Sharing Church management best practices in the Catholic Church
Even in the post-Vatican II era of collaborative ministry, bishops only entrust parishes to ordained pastors. Such pastors rely on professional staffs and competent volunteers, as well as on pastoral and finance council members. But none of them have more than what Canon Law calls a "consultative vote." The buck stops with the pastor. He alone can make legal decisions on behalf of the parish, and the good pastor must be a prudent leader as well as a good shepherd.
All the more reason for effective leadership training at the seminary level. The official documents of the Church prefer to speak of the pastor as a "good shepherd" rather than as a leader, but even they describe the priest as a "leader." The U.S. Bishops' document entitled "The Program of Priestly Formation" specifies the seminary curriculum. It is a thorough and thought-provoking document, and it speaks about training the seminarian to be a priest-leader. The PPF does not, however, require a course in parish administration and leadership skills (as it requires courses in, for example, Holy Orders and ecumenism). It expects the seminarian to learn about leadership in a variety of indirect ways, such as apprenticeship under a veteran pastor.
The Leadership Roundtable can make a great contribution in the coming months as the U.S. Bishops contemplate revisions to the Program of Priestly Formation. The Roundtable can provoke discussion about whether the PPF ought to pay closer attention to the topic of leadership development for seminarians.
A publication in 2008 of the National Catholic Educational Association, In Fulfillment of Their Mission, has affirmed the importance of leadership training for priests from a practical point of view. The publication describes the nine “duties” of the Catholic priest, of which the fourth is to “lead” parish administration. Administration encompasses eleven distinct tasks, including the leadership of pastoral and finance councils, the oversight of planning ministry, and stewardship, and the supervision of staff, property, and communication. While “good shepherd” may be the preferred description of the Catholic pastor, “leadership” is one of his essential duties.
What do members of the Roundtable think the future priest ought to learn regarding leadership? The Bishops of the USA should welcome its reflections.
 Joseph Ippolito, Mark A. Latcovich, and Joyce Malyn-Smith, In Fulfillment of Their Mission: The Duties and Tasks of a Roman Catholic Priest: An Assessment Project, including materials developed by a task force of the Midwest Association of Theological Schools in partnership with Education Development Center, and funded by the Wabash Center for Teaching and Learning in Theology and Religion (Washington, D.C.: The National Catholic Educational Association, 2008). The book describes the leadership of parish administration on pp. 38-43.