As universities across the nation moved classes online in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, students in the Master of Science for Church Management (MSCM) program at the Villanova School of Business were ahead of the game.

Villanova’s Master of Science in Church Management is already an online program. The university is ranked no. 3 in the nation for best online degree programs in graduate business by U.S. News and World Report.

With students already accustomed to online classes, the program now provides support in managing the current coronavirus crisis.

“Since the first week of the pandemic, the program has become the biggest support and knowledge network,” said current MSCM student Paola Cubides Herrera. In addition to regular classes, students attended two webinars to discuss how to respond to the crisis.

Paola Cubides-Herrera

“The program has been the main source of ideas for me during these trying times,” said Cubides Herrera, who is set to graduate in May 2020. She is currently the director of Hispanic ministry at Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish, Doylestown.

The Master of Science in Church Management provides a graduate business degree based in a sound business curriculum and a holistic, faith-based approach to church management.

Cubides Herrera enrolled in the program because she “wanted to be equipped with the knowledge and the skills to better serve our church,” she said. “We, the lay leaders, have a greater responsibility today and we need to be formed to serve according to the realities and needs of our communities.”

2021 MSCM candidate Wanda Nouel shared this desire.

Wanda Nouel

“Once we decide to be disciples of Christ, we have to offer him the best of ourselves. For that, we need to train and educate ourselves, and know more about his church and its operation,” she said. “The MSCM program will teach me the structure of the church as a business. It will improve my knowledge in budgeting, and stewardship and planning, and will give me a vast knowledge of these fields.”

Nouel currently serves as a coordinator for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s Office for Catechetical Formation, where she manages programs, goals and projects, and keeps the office running at maximum efficiency.

“Following my experience, I can say that MSCM has allowed me to keep both my personal and professional life in sync,” Nouel said.

In the midst of the difficulties of the coronavirus pandemic, online learning has been ” a true gift from God,” she said.

While she admits some may be skeptical of online learning tools, her experience “has been fascinating. It has been an opportunity for me to acquire cutting-edge tools, to update my knowledge and nurture it with new ideas.”

“The situation that we are currently experiencing … has revealed the need for new working models for organizations to function in a highly distributed and digitally enabled world,” she added.

As for the Master of Science in Church Management program, Nouel said the quality of the teachers, the commitment of the students and the desire to work well for Christ and the church have made her “more committed every day to give the best of (myself) in this master’s degree.”

Cubides Herrera agreed, describing her experience in the MSCM program as “unique, enriching and unrepeatable.”

With classmates from many different communities and professional backgrounds, “you become part of a unique network of people eager to serve and praise the Lord with the same passion as you,” she said.

The program provided her with a practical skill set to manage and integrate the best business practices into her ministry, as well as analyze different aspects of the parish such as the mission and vision statements, parish employee handbook and RCIA program.

She described the program as “a perfect balance and integration” between managerial and administrative skills, and spiritual and pastoral skills.

The flexibility of the online program is “a great blessing,” she said, especially since she is a mother of two and manages a full-time job.

Students who work for the church receive a 25% tuition discount, and many dioceses offer additional scholarships.

The Villanova School of Business offers a 50% scholarship to new students entering into the MSCM program from the Philadelphia Archdiocese. Those seeking more information are encouraged to email

Other dioceses that partner with the Villanova School of Business include the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania and the Catholic dioceses of Bridgeport, Cleveland, Fall River, Nashville, Newark, New York, Paterson and Trenton.

Candidates for the 2020 cohort of the MSCM program 2020 currently are being accepted. Classes will begin on May 18. Those interested can apply here.

Watch the following video for more information about the Master of Science in Church Management program: