Chicago Catholic leaders gather to address Church management, finance

ConnellyCHICAGO--Mid-Western Catholic leaders representing the Church and various industries gathered at DePaul University in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood on Monday for a Regional Roundtable on Church management, finance, and human resource development. The event was hosted by the National Leadership Roundtable on Church Management and DePaul’s president, Fr. Dennis Holtschneider, CM.


Msgr. Wayne Prist began the event by relaying a message from Cardinal Francis George, in which he called the Leadership Roundtable’s mission a “wonderful thing” and “thank[ed] God for the work [they] do everyday.”

The Leadership Roundtable has deep ties to the Church in Chicago. Geno Fernandez, principal at McKinsey & Co., and a Leadership Roundtable trustee, served as a local host for the event. He is joined on the board by fellow Chicagoans Fr. Jack Wall, president of Catholic Extension, and until very recently, Dr. Carol Fowler, who retired this summer as the head of human resources for the Archdiocese of Chicago. Fernandez said that many pastors have expressed a desire for assistance in managing their parishes, and in response, he explained, the Leadership Roundtable, created a program with Seton Hall University in New Jersey to gather new pastors together for a week-long series of workshops and seminars. The Toolbox for Pastoral Management, now in its third year, has attracted priests from all over the nation, including many from the Mid-West. The alumni of this program then stay connected virtually through, an online learning community exclusively for Catholic priests.

Kerry Robinson, executive director of the Leadership Roundtable, explained that a major Leadership Roundtable initiative promoting strategic pooled investment by Catholic entities, including hospitals, universities and dioceses, had its genesis in a conversation with Cardinal George at the beginning of the global economic crisis. An important challenge for the Church was to safeguard and strengthen Church assets during an uncertain economic period, the better to respond to increased pastoral and social needs of people who were suffering as a consequence of the crisis.

Sr. Rosemary Connelly, RSM, the executive director of Misericordia, a Catholic home for developmentally disabled adults in Chicago, explained how the work done there has helped change society’s attitude toward this population. She said that fundraising remains a major challenge for Catholic institutions like Misericordia as they carry out their missions. Connelly’s ministry was highlighted during the Regional Roundtable as an example of the kinds of Catholic social justice work that is possible with sound management. She noted that declining numbers of ordained leaders have challenged lay people to step up, and, she said, “they are doing it beautifully.”

Several Catholic leaders involved with the Leadership Roundtable’s program that trains Catholic students in leadership, service, and ecclesiology called ESTEEM, or Engaging Students to Enliven the Ecclesial Mission, attended the event, including Fr. Patrick Baikauskas, OP, of Purdue University, and Katie Diller, a campus minister at Michigan State University. “Young adults sometimes ask if the church is relevant to their lives, but also wonder if they are relevant to the Church, and ESTEEM is helping to answer those questions,” Diller said.

Matthew Thibeau, a lecturer at Chicago’s Loyola University, asked how the Leadership Roundtable could help foster a culture of collaboration. He highlighted the work of Ministering Together, a project that had brought together national Catholic organizations to focus on healthcare, education, and charity to collaborate more closely in order to solve common challenges. Robinson, the Leadership Roundtable executive director, explained that the Leadership Roundtable operates under the ethos of, “imagine how much can be accomplished when no one cares who gets the credit.” Geoff Boisi, the founding chair of the Leadership Roundtable, said that the Leadership Roundtable always partners with other Catholic organizations whenever possible, and dedicated  our annual meeting in Washington this past summer to explore how to cultivate more collaborative efforts and strategic alliances throughout the Church.

Saying that there is not a lack of good will about improving Church management, Fr. Michael Place, the former president of Catholic Health Association, said that there is a need in the Church for developing a “shared language around best practices” that bridges mission with knowledge.

Fr. Holtschneider told the group that he remains appreciative of the work of the Leadership Roundtable, and pledged the full support of DePaul University in fulfilling its mission. Joining Fr. Holtschneider at the Regional Roundtable was the president of another Chicago Catholic institution, Fr. Michael Garanzini, SJ, the president of Loyola University Chicago.

Participants at the Regional Roundtable spent part of the afternoon in intensive workgroup sessions considering the major management issues facing parishes, dioceses, and Catholic nonprofit organizations, and how the Leadership Roundtable and other like-minded Catholic groups might respond.

(Image: Sr. Rosemary Connelly, RSM, addresses the Regional Roundtable Participants).


About the Leadership Roundtable: The National Leadership Roundtable on Church Management is a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit organization of laity, religious, and clergy working together to promote excellence and best practices in the management, finances, and human resource development of the Catholic Church in the U.S. through the greater incorporation of the expertise of the laity. For more information, please visit