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Duquesne University Offers Online Graduate Degree for Parish Managers

Duquesne University has developed an online master’s degree for current and prospective parish managers. The graduate program, which begins in September, was designed with input from both priests and parish managers.

The Parish Management program was developed in response to a growing need for organization and leadership skills specific to the context of religious institutions. “There is a fundamental shift in the way Catholic parishes are being administered in the 21st century,” said Dr. Dorothy Bassett, dean of Duquesne’s School of Leadership and Professional Advancement. “To combat the significant growth in workload and daily demands, and to maximize the time priests spend ministering to their parishioners, lay people are being employed in ever-increasing numbers to assume administrative responsibility for parish operations.”

National statistics show that the number of Catholic diocesan priests has declined by 40 percent in the last 40 years, while the lay population has increased by 65 percent. The laity-to-priest ratio doubled between 1975 and 2005, from 1,100 to 2,200 Catholics per active priest, according to America, the national Catholic weekly.

Duquesne’s Parish Management will help prepare laity to provide the daily operational support needed to run a parish. While the program was designed with Catholic parishes in mind, the course work is applicable and open to other denominations with similar church administration positions that typically require knowledge of finance, human resources, fund raising and information technology.

Although parish managers often have previous business experience, specific training usually isn’t available. “Since even seasoned business professionals typically lack some skills needed to succeed in parish management, education is a necessity,” Bassett said. “However, few educational opportunities exist and even fewer allow for students to earn their degrees without relocation or travel.”

The online format allows students to do coursework at their convenience. Courses in the 36-credit degree program include: leadership effectiveness, parish financial stewardship, parish marketing and fund raising, information technology in the parish and community leadership. Classes begin in September and culminate in a Master of Science degree in community leadership with a concentration in parish management. Additional program details can be found at www.leadership.duq.edu/parish.

Besides this online degree focusing on the day-to-day business functions of the parish, Duquesne also offers a master’s degree in pastoral ministry, which prepares people to function as parish life collaborators, helping to fill the ministerial needs of local parishes.

Duquesne University

Founded in 1878, Duquesne is consistently ranked among the nation's top Catholic universities for its award-winning faculty and tradition of academic excellence. Duquesne, a campus of nearly 9,500 graduate and undergraduate students, has been nationally recognized for its academic programs, community service and commitment to sustainability. Follow Duquesne University on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.