Saint Clare Center for Catholic Life receives $618,000 grant from Lilly Endowment’s Thriving in Ministry Initiative

Cardinal Stritch University was recently selected as one of 78 organizations from around the country to be awarded a grant through Thriving in Ministry, an initiative of Lilly Endowment Inc. This initiative is supporting a variety of religious organizations as they create or strengthen programs that help pastoral leaders build relationships with experienced colleagues who can serve as mentors and guide them through key leadership challenges in congregational ministry. The Endowment is making nearly $70 million in grants through Thriving in Ministry.

The $618,891 grant to the University will fund the Collaborative Parish Leadership Project (CPLP), which will uniquely position Stritch as a national leader by supporting dynamic leadership for changing Catholic parish communities. The CPLP will address the challenge of thriving in ministry in a specific context within the Catholic Church: parish directors and their collaborating priests. Parish directors (also called parish life coordinators in some dioceses) can be deacons, sisters, or lay people who provide pastoral and administrative leadership for a parish while working with one or more collaborating priests who provide for the sacramental needs of the congregation. Currently nine of the 197 parishes in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee are served by parish directors. Nationally, an estimated 2 to 3 percent of Catholic parishes around the country use this model.

"Throughout our 81-year history, Cardinal Stritch University has collaborated closely with the Archdiocese of Milwaukee on a number of transformational initiatives," said Stritch President Kathleen A. Rinehart, J.D. "This project will build supportive relationships among parish leaders and enhance the vitality of parishes throughout the Archdiocese of Milwaukee and across the nation."

CPLP staff from the Saint Clare Center for Catholic Life will work with select parish directors and their cooperating priests from around the country and help identify promising practices for collaborative leadership that can guide new parish directors to succeed more quickly in their roles. The project will include a survey of the nation’s parish directors, site visits for in-depth study, and in-person gatherings of three different groups of parish directors and collaborating priests. 

In addition to bringing the principles of collaborative leadership to parishes led by parish directors, this project will also consider how the principles can strengthen the larger number of parishes with priests who serve as pastors. 

Stritch is one of 78 organizations located in 29 states that are taking part in the initiative. The organizations reflect diverse Christian traditions: mainline and evangelical Protestant, Roman Catholic and Orthodox. 

Thriving in Ministry is part of Lilly Endowment’s grantmaking to strengthen pastoral leadership in Christian congregations in the United States. This has been a grantmaking priority at Lilly Endowment for nearly 25 years.

“Leading a congregation today is multi-faceted and exceptionally demanding,” said Christopher L. Coble, Lilly Endowment’s vice president for religion. “When pastoral leaders have opportunities to build meaningful relationships with experienced colleagues, they are able to negotiate the challenges of ministry and their leadership thrives. These promising programs, including Cardinal Stritch University’s Collaborative Parish Leadership Project, will help pastoral leaders develop these kinds of relationships, especially when they are in the midst of significant professional transitions.”

Lilly Endowment Inc. is an Indianapolis-based private philanthropic foundation created in 1937 by three members of the Lilly family—J.K. Lilly Sr. and sons Eli and J.K. Jr.—through gifts of stock in their pharmaceutical business, Eli Lilly and Company. While those gifts remain the financial bedrock of the Endowment, the Endowment is a separate entity from the company, with a distinct governing board, staff and location. In keeping with the founders’ wishes, the Endowment supports the causes of community development, education and religion. The Endowment maintains a special commitment to its hometown, Indianapolis, and its home state Indiana. Its grantmaking in religion focuses on supporting efforts to strengthen the leadership and vitality of Christian congregations throughout the country and to increase the public’s understanding of the role of religion in public life.