Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Leadership Roundtable at SJS

Twenty-five seminarians and priests begin three days of workshops on Parish Management here at SJS with the great folks at the Leadership Round Table. Here’s my homily from this morning’s opening Mass as well as my opening remarks at the first session.

St. Stephen of Hungary
Tuesday, August 16, 2016 (7:30am)

Winston Churchill must have been reading Ezekiel just before he loudly proclaimed the most important lesson he ever learned in life. There is a God and I am not him.

Ezekiel describes the perfectly terrible pastor. He is the one with a haughty heart, who by his words and actions constantly proclaims: “I am God,” as he sits on his royal throne.

He has no need of advice from learned managers and there are no laymen wiser than he. He has been imbued with divine wisdom, not only in matters priestly and doctrinal, but in governance as well.

He is the modern Solomon, resolving every dispute by his own ingenuity, building a new Church with infused administrative knowledge, and setting up structures which would be the envy of the giants of industry,   And he does it all on his own.

Which is why within the past month you can google Fr Nguyen of San Jose who will spend the next four years in federal prison for misappropriating parish funds. Or the 76 year old priest in Steubenville, who wrote checks to a con man for $35,000 because he believed all his stories. Or Father Kane in Detroit who is facing up to twenty years in state prison for misappropriation of close to a quarter of a million dollars.

And its not just about the money. The same haughty priest who needs no one’s advice will make an equal mess of human resources, finance councils and the parish plant.

Back to Ezekiel:

“you [think you] are wiser than Daniel, there is no secret that is beyond you. By your wisdom and your intelligence you have made riches for yourself; You have put gold and silver into your treasuries. By your great wisdom applied to your trading ou have heaped up your riches; sounds a little like a certain presidential candidate) your heart has grown haughty from your riches– herefore thus says the Lord GOD: IT WILL ALL FALL APART.

But if you are humble…if you seek God’s will and the accumulated wisdom of others…what is impossible for you to accomplish alone, with God is very possible.

Today is the Feast of Stephen of Hungary, the first of the great Christian monarchs. They tell all kinds of stories about his humility and of his desperate search for ways to fill his people’s stomachs, keep them safe and to lead them to God.

And there’s only one major relic of Saint Stephen that still exists. It is his right hand, also known as the Dextra. Why did this relic along survive? He biographer speculates:

“The right hand of the blessed man was deservedly exempt from putrefaction, because always reflourishing from the flower of kindness it was never empty from giving gifts to nourish the poor.” (Hartvic, Life of King Stephen of Hungary[191])

You don’t have to know it all. You don’t have to be God. All you gotta do is listen and give in humility and love.


Welcome to the Leadership Round Table

"In church work,” a wise man once wrote, “as in forming and merchandizing and manufacturing and in all other affairs, the management of yesterday will lead to bankruptcy and failure today.” (Albert Franklin McGarrah, Modern Church Management: A Study in Efficiency (1917), p. 20.)

That was written in 1917 by a Protestant management specialist, whose major work lamented the widespread lack of knowledge and skill in Church management among the Church’s pastors.

As many of you know, last week I was in Siena with the Vox Clara Committee, whose chair also happens to be Prefect of the Economy for the Holy See. Cardinal Pell was delighted to hear of your attendance at these workshops and promised his prayers. He also, characteristically, offered some candid advice, a reprise of his address to the new Bishops of the world about six months ago.

Because, he said, “dishonesty is not unknown” in how Church personnel handle money,” He offered three points to keep in mind.

First, Don’t assume honesty. Both Bishops nor pastors, he insisted “must understand financial basics and must take an interest in financial undertakings,” he said. “He cannot leave it to others; he cannot boast that he doesn’t understand this area.” “This,” he said without mincing words, “would give encouragement to thieves.”

Second, Employ “four eyes.” Recommending annual audits, he insisted that no one person, Bishop or Pastor, should be the only one watching the books. Checks and balances are essential.

Third, he recommended that we always rely on lay expertise. From your business manager to Finance Committee, you need good competent and “pastorally oriented persons” to whom you will listen.

Which brings me to the happy moment of introducing Jim Lundholm-Eades and Peter Denio of the Leadership Roundtable., Since first I was exposed to their Pastor’s Toolbox two years ago, I have been longing for this moment, a new and annual part of our seminary curriculum, where we might listen to good and competent lay persons who love the Church and learn something about the principles of governance and Church management which has been or will be placed in our hands.

I am really looking forward to this. Welcome!