For the first time ever, a right-hand man to a Chicago archbishop will be a woman.
Archbishop Blase Cupich announced on Thursday the appointment of the Archdiocese of Chicago’s first chief operating officer, Betsy Bohlen.
Bohlen is one of 11 new leaders of the archdiocese announced Thursday. All are part of a vision for the archdiocese that Cupich described to the Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board as one of collaboration, decentralization of power in the archdiocese and partnership with the broader community.
“She is a strong person. She comes with huge qualities and abilities, and I respect that,” Cupich said.
“If you want to know something about me: I know what I don’t know. I look for the people with the expertise to come in and do that.”
Bohlen is not the first woman Cupich, as a church leader, has appointed to a prominent position. The chancellor he appointed to run day-to-day operations in his former Diocese of Rapid City, S.D., and the chief finance officer of the Diocese of Spokane both were women, he noted.
Bohlen, who starts her new job July 1, has spent most of her career in the business world, she said.
She has a Harvard MBA and was a management consultant at the prestigious McKinsey & Company for 16 years, working at times in its Chicago, Beijing, Hong Kong and New Delhi offices. She was elected a partner of the firm in 2003.
She also has worked with the archdiocese as a consultant and staff member for more than a decade, most recently as its chief financial officer, according to the archdiocese. And just this week, she said, she met with the archbishop to review what she called the archdiocese’s “first break-even budget in recent memory.”
“We’re working to make the operations of the archdiocese more effective so we can make the mission of the church broadly more effective,” she said.
Previously, Bohlen was an investment officer for the Slovak American Enterprise Fund in Bratislava, Slovakia, and a financial analyst at the First Boston Corporation. She received her bachelor’s degree in economics, with a minor in theology, from the University of Notre Dame.
Despite the high-ranking appointment of a woman, the archbishop said Thursday he didn’t see a day when women could become priests in the Catholic church; rather, that would be “settled” when men and women both were brought to the table and given decision-making power in the church.
“I think that there is something very important to keep in mind in regard to priesthood in terms of the celebration of sacraments and imaging Christ in the Eucharist,” he said.
Alongside Bohlen, Father Clete Kiley will oversee the mission of the archdiocese in the traditional role as moderator of the curia.
Other notable appointments include Father Ronald Hicks as vicar general overseeing parishes and other faith-related matters and Father Adan Sandoval Duron as head of the newly created Consejo Hispano. The Consejo – a committee of men, women and laypeople – will be located at Our Lady of the Mount Parish in Cicero, where Duron is pastor.