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Seminary and University Collaborate on Online Learning Courses

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Mount St. Mary’s Seminary and University developed a series of online learning modules for the formation of Catholic seminarians on leadership and financial responsibilities called Pastors & Stewards. The modules, designed specifically for priests, pastoral associates, deacons and those involved in collaborative ministry, provide seminarians and lay parish professionals with the tools they need to effectively run operations that extend beyond their pastoral studies.

ps-in-text.jpg“Pastors and Stewards is a timely joint project between Mount St. Mary’s University and Mount St. Mary’s Seminary to help future and current parish leaders become responsible, competent and ethical stewards of their local churches,” said Project Director of Pastors & Stewards and Director of Pastoral Formation the Rev. John Trigilio, Jr., Ph.D.

Catholic parishes include many aspects of small business—requiring competency in human resources, financial management, strategic planning and ethical leadership. Mount St. Mary’s Seminary has been developing these skills in its seminarians for several years, giving seminars to the men in preparation for becoming pastors. In an effort to export the Mount’s goodness, those teachings were enhanced and expanded to serve the greater Catholic community.

Pastors & Stewards was funded, in part, by the Lilly Endowment’s Association of Theological Schools initiative to Address Economic Challenges Facing Future Ministers. The Lilly Endowment is a private philanthropic organization, centered on commitment to community, education and religion. Mount St. Mary’s matched the Lilly Endowment’s $125,000 grant.

The project began in 2013 as part of Mount St. Mary’s participation in the Lilly grant. Many individuals from the seminary and university worked together to launch the online modules in February 2019. Vocation directors and parish priests across the nation were surveyed to ensure comprehensive course materials were practical, affordable and more convenient than workshops and seminars available elsewhere.

“Two centers in the School of Education are pleased to collaborate with the seminary on the revision and creation of Pastors & Stewards,” said Dean of the School of Education Barbara Marinak, Ph.D., who also contributed to the modules. “Professor Elizabeth Monahan and Dr. Stacey Brown-Hobbs produced the content for the latest modules in Strategic Planning. Dr. Laura Frazier, the director of the Center for Instructional Design and Delivery, facilitates the design and production of all the modules.”

Six online courses are currently available on an individual or packaged subscription basis: Parish Leadership, Parish Financials I & II, Human Resources and Strategic Planning I & II. Three more courses, Virtuous Uses of Technology I & II and Personal Finance, are forthcoming.

Michael Bovino, S’20, from the Archdiocese of Hartford, completed the Human Resources module. “I found it to be very helpful information and realize it will be a valuable reference,” he said. “I’m grateful to know that various modules are available, and I am certain that I will reference and access all the modules in the near future when I am a priest.”

Module topics include: communication style, decision-making, creating a parish budget, fidelity to the mission of the parish, hiring and firing, creating job descriptions, performance reviews and ethical practices, collecting and analyzing data, financial accountability and identifying stakeholders.

“The modules provide good up-to-date information for solving the problems that parishes are currently experiencing,” said Robert Wagner, S’21, 3rd Theology, of the Diocese of Arlington. “Geared for those whose time is limited, they provide a quick and easy guide to administer today’s parish in an up-to-date fashion. They are presented in an informative and easy-to-understand format.”

Laura Corbin Frazier, Ed.D., who facilitates the design process from original content to finished product, explained the modules are intended to be useful to all stakeholders of a parish. “The pastor is the main focus, though the modules are also useful in the preparation for seminarians who may one day find themselves leading parish, school or health facilities," she said. "Similarly lay administrators may find the content useful as they support parish operations.”

Philip Briggs, S’22, 2nd Theology, of the Diocese of Arlington completed the Parish Financials I & II modules. “Through this training, I believe I have become more confident to lead a parish in its acquisition and facilitation of temporal goods," he said. "I look forward to what this training can do for all future priests and pastors.”

By working together, the seminary and university found both their mission statements aligned. Mount St. Mary’s Seminary is a school of faith, discipleship and learning that prepares men for the Catholic ministerial priesthood, striving to be a spiritual place that fosters a way of life and provides an atmosphere for excellent priestly formation in all its aspects: human, spiritual, intellectual and pastoral. Mount St. Mary’s University graduates ethical leaders who are inspired by a passion for learning and lead lives of significance in service to God and others.

“Through this program, Mount St. Mary’s is able to remediate the financial and administrative challenges that parish priests often face, ensuring they are well-prepared for the vocation to which God has called them,” added Mount St. Mary’s Seminary Rector Rev. Msgr. Andrew Baker, S.T.D.

All modules are self-paced, and there are no deadlines to register or begin. “Current pastors and lay leaders will also find them [Pastors & Stewards modules] a good resource as refreshers and as references when tackling the financial, human resources, technological and other aspects of being good stewards,” Trigilio added.

Registration for individual and packaged modules is available at Questions about the Pastors & Stewards should be emailed to Trigilio at