Sep 162009

By Celine Klosterman

RICHMOND – Parish lay directors have significant responsibility they must take seriously, Bishop Martin Amos noted at an annual meeting for parishes’ corporate board members Sept. 13.

Lay directors, pastors and parish life administrators gathered that day in Richmond and Sept. 16 in Iowa City for meetings that stressed the importance of trustees’ roles, offered an update on the Davenport Diocese’s capital campaign and Annual Diocesan Appeal, and presented an updated employer procedure manual and staff handbooks.

Emphasizing lay directors’ duties, Bishop Amos said he’d spoken with someone from another diocese in which a deacon had written checks totaling $300,000 from parish funds to his wife.

“Make sure things are done in the open,” the bishop  stressed. And don’t just “rubber-stamp” documents; know what you’re signing when sending papers to the diocese, he noted.

Following his remarks, Sister Laura Goedken, OP, diocesan development director, said five pilot parishes are launching fundraising efforts this month for the diocese’s $22 million capital campaign, “Moving Forward in Faith and Hope.” Those parishes are Prince of Peace in Clinton, St. Mary in Grinnell, St. Alphonsus in Mount Pleasant, St. Paul the Apostle in Davenport and St. Patrick in Ottumwa.

A mailing about the campaign went out Monday to all parishioners in the diocese, Sr. Goedken said.

She also stressed the importance of parishes promoting the Annual Diocesan Appeal, which begins Sept. 26-27 and aims to raise $2.9 million, 76 percent of diocesan expenses. Connect appeal-funded programs and services to your parish, she suggested: Perhaps parishioners at your parish took computer classes organized by the diocese, or the diocese’s technology director visited your parish to help.

The appeal also helps pay for the Ministry Formation Program, funds seminarians’ education and finances the work of chaplains at University of Iowa Hospitals, among other diocesan services, Sr. Goedken noted.

She also touched on the option of electronic giving. More pledges for the appeal will be paid in full when this option is used, she said.

More funds also may come in when a lay person conducts the appeal in parishes. One parishioner at the meeting said that when a lay person did so at his parish, the parish had its most successful year ever.

After Sr. Goedken spoke, Char Maaske, chief financial officer for the diocese, shared an update on the Employer Procedure Manual for Diocesan Entities — which was revised this year for the first time since 1998. The manual replaces two separate handbooks — one for chancery and parish employees and one for faith formation employees.

Another document, a Staff Handbook for Diocesan Entities, is based on the Employer Procedure Manual. Catholic entities will customize portions of it, mostly in the area of employee benefits.

Maaske discussed regulations regarding such benefits and touched on the Family Medical Leave Act, Americans with Disabilities Act, overtime pay as addressed by the Fair Labor Standards Act, a Whistleblower Protection Policy, the need for personnel files and other topics.  She suggested parishes consider hiring a business manager to handle such matters if possible, in part to ease burdens on priests. 

Wrapping up, Maaske acknowledged she’s heard complaints that the diocese operates too much like a business. “These laws are not optional, as we are incorporated under Iowa nonprofit corporate law, and when we have employees we need to follow federal and state employment law,” she told The Catholic Messenger.

The handbook and manual are available in Microsoft Word 2003 format at Customized handbooks are due to the diocese by Dec. 31. For more information, contact Maaske at (563) 324-1912 ext. 233 or

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