By Harry J. Dudley
I was grateful to know that members of NACC might like to know more about how the USCCB Subcommittee on Certification for Ecclesial Ministry and Service approves standards and procedures for certification. Much of the work by your executive director and board to prepare the materials was behind the scenes, and I am grateful for the opportunity to help highlight just how much work they actually did. In fact, NACC’s process will now be promoted as a best practice and model for others!
There are actually three stages of the review process: the initial USCCB office review, a peer committee review, and the actual subcommittee review.
USCCB Office Review: We review all submitted documentation, give recommendations to the organization, and try to determine if the revised materials are complete enough for the next step in the process, i.e. the peer review. We are happy that a diocesan staff member whose standards were approved this year called this “coaching for success.”
Our primary focus is to be sure that no one is rejected for incompleteness. We try to ensure that all requested documentation has been included as outlined in our online handbook (see www.usccb.org/certification for a more complete list). We provide templates for all sections. In the case of NACC, an important question was: How does the organization use and educate members on the use of the “Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services?”
Your board and staff were in constant dialogue with us to be sure that all was done as thoroughly as needed. Once we could agree that all was ready, documentation was moved to the Peer Review Committee.
The Peer Review: Each peer review includes at least three people: a bishop, an office staff person, a consultant, and/or an adviser from a similar organization. The bishop chairs the whole process. The members of this committee review all annual reports since the last approval and the communications to date with the office. During this step, the national organization representative is asked to be ready to answer any questions about: the demographics of the members and how they reflect the diversity of those served; the consultation process used in developing the standards and procedures; the formation and ongoing education both of candidates and of those who implement the certification process; and whether a process is in place for ongoing review and revision of certification standards.
Based on the answers to these questions, the peer review committee makes a recommendation to the Subcommittee to: approve (seven years); offer limited approval pending minor changes (three years or less); or delay approval pending major changes needed. NACC was recommended for approval without hesitation.
Subcommittee Review: Next, the bishop member of the peer review committee submits his recommendation to the subcommittee on Certification for Ecclesial Ministry and Service. When the subcommittee reviews the recommendation, it checks whether all questions raised by the previous two reviews have been answered adequately and whether there are any minor changes or recommendations to be addressed and reported on in the first annual report.
At the end of this review, the subcommittee votes on whether the recommendation of the peer review committee will be accepted or amended.
NACC’s letter of approval was sent Sept. 15, 2014, to David A. Lichter, the executive director, and to the chair of the NACC board, Ms. Bonnie Burnett, M.Div. We commended NACC for the great care and detail in revisions and for the addition of the fine educational supports in the NACC Now e-newsletter. We also praised the board’s walk-through process in revising the standards, which clearly showed the lessons learned, and the materials added because of the correlations done to National Certification Standards.
The subcommittee did offer recommendations for further consideration for NACC to respond to in its next annual report. The material submitted was exceptionally well-done. Subcommittee members acknowledged that none of the recommendations made would give cause for denying approval. The recommendations were offered for NACC’s consideration as the organization continues to refine and improve its efforts.
History indeed repeats itself. NACC, in its earlier structure, was the first organization to request approval of national standards for ministry and is once again the first organization to be re-approved by the new subcommittee. Kudos to the NACC staff and board for an incredibly well-done job.
Harry J. Dudley is associate director for certification of ecclesial ministry for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.