Catholics who add money to the collection baskets at Mass know that these donations allow the parish to keep the lights on, cool the church and make necessary repairs.

But there are essential workers behind the scenes, in addition to the priests, who often go uncredited for ensuring that these resources are administered fairly and effectively, while at the same time meeting both civil and canon law.

On May 21, 28 students of Loyola Marymount University’s Parish Business Administration program celebrated their graduation from the 16-week introductory course during Sunday Mass at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Downtown L.A. Archbishop José H. Gomez thanked the graduates for their commitment to the Church.

“There’s a growing need for lay trained professionals to assist pastors in the parish,” Pat Joyce, a co-instructor of the program, told Angelus News. The program began in the mid-1990s, when pastors struggled to handle both the practical needs of running a parish and the spiritual needs of their parishioners.

Graduates of the program are prepared to handle the responsibilities of a parish business manager, which include financial matters, human resources and facility maintenance. “This takes a lot of the stress off the pastors, allowing them to do what they are specifically trained and ordained to do,” explained Joyce.

This year’s graduating class consisted of a fairly even three-way split between: employed parish business managers (many new to the job and looking for necessary training); church workers employed in a lesser capacity who aspire to the role of parish business manager; and parish volunteers simply looking to better serve as a parishioner or council member.

Other dioceses are also able to participate in the program. Two of this year’s graduating students hailed from the Diocese of Orange. These students were easily able to adapt the program to the needs of their pastoral region, Joyce said.

Properly training business managers has become more important due to the critical need to develop maintenance programs for the restoration and enhancement of church facilities, added Joyce. “Many of the [churches] are mid-century designs and didn’t have professional oversight in the past,” said Joyce.

During the program’s weekly eight-hour classes, students had the opportunity to learn from many experienced instructors during the morning session, followed in the afternoon by hands-on implementation of the skills taught and the opportunity for discussion. 

Although there are many books on the subject, noted Joyce, nothing comes close to learning and discussing with people experienced in the field.

Loyola Marymount University’s Parish Business Administration course is an extension program of LMU’s Center for Religion and Spirituality. For more information, go to