Keeping the Faith

Submitted by Villanova

Barbara Purnell-Small '10 MS had her work cut out for her. As a pastoral associate at St. Francis, a struggling urban parish, she was doing the work of three people. She was overseeing religious education classes, running gospel-choir practice, managing the office and more. With parish membership hovering at just 200 families, the volunteer pool was limited.

Purnell-Small wanted her parish to thrive again. When her new pastor showed her an ad for a master's degree in Church Management at Villanova, she had her answer.

At Villanova, Purnell-Small's professors challenged her to explore innovative approaches in the ecclesial environment.To keep one foot on the bedrock of business, the other on the foundation of faith. Neither a strictly-business nor a piety-in-the-sky mentality would suffice.

She discovered that to be successful in proclaiming the gospel, St. Francis needed to articulate its mission and put its dollars behind it. The parish began to do market research to find out who it was serving, what their needs were and how to reach them.

Purnell-Small's new knowledge has helped her energize St. Francis. She recruits volunteers by walking up to people, shaking their hand and asking how they want to help the parish. She discusses marketing strategies with other church leaders. She promotes the Ash Wednesday liturgy to everyone in the community, not just churchgoers. New families are joining St. Francis-and expressing gratitude for the warm welcome.

"Our faith is so rich!" Purnell-Small says."Why wouldn't we do everything possible to share it?"