesthood.
“I would like to be freed up to be a priest,” Msgr. Dwyer said. “To serve God and to visit people in the hospital, not be looking at ledgers and payrolls.”
The collaboration with the Archdiocese of New York will greatly expand the scope of Villanova’s program and likely lead to similar relationships with other dioceses, said Dr. Charles Zech, director of the renowned Center for Church Management and Business Ethics (CCMBE) at the Villanova School of Business (VSB).
Currently the two-year program accepts 20 to 22 students per year and annually graduates 18, he said. VSB, which has been offering Church management education since 2006, graded out best when the archdiocese was exploring its options for the project, Cardinal Dolan said. “We are relishing the opportunity to cooperate with you.”
The New York students will study part time, completing two courses each semester, and be expected to graduate in Spring 2017. Their study will begin in May with a six-credit course on Leadership in Religious Organizations/Organizational Ethics/Catholic Social Thought.
Other courses include Stewardship and Development, Human Resources Management in a Ministry Setting and Pastoral Strategic Planning, Information Technology, and Church Teaching and Belief.
Dr. Zech said the “nicest compliment” he receives is when someone says, “This student went to your program’s class and was able to apply what they learned the following week.”
In an interview following the ceremony, Dr. Zech said the large number of students from the Archdiocese of New York would enable the program to tailor some coursework to their cohort group. For example, he said, a finance course might include class instruction from Whiston on “how we do things in New York.”
In a subsequent interview with CNY, Whiston said working with Villanova to develop the master’s program is the latest in a series of initiatives throughout the past decade meant to improve the financial standing of parishes as well as to offer support to the archdiocese’s clergy. He cited the installation of associate directors of finance to work directly with parishes, financial workshops for pastors and new priests, as well as the development of an internal best practices website.
“The master’s in Church management is the most recent step in an ongoing effort to provide support and stability to parishes and, in particular, their pastors in their ongoing challenges of administration,” Whiston said.
“We want to continue to give them the tools and support, and make sure we do it the right way.”
Because of the size of the prospective student body from New York, the cost of the master’s program was reduced substantially from its normal cost of $27,600 to $10,000, as long as enrollment quotas are reached. The archdiocese is also offering a third of the final total as a scholarship upon successful completion of the degree, and encouraging the parish hiring the graduate as a business manager to further offset the cost.
More information about the program can be found at archny.org.