Program #0252 for Wednesday, March 7, 2012: Risk Management

March 7, 2012

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Today’s host(s): Scot Landry and Fr. Matt Williams

Today’s guest(s): Joe McEnness, Executive Director of Parish Services & Risk Management for the Archdiocese of Boston

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Today’s topics: Risk management for the Church

Summary of today’s show: How does one put a price on a relic of the Holy Cross? As director of risk management for the Archdiocese of Boston, Joe McEnness is tasked with managing risks associated with accidents and catastrophes to help prevent them in the first place, to make sure the Church is able to cope with them when they come, and then deal with recovering from any such loss or disaster. Scot Landry and Fr. Matt Williams talk with Joe about recent examples of disasters in the Archdiocese as well as the types of questions he asks as part of his job?

1st segment: Scot welcomed Fr. Matt back to the show. Last week, he was at the Theology of the Body Institute in Pennsylvania. Also, he’s started something new for Lent, a daily inspirational video blog with a meditation on Lent. He uses it to encourage people to go deeper. It can be seen at their website, on his Twitter account (@FrMatt4Boston), and their Facebook page. He records it on his iPhone each day wherever he is. They discussed how amazing it is to use the iPhone for ministry and the amazing capabilities it is.

Fr. Matt also talked about the conference he was at last week which was led by Christopher West who helped integrate Pope John Paul II’s teaching on the Theology of the Body into our lives.

Scot reminded listeners that tonight The Light Is On For You for confession at every church and chapel in the Archdiocese. If you’re looking for a church, go to

2nd segment: Scot and Fr. Matt welcomed Joe to the show. Scot asked Joe about his background. Joe commutes from Newport, Rhode Island, each day. It used to be even longer when his office was at the old chancery in Brighton. Before coming to the Archdiocese, Joe work in risk management for Budget Car Rental company and was based primarily out of Florida so he was traveling a lot. He was asked to come to the Archdiocese to help primarily with some of the litigation related to the abuse crisis. He thought it would be for 2 years, but it’s been 11 now.

Joe said his origins were in the insurance industry and over the years risk management has evolved to include elements of insurance, but entails helping an organization to take the risks necessary to grow and prosper and sustain.

Scot said Joe worked at Ford and Budget Rent-a-Car, but what are the greatest areas of risk in parishes and schools? Joe said you have to look at a couple of different areas. For example, there’s property risk. The Church has unique needs here because of the unique architecture and construction and there’s an extremely high value structure. It’s not a protected risk. So they look at the risks associated with owning and operating those properties. What’s most likely to happen and least likely to happen and the impact of them happening.

Scot said if our oldest churches burned down, it would probably be difficult to rebuild them to their same magnificence today. Sacred Heart in Weymouth was the most recent church in the Archdiocese to burn down and be rebuilt. It was rebuilt to be similar to the old building for about $10 million. Are you ensuring the church in its totality? How do you put a value on, say, a stained glass window with history and artistic value?

Joe said one of the things they bring to parishes through the collaborative efforts of the participants in the program is to gather the clout of a large insurance customer. It would be very difficult for a single parish to insure their own church, but the Archdiocese brings leverage when it wants to insure over 1,700 buildings. It’s not feasible to appraise value of the buildings every year so they have agreed upon values with the insurer every year that they adjust based on construction-related changes. One of the things he negotiates every year is a no-limit umbrella plan, which would cover, for example, a catastrophic earthquake. They look at all the factors and risks.

They discussed last year’s tornado in western Massachusetts. Scot asked about the risks involved. Joe said the likelihood of a damaging earthquake is very low. He said the tornado was not surprising either because western Mass. has had tornados historically. He talked about the amount of devastation that a tornado can cause.

Joe talked about the types of coverage churches would have. He said part of risk management is not just identifying the risk, but also the insurance you’re going to fund yourself and what you will have someone else fund. Another part is loss control, educating people, coming up with programs to identify the most likely problems and those with most impact and developing plans to mitigate them. One of the claims they see often is “slip and falls”. You have a large number of people going in and out of parish buildings, especially elderly and in the wintertime, which gives a high likelihood of slips and falls. Joe said their statistics show that they have a lower percentage of such claims than other similar-sized organizations, which he attributes both to good preparation and the caring nature of the people who work in parishes as well as parishioners themselves. People generally aren’t out for blood, but are just looking to be made whole, which is helped by the caring nature of the people at the parish who reach out to them.

Joe answered a question from Fr. Matt by saying all programs are umbrella programs. They don’t insure individual locations separately. It gives coverage of exposure they retain and allows them to negotiate better terms and conditions. That lack of a limit on buildings is part of the value of that umbrella. He said 99% of insurance programs out there would have had lower caps. In Weymouth, without the “no-limit” policy the insurer wouldn’t have paid out the total to rebuild and the parish would have had a smaller church or had to pay a lot more out of pocket.

Scot asked Joe about the flooding we had a couple years ago. Joe said it was a catastrophic year. There were three incidents that were classified as catastrophic. 180 locations had flood damage of varying degrees. There were about 106 parishes affected and the rest were institutions. The largest flood loss in one location that year was $700,000 in one location and the total that year was about $3 million.

he said the Risk Managements website allows parishes and institutions to file claims online. The first step is to fix the immediate damage and pump water out and remove damaged furnishings. They have companies on retainer that they can deploy immediately. They then work with contractors and construction consultants to develop estimates. The Facilities office helps oversee reconstruction. They will help fund temporary locations to enable the parish to continue their mission.

3rd segment: It’s time to announce this week’s winner of the WQOM Benefactor Raffle.

Our prize this week is the book, Praying for Our Priests a Guide to Praying For the Priesthood in Union with Mary, Queen of the Clergy, by Msgr. Peter Dunne and Vicki Herout; and the CD “Catholic Answers Live: Is Anything Deviant Anymore”, signed by Jerry Usher and Teresa Tomeo.

This week’s benefactor card raffle winner is Michael Stewart from Boston, MA. Congratulations, Michael!

If you would like to be eligible to win in an upcoming week, please visit For a one-time $30 donation, you’ll receive the Station of the Cross benefactor card and key tag, making you eligible for WQOM’s weekly raffle of books, DVDs, CDs and religious items. We’ll be announcing the winner each Wednesday during “The Good Catholic Life” program.

4th segment: Fr. Matt asked about special insurance for the theft of the relic of the Holy Cross from the Cathedral of the Holy Cross. Joe said there are special property coverages that they will place on particularly valuable items. They look at certain high-value and unique items and have appraisals done. They do that to obtain an agreement with the insurer up front about the reimbursement value. Scot asked how something of spiritual value can be appraised. Joe said it’s difficult to come up with a value, but they look to what it would it cost to replace it with something as close to it as possible. The original item is priceless, but they would ask the Cardinal what the process would be to replace the relic and what the cost would be of going through the replacement process.

Scot asked how parishes insure against crime. Some parishes are in tough neighborhoods. Parishes aren’t in the business of keeping people out of the churches, especially those who look seedy or troubled. We want our churches to be open to all. Joe said one of the unique elements of risk management in the Church is the fact that priests need to have their arms open and their churches open to all. He tries to tell people that his job is listening to what a pastor needs to do to accomplish their mission and help them feel comfortable with what they need to do to do it. They provide education and training with regard to best practices, help arrange for police patrols, making sure valuables are kept locked up and the like. Joe said the most common kind of theft is internal theft, from people working inside parishes and organizations.

Joe talked about the crisis management and response teams that they can provide to organizations and parishes when something does go wrong. They also discussed how they deal with data breaches and computer data theft.

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