Table of Contents

Welcoming Remarks
By Jim Gallo, MS.Ed.
Center Director
Center for Church Management & Business Ethics

Contractor/Vendor Selection Made Simple for Parish Managers
By Michael J. Castrilli, MPA, M.Div.

Missionary Discipleship--Building Vibrant, Mission-Driven Parishes and Schools
By Joan Rosenhauer, Catholic Relief Services

Student Spotlight: Deacon John Catalano

And the Survey Says...Parishioners Attitudes Towards Their Parish
By Charles Zech, Ph.D.


jim gallo

Welcoming Remarks

Jim Gallo
Center Director, Center for Church Management & Business Ethics

Welcome to the Spring 2017 edition of Villanova’s Center for Church Management and Business Ethics Newsletter. 

In this edition we cover two topics, and take a look at the incredible work of one of our own Master of Science in Church Management Students.

Michael Castrilli is an adjunct professor in our MS in Church Management program and a presenter in our Church Management Certificate program. Michael teaches pastoral planning and finance in our Villanova program. He has also been a frequent contributor to our newsletter. In this volume he outlines simple and impactful ways to communicate church financial information.

Joan Rosenhauer is the Executive Vice President of US Operations for Catholic Relief Services.  In her article, Joan discusses how to build vibrant, mission-driven schools and parishes.


One of our own Master of Science in Church Management Students from the Archdiocese of New York, John Catalano, is a recent book author.  In this new segment of our newsletter, we look at John in our "student spotlight," and discuss his decision to become a deacon, enter the MSCM program, and his new book.

Our regular look at data, “And The Survey Says”, takes a look at characteristics that attract parishioners to parishes.  Dr. Charles Zech takes a look at some of these characterstics both here, and in his new book, Catholic Parishes of the 21st Century.

Please also spend some time filling out the 2017 national survey on church compensation.  This important survey is used to determine pastor and church staff salaries, so your input is truly valued.


I would like to remind you of the educational opportunities available through the Center for Church Management & Business Ethics. There is still time to apply for this year’s class in our very successful on-line master’s degree in church management (

awarded through the nationally-ranked and fully accredited Villanova School of Business. You might be interested to know that US News & World Reports has ranked our MS in Church Management as the 10th best online program in the country among ALL graduate business programs.


We also, in partnership with Our Sunday Visitor and AmericanChurch, offer a series of webinars on church management topics. This series presents the opportunity for an individual to earn a certificate in church management through the Villanova School of Business. The series began its fifth year in September, but it is not too late to join us. Individuals interested in particular topics may participate in one or more of the specific webinars without pursuing the certificate. For more details, see


Additionally, please be sure to check out Mike Castrilli and Chuck Zech's new book on parish finances.  It is currently available on Amazon by clicking here.




We hope that you find the information in this newsletter useful. We appreciate your previous feedback and are happy to hear your feedback about the topics covered in this issue as well as topics that you would like to see covered in future issues.



Contractor/Vendor Selection Made Simple for Parish Managers

Michael J. Castrilli

Challenges and Opportunities

Does your parish struggle with creating clear, understandable and transparent financial reports? If so, you are not alone!

As churches balance the broad range of financial information that parishioners seek, they also struggle with what to report and how to communicate this information. Many churches offer financial reports that are inaccessible or downright confusing, while others report results in such a basic fashion that the data does not lead to any clear insights. 

Even though studies show that communicating financial information to parishioners has a positive impact on stewardship and involvement, many churches either fail to see the linkages or become paralyzed by the options. Sadly, beyond the reporting of the end-of-year financial statements, a significant number of churches choose not to report any financial information. 


This article will explore strategies for communicating church financial information. Learn how to construct a comprehensive, yet concise financial narrative and discover best practices in choosing the most compelling visuals (e.g. pie charts, column/bar charts, line graphs etc.). A substantive church financial report will both engage and empower parishioners to understand their parish finances. 

Part I: Construct the Financial Narrative

Define the Goal and Audience

Two questions are critical as you begin to create any financial report, “What is the goal of the report?” “Who is the audience?” Answers to these questions are essential to help you as you craft the narrative. By understanding the purpose of why you are creating a report, you will have direction as to what you build.

