Villanova University and the Archdiocese of Philadelphia announced a partnership April 17 to equip local church leaders and managers with the latest professional business management skills.

The university’s Center for Church Management already offers its two-year online Master of Science in Church Management (MSCM) degree designed to provide students with a high-level skill set in effective church management.

Now, any new students from the five-county archdiocese may take advantage of a 50 percent scholarship for the program, the website for which indicates a tuition of $29,400, or 30 credits at $980 per credit.

“I’m delighted to see new and innovative educational programs being made available to the faithful of the archdiocese who utilize their professional skills to serve our church,” said Archbishop Charles J. Chaput. “Partnering with Villanova University to provide a Master of Science in Church Management provides a unique and valuable opportunity for professional administrators working within our parishes, schools and various ministries.”

Potential students include parish business managers, people serving in pastoral ministry who would like to better support their parish or diocese, and individuals who have worked in business professionally and want to transition to church work.

Professionals who cannot take leave of their current positions to relocate and pursue full-time study at Villanova can complete the MSCM degree online in only two years of part-time study, according to Villanova officials.

“We are committed to providing education and scholarship in the Augustinian Catholic tradition on strategic, management and temporal matters in service to leaders of churches and other Christian ministries,” said Matthew F. Manion, faculty director of the Center for Church Management and a 2011 graduate of the MSCM program.

“It is an honor to partner with our home diocese, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, where so many of us live and worship and we are extremely grateful for the generosity of our donors who make programs like this possible.”

Applications for the MSCM program are being accepted now for the group of students who will begin classes May 21, according to Manion.

Villanova School of Business currently has similar partnership arrangements with the Archdiocese of New York, the Diocese of Trenton and the Diocese of Camden. The Center for Church Management, the first of its kind in the United States, serves the church through education and research.

“At Villanova, we frequently speak about the value of community, which is why I am incredibly pleased to partner with our Philadelphia diocesan community through the Center for Church Management,” said Augustinian Father Peter M. Donohue, university president. “Villanova is honored to help the Philadelphia region’s parishes flourish by training the next generation of church managers with our online Master of Science in Church Management degree.”