Jim Milway, outgoing Chancellor of Temporal Affairs at the Archdiocese of Toronto, has left the archdiocese on solid financial footings for his successor. Photo by Michael Swan

Life-long lessons lessened Milway’s load

  • November 5, 2022

Reflecting upon his life’s work has brought Jim Milway to the conclusion his whole business career set the stage for him to succeed as the Archdiocese of Toronto’s Chancellor of Temporal Affairs.

“I was able to apply experience and lessons learned from my career in marketing and business consulting,” said Milway, who’s tenure came to a close at the end of October. “I am very lucky to have been called to serve the Church and its people in exercising financial stewardship.”

A glimpse decade in the role shines a light on an impressive list of accomplishments. One of his earliest feats was guiding the Family of Faith campaign, starting in 2014, as Cardinal Thomas Collins set an ambitious goal of raising $105 million to support the archdiocese’s pastoral plan. 

Crediting the pastors and parish leaders from the archdiocese’s 225 member parishes with how they “responded magnificently to the challenge set out by His Eminence,” the final tally blew past that goal and raised a grand total of $145 million. 

Milway worked in tandem with then Auxiliary Bishop Wayne Kirkpatrick — now Bishop of Antigonish, N.S. — to manage an advisory committee to determine how the funds should be allocated. Ultimately, donations helped rebuild St. Michael’s Cathedral, updated the archdiocese’s web technology capacity and infrastructure, funded formation and leadership development initiatives and supported a host of local projects to improve parish life. 

Milway said the Family of Faith campaign showed him “that our parishioners are quite willing to give sacrificially if they are presented with a solid case for support.”

Navigating the administration of the archdiocese during the COVID-19 pandemic was another defining experience of Milway’s tenure. At the pandemic’s outset in March 2020, Milway said the archdiocese “was reacting to the events just like everyone else.” The potential of the archdiocese taking a drastic financial hit loomed large as churches shut down.

“There was a lot of hiccups in the early, early days when the public health officials in the province were figuring out what to do, and we would have to roll with those punches,” he said. 

“Our biggest challenge financially was if we’re closed, and nobody could work and we’re not going to receive any revenue through the offering because there is no (public) Mass, what do we do with all our staff?”

Originally Milway and archdiocesan leadership felt they would have to formulate a financial scheme that would have required layoffs or salary cuts to ensure economic stability. But they were able to stickhandle around this, with the introduction of the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) program by the federal government brightening the outlook considerably.

“It saved us a lot of grief,” said Milway. “What (the subsidy) meant was if you kept someone on staff, the federal government would cover 75 per cent of the costs. That was a big help for us as we could keep everyone on staff and then figure out how they could work from home and not worry about laying people off.”

CIBC, the archdiocese’s bank, also eased the burden by providing backup credit if required. 

 Milway credits parish leaders who did a strong job informing congregants how they can participate in online, pre-authorized financial giving.

“A lot of our pastors found that even our parishioners who were not doing pre-authorized giving would drop cheques off at the rectory, or they would stuff their envelope in the mail box. It was quite uplifting through all this how our parishioners understood that parishes needed funding during this (pandemic) — they still had to keep the furnace going, etc. — and they were there to help them. We ended up a lot better than we thought we would with the offertory.”

Milway also was a key hand in the communication plan that helped parishes and pastors develop robocalls and emai campaigns to ensure that thousands of Greater Toronto Area churchgoers knew how to live-stream liturgical services.

Throughout this public health emergency, and throughout his whole tenure, Milway said what made his position more special “was to work under the extraordinary leadership of Cardinal Collins.” This respect was mutual as Collins praised Milway in a release announcing Milway’s retirement, stating, “I have appreciated his many valuable contributions to the archdiocese as well as his advice to me in this important role.” 

Milway agreed when asked if he was the type of leader who seeks to find a better way through research and picking the brain of experts serving in the same vocation. 

“I’d tell my successor to do it even more. Forge relationships with counterparts south of the border because places like Chicago, Boston, New York and L.A., they are dioceses the same size we are — bigger in some cases — that have gone through the same challenges. The more we can learn from them the better. I remember, coming out of a marketing background, we used to say, ‘we got a test market just to the south of us 10 times the size of us, we should use it.’ ”

This of course came in handy as COVID restrictions were slowly lifted. Dioceses in the United States were ahead of the curve compared to Canada in initially reopening churches for public worship during the pandemic, so Milway and his colleagues sought advice on how to market the reopening and how to institute the various public health protocols such as social distancing. 

Another example of Milway’s conviction to incorporate practices proven successful elsewhere is in the realm of ethical investing. Following the path of the Loretto Sisters, Sisters of St. Joseph and the Basilian Fathers, Milway began instructing investment managers to be thoughtful of environmental, social and governance factors (ESG) to guide decisions made with the archdiocesan master trust fund. 

He told The Catholic Register at the time that ethical investing is “something we should do because we’re Catholic.”

As Milway dives into the retirement chapter of his life, he characterizes the temporal administration of the archdiocese as being in good shape. 

“We have improved our accounting and information systems to help our pastors and their parishes carry out their mission more effectively. I’m proud of the senior management team in Temporal Affairs. The greatest financial challenge ahead of us is the need to get Mass attendance back to its pre-COVID levels. Obviously, this is important for our evangelical mission. But from a purely financial perspective we succeed where we have vibrant participation at Mass and parish events.”

What’s next for Milway? He said he plans on doing some more travelling with his wife, Sheila, working on his golf game, converting his extensive collection of 35 mm slides into digital images and diving into his family genealogy. 

Please support The Catholic Register

Unlike many media companies, The Catholic Register has never charged readers for access to the news and information on our website. We want to keep our award-winning journalism as widely available as possible. But we need your help.

For more than 125 years, The Register has been a trusted source of faith-based journalism. By making even a small donation you help ensure our future as an important voice in the Catholic Church. If you support the mission of Catholic journalism, please donate today. Thank you.