Archbishop Blase Cupich has appointed Betsy Bohlen as Chief Operating Officer of the Archdiocese of Chicago, the third-largest Catholic diocese in the US. In her new position, Bohlen will be charged with introducing ‘best business practice’ into church operations, thereby improving the running of the 353 perishes’ churches and schools.
Around the world, the Catholic Church has a considerable number of archdiocese, governed by the local archbishop. The Chicago area is managed by Blase Cupich, who recently admitted to Crain’s Chicago Business that running his archdioceses $1 billion budget, falls under “I know what I don't know.” To remedy the situation, Cupich has promoted Betsy Bohlen from the role of Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of the Archdiocese of Chicago to the role of Chief Operating Officer (COO).
Bohlen’s claim to business acumen stems from her long career in the business and financial world. She started out, after university, as a Financial Analyst at Credit Suisse First Boston in 1990, before taking on a role as an Investment Officer at the Slovak American Enterprise Fund in Slovakia. In 1995, Bohlen joined McKinsey & Company, where she grew over her 16 years at the consulting firm to Partner and Senior Knowledge Expert. She joined the Archdiocese of Chicago in 2011, where she fulfilled several senior advisory roles from 2011 to 2013, before being promoted to CFO in 2013.
Bohlen holds a Bachelor degree in Economics from University of Notre Dame and an MBA from Harvard Business School.
Her promotion to COO will see her become the top ranking woman in the diocese, and sees her replace Clete Kiley, whose new remit will be toward nonfinancial offices, while business duties will fall to the hands of Bohlen.
As part of her new role, Bohlen will oversee the streamlining of the archdioceses operations, in response to the recession after the financial crisis, as well as costing the litigation over the illegal behaviour of the priests in the recent past, costing the diocese. “We are a large and complicated archdiocese, so a lot of what we’re doing, is making sure we can run our operations better and better serve the mission of the church,” says Bohlen.
So far the archdioceses had managed to rid itself out of $40 million debt from four years, while further seeking to return all of the 353 parishes in its jurisdiction to liquidity in the near period. The church is also dealing with the historical priest misconduct cases. Bohlen adds: “We’ve been very committed to do whatever we can, including providing compensation. Obviously that led to some of the challenges.” Although the number of cases would, in the mid-term, be “coming to an end.”
Of the $50 million in yearly provisions from the archdiocese to its perishes, a large part (50%) is spent on providing funding for schools. It is unknown whether the change in leadership is expected to see considerable school or church closures, with only the already acknowledge closure of six schools stated by Bohlen. What is known is that schools will be expected to improve their business practice in line with ‘best business practice’ in how they operate. An extra $2 million will be allocated to help schools in their back-office operations.
“As we move forward, I think we’ll always need to be vigilant. Our operations are complex and the needs are many so we'll always need to look at how we spend our resources to make sure we’re most effective. The goal is to make sure we're on solid financial footing to invest in new services and ministries,” concludes Bohlen.