Priests and lay leaders are benefitting from a new assessment tool customized for the Catholic Church.
August 16, 2011 | The Rev. Jason Makos had an idyllic start as a priest. After ordination and theological studies in Rome, he spent four years as an associate pastor at a parish in the Archdiocese of Boston, immersed in ministry. He said Mass. Visited the sick. Delivered homilies. Celebrated the sacraments.
“It was great,” Makos said. “It was almost 100 percent priestly, pastoral work. Each day, I enjoyed the priesthood more and more.”
But in October 2010, Makos, then 33, was appointed pastor at the Church of the Holy Ghost in Whitman, Mass. Considered a medium-sized parish in heavily Catholic Boston, the church serves 2,400 families and draws more than 1,100 people to six weekend Masses. The parish’s only priest, Makos oversees an 11-person lay staff, from business manager to custodian.
It was as though overnight he became the CEO of a small business, with more on his plate than just next Sunday’s homily.
“It was an eye-opener,” Makos said.
In making the transition to pastor, Makos has been able to take advantage of a new resource: a 360-degree leadership-development feedback tool customized for use by Catholic clergy and lay leaders.
Makos is one of 15 recently ordained pastors in the Boston Archdiocese who are using Catholic Leadership 360 as part of a new initiative launched by the National Leadership Roundtable on Church Management. The feedback tool focuses not on religious or spiritual matters but on broader leadership skills, especially in managing the temporal affairs of the church.
“It’s been a good experience,” Makos said. “It sheds light on who you are as a person and a priest and how you interact with others. It gives you a window on your strengths and how you can build on those, and pinpoints areas you need to work on.”
Questions to consider:
- The Rev. Jason Makos found a 360-degree assessment valuable in making a transition to being a parish priest. Has something changed in your work as a lay leader or pastor that would make a feedback tool valuable for you?
- How open would you be to having such an instrument completed for you? Do you have any concerns or fears?
- When it comes to leadership, the line between the spiritual and secular is not always clear. In what ways do you use essentially secular skills in spiritual ways?
- Do you have individuals that serve as informal 360 feedback givers? If not, would you consider inviting a few people to do so?
- It is easy to forget that people want feedback -- indeed, it can be a gift. Do you take the time to give people positive feedback for things they are doing well and developmental feedback to help them improve?
Adapted from the business world, the feedback tool can even be life-changing, both for clergy and for those they lead, increasing self-awareness, identifying strengths, and helping shape a broader, more collaborative understanding of leadership.
Ultimately, in a church that has been rocked by crisis, Leadership 360 is about helping clergy and lay ministers “become the best they can be,” said Cathy Rongione, a Boston human resources professional who served as project manager for the Catholic Leadership 360 customization.
Reaching that goal may require more than pastoral skills alone, as Makos discovered.
“When you’re pastor, you are responsible for every aspect of parish life, not just the Mass and baptism but also the finances and supervising a staff and making sure everything is working properly,” Makos said. “You see how important the temporal aspects are, that the roof is in good shape and the walls are painted and the rectory is upgraded.”
The making of a Catholic 360
A nonprofit organization of Catholic laity and clergy, the Roundtable was established in 2005 to help bring modern management and administrative practices to the Catholic Church. Drawing on the expertise of prominent Catholics in business, finance, government and industry, the Roundtable has developed and made available to the church a portfolio of programs.
“The reality is that the church has been through turmoil the last several years and is facing huge, challenging issues,” Rongione said.
Clergy sexual abuse and financial mismanagement scandals have shaken the faithful. With declining vocations and an aging priesthood, clergy are in short supply. Like Makos, many are placed in positions of great responsibility as full pastors far sooner than they would have been a generation or two ago. To fill the void, lay leaders now serve in positions once held by priests in such areas as finance and religious education.
“What all this means is that priests need to really take on the role of leadership above and beyond,” Rongione said.
Priests have always had administrative responsibilities for leading local parishes, but the demands today are greater, said Michael Brough, director of planning and programs for the Roundtable. In addition to their pastoral duties, priests today are expected to manage a professional staff, lead fundraising campaigns, be communication experts, set strategic direction, empower others, oversee building projects, understand finances and human resources, and essentially run what are often multimillion-dollar organizations.
“Usually, people have technical capacity,” Rongione said. “The head of finance knows how to balance a balance sheet. What trips people up and causes them to not be as successful as they could be are leadership behaviors, how they engage and treat other people.”