By Paul Natinsky
As the Chaldean Eparchy of St. Thomas the Apostle grows in size and moves steadily into the 21st century, the Bishop and church leaders face increasingly complex and time consuming financial responsibilities. To smoothly facilitate these changes, Bishop Francis Kalabat and the Diocese’s Financial Council hired Walter Nevolis as its chief financial officer.
Nevolis comes to the job fresh from five years as CFO of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Toledo, after spending most of his career in finance with manufacturing firms in industries such as auto parts and aviation.
In his new role, Nevolis will be responsible for a broad range of financial management and accounting functions in areas such as human resources, benefit plans, insurance, investments, budgets, building projects, information technology and other related areas.
The hiring follows several years of policy and process development led, in part, by Monsignor Zouhair Kejbou, who serves as Vicar for Finances for the Eparchy. Monsignor Kejbou said the Canon law requires the Eparchy to manage parishioner contributions faithfully and transparently and dates back to the time of Jesus, when a group of women provided for Jesus’ material needs so He could spend his time preaching, teaching and healing.
Historically, the Dioceses have relied on Bishops and their assistants to manage finances, but in recent decades managing finances and the time it takes to do so have led to the formation of Financial Councils working in concert with CFOs, said Bishop Walter Hurley, who retired from his post with the Grand Rapids Diocese.
Nevolis will be reporting to Bishop Francis but will work closely with the newly created Diocesan Finance Council.
“One of the big aspects of the job is understanding the Bishop’s needs. The Finance Council tries to identify needs such as building improvements and church programs and help him get those things accomplished,” said Nevolis.
“The bigger goals are evangelization and getting the message out and the programs that go with that,” he added. “The lynchpin in all of this is the parish. The parish has got to be financially sound to accomplish the things they need to get done.”
Monsignor Kejbou said Nevolis, who started his new job Nov. 1, impressed him as a committed Catholic who is “sympathetic and open,” and possesses a knowledge and experience of church finances from his five years with the Ohio Diocese.
“Once I talked to the Bishop I was sold on the job,” said Nevolis. “It was like I had known him a long time. My wife and I walked out of dinner with him and I said, ‘This is the job.’”
Nevolis, who was selected from a field of 12 qualified applicants, said the he took his first job within the Catholic Church based on urging from his priest in Ohio. “I got a tap on the shoulder from my pastor at the time and he said, ‘Walt, I don’t know if you know, but the CFO position at the diocese is open and they are looking for someone.’”
Nevolis agreed to consider the opportunity. His pastor didn’t wait for a decision and tossed Nevolis’ name in the hat. “It’s the church world, so when they tap your shoulder, it’s a strong tap,” said Nevolis. “You are guided. You think you are making the decision yourself, but you’re pushed. It’s a calling. That’s the difference between working for the church and then just a job. You’ve got to be able to say, this is something I believe in and this is something I’m being called to.”
While the need for a CFO and help from lay people with expertise in finance, legal matters and related issues is well established, it will take Nevolis time to familiarize himself with the financial picture at the Eparchy and to help shape a plan that will continue to satisfy both Canon law and civil law.