Father Jason T. Doke understands a moderator to be someone who brings unity and clear direction to people who work together for a common purpose.
In his case, those people are members of the diocesan curia, the administrative apparatus of the Church.
Bishop W. Shawn McKnight has appointed Fr. Doke to serve as moderator of the curia for the Jefferson City diocese, effective July 1.
It is a cabinet-level position involving oversight of the Chancery offices in the Alphonse J. Schwartze Memorial Catholic Center in Jefferson City.
In that role, Fr. Doke will oversee the day-to-day workings of the diocesan departments, especially such things as budgets, insurance, and property management.
He will also help department directors and Chancery employees stay focused on assisting Bishop McKnight and the parishes of the diocese in leading and ministering effectively.
Bishop McKnight has likened the moderator of the curia’s role to that of a chief operating officer in a corporation.
Fr. Doke believes it has a lot to do with seeing things in a larger context and helping ensure that day-to-day operations are moving in the right direction.
“It’s about a common vision and the big picture,” he said.
Fr. Doke succeeds Father Gregory Meystrik, who will now serve as pastor of St. Patrick parish in Rolla, Immaculate Conception parish in St. James and St. Anthony of Padua parish in Rosati.
Church law, spelled out in the Revised Code of Canon Law, states that “a diocesan bishop must take care that all the affairs that belong to the administration of the whole diocese are duly coordinated and are ordered to attain more suitably the good of the portion of the people of God entrusted to him,” (Canon 473-1).
To help with that, the bishop can appoint a priest to serve as moderator of the curia, who under the bishop’s authority “is to coordinate those things which pertain to the treatment of administrative affairs and to take care that the other members of the curia properly fulfill the office entrusted to them” (473-2).
Fr. Doke sees his new role primarily as “bringing clarity to the bishop’s vision for how the Chancery needs to operate,” while “helping each department or office become the best it can be.”
He sees the work as holy, a specific way of advancing the Kingdom of Jesus Christ.
“I just want to do my best and help serve the bishop in his vision and in the mission of the Chancery being of real service to parishes,” he said.
From biology to theology
Born in Springfield, Fr. Doke grew up near St. Louis and studied biology at the University of Missouri in Columbia.
He became active in St. Thomas More Newman Center parish in Columbia after attending a student retreat.
After graduating, he became a member of the parish’s stewardship committee while pursuing a master’s degree in food science and working in a lab at the university.
Upon recognizing a possible priestly calling, he sought admission into formation at Conception Seminary College in northwestern Missouri.
He continued at the Pontifical North American College in Rome while pursuing a bachelor in sacred theology degree at the Pontifical Gregorian University, and a licentiate in dogmatic theology, with an emphasis on sacraments, from the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas (the Angelicum).
Bishop John R. Gaydos, now retired, ordained him to the Holy Priesthood on June 29, 2013.
Fr. Doke served for three years as associate pastor of St. Patrick parish in Rolla and campus minister of the Catholic Newman Center there.
He then served as pastor of St. Clement parish in St. Clement, Sacred Heart parish in Vandalia and St. John mission in Laddonia.
Work and studies
In addition to his canonical responsibilities as moderator of the curia, Fr. Doke will work closely with the Chancery department heads who coordinate Hispanic and Cross-Cultural ministries, youth and young adult ministry, religious education, family life, and pro-life activities.
He will do all of this in addition to filling-in for other priests on weekends and pursuing a Master of Science in Ecclesial Administration and Management (M.E.A.M.) degree through the Busch School of Business at The Catholic University of America.
The M.E.A.M. includes a weeklong intensive immersion session on campus in August, with the rest to be completed online.
It covers such topics as transparent management of financial resources; good organization of human resources; and effective communication strategies.
Fr. Doke noted that although concerned largely with matters that transcend this world, the Church is obliged to work within the boundaries of the law and other limitations.
For example, Church employees must get paid on time, and their insurance and retirement plans must be managed properly.
With Deacon Joseph Braddock, diocesan chief financial officer, Fr. Doke will shepherd department directors through the annual budget process, prudently prioritizing needs and resources.
In consultation with the head of each Chancery department, the Diocesan Finance Council and the staff of the diocese’s Finance Office, the moderator of the curia takes the broad view of the budget process, while the chief financial officer focuses on the more precise aspects.
Together, they work to present the diocese’s finances in a way that is clear, accurate, understandable and focused on ministry.
The bishop gives final approval to the budget.
Paper and people
Fr. Doke brings a wealth of diverse administrative experience to his new role.
“It seems almost my whole adult life, I’ve been dealing with these kinds of things — when I was in college, when I worked for the university, and as a priest,” he said.
While serving as pastor of three parishes and a Catholic school for the past two years and as director of a Catholic Newman Center before that, he honed his skills in asset management, budgeting, building and property maintenance, human resources and other administrative tasks.
He oversaw a major renovation of St. Clement School’s basement level and the reconstruction of the church parking lot.
While working at the University of Missouri, he was in charge of hazardous materials management at one of the laboratories.
“It wasn’t just the paperwork — and there was a lot of it — but working with all sorts of people on a professional level,” he said.
He noted that everybody has his or her own skills, experiences, personality and way of doing things.
He believes the key to success is for everyone to remain accountable and focused on a common purpose.
One of his role models as a priest and an administrator was the late Father Charles Pardee.
“He had a knack for getting stuff done on a budget and sticking to it,” said Fr. Doke. “One time, I asked him, ‘What’s the secret to that?’ He said, ‘Just common sense.’”
Fr. Doke is confident that God has given him enough common sense to be of real assistance to the bishop and the whole diocese.
He will work to help implement the recommendations of the Leadership Roundtable, a consulting group that advises Catholic dioceses on best practices for management and ministry.
He asks for prayers for him to be able to see the “big picture” and help achieve what’s best for this diocese.