Last week I introduced two Italian students who recently visited the United States as part of Villanova University’s “Center for Church Management and Business Ethics.” Mario Compagnucci, a financial investments consultant and Giorgio Paolucci, a lawyer involved in banking law, were looking to enhance their education but specifically to work in a more focused way to benefit the Catholic Church in their respective parishes and dioceses. The goals of this exchange program were to allow these young active Catholics to get a sense of what exciting initiatives are happening in US Catholic parishes, to get some idea of the challenges we currently face in the US Catholic Church and to enable a cultural exchange to occur and see if there is a way where the Catholic faith of the two countries could possibly be mutually beneficial in some exchange of best practices.
In addition to what I mentioned last week, the American parishioners who met them admired their life-long love of learning – especially as it related to their faith. This was demonstrated in their deep commitment to their faith to go so far as to travel to the US in order to try to get a better understanding of how we are doing things here in the hope of applying it to their Church in Italy.
The St. Monica staff came to realize how blessed we are in America, as well as right here in Berwyn to have full parish staffs, working in tandem on the many aspects of church life and evangelization. This is obviously not the case in Italy. The staff was also, perhaps naturally, envious of our guests’ opportunity and ability to travel and experience other cultures and that they didn’t let a language barrier deter them.
There were several aspects of the US Catholic Church that Mario and Giorgio found fascinating. Right off, they were very surprised that St. Monica actually had seven paid employees. They mentioned that, in Italy, a parish would have a Pastor (or more often a shared Pastor) and perhaps a secretary who often doesn’t even work full time. The idea of hiring a full time person to do finances, religious education and especially family/youth ministry is a totally foreign concept in Italy.
Both were extremely impressed with the high degree of sophistication of strategic parish planning and organization at St. Monica as well as the quality of the parish management material available for the Catholic Church in America. We showed them samples of the Good Leaders-Good Shepherds program from Catholic Leadership Institute as well as the Toolbox for Pastoral Management from the National Leadership Roundtable for (Catholic) Church Management.
They mentioned that the quality of these materials and the level of ingenuity was well beyond anything they had seen in Italy and was only provided by top consulting companies in Europe. Finally, the Church Management Program at Villanova University was something that they hoped might be founded somewhere in Italy or Europe to help address the many challenges that currently face the Catholic Church in Italy and Europe.