Structural changes announced

By Richard Meek 

The Catholic Commentator  

The Diocese of Baton Rouge made history when Bishop Michael G. Duca announced the appointment of Ann Boltin as chancellor.   

Boltin, Ann 0071.jpg

Ann Boltin

 

Boltin, the diocesan archivist, is the first lay person to be appointed chancellor in the 59-year history of the diocese.  

“I think it is refreshing to have lay persons, especially women, to be involved in leadership positions in the curia,” said incoming Episcopal Vicar for Strategic planning Father Jamin David. “Their level of expertise and their often differing voice adds an extra level of collaboration around the table. (Boltin) is talented, faith-filled and ambitious and her skill-set will specifically serve the interests of the people of Baton Rouge.”  

Boltin’s appointment headlines several structural changes announced by the diocese Aug. 28. Among the more significant changes include the re-establishment of the Bishop’s Cabinet to serve as an advisory council to Bishop Duca in administrative matters at the Catholic Life Center. According to Father David, the architect of the restructuring, the cabinet will meet six times annually and for emergency needs as determined by Bishop Duca.  

The purpose of the meetings will be to discuss the working of the various departments of the Catholic Life Center, develop a ministerial division and receive from the bishop any announcements to be communicated to various department heads and CLC employees.  

“The reorganization of the Secretariat System will more immediately impact operations for employees at the Catholic Life Center,” Father David said. “Attached to this reorganization, though, will be an evaluative project to redefine the scope of the Catholic Life Center’s mission and to ask a very fundamental question is the diocesan institution truly fulfilling its mission, namely to support the parishes of the Diocese of Baton Rouge who, in turn, serve their people?”  

Serving on the Bishop’s Cabinet will be Father David, Boltin, Vicar General Father Tom Ranzino, Judicial Vicar Father Paul Counce, Secretary for Catholic Schools and current chancellor Father Paul Yi, Secretary for Clergy & Religious Life Father Matthew Lorrain, Secretary for Communications Father Chris Decker, Secretary for Evangelization Father Ryan Hallford, Secretary for Pastoral Services Father Michel Miceli and Victims Assistance Coordinator Amy Cordon.  

Father David said the existing Secretarial Model has been simplified and all diocesan departments will be grouped into one of six secretariats with the purpose of reintroducing clergy into the operational organization of the CLC  and to help form a collective vision for the Catholic Life Center that represents the bishop’s vision and strategic roles.  

The model was first introduced in the diocese in the 1980s by then Vicar General Father John Carville, although it has not been used in the past several years.  

“For an organization to become healthier, surely practices to improve efficiency and effectiveness are necessary,” Father David said. “In terms of church, though, renewal is the key. Just like any institution, the Diocese of Baton Rouge can grow better functionally in terms of how we communicate, meeting functions and establishing a vision and these are key components to our reorganization.  

“But the most essential principal is pastoral renewal,” he added. “In other words, changing structures help to begin a process of spiritual renewal in the way we evangelize and make disciples. Otherwise, reorganization only serves to manage decline.  

“The benefit to the diocese is both to construct a healthier organization and renewal in pastoral operations.”  

The changes are effective Sept. 15. 

“The impact should first be seen in the clergy,” Father David said. “By establishing clear parameters, building communication constructs and harnessing priests will allow a clear voice in high-level decision making that has a direct impact on the diocese as a whole and a more immediate impact on individual communities of faith. From there, this should empower leaders to learn what is necessary to evangelize, train and empower the average Catholic to become a missionary disciple and to do the true work of the Gospel.” 

Boltin, who has a bachelor’s and masters’ degree from LSU, said she was initially a bit surprised and shocked by her appointment. She said in her 17 years at the diocese she has always worked for the chancellor so the position “was not even on my radar.”

But after the position was fully explained to her, and with a bit of her own research, Boltin said the job “started to make sense. The chancellor is the archivist by canon law so in essence this was a natural fit for me.”

“This is certainly exciting,” she said, adding that she has served under three chancellors since coming to work at the diocese. “I am extremely honored and humbled that Bishop Duca would even consider me for this position.”

She said she is proud of the work of the archives department and being recognized in such a big way is amazing.

“There are wonderful changes happening in the diocese and I am so happy to be a part of such a positive movement towards reorganizing the administrative structure,” Boltin said. “My short term goals are to become familiar with my new responsibilities, reach out to other chancellors in our province and begin to evaluate what areas need my attention.

According to recent statistics, a little more than 30% of chancellors in the United States are women, with about 20% lay women.  

Chancellor is the highest position of power a lay person can achieve in the Catholic Church. Lay people have been allowed to serve as chancellors since 1983.  

Although the roles vary by diocese, the primary focus of the chancellor is to serve as the chief record keeper of the diocese, especially regarding sacramental registers. Those registers, which date back to the 1700s in the Diocese of Baton Rouge, detail the sacramental history of every parish in the diocese.  

Additionally, the chancellor is considered the official notary for all of the documents issued by the presiding bishop.  

“My duties and responsibilities will stay pretty much the same, serve as the official archivist and record keeper for the diocese but with the addition of the role of official notary as well,” Boltin said, noting that her long term goals are to get organized and move the administration and the diocese toward best practices in archives and records management. She said as the department moves further away from paper-based records, systems will need to be in place in  order to capture electronic records in ways that are routine, methodical and scheduled.

“The Catholic Life Center has been my home for almost two decades and I have always felt like the people I work with are my extended family,” Boltin said.