Who’s the boss: priests take classes to learn management skills

From The New York Times: 

 They came for prayer and fellowship, naturally. They gave confession to other priests, too. But mostly they came for lectures. Lectures on employment law. And on best practices in hiring and firing. And accounting and auditing. It was five days with hardly any theology.

Beginning Jan. 5, during the cold spell whose icy fingers reached even to northern Florida, 37 priests gathered at the Marywood retreat center here — most having ditched their collars — for the eighth installment of the Toolbox for Pastoral Management, a retreat for priests in charge, or soon to be in charge, of their own parishes.

Roman Catholic pastors, as such head priests are called, spend more time managing staff than giving Communion. But seminaries are spotty at teaching how to be the boss. So priests come here to learn.

“Overtime!” proclaimed Carol Fowler, former director of personnel for the Archdiocese of Chicago, that Tuesday morning. “Some people are exempt from overtime pay,” she said, as the priests took notes at their tables. “This may come as a shock to you, but as pastors of your parishes, you are exempt. During Holy Week, you will not be getting overtime pay.”

At 10:45, after a brief recess, Dr. Fowler continued, ticking through issues like how to sniff out lies on résumés. And there was the matter of dress codes. “In most parishes, I find priests don’t want to talk about them anymore,” she said. “And they certainly don’t want to correct women, because they don’t want to be accused of sexual harassment.”

The Toolbox is a project of the National Leadership Roundtable on Church Management, which was founded in 2005 by lay Catholics to offer management expertise to the Catholic Church. The group is now active in about two-thirds of the 195 American dioceses.

The idea came from Geoff Boisi, a Catholic philanthropist who had worked at J. P. Morgan and Goldman Sachs. And what inspired him in part were the Roman Catholic pedophilia scandals dominating the news.

“A major component of the sexual abuse crisis was a breakdown in management and administration,” Mr. Boisi said in an email. “We considered this, and other areas of church management, and asked, how can we help?”

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