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Mission Management

Professional polling as a parish communications tool

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Mission Management

Parishioners love to give their opinions to their pastor -- whether he asks for them or not. Yet, how many times have we been directed at Mass to locate the stubby No. 2 pencils and scraps of paper and fill out a brief questionnaire? Too many times.

Isn’t there a better way to gather the opinions of parishioners to understand the parish community, its needs and aspirations? Yes. It’s called professional polling. And it helps when there is a first-rate polling institute a mile away.

Solar power: Let the sunshine in

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Mission Management

The “environmental crisis,” we are reminded, is a “moral challenge” that requires us “to examine how we use and share the goods of the earth, what we pass on to future generations, and how we live in harmony with God’s creation.”

Just the latest environmental pabulum from the trendy religious left? Hardly. Those words were promulgated by the U.S. bishops in their 1991 statement “Renewing the Earth: An Invitation to Reflection and Action on Environment in Light of Catholic Social Teaching.”

Computer tool aims to optimize priest assignments

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Mission Management

So few priests. So many parishes. What's a bishop to do? This question may rightly belong in a Sunday New York Times' crossword puzzle, but it's real and it's at the center of long-term planning in dioceses around the country. It becomes more complicated when priests' language skills are a key factor in parish assignments. Some dioceses, for example, have parishes that are predominantly Spanish-speaking, but there are not enough Spanish-speaking priests to cover the parishes.

Fired! Do church employees get unemployment benefits?

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Mission Management

Unemployment is difficult. For many, it's downright tragic. But at least when the hammer falls there's the guarantee of a half year's worth of benefits through the government's unemployment compensation system.

Unless you work for the church. Churches and religious organizations are exempt from paying unemployment taxes, which fund the system.

During another brutal economic environment — the Great Depression — Congress enacted the Federal Unemployment Tax Act in 1935. The act called for a cooperative federal-state program of benefits to unemployed workers. It is financed by a federal excise tax on wages paid by employers in "covered employment," explains attorney and certified public accountant Richard Hammar, in an article titled "The Church as Employer: Unemployment Taxes" (Church Law & Tax Report).

The federal act was amended in 1970 "to exempt service performed in the employ of a church … or an organization which is operated primarily for religious purposes and which is operated, supervised, controlled or principally supported by a church," says Hammar.

Making parishes engaging and vibrant

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Mission Management

If the United States’ 30 million former Catholics were their own denomination, their church would be larger than the Methodists, Lutherans and Presbyterians. Combined.

The situation is most stark in the Northeast, where the total number of Catholics is dropping in each state between 5 and 20 percent. Parishes are closing. Weekly Mass attendance has reached new lows. Most former Catholics have “just gradually drifted away,” according to a recent Pew poll. Without immigrants, the total Catholic population would be in decline.

Rightsizing the church: physical accountability

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Mission Management

From the fictional Friar Tuck and the saintly Thomas Aquinas to the Blessed but rotund John XXIII, the Catholic imagination recalls many wise and compassionate, if conspicuously overweight, models of wisdom, prudence and compassion. But such corpulence, however endearing in retrospect, can have a decidedly negative impact on the church and its ministries.

Size, it seems, does matter.

Improving the bishop-priest relationship

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Mission Management

The rapport between a bishop and his priests is the single most important factor contributing to the health of a diocese. So says Bishop Blase Cupich, who is in a position to know. The 60-year-old Nebraska native and former chair of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Vocations heads the Rapid City, S.D., diocese.

“It is clear to me after more than a decade of serving as a diocesan bishop that the one nonnegotiable for the growth of a local church is a sound and vibrant relationship between a bishop and the members of the presbyterate [the body of priests within a diocese],” said Cupich.

Mission Management: Archdiocese policy models justice in the workplace

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Editor's Note:
Good intentions are not good enough. For the church to carry out its mission, it needs management systems, trained personnel, and the oversight and accountability that people in the pews increasingly demand. It must, in short, be a well-run operation. That's what our newest feature, Mission Management, is all about. Here we will explore both success stories -- best practices in church management that can be emulated by others in similar circumstances -- and areas where those on the frontlines can learn from the mistakes of others.

Any U.S. employer with 4,000 staff members at 240 work sites should expect, in the normal course of business, to be the subject of employment-related litigation.

Not so the St. Paul and Minneapolis archdiocese, which has not experienced a wrongful termination case in more than a decade. "This is a substantial accomplishment for any organization," Fr. Kevin McDonough, former vicar general for the archdiocese, told NCR.

It'

In Des Moines, accounting sets a standard

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Mission Management

Editor's Note: Good intentions are not good enough. For the church to carry out its mission, it needs management systems, trained personnel, and the oversight and accountability that people in the pews increasingly demand. It must, in short, be a well-run operation. That's what our newest feature, Mission Management, is all about. Here we will explore both success stories -- best practices in church management that can be emulated by others in similar circumstances -- and areas where those on the frontlines can learn from the mistakes of others.

A parish is many things: a community of believers, the locale where the life of the church is played out daily, a source of attachment to the universal church.

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July 18-31, 2014

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