For example, are you offering a high-level overview of revenue and expenses for the prior year? Or, is the report being created for the Finance Council as they help you prepare the annual budget? The answers to these questions will help guide you as to what to include in the report and the level of details that are needed. 

What is important in this process is that you include all relevant information to help the audience achieve informed insights. There is a tendency to believe that the term “financial transparency” is defined as “the more information provided, the better the report.” However, this is not true if the information you communicate overwhelms or even distracts the audience from the most critical information. Just because you have extensive data does not mean that you need to include every piece of information in all of your reports! 

Tell a Story 

Mark Twain said the first rule of writing was “that a tale shall accomplish something and arrive somewhere.” I argue that that the same rule applies to creating financial reports. The best financial reports have a beginning, middle, and arrive at a conclusion. The structure you can use for your narrative is to start with where the parish is today with finances. Next, offer any context from the past that can help inform the present situation. Finally, conclude the narrative by looking towards the future. 

The Present - Where are we today? 

Begin the report with a narrative that concisely describes the current state of finances for the parish. Typically, this will include a discussion of overall revenue and expenses compared to budget targets. For many churches, more than 80% of income comes from collections. Therefore, offer a status on Sunday offerings, donations, and discuss any changes in program income. 

In the narrative, include a discussion of expenses. Were there any significant outliers? For example, did a massive snowstorm cause maintenance costs to soar? The narrative can also describe updates on staff changes, capital projects, debt obligations/payments, endowment/savings accounts, policy changes, and/or any programmatic updates.  

The Past – Where have we been?

In the next section of the narrative, discuss how the financial situation today relates to the history of the parish’s finances? For example, if collections are lower than anticipated, consider any previous cases when this has occurred. Visuals in this section can be particularly useful to offer additional context or convey complex financial information (see Part II below). 

The Future – How are we leading into future?

Conclude the report with a discussion of the future. Consider answering questions that may include, “What are the areas of growth at our parish?” “What is the plan for addressing any challenges in the future?” “What areas are we most grateful?” “Where do we see our future as a parish community?” 

For example, if there has been a surge in parishioner registrations, discuss the opportunities. If a new staff member has been hired to work on a particular program, discuss excitement for parishioners to get involved. If new policies are being implemented to address a financial situation, discuss these areas openly. 

Address Challenges Directly

Inevitably, financial problems occur and need to be communicated. For example, due to a decrease in collections, the parish drew a larger percentage of endowment funds than in previous years. In drafting your response to financial challenges, consider the 3-R Approach. The first step is to reflect on what has occurred. What is the actual data telling you about what happened? The second step is to review reasons or circumstances and consider any changes that are necessary for the future. The third step is to refine any policies and procedures to mitigate the likelihood that the problem will occur again.

When reporting a challenging situation, keep the narrative simple, straightforward, and offer answers to the relevant “W” questions.


    What happened?

    Who is/was involved?

    When did it take place?

    Why did it happen?


At the end of the report, provide a point of contact (POC) with name, phone number, and email to address comments, questions, or concerns. If readers seek further information, they will have a POC that can offer additional details.

Part II: Choosing Visuals to Communicate Financial Understanding

To complement a report’s narrative, a variety of visuals can help enhance a report’s readability and accessibility. I will define the term “visuals” broadly, including any graphs, charts, pictures, tables, even art that displays data to accompany a concept, topic, or method. The Chinese proverb, a picture is worth a thousand words, speaks well for the impact visuals can have on virtually any report. Alternatively, I also like to say in fun, when you put together a visual and the picture is not worth at least 250 words, consider not including it! 

Open up any word processing, spreadsheet, or presentation software and you will find an endless list of visuals that you can use. However, remember that beautiful colors or stylish charts or graphs may make a report “look” good, but does the visual add value to the information being conveyed? Other questions to consider include, “What are you trying to say or highlight that words are more difficult to use to explain the concept?” “What is the goal of including a particular visual?”

Opportunities for Visuals are Endless - Choose Well

Once the questions above are answered, there a variety of visuals you can choose. Without the time in this article to describe every visual available, I will discuss a few of the most common used in church financial reports. After a brief description, I will discuss the advantages, as well as any cautions/recommendations when to using a particular visual. 

