Vanna Ceretta is the bursar and director of the Administrative Office of the Diocese of Padua (Italy). She is married and mother of three children. She has worked 18 years in the diocesan Mission Office as coordinator. Since 2014 she had been doing coordination work in the bursar's and administrative offices and in 2019 she has become bursar. The Diocese of Padua has more than one million faithful, with almost 500 parishes. It depends directly on the Episcopal Vicar for the temporal goods of the Church. It has a budget for the diocese alone of about 10 million euros. In 2020 alone it has spent more than 38 million euros on local charitable activities and 48 million on charity with other churches. All of this can be seen in the reports that year after year they present in an exemplary exercise of transparency.
What is it that makes people increasingly generous and what characterizes them?
-I would like to respond with an image that comes to us from the Gospel. Jesus is in Bethany and a woman pours on the master a precious and abundant perfume of nard, a gesture of incalculable value, for most people considered an excess, a waste. Instead, the scent invades the scene and gives itself by spreading. Here is this absolutely unprecedented gesture that speaks to us of a generosity that is unexpected and precious gratuitousness. What, then, characterizes the generosity of people? Their gratuitousness in giving, in offering, without calculation and without seeking their own benefit. I have in mind a couple of friends of mine, both very committed professionally and already parents of three children, who welcomed a teenage girl into their home. She became part of their family, altered the dynamics of the relationship, asked for attention and energy to receive that love she so desperately needed to grow. It was not necessary for this couple to "break the alabaster glass," but this commitment of resources and energy has done a lot of good not only for this girl but also for me, my family and many others.
How can we help the faithful to commit themselves to the mission and support of the Church?
-Listening, sharing, fraternity and transparency are the fundamental ingredients for being coherent with the mission of the Church and at the same time sustaining it. In these years of service in the diocese, I have seen communities that have put the poorest and most fragile at the center and have grown in charity. I have met others who have shared their savings with parishes in difficulty. I have met people who offer their professionalism free of charge to deal with the problems that arise in the parish or to passionately take charge of the accounting management. They are examples of how where there is a path of listening, where there is sharing and where fraternity is really lived, which also brings with it the precious values of transparency and fidelity in the administration of goods, the Church grows and the will to participate also on the front of sustainability grows.
Have you verified the pastoral effectiveness of transparency in the diocese of Padua?
-The road to administrative transparency is long and challenging, but we are reaping the rewards, both in terms of credibility and awareness. In the beginning, it was difficult to demand accountability for everything. Moreover, we were often told that charity cannot be reduced to double-entry bookkeeping, but after a long period of listening and dialogue, we became aware that transparency is a fundamental value - and not just an added value - in pastoral action, especially in a troubled time like the one we are living in.
Is it easy for a woman with the position of "bursar" to dialogue and address economic issues with parish priests?
-It is responsibility, not gender, that sustains this office. Assuming the task of bursar, of administrator, means first of all to assume a responsibility that must be carried out with great determination, but which must always be accompanied by a deep spirituality. I have had no explicit difficulties as a woman. Of course, it always requires professionalism and a continuous openness to welcome, to accompany, to give indications sometimes even to say no. A book I read when my children were young is entitled "I no che aiutano a crescere"(The "no's" that help to grow). Teaches to recognize how situations of discomfort are created by the simple inability to say no, and how not knowing how to deny or prohibit something at the right time can have negative consequences in the relationship between parents and children, as well as in any other relationship in which you find yourself exercising a leadership role.. Deciding to say "no" always generates great conflicts: some communities live on nostalgia and cling to a false need for many buildings, many spaces, many activities, showing a face of Church that comes from a past that is still deeply rooted.
How important are financial matters in a diocese?
-Pope Francis reminds us that we are not only living in an era of change, but in a true change of era marked by a general anthropological and socio-environmental crisis.
This complex time forces us to make demanding decisions also at the economic and real estate level that will change the history of our Church. The problems that arise every day require a lot of energy to seek solutions, but we are also called to trigger processes of change. In Padua the question has been on the table for several years and now the path undertaken with the diocesan Synod will help us to discern even more, also in this area.
The bursar's service requires a continuous tension in order to be able to read reality and translate it into this path of renewal.
Why does the Church need goods and resources to carry out its activity if its mission is spiritual?
-The goods and resources are and must be functional to the mission of the Church. Of course, it is always necessary to be very balanced and to read the interventions carried out in the economic field and in the management of goods according to the main mission of the Church: to bear witness to Jesus, to spread the Gospel, to be close to the "poor" and to accompany them, whatever the form of their poverty, material or spiritual.
We must place ourselves before the Word and continually examine ourselves to avoid wrong decisions and priorities.
Has the pandemic affected the generosity of the faithful?
-Surely there has been a decrease not so much in generosity as such, but in offerings, also due to the forced suspension of Masses and Church attendance. But generosity has not changed, and we have experienced this with a pastoral proposal for the year of the pandemic (2020-21) dedicated to the "charity in the time of fraternity" and the instrument we have called "Parish Social Support"." a proposal that has solicited, in various ways, the generosity of Christians to create a parish fund to help individuals and/or families to "start over" from the moment of economic difficulty that continues to hit our country so hard. Thanks to the extraordinary funds received from the Italian Bishops' Conference, the Diocese has placed itself at the side of every parish that has requested it, donating to the parish fund one euro for every inhabitant and hoping that every community, with the help of all the parishioners, would commit at least double the amount. The result exceeded all expectations. We have lived a beautiful journey of experiences of solidarity and closeness that have filled our hard-hit communities with hope.