October 10, 2019, Chicago – Pastors, parish ministers, and other leaders in church organizations are often well trained in theology, Scripture, and pastoral ministry. But how well trained are they in selecting, hiring, and working with staff members and volunteers?
Carol Fowler, an Adrian Dominican Associate, has written a book, Human Resources: Best Practices in Church Management, to address some of the challenges that church leaders face in leading and working with personnel. Her book, published by Paulist Press and part of a series sponsored by Villanova University, is intended for “the person who finds himself or herself in a leadership position and suddenly has to manage staff,” Carol said.
The book includes a foreword by Sister Donna Markham, OP, PhD, President and CEO of Catholic Charities USA, who encouraged Carol to write the book after she received the invitation from Paulist Press.
Now retired, Carol brought 26 years of experience in human resources work with the Archdiocese of Chicago in writing the book. While serving as Director of Campus Ministry for the Archdiocese, she said, she was invited by Cardinal Bernardin’s office to apply for the job of Director of Personnel Services. Carol was given the position, studied the human relations profession, and became a certified professional in human resources services, she said. Over the years, she has also conducted workshops to help church leaders in matters of human resources.
Because of her professional work with parishes, she said, her work was written “with the perspective of the parish,” but it has applications to leaders of other organizations, including parish business managers, pastoral associates or coordinators, and volunteer coordinators for nonprofit agencies.
“I think fundamentally what I try to help people understand is that all ministry is relational, and so is the ministry we do with the people who work or volunteer with us,” Carol said. “The leader needs to build a culture of relationships. When relationships and communications are good, problems can be avoided most of the time.”
Another key focus for church leaders, Carol said, is choosing the right people to fulfill the mission of the organization effectively. The leaders “need to look at who’s on their staff and whether or not they have the right people to do the mission effectively.” In her book, she said, she tries to help her readers to make good hiring decisions and use the right processes to make those decisions. “Another issue that comes up as soon as you hire someone is how you orient them,” Carol said. “How do you make them effective at what they do?”
Another challenge, Carol said, is performance management. “You have to give feedback to people about what they’re doing well and what they need to improve on,” she said.
But the most difficult situation for any organizational leader to face is terminating an employee, Carol said. “That’s always the most heart-wrenching, the most difficult thing you have to do,” whether because of an employee’s poor performance or misconduct or because of reorganizing and having to cut staff, Carol said. “It should never be easy,” she added. “Somebody’s life is about to be radically changed, and even if they are partly responsible, it’s a difficult change to face.”
Carol’s hope in writing the book is to help church leaders not only to lead their employees to be effective in their mission, but to ensure justice in the church workplace. “I truly believe that if people implement really good human resources policies, there’s a greater chance that there will be justice and fair play in churches. That’s what I’m really after – justice in churches.”
Also a former Adrian Dominican Sister, Carol said her connection to the congregation is core. “I learned what justice means through my connection to the Adrian Dominican Sisters. I learn to be passionate about wanting justice by my continue relationship.”
March 2, 2018, Chicago – Adrian Dominican Sisters JoAnn Fleischaker, OP, and Dorothy (Dot) Dempsey, OP, were part of a group of Catholic clergy and religious from Chicago who took part in a recent press conference announcing a Lenten fast in solidarity with Dreamers.
Dreamers are U.S. residents who had immigrated to the United States as children with their undocumented parents. Advocates for these Dreamers are working to pass legislation that would protect the Dreamers, who had applied for temporary safety from deportation under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Many of the estimated 800,000 Dreamers had never known any nation other than the United States.
Both Sisters JoAnn and Dot are members of the Adrian Dominican Congregation’s Dominican Midwest Mission Chapter, based in Chicago. For years, Sisters and Associates in the Dominican Midwest have focused on their Chapter’s Immigration Initiative, which calls on them to walk with immigrants and to work toward a just and compassionate immigration reform.
Sister JoAnn is one of several Adrian Dominicans who volunteer to spend two hours for two weekends a month at the Marie Joseph House of Hospitality, a center in Chicago for women and children immigrants. Before the monthly meetings of Sisters and Brothers of Immigrants, Sister JoAnn and others take part in an hour of public witness in support of immigrants.
As an English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher, Sister JoAnn has heard first-hand of the fears of deportation faced by many adult learners. “When you meet people who are in that situation and you hear them speak about their experience, it helps you understand tie issue so much better,” Sister JoAnn said.
Sister Dot spoke of her own experiences as a literacy tutor with immigrants and as a court watcher in immigration court, ensuring the immigrants who are represented in court that what happens to them is noticed by the community. “I listen to the struggles that they have while they’re incarcerated,” she said. Hearing their experiences gives her special motivation for being involved with the immigrant population.
Sister Dot is also among a group of Sisters who gather for interfaith prayer every Friday morning at Broadview, the detention center for immigrants. She explained that, in the past, immigrants detained at Broadview were often deported from there on Friday mornings, and the group was there to give them moral support.
“It’s a witness,” Sister Dot said of the Broadview gathering, noting that students on spring break often join them in their prayer. In addition, she said, law students from DePaul University often come to learn more about the experience of the immigrants.
Sisters in the Dominican Midwest Chapter and other concerned citizens in the Chicago area have an opportunity almost every other day to participate in an action on behalf of immigrants, Sister Dot said. “We all do what we can: calling, marching, being a presence. It helps to know what they must go through, not knowing what tomorrow may bring. It’s all for the Dreamers and our immigrants.”