Archdiocese Promotes Fitness on Donors’ Dimes

In the wake of mainstream media coverage of how the Pastoral Center is paying 17 people more than $150K per year each (up six-fold since 2006) and how the payroll went from $8.3 million in 2006 to $9.2 million this year despite dramatic job cuts, we now learn that the Boston Archdiocese is encouraging their employees to exercise during work hours, apparently instead of working.  We are not making this up!

(First to Msgr. Deeley, BCI had nothing whatsoever to do with that Herald coverage about the excessive six-figure salaries, so we would appreciate if you would stop telling people that when you have no basis whatsoever for that claim. But we digress–more on that another time…)

Here is the email sent to all Pastoral Center employees on March 28 from Carol Gustavson:

Good morning – as part of our ongoing commitment to health and wellness initiatives that also build our sense of community, all staff members are invited to join the Spring 2012 Pastoral Center Fitness Challenge.   The Challenge, piloted on the 1st Floor in the Parish Finance Department last year, was deemed a success, so we now invite all staff to join in this opportunity to improve their overall health and wellness while at work.

Every participant will be paired with another staff member to help keep motivation and morale high.  Below is a chart showing “points” each participant can earn towards a goal set by each team of two staff members.   The top five pairs in terms of overall points will be recognized at the June 2012 All Staff Meeting.  Pedometers will be provided to each participant to help track total steps taken throughout the day.  Additional ideas for earning points while at work are welcome.

To indicate your interest in the Challenge, please let me know by Monday, April 2.  You will be sent your partner’s name by the end of the week so that you can start the Challenge the week after Easter.  A tracking spreadsheet will be made available to all participants so they can enter their daily totals.

We look forward to your participation in this unique initiative.

Carol Gustavson
Director – Benefit Trusts/Plan Administrator
Pastoral Center of the Archdiocese of Boston
66 Brooks Drive
Braintree, MA 02184

BCI supports physical fitness, and could stand to lose a few pounds ourselves. This program no doubt earns some sort of insurance discount from Tufts Health Plan. But given that Pastoral Center salaries are paid largely from donor funds or service fees levied to entities supported by donor funds, one might reasonably ask, why does the fitness challenge have to be done only during work hours?

Should Terry Donilon, who makes total compensation of $193K/year, be encouraged to take 30-45 minutes away from his job–“during the work day only”–to go running outside every other  day  so he earns more points?

Can you imagine Mary Grassa O’Neill, paid $325K per year, doing pushups, sit-ups and squats before she meets with her $185K/year assoc. superintendent and her high-paid regional superintendents to discuss the next parish school to be ordered closed?

Can you picture Msgr. Deeley in a meeting with Fr. Bryan Parrish and a bunch of pastors discussing alignment of parishes for the PST initiative standing up to keep the meeting quick and earn 5 points.

Can you picture Carol Gustavson running up and down the stairwells and then arriving late for a meeting with all sorts of papers in hand, attributing the lateness to her fitness routine?

And who did the math on the points schedule for doing the stairs?  The first to fourth floor distance has 64 steps in total, so doing the round-trip is 128 steps.  If I can get 5 points for doing 128 steps, why would I do 2,500 steps–almost 20X greater distance–to get just 10 points?  Is the person who did the math on the points system the same person doing pension calculations for lay employees and clergy? Beyond the math, BCI is getting short of breath just thinking about the prospect of doing 20 round-trips from the first to the fourth floors.

So there you have it–another day, another dollar at the Pastoral Center.  Donors, your contributions that pay Pastoral Center salaries are not only going towards almost $3.5M for 17 people paid $150K+/year, but now they are also paying so people can exercise “during the work day only” to earn points, instead of working during the work day and exercising after hours.

The Mission of the Archdiocese of Boston is, “To carry on the saving ministry of Jesus Christ,” and BCI is OK with the concept of employees attending daily Mass or Eucharistic Adoration during the work day. Those activities rather clearly provide spiritual nourishment and strength that helps employees advance the mission and give glory and honor to God, but hopefully they are also making up for that time by working later.

Exercising during the work day feels different. OK, on a moral and spiritual basis, this approach to physical fitness is less dangerous than yoga (which is still underway). Still, out of fiduciary responsibility to be a good steward of donor funds, is it not better for the Boston Archdiocese to simply encourage people to exercise on their own time?

29 Responses to Archdiocese Promotes Fitness on Donors’ Dimes

  1. jbq2 says:

    Funny on the math!

    • SOLUTION says:

      What is not funny, though, is when a “report” with those numbers is handed in to a “professor” who gives it an
      “A” because it had a pretty cover.

  2. Bitumen and Pitch says:

    Be careful, BCI. If we follow your logic, then Pastoral Center Employees should not go to Mass while on work time. They should not go to confession while on work time. They should not go to Eucharistic Adoration – even for 5 minutes – while on work time.