As you can imagine, the choice of which visual to include for your particular situation will be subjective based on a variety of circumstances. The discussion below is not to offer one-size-fits-all solutions, but provide some general parameters for your consideration.

Pie Charts

Pie charts are useful when your goal is to present data on a category/topic as a percentage of the whole. Pie pieces can be easily arranged by color, shape, and highlighted to emphasize information.


    The pie chart is easy to read, understand, and people are familiar with this visual.

    The pie chart is particularly useful to show relative proportions, or percentages of information.

    The use of colors and pie shapes display well any differentiation among categories.



    Pie charts are often overused without regard to whether these charts are the best choice for displaying certain types of data. For example, a pie chart that offers no distinction between the data (unless this is a goal of your visual) does not add value to the report. If you have more than one data set, it can be difficult for people to look at multiple pie charts and make comparisons.

    The recommendation is to use a pie chart when you have between three and seven categories, otherwise the pie chart may become messy and confusing. 

    Avoid “miscellaneous” or “other” categories. These terms are confusing and can be misleading. If they are included, ensure that the definitions are clear.




Bar/Column Charts

One of the most common visuals in reports is a bar/column chart. Using bars or other shapes, the visual displays discrete data in separate columns. These charts can be used to show one data set, or compare two or more data sets by lining them up in the same graphic.  


    The chart offers readers a simple way to visualize data highs and lows at a glance

    The bar/column chart can help readers visualize trends, bumpiness or patterns in data. Trends occur when information moves in a general direction, or data can look bumpy meaning that the information is erratically up and down. The graph can also show patterns where data moves in a repeating fashion.

    The use of colors and shapes offer an easy to read and appealing visually. 

    Comparing bars one against the other can quickly show progress or differentiation.



    If using a variety of colors to display more than two categories of data, ensure that the data can be easily recognized. For example, a black and white report may not show the subtle differences between columns.

    Label the horizontal (X) and vertical (Y) axes. 

    Be careful not to overwhelm readers with so much data that the chart looks messy and then becomes difficult to read. 


bargraph 2



Line Graphs

Line graphs connect individual data points and then connect the points with a line. These graphs are primarily used to display trends in data.


    Line graphs can quickly shows data ranges, minimums, gaps, clusters or outliers.

    Similar to the bar/column chart, the line graph can help readers visualize trends, bumpiness or patterns in data. 

    The graph is useful when data contains evenly spaced values such as months, quarters, or fiscal years.



    The line graph is less appealing to the reader than other visuals that can be used (i.e. bar/column charts) to display similar data.

    Be sure to create a “Key” that distinguishes the various lines in the graph.

    Ensure that the horizontal and vertical axes scales are right-sized given the range of data that is presented.




Tables display information into columns and rows, offering a structured format for presenting information. 



    Visually appealing and familiar for reviewing financial data.

    Tables are great for displaying data that includes math equations including sums, averages, ranges, and multiple units of measure. 



    Double-check numbers contained within the table to safeguard against careless errors. 

    Ensure that the table includes the right level of data and does not include extraneous information that makes the table complicated to read. 





Concluding Tips

Clarity Matters

As you develop your report, ask yourself the question, “Is this clear?” A helpful technique may include seeking the counsel of a colleague or member of the Finance Council. Ask the question, “As you look at this report, what do you think are the key takeaways that I am trying to convey?” If your reader struggles or offers a lengthy, convoluted message, you have your answer. Ask parishioners to weigh in, allow others to assist you, seek input from staff.

Offer Context

When creating a financial report, a common mistake is to forget to include the overall picture, providing context to what is being reported. For example, if I report that our savings account has $200,000. Is this number good, bad, or indifferent? The answer is, "It depends." The figure needs context. It might help to include the savings amount from the last three years. Has it been on a slow decline, increase, or up and down over these years? Additional historical data can provide context to the reader. 

Practice, Practice, Practice

Remember, writing these reports takes practice. The first time you compile a new type of report and offer it to parishioners, it may not be perfect. Share the report with others, get feedback, and revise. Creating something is better than producing nothing. You are not alone in this process. Every member of the parish has a stake in understanding the finances of their parish. 

