By Barb Arland-Fye
DAVENPORT — Every fall the Diocese of Davenport brings together parish corporate boards because the State of Iowa requires all corporations to meet annually and to provide minutes of that meeting.
While parishes are separately incorporated in the Davenport Diocese, each one’s corporate board consists of the diocesan bishop, vicar general, pastor and two lay directors. “We are responsible for the temporal good of the parish,” Bishop Martin Amos explained Sept. 8 at the first of two Parish Corporate Board meetings. The second meeting was scheduled Sept. 10. Both meetings were conducted via Go To Meeting over the Internet, originating from diocesan headquarters in Davenport. An estimated 240 individuals signed up to participate. They were able to participate from any one of the diocese’s six deaneries (regions).
Vicar General Msgr. John Hyland said the annual meeting also provides an opportunity for parishes’ leaders to converse with one another and share ideas.
This year’s meeting focused on financial stewardship of parish resources and began with an opening prayer in which Bishop Amos quoted from Studs Terkel’s book “Working.” A reading from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians reminded participants that God is the source of all gifts, including talents and skills.
Bishop Amos provided a brief overview of the role and fiduciary responsibility of lay directors and referred them to a document on the diocesan website pertaining to their roles. “It’s your job to advise the parishioners of what’s going on,” he said. “You need to be sure that everyone in the parish is onboard about what is happening.”
The bishop referred those in attendance to the Parish Handbook of Policies and Procedures, also on the diocesan website, and to use it as a resource.
Terry Kilburg, a member of the Diocesan Board of Directors, explained financial statements and how to read them. He noted that fixed asset purchases or upgrades that exceed $5,000 require advance approval of the bishop and vicar general. At least quarterly, the parish’s financial statements must be provided to the Parish Finance Council. “The lay directors have a primary duty of protection of assets and safety of the physical plant, employees and guests,” Kilburg said. A webinar to assist lay directors in learning about safety and risk management at the local level will be presented Oct. 1 at 2 p.m. by the diocese.
Another handout, on savings and investment guidelines, advised parishes with an annual budget under $250,000 to have a minimum of a one-year reserve in savings. Parishes with annual budgets from $250,000 up to $500,000 should have a minimum of a three-quarters year reserve in savings. Parishes with annual budgets of $500,000 or more should have a minimum of a one-half year reserve in savings. “We would like all parishes to have a goal of building a savings fund,” Kilburg said.
One way to do so is through socially responsible investments (SRI). The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops “has very much endorsed socially responsible investments,” Bishop Amos said. The bishops, for example, would not invest in companies dealing with weaponry or certain pharmaceuticals. The Davenport Diocese for several years has engaged in socially responsible investment with Christian Brothers Investment Services (CBIS) and has been pleased with the results, the bishop said.
Parishes are encouraged to invest directly with CBIS or with the Catholic Foundation for the Diocese of Davenport, which also follows the U.S. bishops’ guidelines for socially responsible investing and invests the majority of its funds in CBIS.
Sister Laura Goedken, OP, the diocese’s development director, said women religious have been at the forefront of socially responsible investments, beginning in the 1970s and 1980s.
In response to questions, Sr. Goedken noted that CBIS is a for-profit company; it does try to influence companies to effect change (for example, convincing hotels to work against human trafficking), but otherwise does not invest in questionable companies.
Finally, Sr. Goedken shared with participants an executive summary of “Unleashing Catholic Generosity: Explaining the Catholic Giving Gap in the United States.” The survey, conducted by the University of Notre Dame Institute for Church Life, said in part: “… Catholics who do engage with money as a spiritual matter and who see their money as ultimately God’s, however, are much more financially generous, reducing the Catholic-giving gap almost entirely.”
Bob Bahn, a lay director for Ss. Mary & Mathias Parish, Muscatine, said information provided at the meeting was helpful in “raising our level of consciousness.” “Very enlightening,” added fellow lay director Helen Bolton.
By Barb Arland-Fye