Financial Administrators from various Church institutions in the West African nation of Ghana have, in a four-day recent workshop, been trained in managing Church resources, with members of the clergy being urged to embrace “openness, transparency and accountability” in dealing with Church money in their various capacities.
“Priests should be in the forefront and ginger the people to bring out the money for the Mission. But however, openness, transparency and accountability have to be applied in dealing with Church money,” said Professor Mario Enzler of the Catholic University of America (CUA) who was one of the resource persons during the training.
Organized by the International Workshop at the National Catholic Secretariat (NCS) under the auspices of the Ghana Catholic Bishops’ Conference (GCBC), the goal of the workshop was to develop the technical and professional skills and abilities of Church leaders in their role as administrators of Church activities and finances.
The February 25-28 workshop targeted 60 participants, drawn mostly from priests in charge of finances in their respective Dioceses and Archdioceses in Ghana.
Speaking at the four-day international workshop, Prof. Enzler highlighted the need for financial resources in preaching the Gospel saying, “The Church exists to evangelise and the evangelisation ministry “is expensive” therefore, the Church needs money.”
The American Professor who is also a former Swiss Banker and a former Swiss Guard to Pope St. John Paul II, encouraged priests to be innovative and to start income generating enterprises to supplement donations from Christians.
He also encouraged Christians to be cooperative with priests in raising money for the development of the Church, emphasizing the need for financial resources to be generated from within the Church.
“The lingering mentality among the people that money will come from outside has to be discouraged. Money has to be generated from within the Church and the Church needs to convince her members that money is no longer coming from outside,” the Prof. noted.
Professor Matthew Manion, a Faculty Director for the Centre for Church Management in the Villanova University School of Business, Pennsylvania, United States, took the participants through issues of budgeting, financial controlling and auditing.
He stressed the need “for each parish or dioceses in Ghana to establish and maintain sound Parish Financial Committees with trusted and committed lay experts as members.”
According to the Professor, it is appropriate also “to carry out both internal and external auditing and have a code of conduct with ethical standards for parish or Diocesan workers.”
He cautioned that “a project should be funded before execution, in other words generate the funds first before spending it.”
On matters of integrity, Prof. Manion counselled the priests against employing family and friends to work in the management of the Church and its resources.
“The Parish priest should as much as possible avoid family and friends type of employment,” he said, adding, “Parish staff and others engaged in parish finance, such as parish Sunday collection counters and Ushers, account clerks and financial secretaries and treasurers should not be kept for too long.”
According to the finance professor, bank statements should be cross checked and segregation of duties maintained as part of financial control activities.
Mr. Colin Howell, the Coordinator of the renowned international Facilitators drawn from a consortium of five Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) collaborating from Germany and the United States of America, urged Priests not to talk about money “in a manner that will demoralise or shame” parishioners.
“Priests have to also shun the temptation to become superstar pastors which may put them on the path of financial insatiability,” said Mr. Howell.
In his opening address at the training, GCBC President, Archbishop Philip Naameh exuded confidence that the training, the first of its kind, was a game changer in management of the Church in Ghana.
“Since it is the first of its kind for the Church in Ghana, it will offer to the participants, the most up-to-date training and tools as well as introduce them to new approaches, methodologies, managerial and organisational techniques necessary for solving problems and preventing administrative crisis,” he said.
And addressing the participants, Archbishop Naameh said, “I want to thank you for accepting the appointment of your Bishops and Superiors to manage the temporal goods of the Church… You are expected to go back to train in your various dioceses, priests, religious men and women and lay faithful who are involved in managing the temporal goods of the dioceses entrusted to your care.”
Meanwhile, Prof. Enzler encouraged priests to embrace communication in the digital age, challenged the participants especially Priests to make their voices heard online through Facebook, twitter and other applications associated with social media and digital communication.
“Priests must emulate the example of the Holy Father, Pope Francis (who) has over 60 million fans on his twitter platform,” he stated and added, “Diocesan websites and parish social media platforms must be established and managed in such a way that they become an interesting arena for digital natives such as the youth and veritable grounds for exchange of ideas and for evangelization for the faithful.”