As you lead efforts to create accessible, empowering, and transparent financial reporting, remember that the methods and techniques discussed are not only good management practices, but also speak to the values that we share as a Christian community. The clearer we are in our communication of church finances, the stronger we become as a community.

Michael Castrilli is an adjunct professor at Villanova’s Center for Church Management and Business Ethics and the author (co-author Chuck Zech) of Parish Finance: Best Practices in Church Management (Mahwah: Paulist Press, 2016). 

Question/Comments? Feel free to contact Michael Castrilli at or (202) 262-7969.


Castrilli, Michael J., Charles E. Zech. Parish Finance: Best Practices in Church Management. Mahwah: Paulist Press, 2016. 

Foreman, John W. Data Smart: Using Data Science to Transform Information into Insight.  Indianapolis: John Wiley & Sons Inc., 2013.

Zech, Charles E., Mary Gautier, et al. Catholic Parishes of the 21st Century. New York: Oxford University Press, 2017.




Missionary Discipleship--Building Vibrant, Mission-Driven Parishes and Schools

Joan Rosenhauer, Executive Vice President for US Operations, CRS


How Engaging 1% of Catholics Could Change the World.  The subtitle of Matthew Kelly’s book The Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic is an intriguing claim.  Most of us yearn for a more engaged Church, and most of us yearn for the Church to be seen as witness of God’s love in the world, promoting the common good and helping to build a better world.

But engagement.  That’s the rub.  We all know that church managers have limited staffs and limited time to make the sacraments more fully come alive, to make the story of the Gospel more relevant, to form Christian hearts and minds to become the light and leaven of God’s love. How can we best invest our resources to accomplish this?

Let’s begin by reflecting on Catholic teaching about the mission and ministry of the Church. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI gave us a clear description in his encyclical Deus Caritas Est.


…love for widows and orphans, prisoners, and the sick and needy of every kind, is as essential to [the Church] as the ministry of the sacraments and preaching of the Gospel. The Church cannot neglect the service of charity any more than she can neglect the Sacraments and the Word  (No. 22).


These words challenge us to look at our parishes, schools, and other ministries and ask, do we actively reflect this three-part definition of the mission and ministry of the Church? Do our people experience the joy and richness of a life of faith that is nurtured through our prayerful relationship with God, shaped by the message of the Gospel and the teaching of the Church, and lived through our efforts to bring God’s love to all, especially those in greatest need? Pope Francis has challenged us to be missionary disciples—to bring this vision of a vibrant Church to life, ensuring that we are known for our mercy toward our brothers and sisters.

For Church managers charged with building a vibrant faith community and supporting missionary disciples, this is both a challenge and an opportunity. In my experience at Catholic Relief Services (CRS), Catholics in the United States are generous and merciful people. They wish they could do more to help their brothers and sisters who are suffering here in the U.S. and around the world. They are proud when they learn that the Catholic Church, through our Catholic Charities and related agencies, runs the largest private service network in the country. When they learn how the U.S. Church, working through CRS with the local Church around the world, is changing the lives of more than one hundred million people who are facing the most desperate poverty, they are excited and often comment, “This is great! Why didn’t I know this?”  Moreover, market research shows that young adults are particularly interested in helping to build a better world. How can we ensure that they understand the Catholic Church offers an exciting way to be the people they want to be?

The US bishops’ statement on the social mission of the parish, though more than twenty years old, continues to provide a helpful guide for supporting missionary disciples and building active and life-giving parish social ministry. Communities of Salt and Light (USCCB, 1994) offers practical suggestions for incorporating a commitment to those in need throughout parish life—in prayer and worship experiences, in religious education and sacramental preparation programs, and through a variety of opportunities to act on this mission locally and globally. It urges us to consider:


  • How is a commitment to those in greatest need reflected in our liturgical celebrations—especially through the homily, general intercessions, and music choices? How are participants moved through their experience of receiving Christ in the Eucharist to bring Christ’s love to all people they encounter in their lives and to those in need, whom they may never encounter, in their communities and throughout the world?
  • In what ways do our religious education programs include an explicit focus on the Church’s rich social teaching? How are young and old alike given opportunities to act on our commitment to the poor as an integral part of their formation? Do our sacramental preparation programs emphasize how these pivotal moments—as we commit our lives to God, experience His grace and mercy, and begin new phases in our lives as disciples--necessarily include deepening our commitment to loving both God and our neighbors wherever they may be?
  • Do our parish and school create opportunities for all to participate in serving those in need and advocating for life, justice and peace—young and old, those with more resources to share and those with fewer resources, those at all stages of their lives and faith journeys? 


