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Phoenix diocese cuts jobs; no such plans in Tucson

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and The Arizona Republic

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix, citing the poor economy and a decline in donations, has eliminated 17 positions, resulting in 11 layoffs. Two other positions were converted to part time.

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Tucson will not lay off employees, a spokesman said.

“Our situation is quite a bit different,” said the Rev. Albert Schifano, vicar general of the Tucson diocese. “We went through bankruptcy a couple of years ago, so we’re used to living pretty austere.”

Schifano said the diocese is on target with bankruptcy debt payments, and Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas recently instituted tighter controls on spending and travel. The debt remaining from the bankruptcy is about $5 million, Schifano said.

James Dwyer, spokesman for the Phoenix diocese, said the diocese anticipates a budget shortfall of 6 percent to 10 percent in fiscal 2009-10. The 2008 budget was almost $129 million.

The eliminated and reduced positions represented about 13 percent of the staff at the diocese headquarters in downtown Phoenix.

In addition to the layoffs, the diocese has scheduled three weeklong unpaid furloughs, frozen salaries, restricted travel and imposed a hiring freeze.

Neither Bishop Thomas Olmsted nor his chief assistant, the Rev. Fred Adamson, was available for comment.

Among those let go were the assistant superintendent of Catholic schools and the director of the Kino Institute, the diocese’s program for theological study and pastoral-ministry formation.

“The layoffs are not a reflection on those who were let go,” Dwyer said. “All those who are gone were good people.”

He said collections taken weekly at Sunday Masses are down 3 percent this year, and the diocese fears that number will grow to 8 to 10 percent by the end of the year. In addition, real-estate values have declined, and investments have lost money.

“This is no different from any other company,” Dwyer said. “Uncertainty is a problem with every organization.”

The Phoenix diocese is not alone in facing economic problems. Numerous other dioceses nationwide have taken similar steps, and some have gone even further, closing parishes and schools.

Dwyer said several of the diocese’s 92 parishes and 56 schools also have had layoffs, but he had no further details.

He said the diocese intends to continue its core programs, including services for the poor and unemployed.

“We’re doing our level best to keep that funding as high as possible,” Dwyer said.

Tucson’s Schifano said the diocese launched its Annual Catholic Appeal on Sunday and hopes to reach the goal of $3.4 million in donations.

The appeal supports 26 ministries and charities the Tucson diocese operates, including partial funding for the bishop’s office, which includes employees of a number of diocesan offices and ministries.

The diocese here did not have a Catholic Appeal last year, replacing it with a long-term capital campaign, but in 2007, the Catholic Appeal brought in more than $4 million.

“Aside from being very conservative, we have no plans for layoffs,” Schifano said. “We’re hoping our years of being conservative will help us weather this storm.”

Phoenix diocese cuts jobs; Tucson diocese expects no layoffs

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