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Saint Clare Center for Ministry and Leadership

Collaborative Parish Leadership Project

Nancie and Bill

Promoting effective, dynamic leadership for Catholic communities

The Collaborative Parish Leadership Project is an effort of Cardinal Stritch University’s Saint Clare Center and is funded by a grant from the Lilly Endowment’s Thriving in Ministry Initiative.

The Collaborative Parish Leadership Project contributes to effective leadership for Catholic parishes by focusing on one particular ministry setting. Parish Directors or Parish Life Coordinators (PLCs) can be deacons, sisters, or lay people; they serve as the canonical leader of the congregation and provide pastoral and administrative leadership while working with one or more collaborating priests who provide for the sacramental life of the congregation. The quality and effectiveness of this collaborative relationship is key. When these co-workers are able to share leadership and collaborate well, both of them thrive, and together they are better able to promote the vitality of their parish. This model of parish leadership is allowed by canon law (under Canon 517.2) and is currently being used in approximately 2% of Catholic parishes around the country.

In a church that is currently facing renewal on many levels, this project can identify and articulate more of the critical leadership traits and strategies that can help all pastoral leaders lead more collaboratively, creatively, and dynamically.

Project elements

A National Survey

In 2019, the Collaborative Parish Leadership Project conducted a national survey of Parish Life Coordinators and their collaborating priests to create an up-to-date portrait of these ministries, to clarify the leadership challenges and opportunities experienced by people serving in these roles, and to begin to identify collaborative practices that are most effective in these situations. The survey was conducted in partnership with the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA). Results will be publicized soon.

A Fellows Program

From 2020 to 2022, Cardinal Stritch University will gather PLCs and Collaborating Priests from across the country to build supportive relationships and to share wisdom and knowledge. Our project will work with three successive cohorts of twenty pastoral leaders, with each cohort extending over thirteen months and gathering multiple times-- both face to face and online. Cohort participants will function as fellows, engaged not only in their own learning, but in contributing to this study and to building up the body of knowledge related to effective collaborative leadership in this context.

Project goals

To directly support the Parish Life Coordinators and Collaborating Priests participating in the program, helping them strengthen their ability to effectively lead their parishes.

To share the insights, principles, and promising practices identified by this Project with other Parish Life Coordinators and with pastoral ministers in general, to build their capacity to lead collaboratively.

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Project Leadership