WelCom September 2020
After a career in accountancy and finance spanning almost 30 years, mainly in Invercargill, Southlander John Prendergast moved with his wife Donna to Wellington in February this year, to take up the role of General Manager of the Archdiocese of Wellington (ADW).
A graduate from Otago University with a degree in accounting, John’s career has involved financial operations, business management and CEO leadership in private, public, corporate and not-for-profit sectors in Invercargill, Christchurch and the UK. Outside of work John is very interested in community and has been involved on boards with a number of organisations ranging from local schools, arts, television, philanthropy and roles with Rotary International. He enjoys sport and finds watching sport relaxing.
Eight months into his new role as General Manager John talks with WelCom about his vision for the Archdiocese and some of the challenges ahead.
John’s role as General Manager involves developing a strategy to keep moving the Archdiocese forward in pursuit of its mission.
‘This involves marshalling and managing the finances, the people, and the assets that enable us to do that. And to achieve that, we need an organisational culture that reflects who we are,’ says John. ‘As I said at my interview for the role, I have a head for finance, a heart for people and community, and a Catholic soul. And I do like to think those are the qualities I bring to ADW – as well as a sense of humour.’
John said he and Donna’s decision to move from Invercargill was about timing. ‘Our three daughters were all going to have grown up and left home, and Donna and I decided the time was right for a move to a new city and a new challenge. I’ve spent the past 22 years in CEO roles, and I’m a strong Catholic, so the role at the Archdiocese was ideal.’
John works closely with Cardinal John Dew and the Board of Administration, who provide the pastoral leadership, the governance and the direction for the Archdiocese. His role is driven by the objectives identified at the Synod three years ago.
‘Those objectives tell us what we’re here for. They are our north star, guiding everything we do. One of my objectives in the coming 12 months is to get around each of our 23 parishes, and our 46 schools which are a real treasure of the Catholic network. The connections that students make through our Catholic schools stay with them for life.’
As a manager John says he is optimistic, people-oriented, and communicative.
‘I’ve always believed that staff are much more likely to work hard if they’re passionate about their work, and have a workplace culture that is positive and enjoyable. Building a positive workplace culture is critically important to me.
‘Pope Francis talks often about the need for the Church to go out to those on “the peripheries” – my vision is to steward and build on our existing assets, so that resources are available for the Archdiocese to minister to those on the peripheries.
‘We have some significant financial and strategic challenges – a substantial forecast operating deficit for the year to 31 March 2021, and a significant collection of assets that we must make sure are working as hard for us as possible. The biggest challenges will be in getting our financial house in order, while at the same time building the mission of the Church. This will require us all to be ready to embrace change.’
Other challenges to deal with in the immediate future, says John, are the ongoing impact of Covid-19 on the diocese, and the Royal Commission of Inquiry into State Abuse which will focus on Church care institutions later in the year.
John says he loves the Catholic spirit of the Archdiocese.
‘I see it every day – at meetings that begin and end with prayer and reflection, in the regular prayers in the Sacred Space at the Catholic Centre at 10.20am on Tuesdays, at the Chrism Mass, at Mission Expo, in the outreach work that Catholic Social Services have led during lockdown, in our Ministries, and in our parishes and schools. And most importantly in the way our staff interact and in Cardinal John’s leadership that is hugely admired and respected.’