This last question has important implications for how the parish builds community participation in missionary discipleship. Christ’s teachings are meant for all, including his teaching that in the end our lives will be judged by how we cared for the “least” among us (MT 25:31-46).  He does not say that this only applies to a handful of people on the social concerns committee or to people who have already retired.  The Gospel and the tradition of the Church call each and every one of us to care for our brothers and sisters in need. Still, everyone does not have to do everything. And everyone does not have to do the same thing. But everyone must do something.

How can our communities of faith create opportunities that allow everyone to do something? At CRS, we invite people to participate in our global social mission through what we refer to as “PLAG”—Prayer, Learning, Action and Giving. 




PRAYER: Everything about our lives as missionary disciples has to be rooted in our prayer life and our relationship with God, asking for his blessing for those who are suffering. For some people, this may be the primary way they can respond to the Gospel call to love our neighbors in need. 

LEARNING: It is also essential to learn about our brothers and sisters who are struggling in our own communities and around the world. This includes learning about how Catholic teaching calls us to respond and about how our community of faith invites all of us to participate. This is an essential aspect of building vital communities of faith and nurturing efforts to witness God’s love in the world.

ACTION: Bringing our commitment to our neighbors to life by joining together to serve those in need and promote justice and peace is the clearest and most vibrant dimension of our commitment to missionary discipleship. When a parish community feeds the poor, clothes the naked, advocates for the oppressed, visits the prisoner, assists women in crisis pregnancies, or turns in their Rice Bowls after Easter—filled with the alms of the parish, but also with the parish’s prayers, their hopes, and their commitment to continue serving the least among us—they become the love of God for each other and those they serve.

GIVING: We all know what giving is, and alms are a defining part of our faith with a long tradition.  But the sort of giving that follows from prayer, learning, and action, is giving that is more intentional, springing from an informed, converted heart. Whether it is a toy for a local child at Christmas, food for a pantry, or a financial contribution to support the amazing programs the Catholic community sponsors across the country and around the world, we recognize that sharing the blessings God has given us is an act of faith and an important way to show our love for Him and our neighbor. 


In so many ways, the Catholic community in the U.S. invites every parish and school, and every believer, to join together to follow the teaching of Christ and live as missionary disciples. Our local Catholic agencies, including Catholic Charities, St. Vincent de Paul, the diocesan Pro-Life Office and others, often provide resources to make it easy for parish and school leaders to engage their people in praying, learning and acting to help the vulnerable locally. Catholic Relief Services provides an on-line Ministry Resource Center that includes seasonal resources such as CRS Rice Bowl during Lent, as well as prayer resources, faith formation and sacramental preparation resources, and opportunities to take a variety of actions, including ethical shopping and advocacy, on behalf of suffering people around the world. The US Conference of Catholic Bishops offers the We Are Salt and Light website that includes a wide variety of resources for parishes, schools and other ministries. State Catholic Conferences offer opportunities to advocate at the state level on behalf of those whose voices are often not heard. Local Church managers do not need to reinvent the wheel.

Pope Francis tells us that “In virtue of their baptism, all the members of the People of God have become missionary disciples” (Evangelii Gaudium, No. 120).  Church leaders are challenged to build faith communities that invite everyone to participate in our commitment to missionary discipleship, enthusiastically following Christ and actively witnessing God’s love in the world. We have the tools and resources to do this with vitality. By doing so, we will answer The Holy Father’s call to build communities that are “nearer to people, to make them environments of living communion and participation, and to make them completely mission-oriented” (Evangelii Gaudium, No. 28).  


Joan Rosenhauer is the executive vice president for US Operations at Catholic Relief Services. 


webinargraphic2 2



Student Spotlight

Dacon John Catalano

Deacon John Catalano is a student in Villanova' Master of Science in Church Management program, and a member of a special cohort of students from the Archdiocese of New York.  Deacon John serves at Our Lady of Perpetual Help/St. Catharine's parish in NY, and has been a deacon since June, 2016.  More recently Deacon John authored a book, entitled Does God Speak to Us?  What about me?

