Parish trustees called on to assist pastors

| May 24, 2011 | 0 Comments

Did you know that your parish is a corporation, legally speaking, and that it has a board of directors?

Hundreds of parish trustees from throughout the archdiocese recently attended gatherings to learn about their role as parish board members. The archdiocese held the gatherings as many parishes begin proceedings to merge or cluster according to the archdiocese’s Strategic Plan, released last October.

“Canon law specifies that the pastor is entrusted with both the spiritual and temporal affairs of a parish and the archbishop entrusts to him the pastoral care of that community. But in doing that, he needs to operate oftentimes in the secular world, and the way we do that is through a corporate structure,” Andy Eisenzimmer, archdiocesan chancellor for civil affairs, said at Our Lady of Grace in Edina May 13. It was the third of three gatherings held at different locations.

At the Edina gathering, Father Peter Laird, archdiocesan vicar general, gave an overview of the Strategic Plan, Eisenzimmer spoke about the role of parish trustees, and John Bierbaum, archdiocesan chief financial officer, discussed parish finances and operations.

“There are challenges that all of our pastors face,” Eisenzimmer told The Catholic Spirit. “Financial challenges are obviously among them, but they face a variety of challenges in operating a viable parish. We believe that trustees can play a significant role in assisting pastors in meeting those challenges.

“So what we really wanted to do was engage our trustees to step up and better communicate what our expectations are in terms of how they might help their pastors,” he added.

Role of the board

In a “religious parish corporation,” five members comprise the board of directors. By virtue of their office, the archbishop, vicar general and pastor are automatic members of the corporation. The archbishop is the president of the corporation, and the pastor is the vice president. In addition, two lay members of the parish — called trustees — are appointed by the ex officio members to serve as treasurer and secretary.

“The trustees are the members and officers of the civil corporation registered with the state. Their role fulfills civil statute requirements,” according to a handbook distributed at the gatherings.

Trustees typically serve for two years or until their successors are appointed.

“One of the things that we expect of trustees is that, along with the other members of the board of directors, they’ll consult with the parish council on matters pertaining to the pastoral care of the parish,” Eisenzimmer said.

“But the pastoral council itself has no legal vote in the transaction of business,” he added. “The business of the parish corporation is conducted by the members who make up the board of directors.”

The board of directors provides financial reports at least once a year to the parish congregation.

It is the treasurer’s job to work with the vice president (pastor) to “provide for the orderly receiving, accounting and dispersing of all funds belonging to the parish corporation,” according to the bylaws. The secretary’s responsibility is to notify the directors of meetings and keep the minutes of the meetings.

The archdiocese also asks trustees to assist with ensuring that their parishes are in compliance with the U.S. bishops’ 2002 “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People,” Bierbaum said.

“The main thrust of [a parish trustee’s responsibilities] is to watch over the finances of the parish, make sure the corporation is doing right for the overall parish, and report to the archdiocese that everything is well,” said Joe Tomas, who attended the Edina gathering. Tomas has served as a trustee at Holy Cross in Minneapolis for 25 years.

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Category: Local News, Spotlight