Father William Byron, S.J.

Father William Byron, S.J.

In the interest of full disclosure, let me say at the outset that I serve on the advisory board for the Center for Church Management and Business Ethics at the Villanova University School of Business. This frees me up to call attention to the fact that the Archdiocese of New York recently entered into an agreement with the Villanova center to provide online instruction to persons from the archdiocese over the next two years.

Villanova deserves credit for making the much-needed training available and the Archdiocese of New York is setting a great example for the rest of the church in America by subsidizing the costs of its lay and clergy participation in this online master’s degree program.

This is part of a recent initiative undertaken in New York by Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan under the banner of “Making All Things New,” a formal pastoral planning process. In announcing the agreement with Villanova, Cardinal Dolan said he is responding to a need expressed by pastors and parishioners for help in developing stronger business practices throughout the archdiocese.

Why Villanova? Because it has a nationally recognized degree program available online. Why the Archdiocese of New York? Because it has the courage to declare itself to be in need of help.

The program at Villanova started 11 years ago as a center “for the study of” church management. An economics professor in the business school, Charles Zech, a Catholic layman who received his doctorate at the University of Notre Dame, saw in the wake of the mismanagement associated with the clergy sex abuse scandals the need for education and training of church personnel — pastors, diocesan administrators, lay associates as well as seminarians — in the skills that business managers need to run their organizations efficiently and effectively while avoiding missteps that were unprofessional, even illegal.

Chuck Zech loves the church. He knew that better management could have prevented some of the church problems that were in the headlines over a decade ago.

He also saw problems then not visible to many — such as financial fraud and embezzlement — that proper training could prevent. So he started his center with encouragement from the late Augustinian Father Edmund J. Dobbin, then-president of Villanova, assistance from a handful of religious and lay advisers, modest support from the business school administration and a generous supply of patience and hope.

Students learn a lot about budgets and audits; accountability, transparency and control; the spirituality of administration; human resource issues such as hiring, firing and performance evaluation; insurance and risk management; how to run a meeting; how to motivate and reward good work; effective communication and much, much more.

Those interested in learning about all of this can Google the Study of Church Management or visit the website of the Center for Church Management and Business Ethics to find out more.


Jesuit Father Byron is university professor of business and society at St. Joseph’s University, Philadelphia. Email: wbyron@sju.edu.