Putting parish accounting online is "a milestone for our diocese and the beginning of a new era"

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1 Our Diocese Our Bishop Bishop Lori's Blog Safe Environments The Bridge Resources Home Parishes Schools Donate Now News Archive Contact Us Today is Friday, May 20 Fairfield County Catholic Priests, Deacons, Religious Vocations Putting parish accounting online is "a milestone for our diocese and the beginning of a new era" Diocesan Calendar Our 87 Parishes Catholic Charities Catholic Schools Catholic Scouting Pastoral Services Lenten Confession Campaign Pastoral Plan, Year 4 Marriage Preparation By BRIAN D. WALLACE Fairfield County Catholic, June 9, 2007 The Diocese of Bridgeport has become the first Roman Catholic diocese in the United States to transition to an Internet-based parish accounting system hosted by Right Networks. With secure anywhere-anytime access and consolidated financial reporting, the system enables greater transparency, sharing of best practices, and improved management of parish resources. "This is a milestone for our diocese and the beginning of a new era," says Deacon Bill Koniers, finance director of Parish Finance Services. "We've come a long way during the last six months in implementing our 'Six Key Elements' to enhance and improve financial services. This project is critical to the success of our many efforts to put new resources and management tools into the hands of our pastors and their staffs, and to develop good and useful management reporting of financial results."

2 Respect Life Apostolates/Ministries Catholic Cemeteries Development Office Living Our Faith Appeal Finance Services Chart of Accounts For the first QuickBooks training session, held on May 8 at the Catholic Center, representatives from 17 of the 87 parishes came together to begin adopting the diocese's newly-configured chart of accounts and move toward the transfer of each parish file onto the Internet. A second session on May 30 covered another e 9, 2007 six parishes. All parishes are expected to be online by the end of this year. With their Diocesan Tribunal Women's Ministries Media Obituaries Useful Links Press Release Contact Us CatholicTV is a 24/7 television network that broadcasts local and national religious programming and live events for the Catholic church in America. laptops open, parish business managers, accountants, and finance directors were walked through the new Parish Accounting System with the latest QuickBooks PRO 2007 software that will revolutionize parish finances in our diocese. The new system has two key advantages for parish accountants: making financial information more available in a standard format, and providing different layers of management reporting to guide financial decision-making in parishes. A MILESTONE FOR PARISH ACCOUNTING Deacon Bill Koniers, joined by John Farrer and Philip Romine of Right Network, introduce the new QuickBooks online accounting system at a training session for 17 parishes held at the Catholic Center on May 8. The new Internet-based Parish Accounting System creates a uniform standard of financial reporting across the diocese by enabling parish accountants and business managers to use QuickBooks on line. This is a milestone for the diocese, the beginning of a new era of transparency and accountability, says Deacon Koniers. (PHOTO BY KAREN LEFFLER) The group spent the first part of the morning reviewing the procedures in the new chart of accounts, which is essentially the "checkbook" ledger of each parish. Under the new system, each parish will

3 allocate expenses and revenues using the same classes and categories, leading to uniform standards and practices of accounting and recordkeeping across the diocese. Right Networks of Nashua, NH, is installing the new online QuickBooks system and providing training. The firm offers hosting, networking, and telecommunications services to more than 28,000 clients, including some of the top Fortune 100 companies in the U.S. After a brief introduction to online QuickBooks, Right Networks Vice-President John Farrer and his staff handed out passwords so that parish financial representatives could view the screens they will use online. Farrer notes that online QuickBooks has several advantages over the standard desktop edition, including 24/7 access, information security, regular software updates, crash protection, access to expertise, and other resources not generally available to parishes. "Right now, many parishes are maintaining their books on a PC or a small parish network," Farrer observes. "If that crashes, they have very poor access and it can take a while to fix. In the meantime, they can't produce reports. In contrast, the online system is nearly foolproof and securely backed-up, and offers access any time from wherever they are." 24/7 Access That access includes diocesan officials. Deacon Koniers notes that he and his staff spend a lot of time responding to problem solving, which sometimes involves driving 20 or 30 miles to a parish to perform trouble-shooting of the general ledger and assist the parish accountant in resolving issues. Parish business managers need to file the cumbersome and time-consuming quarterly reports, submitting them on Zip discs. Not any more. "With this system, Parish Finance Services will soon be able to view and assist each parish online and virtually on a real-time mode," Deacon Koniers says. "The savings in time and efficiency will be enormous." No wonder Tom Leyden, chairman of the parish finance council of Assumption Parish in Westport, believes the new online accounting system "is one of the best things to happen to parishes and the diocese." Assumption Parish prints a yearly financial annual report, puts it online on the parish website, and inserts it in each parish bulletin. The more transparency, the greater the trust, says Leyden, who praised Bishop William Lori for moving the diocesan accounting system "into the 21st century." "This is fantastic," Leydon adds. "It gives the parishes and the diocese complete, homogeneous data. We will all be using the same system to report financial data, and that means for the first time we'll be comparing apples to apples. It puts all 87 parishes on the same playing field." Better Tools John Rooney handles the finances for six parishes: Saint Patrick's in Bridgeport; Saint Gabriel's in Stamford; Our Lady of Guadalupe and Saint Joseph's in Danbury; Our Lady of Grace in Stratford; and Saint Mary's in Bethel.

