The Catholic University of America

 Yolanda Brown Defense

Final Examination of Yolanda S. Brown

For the degree of Doctor of Ministry

April 7, 2011 at 9:30a.m., Caldwell Room 125


Rev. Donald J. Heet, O.S.F.S., D.Min.


Parish Leadership: A Shared Responsibility - - A Model of Collaborative Parish Leadership Formation, Engaging ordained and lay Ecclesial Ministers in the Los Angeles Archdiocese

In 2003, Roger Cardinal Mahony concluded an Archdiocesan Synod that promulgated six Pastoral Initiatives, governing the contemporary Church of Los Angeles, in a pastoral letter, Gathered and Sent. The objectives of the Synodal Pastoral Initiatives were stated by Mahony as, a continuation “. . . for greater collaboration and mutuality in the exercise of ministry in the Church.”[1] The issue of collaborative parish leadership has become significant in an archdiocese that ministers to five million Catholics. The contribution to ministry is evidenced by the Archdiocesan mandates for effective collaboration in parish leadership. Equally important to the effective development and implementation of a joint formation model is the strong leadership and support by the cardinal and the regional bishop that has already been demonstrated.

Responding to the development of parish leadership teams comprised of ordained and lay ecclesial ministers (LEMs), Norman Cooper, author of Collaboration: Communion, Contention, Commitment, emphasizes joint formation (training that involves ordained and LEMs together) as a critical component of collaborative parish ministry. Interestingly, the Emerging Models of Pastoral Leadership Project informs that formation directors have indicated that there is a scarcity of functioning models fostering joint formation.

To support the Archdiocesan mandate for joint formation, a project was designed to pilot a formation workshop model with the primary objective of focusing on collaborative parish leadership engaging both priests and lay ecclesial ministers in joint decision making. The workshop was conducted in two sessions incorporating distinct methodologies. In 2009, a joint formation pilot entitled “Parish Leadership: A Shared Responsibility” consisted of a dialogue and development session including 160 parish leaders representing 27 parishes (more than 30% of the San Gabriel Pastoral Region). Elements that contribute to collaborative leadership were identified and implemented in the second session that engaged participants in a pastoral planning exercise, encouraging prayerful reflection, shared visioning, integration of gifts and collaborative decision making. Influence on leadership styles was evaluated with a Thomas-Kilmann tool measuring pre- and post workshop behaviors.

Effectiveness of the pilot formation sessions was indicated by the modification of participants’ leadership styles toward collaborative behaviors and recommendations by an Archdiocesan Pastoral Council document to implement the joint formation workshop model at several levels: In Archdiocesan Offices; the five Pastoral Regions governed by Auxiliary Bishops, the local seminary and universities.

[1] Roger Mahony, Gathered and Sent: Documents of the Synod of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles 2003 (Chicago: Liturgy Training Publications, 2003), 3.