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Pastor Evaluation Process

In January, I entered a priest evaluation process that is required of all Archdiocesan priests on a periodic basis.  Approximately 25 priests participated in the current cohort and completed the process on April 27.  43 of those who completed the Catholic Leadership 360 survey were part of a group of parishioners, parish leaders, and staff that I chose, as well as Bishop Manz and our former dean, Fr. Bob Clark.  An additional 85 parishioners chose to complete a briefer parish-wide survey.  I received two reports: a summary report of the Catholic Leadership 360 survey; and a summary report of responses to the parish-wide survey, with participant names withheld.  I then met with an evaluation “coach” via Zoom who helped me to process the feedback and develop an action plan in response to the feedback provided.

Since I do not know the names of the parishioners who responded to the parish-wide survey, I use this opportunity to thank all who took the time to complete the survey and offer your honest feedback.  I offer here a summary of what I heard and some of the goals I have set for myself in response.

From the Catholic Leadership 360 survey that was sent to the individuals from whom I requested feedback; I gained the following key insights.

  • I am viewed as a valued and strong parish leader who respects diversity.
  • Parish staff feel empowered and supported to lead and direct their area of ministry.
  • I tend to become defensive when under stress.  This stifles my ability to listen to what is being said and remains an area for growth.

From the parish-wide survey, I gained the following key insights.

  • I am perceived as a leader who articulates vision, is a good manager, and follows through on commitments and responsibilities.
  • There is a significant divergence between those who describe me as caring, inclusive, and pastoral and those who perceive me as lacking empathy and respect for divergent perspectives.
  • I am being invited to sharpen the focus and shorten the length of my homilies.

In reviewing the two summaries, I felt affirmed by an overall positive evaluation, particularly in aspects of my ministry that are important to me.  I say again that I consider it a blessing to serve this faith community as pastor.  I am humbled by the gifts of my immediate predecessors, Father Hoffman and Father Stenzel.  I am encouraged and supported by the quality and commitment of our parish staff and leadership.  I believe in the vision of this parish and our potential to make a difference in our community and in the larger church.  I believe that our diversity of backgrounds and perspectives is one of our greatest strengths.  And I accept that in a faith community of diverse perspectives and many talents, we will have moments of disagreement.  I cannot and should not attempt to be all things for all people; but I can and must be accepting of various perspectives and kind to all.

In reviewing the two summaries, I struggled with my tendency to focus on the negative rather than to put specific ratings and comments into a broader perspective.  Both summaries provided an overall positive evaluation of my ministry as priest and pastor and my personal gifts and abilities.  My evaluation coach helped me to gain this perspective.  At the same time, some ratings and comments focused on issues of personal development that were difficult to hear but not unexpected.  They identified my weaknesses when under stress, which increased when I became pastor and even more so in the year in which we were without both an associate pastor and pastoral associate even before the challenges of maintaining a vibrant mission in the face of COVID protocols.  The explanation of what increased my stress levels is not an excuse for some of the behaviors that some experienced as a result.  I am aware of what I call my “shadow side” and am recommitted to focusing on what I need to do to remain pastoral, respectful, and effective during periods of increased stress.

To make good use of the feedback from this evaluation, I was asked to prioritize the most significant opportunities for growth.  Based on the insights that I gained, the guidance of my coach, and some time for reflection and prayer, I was asked to create three development goals.

  1. I will strengthen my relationships with staff and parish leadership by spending more interpersonal time with each, beginning with the members of the parish staff.
  2. I will strengthen my active listening skills and develop self-accountability tools to monitor how well I use these skills in staff and parish council and board meetings.
  3. I will refine my Sunday homilies to be more precise and more effective within a broader range of ages and perspectives.

I have developed strategies and measurable objectives toward each of these goals.  These will be a significant part of my focus over the next five months.  I welcome your ongoing feedback, including your agreement or disagreement with what I have provided in this summary.  This is my last formal evaluation before I reach retirement age in 2025. Therefore, I rely even more on your perspectives, encouragement, and challenges.

Peace,

Fr. Bill