Spitzer Center leads diocesan staff on ‘Journey to Excellence’

Categories: Around the Diocese

The Visitor

Staff members of the Diocese of St. Cloud are participating in a new formation program that aims to strengthen their service to the church by fostering better teamwork and a renewed culture of evangelization in their offices and ministries.

A key starting place is understanding happiness and how it shapes a person’s decisions, relationships and work life, according to the Spitzer Center for Ethical Leadership, which conducted a day-long “Journey to Excellence” retreat for 48 diocesan employees Jan. 30 at St. Mary, Help of Christians Parish in St. Augusta.

“To best serve parishes we need to make sure that we have a culture that makes the staff not only highly functional, but also very approachable and very constructive so they can serve their constituents better,” said Renee Allerheiligen, one of the retreat’s facilitators, during an interview with The Visitor.


James Berlucchi, executive director of the Spitzer Center, makes a presentation during a diocesan retreat day Jan. 30 at St. Mary, Help of Christians in St. Augusta. Photo by Dianne Towalski/The Visitor

“In the process of doing that, and simply having a more joyful atmosphere, we promote cultures of evangelization and provide more fertile ground for the efforts of evangelization,” she said.

The Spitzer Center has conducted similar retreats and trainings around the country to help church organizations “optimize their culture, confidence, spirituality and faith for the new evangelization,” according to the organization. The center was founded in 2005 by Jesuit Father Robert Spitzer, a scholar and former president of Gonzaga University in Spokane, Wash., and Jim Berlucchi, former executive director of Legatus, an international association of Catholic CEOs.

Berlucchi also helped to facilitate the St. Augusta gathering, which Bishop Donald Kettler attended.

“For any organization, you have to look at its morale and effectiveness and how it meets the needs of what it was established for,” Bishop Kettler said. “This gives us an opportunity to look at all of that. Both our diocesan offices and parishes will benefit.”

Four levels of happiness

The retreat day focused on “the Four Levels of Happiness,” which range from immediate gratification at level 1 and satisfaction from personal achievement at level 2 to happiness derived from serving the greater good at 3 and ultimate goodness at 4.

Each level has positive aspects, and they all need to be harmonized in a person’s life, the presenters noted. But one level will dominate and drive a person’s meaning and purpose in life, including their work life.

“If we start building organizational cultures that are constructive and rooted in healthy happiness levels 2, 3 and 4, we’re going to have a profound impact,” Allerheiligen said.

Bishop Kettler said that understanding the levels and their impact on organizational culture “will lead to better collaboration and people asking the question even more often: ‘What can I do to help?’ — whether they’re working with colleagues, other offices or parishes.”

The retreat included group discussions on the levels of happiness, recorded video presentations from Father Spitzer, clips from popular films and Mass.

It was the first step in a process that will likely continue into 2016. The next steps include online training assignments and a confidential survey of diocesan staff members that will help demonstrate how constructive the current organizational culture is, how it connects to the concepts of happiness, and the vision for the ideal culture.

The staff will review the results of the survey during a second retreat day in May. It will be followed by more educational offerings and leadership training to help the diocese achieve its ideal culture.

The priests of the St. Cloud Diocese are also participating in a similar Spitzer Center program beginning in March.