Trust, transparency and planning are essential, says vice chair of diocesan Finance Council

Trust, transparency and planning are essential, says vice chair of diocesan Finance Council

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You may have not met Patrick W. McGrory, who was recently appointed vice chair of the Camden Diocesan Finance Council, but you’ve seen the Empire State Building. Let that serve as an introduction.

McGrory, who is married with two children, is a private wealth advisor with Ameriprise Financial, Inc. Over the past 15 years, he has worked with individuals and families in the areas of retirement planning strategies, estate planning and charitable giving.

He also serves as chairman of his family’s foundation, the Raskob Foundation for Catholic Activities, Inc., which since 1945 has awarded some $200 million in grants for a wide variety of causes in support of the mission of the Catholic Church. The foundation was established with profits from the sale of the Empire State Building, which was built and later sold by John J. Raskob.

Raskob was a financier, corporate executive and director of the DuPont Company, the General Motors Corporation, and the Bankers Trust Company.

He was also McGrory’s great-grandfather.

It would be easy, then, to assume that McGrory had a privileged childhood with trusts to ensure him a life of comfort. Not so. McGrory’s parents divorced when he was 10. He along with his six siblings, have worked for everything they earned.

As McGrory, a member of Padre Pio Parish in Vineland, put it, he was exposed to wealth when he was growing up, but not tainted by it.

That exposure included an invitation — extended to all family members when they turn 18 — to join the Raskob Foundation. McGrory was an apprentice for two years, serving on an area committee that reviewed applications, and became a trustee-at-large before being elected chairman of the board in 2007.

In his business profile, McGrory explains to potential clients he’ll listen to them and strategically work with them to manage their wealth “in today’s uncertain market” to bring their goals within reach.

That might also be a good way to describe his role on the Finance Council, where he says goal setting, strategic planning and consensus building are more important than simply looking at the numbers on a ledger. The objective, he said, is to merge diocesan finances with the pastoral plans of the bishop.

As required by church law, each diocese has a Finance Council to provide advice to the bishop, who is the chair of the body. Based on the biblical principle of stewardship, the Finance Council exists to assist the bishop in his responsibilities for the diocese’s financial health, and to ensure that good financial practices are followed.

“We can take a lesson from Pope Francis. He is feeding the poor, but he is also doing a massive financial overhaul of the Vatican finances,” McGrory said.

In 2014 Pope Francis established the Vatican’s new Council for the Economy as part of efforts to simplify, consolidate coordinate and oversee management structures throughout the Vatican and to improve the governance, control and reporting of the financial activities of the Vatican’s different offices and bodies.

To thrive, any organization needs financial transparency, a foundation of trust and faith in its leadership, said McGrory, who has a bachelor’s degree in psychology, a master’s in financial services, and is in a doctoral program in financial and retirement planning.

“Financial management is not just looking at numbers; it is about providing leadership around using our collective resources to fulfill the mission of the church,” he said. “These resources are not only financial, but include people as well.”

The diocesan Finance Council, then, does not exist to recommend that a particular school should close because it’s continuing to run a deficit, but to advise the bishop on the best use of diocesan resources, including how best to support the Catholic school system.

Speaking of a school that closed several years ago, he noted that once the closing was announced, a group of parents and alumni tried to keep it open — but by then it was too late because their only real option was last-minute fundraising. Money was a problem, but so was a lack of leadership and true involvement by the collective Catholic community, he said. “Five years earlier they could have saved the school,” he added.

In addition to his professional and family background, McGrory brings to his role a desire to work for the good of the diocese, a booster’s enthusiasm (he was the Hawk mascot while a student at St. Joseph’s University), and a conviction that all Catholics have both rights and obligations to the church.

“We, as individual Catholics, have a seat at the table. We need to take an active role,” he said.

That conviction is how he first became a member of the Finance Council in 2010. He called Bishop Joseph Galante on the telephone, introduced himself and said, essentially, “I’m here to help.”

But although he runs the meetings, one of McGrory’s recurring themes is concensus-building. Speaking of the Raskob Foundation, the Finance Council, or any number of church committees that he is involved with, he says everyone should have the opportunity to give their opinion.

“Not everyone has to agree,” he said. “But at the end of the conversation, everyone should be of the belief that they were heard, and that people listened to them.”

McGrory said he often reflects on John J Raskob’s life, and one quote in particular: “Go ahead and do things, the bigger the better, if your fundamentals are sound. Avoid procrastination. Do not quibble for an hour over things which might be decided in minutes. However, if the issue at stake is large, stay as long as the next man, but go ahead and do things.”

Whether it is with his involvement with the diocesan Finance Council, the Raskob Foundation, his work, or his family, McGrory says he looks to continue that tradition, and “go ahead and do things.”

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