Kate Johnson knows full well the manifold challenges of running a parish.
As the sister of a priest in the Diocese of Peoria, and an active volunteer church leader herself, Johnson has heard and seen it all – from human resources issues to building an effective leadership team to running a church and a school at the same time to working with limited resources, and those are just a few. It’s why the Saint Paul Seminary benefactor decided to get involved with Shepherd’s Staff, an apostolate of the seminary’s Institute for Ongoing Clergy Formation that pairs seasoned business professionals with new or newly-assigned Catholic pastors in the Twin Cities.
“The word we use a lot is ‘accompaniment,’” said Johnson, a retired business professional who handles administrative duties for Shepherd’s Staff. “This word embodies the essence of our service. We walk with pastors for a little while on the journey.”
Shepherd’s Staff is a team of advisors from various business backgrounds – including finance, legal and operations – who meet one-on-one with pastors to tackle specific issues that may arise. Some engagements last weeks, some much longer, and every meeting is strictly confidential.
Current seminary formation focuses strongly on pastoral leadership. But many current priests – even those who have been at it a while – find themselves on a bit of an island when it comes to the administrative side of their responsibilities.
“I stress out about HR issues,” one local pastor said. “My advisor’s fatherly help and good advice have allowed me to successfully navigate these challenges.”
That was the goal when Holy Family (St. Louis Park, Minnesota) pastor Fr. Joseph Johnson contacted Kate Johnson and several other business leaders about providing formal business mentorship for priests like himself. The group soon got in contact with Deacon Dan Gannon, director of the IOCF, and Shepherd’s Staff came under the aegis of The Saint Paul Seminary.
Johnson said her involvement was a no-brainer, especially considering she and her husband are active benefactors of the seminary.
“We need more holy people,” said Johnson, who for a time worked at NET Ministries and has spent most of her adult life on a parish committee or council, whether it’s for women of the church, pastoral leadership or evangelization. “We need more holy men. We need more holy priests. That’s the primary thing. I recognize that The Saint Paul Seminary is about making holy men and holy priests. It’s not just about the rituals or the mechanics. It’s about the nature of the man. They really are about making a holy disciple of Jesus Christ, and I really appreciate that.”