From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Diocese’s new secretariat member brings lifetime of business, management skills to work for Church

by Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor, Inland Register

(From the May 3, 2001 edition of the Inland Register

On May 1, the Spokane Diocese welcomes the newest member of the secretariat, the bishop’s administrative and advisory council.

Michael Miller, a former executive and engineer with Honeywell, has been named Bishop’s Secretary for Diocesan Business Affairs.

He replaces Providence Sister Berna-dette Botch, who died last December.

Miller joins the other members of the secretariat in working with Bishop Skylstad: Duane Schafer, Superintendent and Secretary of Catholic Schools; Betty Newstrom, Evangelization; Father Mark Pautler, chancellor and judicial vicar; Donna Hanson, Social Ministries; and Msgr. John Steiner, vicar general.

By background and training, Miller is an electrical engineer. After completing his bachelor’s degree at Marquette University he began work as a research engineer for the Allen Bradley company in Milwaukee, Wis. He completed an MBA in finance in 1979.

He worked for over 30 years in progressively responsible jobs with various companies throughout the United States — in research; in management — business, engineering, manufacturing.

A lifelong Catholic, Miller began to hear other stirrings in his life, in his prayer.

He describes it as “a strong feeling that God was calling me to leave the business world and devote the last 10 years of my work life to him, in thanksgiving for all the good things he’d blessed us with, and they are many.”

That was about four years ago. In the course of the breakfast conversation with his wife, Kathy, he said, she told him, “I’ve also been thinking of the same thing.”

A time for change led to an examination of his life, his career goals, their goals as a couple, as a family. He and Kathy have three children and are grandparents. Their youngest son is a student at Gonzaga University.

He inquired of the Pittsburgh Diocese, about possibly entering the deacon formation program. The timing was off for that, but once the family returned to the Spokane Diocese he was able to make application for the next deacon formation class in Eastern Washington.

Mike and Kathy had of course talked about the form their life would take once their youngest child completed college. The opportunity with the diocese arrived at a point in their prayer and discernment when they seemed to be particularly open to the call of God.

“The door opened and I went through and here I am,” he said with a laugh.

Certainly his past career commitments have been varied, in a sense, and complex. His new job with the diocese also has a wide range of responsibility.

He has spent the last few weeks “trying to get a handle” on all of the pieces which make up his administrative division.

“It’s a complex organization,” he said, and his division includes several disparate entities, from the diocese’s Fiscal Services Office, Development, computers and information technology, building management, and the offset print shop in the basement of the Catholic Pastoral Center. “Woven in around that is human resources, and in and around all that there’s quite a bit of committee-type work,” he said. “Right now I’m just trying to get my arms around what it all is,” starting with meetings with each of the offices falling under his supervision, so he can “find out what activities are ongoing, priorities, and finally, how can I serve them?”

Although management in business often gets a critical eye, Miller talks about his role as one of service. The St. Peter parishioner has participated in his parish’s Finance Council and All Saints School’s Finance Board as well.

He voices few regrets about his change in life, but one he mentioned is telling.

He talked about the economy and the present downturn in the business climate nationally. He described himself “one of the last remaining voices of the people in the organization.

“Everybody agrees that the (economic) downturn is going to be short-term,” he said. “Our task as management is to bridge that gap and be prepared when business turns around. It turns around with a fury.”

Traditionally, he said, management technique has been to lay off workers when business slows. The higher a manager’s level of responsibility in a company, “the more pressure you get” to shed workers in a short-sighted effort to control costs.

“I know that’s not right,” he said, “not right for the business, not right for the people. By the time you’re done paying the severance you’re trying to hire them all back again. There are other tools” that can be used so that the business survives a softening economy while workers still retain their jobs. The question managers must ask is not, “How can we cut costs?” but rather, “How do you bridge the gap without losing your key resources?”

“That’s a piece I will miss, not being able to drive that forward,” he said.

Clearly, he comes to the diocese with a remarkable background. According to Msgr. Steiner, “I am pleased that we are able to hire someone with Mike’s extensive background and experience.... He is deeply committed to the life of the Church and will soon learn the plethora of interrelationships and missions which make up the life of the Diocese of Spokane.”

In a letter he wrote describing himself, he notes that one of his strengths is that he is “perceived as an inspirational leader.

“I believe that everything I have in life is a gift from God, a blessing to be shared with others,” he wrote. “Our faith cannot be left at the church door after Mass on Sunday.”


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