    Here is a big problem, even in parish life and the presbyterate: Many place work above God. Just like Pharaoh did with regard to the Egyptians.

    Honestly, I don’t see a problem with this program. Maybe you would see the goodness of this if you were in a bit better shape than you are now 😉

    • Bitumen and Pitch says:

      Just like Pharaoh did with regard to the *Israelites.*

    • Bitumen and Pitch,
      BCI is not quite sure what to make of the good mixed with evil implication of your name!

      Thanks for your comment–you raise a good point. Just to clarify any confusion with our logic, our intent is not to suggest that Pastoral Center employees should not go to Mass or Eucharistic Adoration while on work time. The Mission of the archdiocese and Pastoral Center is, “To continue the saving ministry of Jesus Christ.” BCI thinks it is OK for employees to help advance that mission and praise and glorify God by attending daily Mass or Eucharistic Adoration during the work day. Hopefully though, they would find a way to work a little later so as to still put in a full work day.

      Exercising feels different than attending Mass or Eucharistic Adoration. Millions of people in private sector jobs exercise outside of work hours. Why can someone not earn points for exercising before or after work? Or, if someone wants to run or exercise at lunchtime and work late to make up for that, BCI would have no objection. But, this program says you can earn points only during the work day and does not ask people to make up for the work time spent exercising. That is where BCI takes issue.

      • Bitumen and Pitch says:

        Well, BCI, what would you say to parish priests? Should they not be allowed to exercise during “work hours?” Guess what. If that were the case, all the priests would be fat and out of shape.

        Honestly, I think it’s a good incentive that the PC is offering. And maybe *you* could benefit from something like this. You are looking a bit more chubby lately….. 😉

      • Bitumen and Pitch,
        A priest has given his entire life to God, so your comparison at that level really does not hold up. Almost every parish priest BCI knows does not have boundaries on their “work hours”–they are up celebrating Mass early on a weekday, and in meetings or involved in parish programs and functions through the evening many times. Would you not agree? Priests also work weekends and at best get one day off a week. Most priests do not even have time to exercise, especially a pastor who increasingly is being asked to lead not just one parish, but 2-4 parishes. They do not get paid much–about $39K-41K per year in salary, or under $14/hour for a 50-60-hour “work week.” So in the opinion of BCI, any attempt to compare the “work day” for paid Pastoral Center employees (who mostly work a conventional Monday-Friday daytime-hour work schedule) vs priests is like comparing apples and asparagus. We probably need to leave this one as a situation where we each hold our opinion and agree to disagree.

        As for BCI, we are deeply touched and moved by your concern about our appearance. 🙂 BCI said we could stand to lose a few pounds, and we are working on that, making good progress without participating in the Pastoral Center program. Thank you for your concern!

    • David S. says:

      Bitumen and Pitch:

      I am not sure what point you are trying to make.

      I think it is absurd for folks making 6-figure salaries, or any salary for that matter, to go to Mass on work time and expect to be paid for their Mass attendance.

      If they want to attend daily Mass, they should go to Mass before work, during their lunch break, or after work, just like the rest of us. Another alternative is if they go to Mass in the middle of the day, i.e., during their normal working hours, they should work late that day to make up for their lost time.


        No one pays me to attend Mass. You mean people get paid to do that?? Where have I been??

  3. Michael says:

    Can you imagine Mary Grassa O’Neill, paid $325K per year, doing pushups, sit-ups and squats …?

    Quite frankly no!. If you know what I mean.

    • Anonymous says:

      Don’t know about pushups and situps, but I suspect she does squat relative to her salary.

  4. Sue says:

    Can you please focus on important matters. Your criticism seems mean spirited and just down right silly. Please remember, this is Holy Week.

  5. tryingtofigurethisout says:

    Hi BCI… been following the blog for a while now trying to figure out if i support the idea or not….I believe Sean O’Malley is a good man at heart and a true Vicar of Christ…Sadly, I think he has been surrounded by some people who are not serving him well and are often times giving him bad advice. This has unfortunately led me to conclude that , in spite of reading some dubious postings from the BCI and more so from some posters, that the blog does indeed ” make solid contact with the ball ” quite often. The fitness story i’m not sure warrants a posting…but again , despite some reservations , you are providing a valid service . I understand that one of the main focuses of the blog is the financial / fiduciary issue(s) of the BCA….As you point out objectively in the post, there in all likelihood was some sort of financial gain for the BCA from their insurance provider for the program so that also contributes to my lack of support for the post. The financial / fiduciary issue is a very important one for sure. But I , as I know you are also, am also concerned with issues of Faith as well . The space for the fitness posting would have been better served , in my opinion exploring a discussion on something i noticed in this week’s pilot.

