Summer break? Not for these seminarians

David Gibson has the scoop at RNS:

“How many of you have ever studied a parish budget?” the Rev. David Couturier asked the 11 Catholic priests-in-training seated before him. After a few beats, just one hand went up, tentatively.

“That’s not unusual,” Couturier told them. “Just unfortunate.”

It’s also why these seminarians were in a classroom at Villanova University in the leafy Philadelphia suburbs, part of a first-of-its-kind program that aims to provide some real-world grounding to the theological studies that dominate their course work.

It’s a bit of “operative theology” to complement the “abstract theology,” as Couturier put it.

Couturier, a Capuchin Franciscan and a popular consultant on church management issues, was one of several guest lecturers this summer. He spoke about parish planning — “The budget is your best theological statement,” he said. “It will tell you where the priorities of the parish are” — while the Rev. Michael White, who has written widely about building up congregations, probed the principles of effective leadership.

By the end of the course in mid-July, the students would hear talks on finances, human resources, facilities maintenance and security as well a crash course in civil law.

The reason, and urgency, behind the program is simple: Today more than ever, Catholic parishes are complex entities today that require a patient manager and a watchful overseer who can lead a team of collaborators, not just a staff of employees.

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