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MAS aids volunteers in giving gifts of service

By  Paddy Bowen, Catholic Register Special
  • December 8, 2022

Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds
(Matthew 5:16)

In the midst of the thoughtful days of Advent and with the glory of Christmas just ahead, Christians may not yet be looking toward their new year in the Church and in the world. But when January arrives many of us will consider “New Year’s resolutions” involving losing a little weight, getting to the gym more often, doing projects around the house and perhaps considering volunteer work.

People of faith are disproportionately more likely to volunteer, and to contribute more hours of volunteer time, than the population as a whole. Not only is the machinery of parish life driven by the power of volunteering, so many causes and achievements of Canada’s overall charity sector involve volunteers fulfilling their religious beliefs along with their hopes for a better world.

The choices of how to get involved are as endless as the many challenges and goals of society: health and long-term care; social services for the poor, marginalized, disabled, newcomer; community sports and recreation; environmental causes; political advocacy; fighting for cures and responses to disease are examples.

Some are inclined to roll up sleeves and do the work, cook the meals, raise the money, run the event. Others help out on boards, in planning or in oversight functions.

In Toronto, a small organization offers a unique model for enabling highly skilled (mostly retired or “winding down” professionals) to give back. Management Advisory Service (MAS) recruits experienced volunteers from different backgrounds and connects them to charities needing consulting help.  For 30 years MAS volunteer consultants have worked with 1,500 non-profits grappling with management, governance and financial issues, providing literally millions of dollars of pro-bono support. 

Chris Govern is like so many MAS volunteers: deeply committed, hugely skilled. Her background made her the perfect choice when Rosalie Hall needed help in 2016. Chris’ professional work was in banking, and she retired young, 20 years ago, as vice-president for small business at CIBC.  But it was her early life, growing up literally in the shadow of Notre Dame, attending Little Flower parish and being educated by the Sisters of the Holy Cross in South Bend, Indiana, that made her such a great fit with the board at Rosalie Hall.  

“I grew up in a social justice Catholic home,” Chris says. “My parents marched against Vietnam and fought for civil rights and shared their love of volunteering with me and my eight brothers and sisters. Joining MAS when I retired was the perfect fit for me to combine what I believe, how I was raised, and my professional skills.”

The board at Rosalie Hall was grappling with a number of issues.  They couldn’t necessarily define what wasn’t working, but they knew they wanted to make changes. Chris helped them assess where they needed to focus and what policies, committees and structures would move them ahead. 

“As always these were good people, doing important work, just needing a bit of an outsider to guide the change process,” Chris notes. “Though it certainly wasn’t a requirement, it was helpful that I had a good understanding of their history as a Catholic charity, and the unique language and philosophy that brings into conversation and documentation.”  

Chris and the 300-plus volunteers who have been part of the MAS family over the past 30 years have provided so much help to others.  

“But I’m the lucky one,” says Chris, “because my work at MAS has made such a difference in my life.”

Of course, COVID took its toll on the non-profit sector. Organizations struggled to find new models of helping people and causes themselves impacted by isolation, overwork, stress and fear. Many employees and countless volunteers stepped away. Many never came back.  

In 2022, for the first time ever, MAS wasn’t able to help 23 of the more than 200 charities that requested service. It is now actively recruiting new volunteer consultants through

Every hour of volunteer time is an act of goodness. “There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work” (Corinthians 1, 12: 5-6). However you choose to be what St. James called a “doer of the Word,” your light will surely shine in 2023.  

(Bowen is executive director of Management Advisory Service. She was executive director of the Felician Sisters St. Felix Centre, from 2007 to 2014.)

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