New Program Gives Parish Priests Management Skills

Wednesday, May 31, 2017
Priests listening to a presentation

Being new to any position can be daunting. There are new processes to learn, new coworkers to meet, and new challenges to face.

Coming out of seminary, most diocesan priests are well-prepared to face the spiritual demands of their new jobs. But in many cases they are also often running organizations, making the kinds of day-to-day decisions that keep things operating efficiently and effectively.

This year, Rockhurst University’s Helzberg School of Management launched a new program with the help of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph designed to give new area priests the skills to thrive both as clergy and as managers.

According to Myles Gartland, Ph.D., director of graduate business programs for the Helzberg School of Management, the idea began as diocese representatives discussed establishing more ongoing educational opportunities for clergy.

Over its nine-month duration, the priest leadership formation program provided its first small group of priests leadership skills — from communication to accounting — that will serve them as they serve their parishes. In May, the program’s first class received their certificates in a short ceremony.

Gartland said much of the curriculum is drawn from the Helzberg School’s own programs, namely the Master of Arts in Management. And much of the coursework is discussion-based, allowing the priests — many of whom come from different aspects of pastoral life — to draw on their previous experience as they connect to the in-class and assigned material in small group discussions.

“We have 13 priests in this first class, all of whom have been out of the seminary between one and seven years,” Gartland said. “We very much wanted this to be more than a lecture series, so each month, the priests in this class hear from Helzberg faculty or a guest speaker who leads them in a discussion of issues they’ll face every day.”

During a March session, Bishop the Rev. James Vann Johnston himself sat in, telling the priests that being a good diocesan priest or a pastor means being both a spiritual and an administrative leader for the congregation.

“You face unique challenges,” he said. “So having the skills to tackle any of those challenges is key for your success.”