4 Rooney has had plenty of experience, as he is the retired diocesan director of accounting and parish finance. During his tenure, the diocese took steps to raise the level of accounting practice. He believes the new system is a tremendous resource for parishes and a state-of-theart approach to finances. TAKING PART IN THE QUICKBOOKS ONLINE TRAINING at the Catholic Center on May 30 are Father Brian Gray and Jean Babis from Our Lady of Peace Parish in Stratford. "It gives pastors better tools to manage, and parishes will even have more control over their own finances and a better sense of where they are going," Rooney says. "Many parishes do not have the income to afford full-time accountants and business managers, so this new system will be of tremendous help, bringing additional resources and expertise to improve the level of reporting." Deacon Lou Howe, business manager of Saint Aloysius Parish in New Canaan who has 25 years experience in financial services for insurance and securities, is equally enthusiastic. He likes the idea that the diocese is sending a consultant to each parish to help install the new software tools and walk parish staffs through the changes. "The diocesan support system is great," he says. "There is always someone we can call," says Deacon Howe. While the new program is ideal for seasoned financial professionals like Deacon Howe, he believes it will also upgrade the skills of people with less professional experience, and also have benefits for clergy. "As priests and pastors take on new assignments, they will now find the same accounting practices from parish to parish, and they won't have to go through a learning curve as they make financial decisions," Deacon Howe notes. "This new program is a confidence builder for the entire diocese, as parishioners and donors will be reassured by the transparency of the system." Deacon Howe's neighbor to the south, Saint Thomas More Parish in Darien, is also seeing the advantages of the new program. "The most pressing need in terms of parish finances was to obtain information and answers in a convenient and understandable manner," says Father J. Barry Furey,

5 pastor. "This new system puts everything at our fingertips, instantly. It will make pastors, parish finance councils, and trustees more efficient and accountable, and enable us to issue reports more promptly." Giant Leap Forward At Saint Mary Parish in Bridgeport, Sonia Rodriguez wears many hats, from receptionist and secretary to parish accountant. She's excited about the training because it has given her a chance to improve her own skills by working with consultants and having access to management resources. forward for parishes. Rodriguez took accounting courses at the University of Bridgeport but, for the most part, she has learned on the job. She says she welcomed the help the diocese began offering in the 1990s and believes that latest initiative represents a giant leap TAKING PART IN THE QUICKBOOKS ONLINE TRAINING at the Catholic Center on May 30 are Clyna Richardson, Stephen Bagnell, and James Keavney from Saint Philip Parish in Norwalk. "The conversion of the chart of accounts was a piece of cake," says Rodriguez of the first phase of the new system, which she completed almost immediately after her training session. She's now working on the transfer of her parish files to the Internet system. "Everything downloaded well, but there are still a few bugs to work out as I get used to QuickBooks online," Rodriguez says, noting that the diocesan staff has been an important resource of help in the conversion. She says that Saint Mary's, which is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year, has experienced a renaissance of parish life along with its neighborhood. Located on the edge of the former Father Panik Village housing project, the parish, with 430 registered families, has weathered decades of poverty and social problems. "The neighborhood has taken a 360-degree turn to owner-occupied single and two family homes, the parish is growing, our weekend collection is increasing, and we're about to add a new bell tower to the church," says Rodriguez.

6 Inclusive Approach "I'm really appreciative that the diocese is holding the training sessions and bringing us all together, whether we live in the inner cities or the suburbs," she concludes. "It creates a sense of family and community that benefits all of us. In the past, we felt isolated and all did things our own way. Now we're sharing and communicating. It's a great thing to see." (Regular updates on the "Six Key Elements" to enhance and improve parish financial controls and procedures are posted regularly on the web: click here.) Return to Fairfield County Catholic Copyright 2010 The Roman Catholic Diocese of Bridgeport All Rights Reserved Website Design by Magtype Computer Resources

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