When Keith Parsons, a partner at Big Four accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, announced his plans to start working for the Archdiocese of Denver, some were puzzled.
“During my transition as I’ve told my firm and my clients, there has been a little bit of people scratching their heads, asking, ‘How can you do that?’” said Parsons, 42, who starts as chief financial officer Feb. 17.
But those who know him get it.
“I wear my Catholicism on my sleeve,” he explained. “Everybody I’ve talked to understands this is something I’m very passionate about. From my perspective it’s my dream job, in that it’s one of the higher positions that you can do in the Church in a finance setting.”
Parsons will replace David Holden who retired this month after serving as CFO since 2002.
The husband and father of five, ranging from 9 years old to 3 months, brings 20 years of diverse experience to the archdiocese, including positions with Crowe Horwath, Deloitte & Touche, Crocs and McGladrey, in addition to PwC. His work has included auditing private and publicly held entities, and participating in several initial public offerings, secondary registrations, and merger and acquisition transactions, as both advisor and controller.
“I’ve spent a lot of time working with a lot of different types of companies, helping them be better financial organizations,” he said. “This is a way for me to bring the talents that I have developed over the years to the Church.”
Archbishop Samuel Aquila said he was a stand-out among the candidates.
“We had many great candidates apply for the job,” Archbishop Aquila said. “Keith had the right mix of professional skills, experience, and dedication to the Church. Most of all, Keith has tremendous enthusiasm.”
Parsons has been involved with the archdiocese for about five years as a member of the Accounting and Audit Committee, a subcommittee of the Archdiocesan Finance Committee.
“It had actually been something I had talked to Dave (Holden) about previously,” he shared. “I really admired what he did and said once he decided to retire, give me a call and let me know. Little did I know I know it was going to be six months later.”
He began to see it as a vocational call.
“When the position came up and I went through the process, and started getting close to the end of it, realizing I might actually get this job, I decided it’s a calling from God,” explained Parsons, a parishioner at Our Lady of Fatima in Lakewood. “It’s more than just a position to me.”
Prayer and family life have significantly impacted his decision.
“The work I do now… is very demanding… it’s long hours, high stress,” he said. “I’ve been doing a lot of praying and soul-searching over the last couple of years, about how long I wanted to (continue it). I have five children now and it’s kept me on the road a lot.”
While CFO is “a very big position,” he added, it will keep him closer to home. And he welcomes the opportunity to evangelize that it provides.
“First of all, just the move itself is an evangelization tool,” Parsons said, because it has opened up dialogue allowing him to explain the move from secular corporate world to the Church. “I also plan to stay involved in the business community and be able to tell that story as I move forward.”
He plans to stay plugged in to CFO networks and other events with business leaders in the community.
“I hope to be a CFO that’s visible in the community,” he said.
Parsons’ primary goal is to build on Holden’s legacy, with the guidance of Archbishop Aquila and Father Randy Dollins, vicar general and moderator of the curia for the archdiocese.
“There are many great Catholic business professionals,” Father Dollins told the Denver Catholic. “But not many who desire to go all in and combine their service of the Church with their career.”
Parsons, a convert to Catholicism in 1999, said he grew up going to church only “occasionally” and credits his wife Angie for introducing him to the “true faith.”
“I have to hand it all to my wife, she’s a big reason why I converted,” he said. “I always had this passion and desire to do more, to understand more (spiritually). When I met my wife, a devout Catholic, she really pulled me in.”