    I’ll be brief as i know this is a long posting.

    Page 1 into page 2 shows the following

    ” Sister Christina Wegendt, FSP, and Sister Hosea Rupprecht, FSP, gave a workshop called “Faith Formation for a Media Generation” in a classroom at the school. The sisters recommended that catechists see television shows and movies like “Glee” and “The Hunger Games” to provide an opportunity to connect with younger students.
    Sister Christina stayed after the presentation to discuss the themes of some of the media addressed in the workshop, including the dystopian reality presented in the book and movie “The Hunger Games.”

    I don’t know who these Nuns are or what their daily jobs entail but it strikes me as nothing less than an outrage that advocating a television show like ” Glee ” , which is at best an active hollywood tool of propaganda which promotes things as good that our faith tells us are in fact dangerous and objectively evil and at the worst , a despicable bigoted anti catholic broadcast. And it gets better. in the same issue of the pilot, the movie review section actually reviews the movie ” the Hunger Games ” . Here are a few quotes from the review..

    ” But sensibilities are not spared as the grim contest unfolds: painful injuries brought about by swords, arrows, hatchets and even the creative use of a hornets’ nest are all portrayed unblinkingly. On the upside, foul language is entirely absent, as too is any sensual activity beyond kissing. So, despite the elements listed below, “The Hunger Games” may possibly prove acceptable for mature adolescents.

    The film contains considerable, sometimes gory, hand-to-hand and weapons violence and graphic images of bloody wounds. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 — parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.”

    This is the kind of stuff that really gets me going… as the parent of a young child who is trying to educate and raise the child to love the church and to appreciate the teachings of the church as being divinely inspired by our lord and savior Jesus Christ, to see this sort of hipocrisy is really disheartening… This is the kind of stuff that needs to brought to the attention of the Cardinal, Mnsg Deeley , Father Parrish et al.

    Another interesting aspect of this is that in the print edition of the pilot there was a picture of someone named Father Ricardo Gonzalez . The photo shows what appears to be a Hispanic looking man wearing a suit and tie. Why would a catholic priest be wearing a suit and tie at a ” Catechetical Congress”?

    Another interesting note is that Father J. Bryan Hehir served as the main Homilist for the event.

    Again BCI I think what you do can serve our archdiocese well. I will continue to point out things that in my opinion need attention.

  6. I live in Indiana where we are not liberals for the most part. Are all of the eastern states corrupt?
    When are the average people going to rebel? The best way is to stop donating~!!! I haven’t for many years when I first heard the rice bowls money went straight to the KGB!! There were some again last year at our parish and I protested and they disappeared and never came back.
    Only give to your secretary and make sure she puts the money on the electric bill or another utility. I give my pastor sides of beef -can’t give that to the dioscese for wasteful things!! If we control our money and keep our parishes open that way we will WIN!!!
    If the gov wants to tax churches – buy a pew or a wall or something. That church is OURS and to tax
    it would be double taxation!!
    “There’s more than one way to skin a cat” and
    Where there’s a will, there’s a way!!
    My mother used these kinds of sayings all the time to teach us!!

    AND do as the BVM asks: Pray pray pray

    • teddyballgame says:

      That’s right Phyllis—-no liberals in Indiana. Unless you count Birch Bayh, Evan Bayh, Father Jenkins at ND, and of course friend of the Kennedys, Father Hesburgh. As for corruption Indiana is clean there too—-Gary, Hammond, and S. Bend Indiana have always been a poster child for honest government.

      The only good thing to come from Indiana is Larry Bird, but he is offset by that nut case Bobby Knight.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Exercizing was already taking place at the Pastoral Center. We all know that the members of the 150k plus club already do SQUAT.

    Maybe Carol G has found something she is good at, becoming the Richard Simmons of RCAB.

    Maybe there is enough money in the budget to provide each employeee with a copy of “Sweating to the Oldies”

    Another RCAB example of misplaced priorities.

  8. teddyballgame says:

    This kind of stuff is great in the Silicon Valley where they make bazillions, not RCAB where they make nothing. Once again, Carol Gustavason comes up with a brilliant initiative. That’s why she makes a 6 figure salary!

  9. Anonymous says:

    Anything to hide the fact that the rank and file employees have been treated like crap. Maybe they can use the 5 hours that McDonough added to the work week for exercise.

  10. anonymous says:

    Exercise is a good thing for everyone. However, where we work there is NO time given for an exercise program. Why do they have this Health Care time on our dime?


  11. David Justen says:

    Seriously? This is what you criticize? Can you be more petty? From my reading of the email, it’s not saying that employees are taking time out of their day to engage in an exercise regimen. They’re encouraging employees to engage in more healthful behavior, i.e. taking stairs instead of the elevator.

