Archdiocese of NY Offers Free 2-Year Graduate Program for Members Ready for Challenge of Church Management

(Photo: Reuters/Alessandro Bianchi)Cardinal Timothy Dolan (C) attends a consistory led by Pope Francis at the Vatican, Rome, Italy, February 12, 2015. Pope Francis, starting two days of closed-door meetings with the world's Roman Catholic cardinals, on Thursday called for greater efficiency and transparency in the Church's troubled central administration, the Curia.

Catholic church members in New York can now contribute to their local parishes by way of a newly instituted program that provides a free graduate degree to laypeople who are willing to take on the challenges of managing their church's administrative duties.

As part of an effort to take managerial burdens off of clergy, the Church introduced a new two-year online training program Wednesday that's being offered through a partnership with Villanova University's Center for Church Management and Business Ethics, The Wall Street Journal reports.

The archdiocese is aiming to enroll 50 people in the program who will earn a master of science in church management degree when it's complete.

These managers will then be hired by individual parishes once the program is complete. The archdiocese believes the move is necessary for the betterment of all Catholics. It will be applied to the New York archdiocese, which spans from Staten Island to Saugerties, New York. It will help in the Church's effort to reorganize 100 parishes, which will result in 55 new ones and the closing of dozens of others.

New York's Cardinal Timothy Dolan expressed in the past that he hopes the process of realignment will liberate clergy to do more pastoral work and not limit them to "replacing boilers and leaky roofs in 150-year-old parishes that are one-third filled on Sundays."

"The day of old, fat, balding bishops like me being the best spokespeople for the Church is long gone: now needs to have trained, competent laypeople to represent them," Dolan said in April of last year when opening the IX Professional Seminar for Communications Offices.

Having laypeople perform some of the task normally designated to clergy will also take some pressure off the pastors of some parishes, according to William Whiston, the chief financial officer of the Archdiocese of New York.

"If the parish is going well, the pastor has support," he said. "It reduces the pressure of the archdiocese to help the pastor and the parish to operate."

The Christian Post contacted Whiston for comment but he did not respond by press time.

The diocese of Camden New Jersey formed a similar arrangement with Villanova to train church managers.

CP contacted the Archdiocese of New York for comment but they did not respond by press time.