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This former Swiss Guard is now helping American priests tackle the business side of parishes


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John Burger - published on 10/30/19

Mario Enzler received a gift from Pope St. John Paul II, and now he wants to give back to the Church.

As a Swiss Guard charged with protecting the pope, Mario Enzler had to check out an area where the Holy Father was about to visit. He vividly recalls one day when he carried out that duty and saw the pope arrive shortly after. He was disappointed when the pope walked right past without acknowledging him.

Enzler closed his eyes for a couple of seconds, and when he opened them, he was surprised to see John Paul II standing right in front of him.

“I didn’t hear him come back and there he was, right in front of me,” Enzler recalled, according to Zenit news agency. “He was looking at me with those blue eyes, an intensity of blue that I have never seen anywhere else.”

The pope reached inside his cassock and took out a rosary. “He held it in front of me and said, ‘Mario, the rosary is my favorite prayer because of its simplicity and profundity. Take my beads and make them your most powerful weapon.’ He put the rosary in my hand and left. I put it in my pocket and have kept it with me ever since.”

A man who received such a gift from the pope now is trying to give a different sort of gift to priests of the Church. His post-Guard life has been just as interesting. He’s been a Swiss banker and tax fiduciary. He and his wife founded a classical-curriculum Academy in New Hampshire. And then he began teaching at the Catholic University of America.

Early in his tenure at the Busch School of Business at CUA, he noticed the need and demand for clergy to learn practical business and managerial skills. Priests have had years of study in philosophy, theology, liturgy and counseling, and are well prepared to provide the sacramental life of the Church to their flocks. But they need practical skills to run a parish as well.

To answer this need, Enzler in 2017 created the Master of Science in Ecclesial Administration and Management (M.E.A.M.), an interdisciplinary program that connects  the resources of the Busch School, School of Theology and Religious Studies, and School of Canon Law in order to cultivate the talents of its participants so that they can be more effective shepherds.

The professional degree prepares clergy for effective and efficient parish and diocesan leadership. In online coursework, as well as one weeklong on-campus intensive immersion session, the program provides practical business skills like accounting, finance, human resources, and communication strategies to help clergy and key figures in parishes, dioceses and religious orders manage day-to-day administrative responsibilities. Classes include personnel management, budgeting and asset maintenance, and financial reporting.

“At Catholic University we do not educate to create more efficient workers or more satisfied consumers, but freer—and better—persons,” Enzler said. “As educators, we accept as axiomatic the ancient view that the purpose of education is first and foremost moral, not utilitarian. We therefore seek not merely to inform our students, to fill their minds, but to form them as persons by holding up for them the classical ideals of the Good, the True, and the Beautiful and that’s why I’m here.”

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