Stewardship of People

“People are the Church’s most important asset,” said Mar Muñoz-Visoso of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). “It’s important for those seeking to be good stewards to have the knowledge and the good sense of who are the members of the local Church, and who is represented, who is unrecognized or untapped, or worst, unwelcome.”

Muñoz-Visoso, who serves as Executive Director of the Secretariat for Cultural Diversity in the Church at the USCCB, moderated an engaging discussion about stewardship of people and inclusive management with an expert panel that included Ellen Mady of the Diocese of Pittsburgh, Susan Pascoe, an Australian who serves on the methodology commission for the Vatican’s Synod of Bishops, and Gene McQuade, a retired corporate leader at Citibank.

Discerning and making decisions together, Muñoz- Visoso highlighted, reflects a style of synodality and “implies the need to examine inclusion and diversity in Church governance and leadership roles, and to act decisively.”


An Inclusive Church

Ellen Mady, chancellor for the Diocese of Pittsburgh, recommended thinking about why we care about diversity as a Church before implementing the specifics of a strategy or plan.

“The core value we need to center with inclusion, participation and diversity goes back to the dignity of the human person,” she said. “If we step back, people are the essence of the Church. Vatican II asked us to make this a priority. We don’t find a lot about stewardship of organizational structures in the Gospel, but we do find a lot about stewardship of people.”

In order to move beyond what Mady called a “country club mentality” that sorts people according to perceived status, the Church must remember that “the body of Christ is not whole when we are missing inclusion and diversity.” When we value inclusion, it is tangibly expressed in diverse leadership and in how budgets are prioritized. An “examination of conscience,” she said, at a personal, parish, and diocesan level is needed.

Mady also recommended seeing “the adjacent possible”— a mindset of looking two steps ahead for inclusion opportunities, even if an immediate solution doesn’t present itself. Moving toward greater diversity is always a work in progress and requires intentionality. “Anytime I come to a table I ask ‘who is not here?’” Mady said.


Stewardship in Practice

Susan Pascoe of the Vatican Synod of Bishops framed her remarks by highlighting lessons learned from The Light from the Southern Cross: Promoting Co-Responsible Governance in the Catholic Church in Australia, a report released in 2020 by the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference and Catholic Religious Australia.

The five-year effort, prompted by clergy sexual abuse and institutional failures, undertook what Pascoe called “a steep learning that led to a self examination and a movement toward a great hope for the future.” The Australian report underscored the importance of collegiality, synodality, stewardship, and dialogue.

“It was a way of asserting what good practice looks like,” Pascoe remarked.

As a member of the Synod of Bishops’ methodology commission, Pascoe also shared how the Synod’s preparatory document emphasizes the principle of inclusion. The question of how to reach people who do not feel heard by the Church, she said, is critical to building a culture of discernment, dialogue, and co-responsibility.

“We are called to embody these values, behaviors and norms that should be part of our DNA,” Pascoe emphasized.

Gene McQuade, retired Citibank CEO, board chair of Catholic Charities in New York City and member of Leadership Roundtable’s board of directors, shared his experiences with making inclusion and diversity a priority in the corporate world and in Catholic organizations. He noted that corporations and the Church both have top-down, hierarchical structures that are also moving toward greater collaboration and co-responsibility.

“The management challenge is to embed diversity and inclusion into the culture,” McQuade said. “My experience is that it’s critical but very difficult to achieve this embedding, and it’s where leadership and accountability come in. We need to make it a priority and measure the results.” Without clear goals and accountability, he noted, diversity is something that is talked about but not achieved.

McQuade also spoke to the importance of inclusion and diversity on finance councils.

“Finance councils are a well-established concept in Church managerial structure, but in my opinion not fully utilized,” he said, stressing that finance councils should “reflect a fair representation of our diocesan body.”

McQuade added: “It often takes stepping outside of our comfort zones and taking some chances to get a fairer representation.” Finance councils play “an important canonical role,” he said, and should work in tandem with following best financial practices and benchmarks.


RECOMMENDATIONS: Stewardship of People


  • Put into action The Basic Plan for the Ongoing Formation of Priests to ensure all priests engage in comprehensive, systematic and practical ongoing formation
  • Reform seminary curriculum to prioritize themes of synodality, praxis, inclusion of women, and co-responsibility with laity
  • Establish managerial and leadership standards and best practices as well as methods of review to ensure

Catholic institutions are meeting these standards

  • Provide regular ongoing leadership and management training to clergy
  • Evaluate, and if necessary revise, priestly formation to ensure clergy are equipped to pastor in a synodal Church that listens to those on the margins and leads co-responsibly with the laity.



  • Ensure inclusion in parishes and dioceses by hiring, supporting, and retaining diverse leaders
  • Actively welcome individuals of all races, ethnicities, ages, genders, and sexual orientations to full participation in the life of the Church
  • Intentionally open seats at the leadership table to include Hispanic/Latino, Asian/Pacific Islander, Indigenous, and Black Catholics, as well as young adults and women
  • Create and implement accountability mechanisms to assess whether stated goals of inclusion and diverse leadership are being achieved
  • Identify opportunities — such as the global Synod — to include non-Catholics and those disconnected from the Church and to listen to their perspectives.



  • Develop ongoing training for finance and pastoral councils to help members better carry out their role in stewarding the Church co-responsibly with bishops and pastors
  • Build the capacity of those who serve on finance and parish councils by providing the tools necessary to effectively operate, including training, access to documents, regular discussions, engagement with the bishop, pastor, and staff
  • Offer ongoing formation to finance council members to keep them responsive to the needs of the diocesan or parish community.


This piece was originally published in the 2021 Catholic Leadership Summit Report.

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