My Experience in Specialized Studies (PE nr. 1089 – 2018/03)

After my ordination, I served at Mapeera Nabulagala Parish in Kampala for four years and eight months. During the first three years, I was the curate, and then I took over as Parish Priest. Seven months after taking that office, the Provincial informed me that I had been selected for specialized studies, and it wouldn’t be long before I started. The announcement was both a surprise and a shock. On the one hand, it was a surprise because the specialized studies proposed was in Business Administration, yet I used to think that if one day I were asked to go for further studies, I’d request either Dogmatic Theology or Missiology. But since it is the Superior General or Provincial Councils that decide such matters based on the many needs of the Society, one must abide by their decision. On the other hand, the announcement was a shock because I had held the new position at the Parish for only a few months. I had to let go of all the pastoral programs and projects we had set up for the parish. However, I trusted that after my departure and without me, the parish ministry would go on with the other confreres who would take over.

Towards the end of 2015, I got a second message from the Delegate Superior of the USA Sector who informed me that I would start the studies in the Fall/Autumn of 2016. I then started to gather the required docu­ments for my enrolment at Trinity Washington University (a Catholic University in Washington). The process of registration at the school took longer than I expected. The paperwork delayed the visa application. I reached the U.S. three days before classes started. There was still a lot to do. I had to finalize my registration with the Enrolment Office, get in touch with my department, discuss my major, get used to the system, and so on and so forth. In brief, it was a big struggle. However, the School of Business and Graduate Studies at the same university admitted me as a candidate for Master in Business Administration (MBA) with a major in finance.

MBA is an executive program that draws professionals from different backgrounds. In my cohort, we have accountants, entrepreneurs, lawyers, and managers. Some of my classmates were surprised that a priest was taking the same program. As our studies went on, they got to understand that every trade or institution is, at its heart, a business. Our program is broad and intensive; it involves lots of analytic inquiry, case studies, fieldwork, group discussions, and presentations. All the subjects are based on the functional areas of business, namely, accounting, economics, finance, information systems, marketing, ethics, and management.

The beginning was tough because I had to do a lot of work to remember mathematics. Moreover, I had to learn and speak the language of business, and understand how its ethics apply to customers, employees and other stakeholders. With determination, I got everything under control.

Antonio, presenting a class project

Linking my studies to pastoral work though the program is not over yet, I may say that I’ve learned a lot of things that will be useful in mission. First, the MBA is empowering me to do better situational analysis in different areas. Second, it offers me tools to assess capital sources, and to develop financial strategy for longevity and growth. In other words, the MBA program is giving me means to be more efficient in mission and to be an effective steward of resources.

As I pursue the program, I was often taken back to my past experiences and observations. Many questions come to mind, but the most common I like to ponder is why some missions perform well, whereas others don’t. My answer to that inquiry is all about the management of resources. Poor management always leads to mediocrity or a total failure but good management leads to great achievements. The dream of any business or institution is to be successful in all areas and so gain competitive advantage. Surely, we are not engaged in competition like firms, but the same word can mean for us the process of becoming the point of reference for others.

Antonio with some members of the Faculty of Business Administration

To minimize failure, therefore, we are encouraged to perform a regular evaluation of our vision and mission, and redefine our long-term objectives. This exercise helps to devise strategies and policies which assist us to achieve our goals. Of course, such an exercise is not a small undertaking. It is a procedure that requires much time and more resources, and it encompasses all stakeholders (individuals or groups that have something to do in the running of a parish for example). Once it’s done, the developed document becomes a roadmap to success. In business terms, such a document is referred to as the strategic plan. For our Society, the strategic plan is contained in our Chapter documents. Studies have demonstrated that the formulation, implementation and evaluation of the strategic plan guarantees success.

Our General Council, through its discernment, knows the needs of the Society for specific tasks and over a particular time frame. The selection policy for candidates in response to those needs is excellent and has worked well so far. However, some improvements are possible and I would suggest that when one is selected for specialized studies, Provincials should let the person know early enough. If possible, they should release him from his duties so that he can have enough time to prepare for those studies.

Antonio Koffi, M.Afr.

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