The gospel of numbers

New CFO sees job as way to evangelize

Julie Filby

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.”

COMING UP: New Catholic school leaders rise to the challenge

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There’s never been a more exciting time than now to be a student at one of Denver’s Catholic schools.

With robust curriculums that form the whole person and a variety of educational models to choose from, Catholic schools are a great option for parents seeking more for their children’s education.

Even more exciting are the various education professionals who are stepping into leadership roles beginning this new school year. These are individuals are who are passionate about Catholic education and even more passionate about partnering with parents, the primary educators of their children, to help lead their kids to an encounter with Jesus Christ.

The nine new leaders featured below bring a wealth of experience to their new roles, and they are each excited to rise to the challenge of making Denver’s Catholic schools the absolute best they can be at helping to form students into authentic disciples of Jesus Christ.

Andrew Beach
Our Lady of Lourdes (South Campus)

Andrew Beach credits much of his call to the teaching vocation to his parents, who are both teachers themselves. Beach studied economics and philosophy at University of Colorado Boulder and then went on to pursue a master’s degree in theology from the Augustine Institute. “From the second I heard about Lourdes and all that us going on here in terms of its classical education and strong Catholic identity and culture, I knew it was the school where I wanted to teach,” Beach said. As a result of the school’s expansion, Beach is now the Head of School for Lourdes’ South Campus. In his new role, he hopes to assist in guiding Lourdes toward academic excellence, but more importantly, he hopes to foster an authentic and strong Catholic identity within the schools.

Robert Bernardin
St. Bernadette

When St. Bernadette announced they were pausing their operations last year, Robert Bernardin saw it as an opportunity. Having previously worked at Annunciation Catholic School, an Expeditionary Learning (EL) school, Bernardin became very excited when St. Bernadette decided to re-launch as an EL school, joining Annunciation and St. Rose of Lima as the only Catholic EL schools in the nation. “I was immediately drawn to St. Bernadette because I believe deeply in the power of EL to elevate Catholic schools,” Bernardin said. Bernardin believes that Catholic education is transformative, and as principal of the re-launched St. Bernadette, he is “keen to expand our view of what is possible in Catholic schools, to serve as a model of what Catholic schools can be and inspire others to follow our lead.”

Kellie Carroll
Bishop Machebeuf High School

For Kellie Carroll, being at Bishop Machebeuf High School is a bit of a homecoming for her. She’s been in education for 20 years, starting at St. Pius X in Aurora and then moving on to teach for several public schools before finding her way back to the Archdiocese of Denver. However, she was also educated in Catholic schools growing up and graduated from Mullen High School. “This is a system that certainly raised me and had a profoundly positive impact on both my academic and faith formation,” Carroll said. As the interim principal at Bishop Machebeuf High School, Carroll hopes to help prepare students for life outside of the school walls. “I firmly believe a solid formation in the faith and a rigorous academic setting will prepare them for the adventure and challenges life will bring,” she said.

Gretchen DeWolfe
St. Thomas More

Gretchen DeWolfe has taught 5th grade at St. Thomas More Catholic School for the last five years and will now be entering her sixth year as the school’s new principal. “In my new role as principal, it is my duty to support parents, the primary educators, in forming their children through encounters with Christ, which will in turn deepen that beautiful and essential relationship,” DeWolfe said. Being in Catholic education is more than simply a job for DeWolfe — it is a calling. “My heart has always been in Catholic schools … It is an amazing gift to be able to teach and live the Catholic faith on a daily basis,” she said. “[This] is what I have chosen to dedicate my life to — teaching and living the truths that Jesus taught us.”

Dana Ellis
St. Louis (Louisville)

Dana Ellis worked in Jefferson County Public Schools for over 30 years, 18 of which were as a principal, and then went on to work in Boulder Valley Public Schools for several more years until she retired. After “walking around in the desert” for a couple of years, Ellis now finds herself as the new principal of St. Louis Catholic School in Louisville. As she embarks on this new foray into Catholic education, Ellis is confident that God will continue to lead St. Louis down the path it needs to go in order to continue forming authentic disciples of Jesus Christ. “I do know that God will lead the way, but I don’t know what that way is going to be yet,” Ellis said.

Eric Hoffer
Christ the King

Before starting his career in Catholic education, Eric Hoffer had plans to complete a degree in political science and attend law school. “However, God had other plans in place for me,” Hoffer said. He converted to Catholicism while in college, and after graduation, volunteered with the Brothers of the Sacred Heart, where he “fell in love with education and my faith.” He’s had a 16-year career in various roles in education thus far, and recently completed his graduate degree in Educational Leadership at the University of Notre Dame. He feels fortunate to lead Christ the King Catholic School as principal. “If I am able to help each of our students understand that they are beloved children of God and that he has a beautiful plan for their lives, then I will have made a valuable contribution to our archdiocese,” Hoffer said.

Steve Vaughn
St. Therese

Steve Vaughn began his career as a teacher teaching 4th, 5th and 6th grade at a few different Catholic schools in Wisconsin and Nebraska. Over the last 10 years, he’s been a teacher and assistant principal at a Denver charter school, but he’s now answering a call from the Lord to return to Catholic education. “Having worked in both Catholic and public schools, I can say that Catholic schools truly provide an education for the whole child,” Vaughn said. Speaking for his new role as principal at St. Therese, Vaughn shared, “Our goal at St. Therese is to create saints! It’s an honor and blessing to be tasked with fulfilling this mission at my school. This is exciting, challenging work, but there’s no other work I’d rather be doing.”

Tamara Whitehouse
Our Lady of Lourdes (North Campus)

Tamara Whitehouse has worked in both public and Catholic schools for over 20 years. More recently, she has also served as an instructor for the Denver Catholic Biblical School. Her transition from public schools to Catholic schools came after taking time to stay at home with her children when they were young. “We discerned God’s call to send our children to Catholic schools, and then my own deepening faith and desire to instill a love for God in young people led me to follow after them when I returned to work,” Whitehouse said. As she begins her new role as the Head of School for Lourdes’ North Campus, Whitehouse hopes to “support families in the formation of their children to know, love and serve God, and this contribute to the renewal of Catholic culture that is so desperately needed today.

Father Stefan Zarnay
St. Mary’s (Littleton)

Born in the Slovak Republic and ordained a priest just last year, Father Stefan Zarnay is part of the Disciples of Jesus Christ, the religoous order that oversees St. Mary’s Catholic Parish in Littleton. He met them when he was studying for his Masters Degree at the John Paul II Pontifical Institute in Rome, Italy. He has previously served as Chaplain of the Stella Maris — La Gavia Catholic School in Madrid. In addition to being the interim principal of St. Mary’s, he is also the school’s chaplain and the parish’s new parochial vicar.

Ann Zeches
St. Catherine of Siena

For Ann Zeches, education is a second career. Prior to becoming a mom, Zeches was the assistant general manager of a resort. It was when her children were in school that the seed for Zeches’ career in Catholic education was planted. “What I thought teaching entailed, and the reality are two different things,” Zeches said. “Education is the toughest job I have ever experienced, but the one with incredible rewards. Education has become my passion.” In her new role as principal at St. Catherine of Siena, her goal is simple: “I am forming students to know the ‘truth’ of our faith and how to infuse it into their lives. Ultimately, then, they will be well-educated disciples of Christ longing to meet our Lord in heaven while making their community a place filled with the Spirit.”