The following is a short interview with our MSCM student and author Deacon John Catalano:

When do you believe you felt your calling to be a permanent deacon?

As I got deeper into my involvement in parish life, I just felt a quiet call, a vocation, to serve God and his people, the Church.  This was probably about six years ago, and I set about then to apply for formation through my local parish.

What made you decide to pursue a Master of Science in Church Management degree?

While I was involved in the ‘Making All Things New’ effort in the ADNY a few years ago, it became clear to me that the 21st Century Catholic Church needs professionally trained managers at the parish level with both financial skills and a strong sense of pastoral stewardship. We’ve got to protect and grow our precious gifts and resources. When I learned of the MSCM program last year, designed for both clerics and laypeople, I leapt. 

How do you believe the MSCM program is helping you in your ministry to the Church? 

We’re already being challenged to think creatively and dynamically about how to grow communities.  The courses are targeted to parish life, and the professors are all terrific.  It has been inspirational, and an unexpected joy to find myself in a cohort of wonderful people who so obviously love the Church and want to help in whatever way they can.  

What made you decide to write a book on Catholic Faith and young adults?

Even though my daughters grew up in a Catholic home and attended Catholic Universities (Georgetown and Holy Cross) I noticed as they went out on their own, that they and their friends had not maintained particularly lively prayer lives, and no longer attend mass. They’re adults now, and I want them to know about the Church from an adult point of view. The book might be of interest to the parents of millennials, who may also be disengaged from regular prayer and worship. The book is written as a dialogue with my daughters; I attempt to share my faith and beliefs with them, and they respond with challenges and questions. I don’t have all the answers, and some things I say do not satisfy them.  But I’ve shared my point of view in a relatable, and hopefully uplifting way.  It’s a tough sell!  

If you are interested in learning more about Deacon John Catalano's new book, please click here.





And the survey says...

By Charles Zech, Ph.D.

A recent book published by Oxford University Press, Catholic Parishes of the 21st Century, has taken a 360 degree view of contemporary Catholic parish life. Using data from a variety of national surveys, the authors examined all elements of parish life, including staffing, demographics, cultural diversity, administration and finances, and parishioner attitudes. This is an update of the work done in the mid-1980’s by a group of scholars associated with Notre Dame University. Needless to say, the authors found some significant changes in parish life in the last 30 years.


Some of the most interesting findings were concerned with parishioners’ attitudes towards their parish. Overall, 56 percent of surveyed parishioners found their level of satisfaction with their parish to be excellent (92 percent rated it good or excellent). 

However, the results showed that Catholics were not equally satisfied with all of the elements of parish life. Table 1 shows the elements that attracted parishioners to their parish (p. 122).


table1 2


Table 2 shows these same parishioners’ level of satisfaction with aspects of their parish life (p. 123).





Note that the concept of welcoming stands near the top of both lists, as does the quality of the liturgy. Education and faith formation are in the lower half of both lists.


How would your parish stack up?


Catholic Parishes of the 21st Century, by Charles E. Zech, Mary L. Gautier, Mark M. Gray, Jonathan L. Wiggins, and Thomas P. Gaunt SJ, Oxford University Press, 2017.


Please fill out the 2017 National Church Compensation Survey

Thank you for all you do for our church! Your ministry does not go unnoticed.

The Church Law & Tax Team from Christianity Today is working on its 2018 Compensation Handbook for Church Staff, which helps to determine fair wages for pastors and church staffs around the country. 

They need your help! Will you take a few moments to fill out their survey?

Your survey results will be kept strictly confidential. They will be combined with other responses to create the 2018 Compensation Handbook. 

As a “thank you” for your time investment, you’ll be invited to select one of three free gifts: 

  • A download of the eBook 20 Finance Questions Churches Ask
  • A 6-month subscription to Christianity Today
  • A download of the Bible study Stewardship: Living a Life that Counts


Be sure to take the survey here. Thanks again for all you work!

For More Information

Center for Church Management
Villanova University
800 Lancaster Avenue
Villanova, PA 19085
Tel: (610) 519-6015
Fax: (610) 519-6054