Parish cluster leadership shift follows Catholic trend

Priest exit, deacon retirement makes way for Hamm to serve as director



Ozaukee Press staff

  When Deb Hamm became the parish director for Divine Savior and Our Lady of the Lakes parish cluster, the parishes became one of a growing number whose administration is no longer handled by a priest but instead by a deacon, nun or layperson.

Hamm, who previously was a pastoral associate for the parish for 17 years, will be responsible for overseeing the church’s general operation and the coordination of the ministry of worship, education and administration.

Deacon Joseph Ferrari of the Archdiocese of Joliet, Ill., said the idea of moving parish administration away from priests is a growing trend, especially in North America.

“If you go to Asia or Africa, the Catholic Church is booming,” Ferrari, a St. Vincent DePaul distinguished professor at DePaul University who has studied and written about the topic, said.

“What’s happening in North America and Europe, is there are fewer priests. If we don’t have a priest, we could easily have the deacon take over the parish leadership.”

According to Ferrari, Canon Law, which provides the policies for the Catholic church, states the appointment of a parish director seems to follow a clerical hierarchy structure. Cannon Law, Code 517.2, states the role of a parish administrator may be held by a deacon, a religious person, such as a sister or brother, or a layperson, in that order.

In the case of Divine Savior, the parish deacon recently retired and there are no nuns serving there.

Hamm said she was not actively seeking a new job when she received the appointment because she enjoyed her work as a pastoral associate, but saw it as an opportunity to step up for the church.

“I was encouraged to do so by people at the archdiocese and some of the priests that I’ve worked with in the past,” Hamm said. “I wasn’t looking for a new job but they asked me to consider it. I prayed about it.”

Ferrari said the transition away from priests in administrative roles is due to other life experiences that deacons and laypersons have.

“Priests really have not been trained (in administrative duties), while the deacon (or layperson) has lived a life where they might have been a salesman or an executive,” Ferrari said. “They’re someone who knows how to hire personnel, do performance evaluations and deal with budgets.”

Hamm has experience coordinating volunteers in her role as a pastoral associate and aided Father Gideon Buya, the cluster’s former pastor. That accompanied by her masters of divinity degree, Hamm is confident she is ready to embark on this new journey.

Her appointment comes as Buya left the parish and Deacon Gerry Malueg retired. Hamm hopes to continue Buya’s legacy in her new role.

“He was a man of prayer himself, and he was a good role model for people,” Hamm said. “We prayed at all the meetings. He encouraged people during the homily, gave people ideas on how to pray better and how to deepen their relationship with Christ.”

Hamm joins a growing number of pastoral directors in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. Currently there are eight, but that number is expected to grow to 11.



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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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