The second annual International Festival of Creativity in Church Management was held on Monday, 25 to Wednesday, 27 June 2018 at Villanova University. This private Augustinian university is on the outskirts of Philadelphia set in parklands with handsome buildings and much evidence of generous endowments. Amongst the sixty attendees at the Festival were two other Australians, Dr Bob Dixon, former Director of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference’s Pastoral Research Office, and Fr Brian Lucas, National Director of Catholic Mission Australia.
The International Festivals of Creativity in Church Management are a joint initiative of Villanova University and the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome, where the first Festival was held in 2017. Their aim is “to explore new pastoral ways to proclaim the Gospel in a changing world. The fundamental purpose … is to create a community to research, exchange and compare best practices in Church Management … to develop new solutions to Church Management challenges and explore the Entrepreneurial Spirit in a Mission-Driven Church”.
The 2018 Festival commenced at midday on the Monday with Mass in the campus-based St Thomas of Villanova Church – we gathered similarly the next two days for midday Mass as well as morning prayer to begin each day. After lunch on Monday and the formal welcomes, the conference keynote speaker was Chris Lowney who chose the theme “The Entrepreneurial Spirit in a Mission-Driven Church”. Chris has been to Australia on a number of occasions and will be known to some of the Australian PJPs. A one-time Jesuit seminarian and later a Managing Director of JP Morgan on three continents, Chris is author of several books and currently chair of the board of Catholic Health Initiatives, the very first ministerial PJP which featured in my conference paper.
The next activity was the first of the five sessions of parallel research presentations when 3-4 invited speakers made their contributions to describing creativity in Church management – my presentation on “Advancing Lay Leadership in the Australian Church” was in this first session and well-received. It was the only paper at the Festival that considered the new ministerial PJPs. Such research presentation sessions also took place on Tuesday and Wednesday morning as well as twice on Tuesday afternoon.
On the Tuesday, the Festival also featured two major panel discussions on “Creativity in Structuring Organisations for Growth and Mission” and “Creative Uses of Technology to Scale Affordably”, respectively, as well as moderated and rotating table discussion. The latter sought to arrive at agreed principles and practices for enhancing Church management.
On the Monday and Tuesday evenings participants gathered for dinner in one of the venues at Villanova University. On the first evening we were addressed by Professor Emeritus Charles Zech, Founding Director of Villanova University’s Center for Church Management, which hosted the Festival. The Australian Catholic universities might consider the feasibility of the establishment of a similar resource. With the Festival utilising “multiple formats to maximise creativity”, “social experiences” over meals and morning and afternoon tea and supper were also part of the program for fostering exchange of ideas and experiences.
The conference concluded on the Wednesday with a session summarising the proceedings, including the distribution of outcomes of the rotating table session, a sending-forth ceremony and the Festival’s closing Mass and lunch. It was a privilege to attend the second annual International Festival of Creativity in Church Management and a source of hope and inspiration to learn of many initiatives in diverse communities whereby the contemporary Church is responding to the “signs of the times”.
Upon my return home, I finalised the paper based on my presentation which will be published later this year in a joint proceedings of the two International Festivals of Creativity in Church Management. A copy of the conference program and details of the speakers are provided in the 2018 Festival Progam attachment.
Gabrielle McMullen AM