By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger
DAVENPORT — While working in the banking industry as an accountant, Char Maaske sensed the need for a new challenge. She had returned to St. Ambrose University to work on her MBA, but wondered how her God-given talents in accounting could really help people. Then a search firm called and asked if she would like to interview for the Chief Financial Officer position with the Diocese of Davenport. The call was an answer to prayer. “I felt I could finally do something that would make a difference by working for the church,” she says.
In March 1999 Maaske became the Davenport Diocese’s first female CFO. While public accounting and banking were still male-dominated fields, being female hadn’t held her back. “It wasn’t until I attended the national Diocesan Fiscal Managers meetings that I realized there weren’t many female CFOs,” adds Maaske, who will retire April 1.
People in the pews might not realize that Maaske and her small staff of four full-time and one half-time employees work closely with parishes, Catholic schools and other entities connected to the diocese, including The Catholic Messenger. She also led the diocese from financial crisis through bankruptcy to financial security and stability, notes Vicar General Msgr. John Hyland. “Char has guided the financial and human resources of the diocese through the most difficult and stressful times,” adds Chancellor Deacon David Montgomery. “She has always insisted on professional excellence from the staff and the frugal use of diocesan resources so that we can foster our mission of stewardship in the most responsible way.”
Bishop Martin Amos describes Maaske as “the kind of person who strives to be fair and just toward all parties. She has maintained a very high standard of seeking compliance to civil, diocesan and church laws and policies. Char has maintained a highly efficient and well-run department with minimal staff and increasing regulations. She very often was in her office long after the rest of us had left.
“I often tease her about the many papers spread around her office,” the bishop continued. “They are not a sign of a ‘messy person,’ but of the many, many tasks that need to be attended to. I have also accused her (jokingly) of getting on the phone whenever I approach her office. She has spent a great deal of time with parishes and institutions working on a wide array of issues from insurance to human relations to laws and policies.”
Bishop Amos characterizes Maaske’s legacy as “an outstanding department which is truly a ministry to the whole diocese.”
“Char is a wonderful person to work with. She has provided excellent financial direction to the diocese,” adds Terry Kilburg, who serves on the Diocesan Corporate Board of Directors and the Diocesan Finance Council.
Maaske says the most rewarding aspect of her work is “helping the parishes and schools when new issues come up. Pastors and principals have huge responsibilities and can’t keep up with all the regulations and legal aspects of their jobs. I hope I have helped them.”
The diocese’s bankruptcy (2006-2012), entered into because of mounting claims by victims of clergy sexual abuse committed years ago, was the most challenging aspect of her tenure as CFO. “There was a lot of heartache in hearing victims’ stories and accepting that my church had not protected young people from harm,” Maaske says. “And the other victims were the (diocesan) employees when I met with them one on one to tell them they had lost their jobs.”
She observes that “you can’t come away from the abuse issues unscathed. But I have been surrounded by faith-filled people who do so much good in responding to Pope Francis’ call for us to practice the corporal works of mercy. The world is a better place because of our faith.”
Maaske uses the pronoun “we” in reflecting on her legacy. “We have hired good people and this is a good place to work,” she says. “I think we are doing the best for donors who have given their hard-earned dollars to achieve the mission of the church. My one recommendation for any person is to surround yourself with competent people who know more than you do and learn from them. I have learned from insurance agents, investment brokers, attorneys and co-workers. I want them to know how much I appreciate their support.”
“Char guided, advised, listened to and encouraged us; she mentored by example,” says Sheryl Lackey, the diocese’s Human Resources coordinator and accountant. “She exemplified every part of the word integrity. Char was not only our supervisor, but our friend.”
Msgr. Hyland notes that he will be retiring this year also, in July. “Long ago I was given the advice that ‘no one is irreplaceable.’ Char will be hard to replace.”