Archdiocese to streamline central operations

BRIGHTON -- Following the recommendations of an independent consulting firm, the Archdiocese of Boston will undertake a streamlining of its central administration operations.

The recommendations, which come as a result of a study conducted by the firm of McKinsey & Company, include the restructuring of the archdiocesan cabinet, the reallocation of archdiocesan resources and a reduction in staff through a “self-select” incentive program.

“The move to Braintree gave us a focused moment to look at our organizational structure and enhance the way that we are operated,” Vicar General Father Richard Erikson told The Pilot April 9.

“So we invited McKinsey & Company to come in last August, pro-bono, and give us an overview, an assessment and an analysis of our organization,” he said.

The archdiocese set up an oversight review committee that included cabinet members, pastors and archdiocesan staff members. The committee worked together with McKinsey and presented recommendations on how the archdiocese could better achieve its mission, Father Erikson said.

Father Erikson said the reorganization of the cabinet is aimed at emphasizing the priorities of serving the parishes and promoting pastoral planning.

He stressed the importance of central administration working as a pastoral service to the parishes.

“To me the term chancery has the connotation of administration,” he said.

“The fact that we are calling the new building in Braintree a pastoral center is very intentional,” he said.

In choosing the new name, he said, “we are saying that what we are about as an organization is not about administration as an end but administration as the means to help support, promote, encourage the spiritual and pastoral life of the archdiocese.”

“At the Chrism Mass, Cardinal Seán charged the priests of the archdiocese with these words: ‘We are Christ’s priests, we are going to do this well, and we are going to do it together.’ Similarly, I would say about our move to the pastoral center, we are going to do this well and we are going to do this together,” the vicar general said.

Under the new cabinet structure, the current Secretariat of Pastoral and Ministerial Personnel will be separated into two new secretariats: a Secretariat for Parish Life and Ministry and a Secretariat for Faith Formation and Evangelization. The Secretariat for Regional Services will no longer exist and a new position called chief secretary will be added to the cabinet. The archdiocesan general counsel and the vicar for canonical affairs will also be incorporated into the new cabinet structure.

According to Father Erikson, the secretary of Parish Life and Ministry will oversee the areas of clergy personnel, pastoral planning, ecclesial lay ministry, ecumenical affairs, worship and spiritual life.

Faith Formation and Evangelization will include religious education, the Office of Evangelization for Youth and Young Adults, college ministry, marriage and family ministry, outreach and evangelization.

Father Erikson added that an episcopal vicar -- a priest or bishop with the same ordinary powers as the vicar general but only in specific tasks or areas -- will lead the Parish Life and Ministry Secretariat. This highlights the importance of this secretariat and gives the new secretary the authority to accomplish his mission.

“We talk about the Secretariat of Parish Life and Ministry as the first among equals in the cabinet, so it’s showing that parish life and leadership is at the heart of our mission as an archdiocese,” he said.

The purpose of the new addition of a chief secretary to the cabinet is, according to the vicar general, “to better coordinate the cardinal’s office with the rest of our operation.”

That position will be held by Father Robert Kickham who is currently a secretary to Cardinal O’Malley.

Chancellor James McDonough said the reductions in staff must be understood in the context of three current challenges: the need to keep the archdiocesan commitment to work towards a balanced budget; new job requirements of many positions -- including the expanded use of technology; and the challenges the move to the new pastoral center in Braintree poses for many employees.

“Given those three important pieces of our future, we thought it would make perfect sense for folks to have an opportunity to self-select,” he said.

Carol Gustavson, director of Human Resources for the archdiocese told The Pilot that the archdiocese will offer two different programs.

A voluntary early retirement program will be offered to managers or exempt employees who have been employed for at least 20 years. Gustavson expects about 15 employees to be eligible for the offer.

At the same time, a voluntary separation program will be offered to hourly staff, such as administrative assistants and maintenance employees. It is expected to apply to around 50 employees.

The McKinsey study also recommended examining the way archdiocesan support staff is structured, said Gustavson.

The current structure is “very flat and wide” Gustavson said, with very small departments with one or two managers with an administrative assistant supporting them.

“It’s not an effective way to run the organization. It’s not an effective use of the resources,” she added.

Terrence Donilon, cabinet secretary for Public Relations and Communications, told The Pilot that the archdiocese needs to reallocate its resources to be able to meet the increasing demands to serve parishes, and other related entities.

“We have an operational model that was designed 30 years ago and is no longer sufficient to be able to serve parishes. We have to accept that,” he said.

“It’s not about the people, it’s the model that we are operating under that no longer works,” he added.