    Are we saying that we find the Church to be the kind of employer that treats its employees like “units of production” who are required to sit at their desk from 9 until 5 with only rigidly approved breaks? Or should the Church be a model for all employers in showing how human dignity in work and labor should be achieved?

    Even on a purely secular level, it’s not just Internet startups that promote healthfulness among employees. If you want to be a heartless bean-counter about it, healthy employees are productive employees who provide more bang for the buck.

    Seems to me, given your general ire at the top brass of the Pastoral Center, you’d have more sympathy toward the rank and file and applaud any effort to give them a more pleasant work environment. Or is that nothing good can ever come from 66 Brooks?

  12. withheld says:

    Where does it say that long breaks for exercise are to be held during work time?

    The idea of the Fitness Challenge is that you incorporate exercise into your life generally–so you take the stairs instead of the elevator, walk instead of taking the bus a few blocks, or jog on your lunch break—that sort of thing. It’s not an invitation to take long breaks during work. That’s not what it’s supposed to be anyway. I don’t know what the RCAB is doing, but if you read the Fitness Challenge materials, you’ll see it’s about encouraging more healthful habits.

    The reason so many companies have bought into this and encourage it (through posters and memos and recognition for teams that rack up points on the pedometers) is that healthier employees have been proven to be more productive, more mentally-focused, less sluggish, and less likely to take days off.

    That’s the worldly sense of it. On a spiritual level, why wouldn’t you want to support honoring the God-given gift of life within through healthful habits? Exercise also helps reduce stress. We often sin when we feel stressed, so there’s another benefit. All in all, it seems like a very good idea.

    I don’t read this blog often, but I do check in periodically. The tone of this piece seems far from the altar. Such nastiness, and over what?

    • Thank you for your comment. It says in three places in the memo that this is a program for during the workday. In the table with the points schedule it clearly states “points may be earned during the workday only.” You seem to have missed all three specific references to that. If this was an all aspects of life healthy lifestyle program, there would have been no reason at all to blog about it.

      Take the stairs instead of the elevator? Great idea! Do 20 round trips from the first to fourth floors (2500 steps) and that is serious exercise. You only earn points if you do that “during the workday.” The program does not reward for walking instead pf taking the bus outside of work or even jogging outside of work hours. It very explicitly says this is for during the workday only. If you go running during your lunch break you still need time to eat lunch, and there is no suggestion that people stay later to make up for time spent exercising during the day.

      BCI agrees entirely with you about the merits of such programs when they promote all-round health and fitness any time you can exercise and make that a part of your daily routine. This program is designed to incent for exercise “during the workday only” and that is our basis for criticism.

  13. withheld says:

    This is what a typical fitness challenge is about

    “Earning points while at work” could mean parking farther away in the parking lot, taking a bike to work instead of the car, or using the stairs instead of the elevator.

    Unless you can show something from the RCAB stating clearly that employees are encouraged to work fewer hours to fit in exercise, I think it’s irresponsible to characterize fitness challenge as a big goof off endeavor. That’s just not fair.

    • This specific email promotion clearly says you can earn points “during the workday only.” Riding a bike to work is a great idea, but apparently would not count for points in this program. Did you actually read the blog post before commenting?

    • Angry Parish Council Member says:

      Based on your relentless defense of the RCAB program, citing other programs different from this one, you sound like you must work at the Pastoral Center. Do you work there?

      • Angry Parish Council Member says:

        Are you in HR at the Pastoral Center? You said a lot about what the fitness challenge is “supposed” to be that was never communicated publicly so either you have clairvoyant powers or you work in HR for the archdiocese. Which is it?

  14. withheld says:

    I did read the blog and nowhere does it say that employees are encouraged to not fulfil their work duties.

    I did, however, miss the point about exercise done off-hours not counting, but if you look at the weight loss goals, that would cover off-hours exercise.

    What blares is the sarcasm and nastiness.

    Sorry.. I just think attention is better spent elsewhere.

    • Withheld, It seems fairly obvious to BCI that employees were urged to exercise during the workday and partner with another employee–and no one told them in the program notification they should make up that time spent exercising by working a little later. At this point in the back and forth we should probably assume neither of us is likely to be swayed.

      Where we agree is two things. Yes, the post was sarcastic in tone. The leadership of this archdiocese continues to frustrate many people. It also seems that people paid six-figure salaries working for this archdiocese in HR/benefits should have realized that offering yoga in the Catholic Church was problematic, their challenge rules incented only workday exercise and the effort to do 60 flights of stairs up and down vs 3 should be worth 20x more points, not 2x. Would you not agree? That said, we could no doubt do better to moderate the level of sarcasm in our writing tone here.

      We also agree time is better spent elsewhere. If you have been following BCI, what posts have you felt resonated with you as topical areas where time is better spent?

  15. withheld says:

    Thanks for your reply. Happy Easter!

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