The Parish as a Corporation
Every parish in the Diocese of Green Bay is incorporated separately under statute 187 of Wisconsin state law. These corporations are "non-stock, religious" corporations. Like any other corporation, these parish corporations may own property, hire employees, file tax returns, etc.
Like other corporations, each parish corporation should have its own bylaws which direct certain aspects of its operation, especially regarding the trustees and officers of the corporation. The directors (trustees) of each corporation must hold at least one annual meeting. (See below for more on these topics). Saint Clare Parish was incorporated in July 2009 under the legal name, “Saint Clare Parish Corporation.”
Under civil law, each parish corporation is run by a board of five directors, its members consisting of:
The Bishop of the diocese
The Vicar General of the diocese
The Pastor of the parish
Two Lay people chosen from the parish through election
As with every civil corporation, this board of directors designates officers who are each responsible for certain functions in the company. In each parish corporation, these officers consist of:
President - this is always the diocesan Bishop
Vice President - this is always the Pastor
Treasurer - this is always one of the two Lay Trustees
Secretary - this is always the other Lay Trustee
(Bishop and Pastor in the above descriptions also encompass Administrators who fulfill those roles, as defined by the Church).
Pastor's Fiscal Authority
Under our civil law in the state of Wisconsin, every Catholic parish in the Diocese of Green Bay operates as a nonprofit corporation under section 187 of Wisconsin statutes, defined and directed primarily by the following documents (essentially no different than any other corporation in our civil legal and financial systems).
Articles of Incorporation: Establish the legal existence and identity of the parish as a corporation.
Bylaws: Establish the overall structure of the parish corporation and identifies its officers. The diocesan Bishop is ex officio the president of the corporation. The Pastor/Administrator is ex officio the vice-president and holds fiscal authority in the corporation.
Appointment Letter: Establishes a specific priest as pastor or administrator of the parish (and therefore the director and officer of the corporation) with fiscal authority over all of the corporation’s assets. Any financial accounts using the parish’s tax IDs are, by definition, under the authority of the Pastor/Administrator of the parish.
Annual Corporate Meeting
Like other civil corporations in the state of Wisconsin, the board of directors of each parish corporation must meet at least once annually (this is our “Annual Parish Meeting”).
The Secretary (the Lay Trustee elected to this office) records the minutes of these meetings, distributes copies to the other members of the board, and permanently retains in a secure manner with other important parish documents a copy of the approved minutes of each meeting.
Note: It is not necessary, or practical, for the Bishop to attend all meetings of the parish corporation or the parish finance council. However, major decisions regarding parish finances, fundraising, real estate transactions, or capital expenditures do require, under both civil and canon (Church) law, the consent of the Bishop or his consent by proxy.
(adopted from the Diocese of Madison Website)