Fiscal managers from around the country converged this week on Houston, Texas for the forty-third Diocesan Fiscal Management Conference (DFMC). The event is both a conference and a convention where fiscal managers and other professionals network and learn about the latest resources available for building their ministries.
Timothy Cardinal Dolan, President of the USCCB was the keynote speaker at the DFMC on its opening night.
Dolan emphasized the important role that diocesan fiscal managers and accountants play in the ministry of the church. “I am looking at folks who everyday perform a task that they consider more than just a job,” said Dolan. “I admire you people of grit and competence. At times you must say no, but you are the ones who at times must also say yes.”
Diocesan CFO’s and other fiscal managers have an important ministry within the Catholic Church of the United States. Fiscal managers have the critical responsibility of preserving and protecting the financial capabilities of diocesan ministries while also helping to balance diocesan budgets. In an uncertain economic environment plagued by sex-abuse lawsuits, fiscal managers are often challenged with making tough decisions.
Is there enough money to build the new Catholic elementary school? Should we consider merging two parishes to consolidate our resources? How does our diocese best protect its assets while also promoting all of our essential services? A Fiscal manager must often provide recommendations to these and other questions facing their diocese or institution.
“Cardinal Dolan spoke forcefully of the challenges of the Church today in the United States, and related well to the diocesan fiscal officers the vital role that they play in helping the Church meet those challenges,” said Brother Michael O’Hern, President of . “It was an honor and a pleasure for Christian Brothers Investment Services to sponsor Cardinal Dolan’s keynote presentation at the DFMC. Everyone to whom I have spoken at the conference expressed appreciation and gratitude for his message and his acknowledgement of their contribution to the Church.”
has been heavily involved in the sponsorship of the DFMC for a number of years.
Cardinal Dolan also spent a great deal of time talking about the importance of the New Evangelization. He outlined three main points:
1. The sense of urgency in protecting the integrity of diocesan interests through the “impeccably honest” management of diocesan finances. “We must protect ourselves from our enemies and her name is Legion,” said Dolan. “They are out to get us. The Church is under attack and I have been told that they are especially interested in finding errors in church finance and record keeping.” Dolan stressed the importance of virtue, honesty and openness in the ministry of church finance.
2. At Her core the Church is incarnatable. “What is incarnatable”, Dolan asked. He explained that as Catholics we believe in the incarnation – that God the person took on the flesh through Jesus Christ. We believe that Jesus Christ is alive through the body of the Church – Thus, the Church is incarnatable.
Dolan pointed out that the body of Christ extends far beyond the parish. The Church is among the largest providers of social services in the world. In the United States, Catholic services include; adoption clinics, nursing homes, affordable housing developments, soup kitchens, schools, parishes and other institutions. Diocesan fiscal managers are often tasked with allocating Church resources for the development, and at times the consolidation or closures of such ministries.
According to an article published in The Economist, annual spending by the Church and its entities was around $170 billion in 2012. To put that in prospective in 2010 General Electric’s revenue was $150 billion. (The Church also employs well over 1 million people. Walmart employs roughly 2 million).
Here are some interesting facts about Catholic social services in the United States:
– There are over 6800 Catholic schools (5% of the national total)
– 630 Hospitals (11%) with an equal number of smaller health facilities
– 244 colleges and universities (7 of the top 25 law schools in America are Catholic)
– 25% of the top 100-ranked hospitals in the U.S. are Catholic
The Catholic Church in America: Earthly Concerns, August 2012, The Economist
All of these services have been threatened in recent years by government intrusion into religious liberty (HHS mandate as an example) and by sex-abuse lawsuits. The Economist estimates that settlements have cost the church over $3 billion dollars. Funds needed for social services and even basic ministries could be lost if not properly protected (Diocese of Wilmington lost over $77 million dollars). Innovative asset protection and financing structures are more important than ever for preserving the resources of the church.
Dolan also pointed out that the Church is changing. In some areas of the Country the Church is experiencing growth while congregations are shrinking in others.
David Hessle, the Finance Officer and Business Manager for the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston reported that the Catholic church in Texas is growing. In particular, his diocese represents over 1.2 million Catholics; they provided social services to over 1.1 million people last year; they have 59 Catholic schools with over 18,000 students. In addition, last year they welcomed over 2400 new Catholics to the faith. Mr. Hessle also noted that Mass is celebrated in Houston everyday in 14 languages.
Meanwhile, Cardinal Dolan reported that many parishes in the northeast are witnessing shrinking congregations. He explained several examples of schools being merged or consolidated to save diocesan resources. He also noted the importance of using resources from closures or consolidations towards the same purpose that they were originally designated for. In other words, if a hospital is closed, the money saved or made from the sale or closure should go to another hospital. “This allows us to honor the intentions of the original donors,” said Dolan.
3. “All the temporalities, all the accounts, all the services only exist to propel what we have come to call the New Evangelization.” – Dolan
What is the New Evangelization?
Dolan explained that to evangelize is to preach Christ to those who have never heard him.
“Blessed Pope John Paul II offered a fresh twist,” said Dolan. “In addition, those who have heard must hear and accept Christ again. Faith needs to be renewed, reenergized and restored.”
Dolan explained that “none of us are exempt. All of us must spread the message of Jesus Christ – to renew, restore and reenergize our faith.”
Dolan summarized his three main points:
1. Protect and defend the integrity of the Church through open and honest fiscal management.
2. Continue building the body of Christ, despite the economic realities that we may need to shift resources in ways that are more prudent in accomplishing the mission of the Church.
3. Never forget that the resources of the Church and all of its institutions and ministries exist for one purpose – “proclaiming the word of Christ.”
Service providers in attendance included Diocesan Financial Partners, a partnership between Coughlin and Company and Immaculata Law Firm.
Walt Coughlin, Vice President of Coughlin and Company has attended at least 10 such conferences over the years. “We provide debt financing that dioceses use to finance their parishes, chanceries and schools,” said Mr. Coughlin. “Our mission is about Catholics helping Catholics. This means that our financing for Catholic institutions is almost always provided by other Catholic institutions and individuals.” Coughlin and Company is one of the largest Catholic bond underwriters in the Country. They are a family owned business that has been providing financial services since 1932.
Michael Schierl, Founder of Immaculata Law Firm was also in attendance. “We know from our work that many diocesan structures are inadequate to protect against lawsuits,” said Mr. Schierl. “Our mission is to provide up-to-date structures that provide both legal asset protection while also substantially enhancing overall funding capacity.” Mr. Schierl has been involved with the structuring of multiple diocesan entities. He has also helped to create millions of dollars of financing for Catholic institutions. Projects include everything from the launch of Catholic radio stations to the financing of parishes and schools.
The abundance of the mission-oriented professionals who attended the DFMC was truly inspiring. While many other Church ministries often take the front-seat in terms of publicity. We at MariaNews.com thought it was time to give some attention to the folks involved in the ministry of Church finance. They often must make the tough decisions and recommendations, which at times may be unpopular. But they are tasked with the noble mission of preserving the resources and capabilities of the Church. They crunch the numbers and make calculations. They serve the church and they strive to safeguard Her resources.
By Royce Hood / MariaNews.com