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VSB’s Center for Church Management and Business Ethics Preparing Seminarians for Future Parish Management

Charles Zech

VILLANOVA, Pa. - As the Director for Church Management in the Center for Church Management and Business Ethics at the Villanova School of Business (VSB), Charles Zech, PhD is an expert on Catholic Church finances in the United States. Professor Zech runs one of the only programs of basic parish management for priests and lay church managers in the country.  

Professor Zech has now taken the Center’s Church Management programming a step further by training seminarians and preparing them with the skills they need for future parish management. Dioceses typically sponsor programs only for newly assigned pastors and these programs tend to run the gamut of all their duties as pastor, with parish management skills covered as only one of many topic areas. After decades of church and lay leaders calling for the introduction of parish management topics in the seminary, seminarians are now receiving critical skills and basic training before their terms as associate pastors – in areas such as accounting, financial reporting, human resources, civil law, and even social media.

“Until the recent shortage, priests could have anticipated serving 10 or more years of parish apprenticeship as a parochial vicar,” Zech said. “Today they increasingly find themselves assigned to their first pastorate within a couple of years of ordination. Priests are assigned as pastors without the benefit of the preparation and mentoring by senior priests that previous generations of priests had experienced.”

Since priests can no longer anticipate a lengthy apprenticeship, it is essential that training to become pastors begins in seminary.

“Most seminaries are reluctant to devote resources educating their men on various parish management skills,” Zech added. “They cite a lack of time required to include all of the theology and spirituality that they would like to cover, much less make room for management education in the curriculum. Fortunately, we’ve been able to partner with two seminaries, St. Charles in Philadelphia and St. Mary’s in Baltimore, to discover innovative ways to introduce parish management education to their seminarians.”

This summer will mark the second class of seminarians from St. Charles Seminary in Philadelphia to earn a Certificate in Parish Management. The seminarians are con-currently putting these skills to use in summer internships at parishes in Philadelphia, Allentown Camden, and Wilmington, and in a few short years will be putting their management abilities to use as pastors. An anonymous benefactor donated money to fund the inaugural program with St. Charles Seminary in 2013, as well as this summer’s class.

The St. Mary’s Seminary program focuses intensely on one aspect of parish management at a time. In 2013, parish human resources were covered over a three-day period. In 2014, St. Mary’s partnered with Villanova’s Center for Church Management and Business Ethics to cover parish finances (budgeting, development, internal financial controls, etc.) over a four-day period.

In 2004, the Villanova School of Business established the Center for the Study of Church Management—the first of its kind in the nation—to serve the Catholic Church in the United States through education and research. The Center offers a Master’s of Science in Church Management, as well several non-credit programs in Church management throughout the year. It also conducts research in the areas of administration, professional financial management, and human resource management as they apply to the Catholic Church and its institutions. Through collaboration with Our Sunday Visitor as well as seminaries and dioceses throughout the country, the Center works to help Church leadership be good stewards of their resources, use their facilities effectively, and build a stronger Church.

About Villanova University: Since 1842, Villanova University’s Augustinian Catholic intellectual tradition has been the cornerstone of an academic community in which students learn to think critically, act compassionately and succeed while serving others. There are more than 10,000 undergraduate, graduate and law students in the University's six colleges – the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the Villanova School of Business, the College of Engineering, the College of Nursing, the College of Professional Studies and the Villanova University School of Law. As students grow intellectually, Villanova prepares them to become ethical leaders who create positive change everywhere life takes them.