New Staff Structure: A Letter from Bishop Sean

Dear Friends: 

In the four months since we celebrated the beginning of our partnership with a festive Eucharist at St. Paul’s Cathedral in Buffalo, the leaders and staff of both of our dioceses have been working hard with me to lay the groundwork for strong and productive collaboration. Today I want to update you on our progress and invite you to participate in developing the mission strategy that will guide our work together beginning in 2020. First, I am pleased to say that our staff team is now in place. Beginning this month, the bishop’s staff includes:

Canon to the Ordinary the Rev. Cathy Dempesy-Sims:  Cathy, formerly canon for connections in Western New York, will oversee congregational development, clergy transitions, and diocesan ministries including Christian formation; children, youth and young adults; and outreach. Reporting to Cathy will be:

  • The Rev. Martha Ishman, Canon for Transitions (part-time)
  • The Rev. Al Johnson, congregational development consultant (contract)
  • Wendy Schumacher, Missioner for Youth and Children (part-time)

Canon for Administration Vanessa Butler:  Vanessa, who has been canon for administration in Northwestern Pennsylvania, will oversee administration, governance, and operational issues and will serve as my executive assistant. Reporting to Vanessa will be:

  • Megin Sewak, Missioner for Communication & Development (full-time)
  • Michael Brown, Missioner for Administration (full-time)
  • The Rev. Joann Piatko, Assistant for Ordinations (part-time, non-stipendiary)

Canon for Finance Cindy Dougan:  Cindy, who has been canon for finance in Northwestern Pennsylvania, will oversee the finances and budgets of both dioceses. Working with Cindy will be Maria Manocchio, Missioner for Finance (full-time). Maria will oversee the work of George Czapko, sexton in the New York office. 

Canon for Strategic Change the Rev. Ruth Woodliff-Stanley:  Ruth, who is new to both of our dioceses, joins us half-time for an initial period of two years to assist us with planning and implementing a mission strategy that can encompass our entire region. Ruth, who also serves as senior vice president for strategic change with the Episcopal Church Building Fund, has been canon to the ordinary in the Diocese of Colorado, a parish priest, and a consultant to several dioceses in the area of strategic change. She brings abundant experience to our partnership. 

Director for Integration Danielle Dolin-Bane, Ed.D.:  Danielle, a leadership consultant with expertise in measuring, evaluating, and integrating staff cultures, will work on a contractual basis with staff in both the Pennsylvania and New York offices to coordinate workflow, goals and objectives, and workplace culture. 

Assisting me and the rest of the staff will be Howard Gondree, financial consultant; Ellen Fowler, a consultant and coach in leadership and change management; and Canticle Communications. 

You can find contact information for each of these staff members on the Western New York website and the Northwestern Pennsylvania website

In this new staff structure, we have eliminated the part-time position of website and social media manager in the Diocese of Western New York. I am grateful to Elisabeth Brauza-Hughes, who has held that position, and ask that you join me in praying for her in this time of transition. Day-to-day communications responsibilities will transition to Megin Sewak between now and October. 

Please also wish a happy second retirement to Lorraine Hapeman, who graciously returned to the office last year to assist Bishop Bill at the end of his episcopacy. We are eliminating the position of executive assistant to the bishop; Vanessa Butler will continue to serve that role for me. 

Communications
As you know if you participated in the recent online communications survey, we are actively working on a new communications plan for both dioceses that will include a new website, weekly newsletters, social media, and more resources for congregational communications ministry. We expect to launch this new communications plan, including a new website, at our diocesan convention in October. If you have questions or comments, please email Rebecca Wilson at Canticle Communications. 

Mission Strategy Planning
At pre-convention meetings this fall, at convention, and at regional meetings in November and December, we will spend time together developing a new strategy for our common mission. Together, we will come together as one church to discern goals that can energize congregations across our region and provide us with new opportunities to experiment for the sake of the Gospel and the people of God in our communities.

As you may remember, last October, I spoke about the way that I hope our collaboration on this new strategy will build the body of Christ and fire our imaginations what might be possible in our region. The 2020 budgets that will be presented at convention will allocate funds for new mission in our congregations and communities, and the plan we will develop together will guide our investment of those funds.

I hope that all of you will participate in one or more of the mission strategy meetings, and in particular, that you will all attend convention on October 25 and 26 in Erie and encourage the people of your congregations to do the same. Our work there will be energetic and participatory, and our hope is that people from all parts of our dioceses will take part in this work that is so critical to our future. Please watch for more information about upcoming meetings and convention in your diocesan newsletter.

As I said last October, God has called us to a new adventure, and we are headed into uncharted territory. I am grateful to be on this journey with you, and I look forward to seeing you soon.

Faithfully,

The Rt. Rev. Sean Rowe
Bishop of Western New York and Northwestern Pennsylvania