Bishops gather to solve management challenges, collaborate with lay experts at 2014 Mid-Atlantic Congress

March 3, 2014

BALTIMORE--The National Leadership Roundtable on Church Management hosted a series of workshops and discussion groups for Catholic bishops last week during the Mid-Atlantic Congress for Pastoral Leadership in Baltimore.

Participants at the Leadership Roundtable's workshop for bishops. From left to right: Archbishop Leonard Blair; Bishop W. Francis Malooly; Bishop John Barres; Bishop Mitchell Rozanski; Bishop Paul Loverde; Archbishop William Lori; Kerry Robinson; Geoff Boisi; Jim Dubik; Archbishop Timothy Broglio; and Bishop Dennis Madden.

The sessions, led by lay experts, covered best practices in management, communications, and strategic planning.


“None of us was trained to manage corporations,” Archbishop Timothy Broglio of Military Services USA said as to why he attended the workshop. “Added to that, all of the dimensions of dioceses with large personnel, all the dimensions of managing human resources. In all of those areas, I know from personal experience that the Leadership Roundtable has been extremely helpful.”

MACArchbishop William Lori of Baltimore, who co-hosted the event with the Leadership Roundtable, said that bishops appreciate the opportunity to gather with one another and learn from lay experts.

“It’s really good for us bishops to come together, and to consider reflectively, and in the light of expertise in business and in strategic thinking some of the common problems, challenges, and opportunities that we have, and I think we all derive a lot of profit from this,” he said. “Certainly we talk about the need for planning as we look to the future, about focusing on mission.”

Facilitators included Geoff Boisi, a former partner at Goldman Sachs and the founder of the Leadership Roundtable; Tom Healey, who was also a partner at that firm and currently teaches at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government; Jim Dubik, a retired US Army lieutenant general who was installed as chair of the Leadership Roundtable last summer; and Kerry Robinson, the Leadership Roundtable’s executive director.

"This kind of peer-to-peer, leader-to-leader exchange between ordained and lay leaders helps our church flourish, and it's really instrumental in living out our faith," Robinson said. "Catholic laypeople possess such an abundance of skills and insights, and these kinds of collaborative events help to connect solutions to the challenges our bishops have identified. It's a win-win for everyone."

Dubik said this model of collaboration may expand, perhaps with workshops in various regions throughout the US.

"The Leadership Roundtable is very happy to coordinate lay senior executive leaders to participate in private, small-group, discussions with bishops concerning temporal management challenges they've identified as important to them. It's a great model. This is the second year we've done this in Baltimore, and we're talking to other bishops who want us to provide the same service in their regions," he said.

Bishop Francis Malooly of Wilmington, Delaware, called the sessions “very beneficial.” He, like Archbishop Lori, said collaborating with lay people and other bishops was especially helpful.

One participant, Bishop John Barres of Allentown, Penn., said he appreciated the ability of presenters to discuss “themes of the new evangelization” through a lens of best managerial practices, such as “fiscal responsibility, stewardship, best practices in management, accounting, investments, real estate. In a fallen world, to promote the new evangelization requires these best practices, to do it responsibly, to do it ethically, to do it effectively.”

Many of the bishops who participated in the daylong event cited the importance of collaborating with the laity.
Bishop Malooly said he relies on “wonderful lay leaders” in managing the diocese, and Archbishop Lori said that the bishops at the workshop were “very grateful to our lay collaborators” and noted that the sessions “help us in forming collaborative teams of clergy and laity at the diocesan level, as well as in our parishes.”

Bishop Barres said that he is a better bishop because of his interaction with lay people, and he noted that the relationship is beneficial for them, too.

“Hopefully in interacting with us, in the dioceses and the parishes, they have a deeper refinement in terms of their understanding of pastoral nuances of different challenges and problems, and that they grow in their faith as a result,” he said.

Archbishop Broglio said he is inspired by working with lay people who are committed to their faith.

“It’s helpful to have an opportunity to interact with them not only as experts but as believers who have invested in the church with their time, and that’s very precious,” he said.

In addition to the workshop for bishops, the Leadership Roundtable partnered with the Mid-Atlantic Congress to offer tracks in leadership, Catholic schools, and parish management for the nearly 1,500 participants at the third annual event. Workshops included best practices in parish fundraising, implementing parish personnel policies, and managing a parish budget. (Download PDFs of Leadership Roundtable sessions here.)

Topics from the sessions designed for Mid-Atlantic Congress participants included strategic planning, communications, leadership development, and human resource development. Each workshop was led by a Leadership Roundtable trustee, member, or staff, all lay experts working in the field.

Now in its third year, the Mid-Atlantic Congress provides an opportunity for parish, diocesan, and Catholic nonprofit leaders to explore issues of leadership, management, diversity, faith formation, and other issues facing the Catholic Church. Learning takes place primarily through plenary sessions with keynote speakers, panel presentations, and breakout sessions led by experts working in the field. The event is hosted by the Archdiocese of Baltimore and the Association of Catholic Publishers, in partnership with the National Leadership Roundtable on Church Management.