The Archdiocese of New York wants to improve business management at its parishes and has turned to Villanova - one the nation's prestigious Catholic universities - for help.

Villanova's Center for Church Management and Business Ethics at the university's school of business has reached agreement with the Archdiocese to offer a special program for up to 50 parishioners per year for two years. They will earn a master of science in church management under the program.

The program comes as the Archdiocese prepares to consolidate some of its parishes.

"During Making All Things New, our pastoral planning process, one thing we heard over and over from both priests and parishioners was the need to help support our pastors in managing our parishes by developing stronger business practices," Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York, said in a statement. "…Business management, like so many other roles in a parish, is truly a ministry and I know that our pastors join me in expressing immense gratitude to those who serve their parishes and schools in this manner."

Villanova has a similar, though smaller, partnership with the Diocese of Camden to train church managers.There is no similar partnership with the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, but "we would love to" have one, said Charles Zech, Villanova faculty director for the program and director of the center.

The university will conduct an orientation for students in New York in the spring and the rest of the courses will be offered on-line. Students will pay tuition up front but if they complete the program and are hired by the parish, the Archdicoese and parish will reimburse them, Zech said.