PUBLICATION – In a short but deep presentation, Fr. Imad Twal, General Administrator of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem since June 2014, presents the challenges and the call of being an administrator within Church institutions.
by Rev. Fr. Imad Twal
“Administration Journey” is a personal account of an administrator’s job within Church institutions, especially for the priest or consecrated, in community work and daily life among believers (church, parish, parish activities, visit to the sick and youth programs). Such are grace-filled moments in a priest’s life, where he practices the three-fold ministry and mission of Christ: priest, king and prophet.
In the first Letter to the Corinthians (1 Cor 12:27-31), St. Paul writes about the “gifts” of the Holy Spirit as grace to the Church in her diversity: “ Brethren, you are the body of Christ and individually parts of it. And God has appointed in the church first “apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, then healers, helpers, administrators, speakers in various tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? But earnestly desire for the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way”. They will be closer together as members of the same body, each holding special importance, each complementing the function of the other. This diversity serves both the Church’s structures and her members. It remains a concern of the priest, that as everyone with a particular “gift” works together, these gifts will build up the body of Christ.
Every day in a priest’s life brings something new. He begins, as it were a new “journey’ that involves some change in the pattern of his mission. He may have to sit for an extended time behind his desk at the computer, answering electronic mail and phone calls, reviewing papers and reports, and meeting with co-workers charged with following up the agenda of the institution – administrative, organizational, future planning – for the efficient continuity, and effectiveness of the institution.
The virtue of charity, based essentially on giving and sacrificing for others, is linked with “administration journey” as the “still more excellent way”; the charitable way that leads to God.
Risks of “Administration Journey’
While accepting the gift of “Administration” from the Holy Spirit, one ought to be intimately familiar with its underlying risks. On a personal level, a priest may not have an inclination for this mission. The questions – What do I like? What do I have to do? – impact his interest in what he is doing; in addition to feeding arrogance, to the point of believing at certain times that – he has better knowledge, he is better than others, his manner of doing things is the only good way. On the other hand, there is another negative aspect in handling administrative work, namely: neglect of spirituality, prayer, and other spiritual obligations. An over-concentration on administrative matters may also lead to a neglect of affirming others in their work. St. Teresa of Calcutta reminds us: “our work should be a prayer”.
Managerial work involves personal risks; it also impacts on institutional and team work. Among the risks would be – not selecting suitable persons for lead positions, which brings about the absence or deficiencies in important administrative tasks: such as planning, organization, time management, human relations, vision, empowerment, team work and other administrative priorities, which consequently lead to a slow-down or freeze in institutional work. Also Rev. Bill Byron, S.J. underlines other crucial vices: Anger, pride, negativity, emotion, confusion… etc.
“Administration Journey” is a gift
Church Administration is God-given gift granted by the Holy Spirit for individual and collective growth, to establish a community and the mystical body of Christ – the Church.
When the way of a priest shifts from pastoral to administrative work, he will encounter at that particular moment, a new experience of personal growth through greater self-knowledge, as being an integral part of a dedicated service to God, becoming more aware of the needs of others, leading to a higher level of spiritual maturity. In this encounter, he discovers that the core of mission consists in transforming action into prayer, frustrations into the cross as work and persons are raised up to God.
As Administration contributes towards a priest’s personal growth, it also significantly promotes institutional and collective growth. Today’s message openly declares, “The Church is a home for everybody”. Pope Francis encourages the Church to, “Open up your hearts, hands, doors on all occasions, get out … Jesus at the doorsteps is waiting for you.” The managerial task is an opportunity to meet others and be influenced by them, by the society, through direct communication, dialogue, and mutual giving. This work will succeed through humility and walking with and being in the midst of the flock.
Church Administration is a journey, sometimes along an unexpected path, calling for courage and good judgment, that leads to where God wants us, not to where we want to be.
Spiritual Administration Skills
Church Administration calls us to divert from applied fieldwork to a solid leadership vision that cuts across barriers and closed doors. The manager does things properly, while the leader enhances or enriches the work. As efficient Administration requires a wide group of skills, each completing the other, and as an efficient director has influence over the growth of the church institution to which he belongs, emphasis should be laid on managerial and spiritual skills which develop and grow for leaders. (cf. Ann M. Garrido. (2013), Redeeming Administration, USA).
- Call for a precise vision
As earlier mentioned, Church administration is a call from God to man by the grace of the Holy Spirit, to grasp the Divine Will. The priest who is called to administration work is to possess vision, inspiration and to embrace challenge. For the vision to flourish, he instills harmony in the work, through recognition of abilities, openness to change and diversity, in leading to the creation of a truly human environment. More importantly, he is to transform this action into a Christian fellowship, in the spirit of solidarity, fraternal charity, and service. Pope Francis emphasizes, “Christ leads us to go out from ourselves more and more, to give ourselves and serve others”.
Recognizing that “mutual trust” is the cornerstone of success, do we trust the presence of the other, his/her performance and special talents? Do we accept the other despite disagreements, his/her constructive comments, critique, principles and values? Knowing one’s own limitations and weaknesses can help each person to bring the other fullness as a team. The administrator/manager builds bridges of trust with others through positive human relations, and work with a team spirit. This helps him determine the competences of the team members, and to rely on the concept of specialization, professionalism, and delegation of powers. Furthermore, he encourages his team to achieve objectives proficiently. Pope Francis used to tell us “You can’t govern without loving the people and without humility”.
- Humility – “I came not to be served but to serve”
As effective administration always seeks enrichment, Church administration seeks “to serve”, following the sublime example of the Master. We pause for self-reflection: Why am I here? What is my objective? Then, we move on to effectively shift administration to a spiritual message, to help others to grow. Service here is founded on charity linked to the virtue of humility; it is acceptance of one’s own being through determination to work with the other, despite obstinacy, noncreativity, or setbacks.
Pope Francis says, “Watch out for your flock with charity and mercy, where the Holy Spirit has placed you, in order to support the Church of God and to defend it”
Administration is a “Paschal Mystery”
At times, administration is a cross for the individual and in community life. The core of the Church administration is the “Cross and the Resurrection”. It is a daily cross through posing the same questions about the lack of desire to do this type of work, especially one of financial responsibility. It is also the “Mystery of the Resurrection” through the movement from anguish and cross to hope, joy in the Resurrection, and fulfillment – by way of developing the virtues of humility and patience. There is no resurrection without Cross. We need the grace of the Holy Spirit to accept our failures and weaknesses, and transform them into prayer. It is self-mortification for the sake of a collective Resurrection. oly Spirit to accept failure, weakness , transforming it into prayer. it is self mortification for the sake of a collective Resurrection. HH “The cross is the price of true love. Lord, give us to strength to accept and carry out our crosses” (Pope Francis)
This is an overall personal view of the “Administration Journey” – difficult but joyful, painful but with hope for the future. It is a mission of sacrifice and cross for the success of the other. Not every change brings about progress; sometimes, the opposite is true. The role of a priest in this period is to carry out an evangelical mission and experience salvation for himself and those around him through his administrative work.
Jesus said: “Very truly I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. Anyone who loves his life will love it, while anyone who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life” (Jn 12:24). Like the grain, Jesus urges us to accept the death to self and to sacrifice by enduring hardships with charity, while in certain matters doing things contrary to selfish interests and wishes, for the sake of God and others. God works through us, through our weaknesses and inadequacies. He walks with us, though the path is warped, it still leads us into the true light towards Him!