John Piszker enjoys crunching numbers, but he doesn’t enjoy the spotlight. As the new Director of Finance at Sacred Heart Major Seminary, he is content to work behind the scenes, ensuring that the seminary stays financially sound so that the priests and professors can form and educate the next generation of priests, deacons, and lay ministers.
Piszker stepped into the role in March with thirty years of experience in financial and strategic planning. A graduate of the University of Michigan’s Rackham Graduate School with a Master of Public Administration, he worked in healthcare for much of his career, most recently with Trinity Health as Vice-President of Finance.
“When I learned about the job here at Sacred Heart, it mirrored what I was doing at Trinity,” said Piszker. “It also gives me the opportunity to give back to my faith and to the seminary.”
Piszker’s father-in-law, Deacon Robert Tremmel, has been serving as a deacon in the Archdiocese of Detroit (AOD) for forty-three years. While Piszker was familiar with Sacred Heart through his father-in-law, he liked the idea of learning the inner workings of higher education and of using his skills to contribute in his own way to the formation of both seminarians and lay persons for ministry in the AOD and beyond.
“The role of Director of Finance/Treasurer of Sacred Heart Major Seminary is a critical position for implementing the mission of the seminary,” said Father Stephen Burr, Rector and President of Sacred Heart. “The mission of the seminary is beautiful, but without professional financial leadership, the mission would be a dream and not a reality.”
In searching for candidates, Father Burr looked for someone who would guide the seminary’s financial life as well as provide wise stewardship of donations and tuition dollars. He also wanted to offer the position to a person who would share in daily leadership to promote the mission of the seminary.
“I was presented with many qualified candidates interested in the role. It was clear to me, through seeking God's guidance, that (Piszker) would be a good fit at the seminary,” Father Burr said. “In addition to his professional skills, he has a peaceful temperament, he is a thoughtful, clear communicator, and he has a receptive spirit when approaching staff members and working with the Board of Trustees. God has been good to Sacred Heart through the work of the former Director of Finance/Treasurer, Ann Marie Connolly, and now God's blessing is sustained through the gifts John will bring to the seminary.”
Though he is in the early stages of his new position, Piszker has hit the ground running as he adapts to the difference in scale at Sacred Heart. Trinity Health’s geographic reach spans 26 states, with 88 hospitals and $20 billion in operating revenue. In contrast, Sacred Heart’s total operating budget is approximately $7.5 million.
“It’s been an adjustment, but a good one,” Piszker said. “It’s a different pace and structure than I’m used to, engaging with the Archdiocese and finding synergies between the two versus the corporate structure of engaging with different regions throughout the country.”
Piszker’s office is close to the chapel in the seminary—so close that he can hear the organ playing when he’s at his desk. Each day, he tries to carve out time to pray in front of the Blessed Sacrament and he attends Mass whenever his schedule allows.
“It’s incredible to be in this environment, and to have access to Father Fox who is the Dean of Seminarian Formation, or Father Burr who is the Rector, or Father Laboe who is the Dean of Studies,” said Piszker. “You get an uplifting, spiritual feeling that you are part of something bigger than you ever could have imagined.”
Piszker draws a parallel between his time in healthcare and his new role at Sacred Heart. Although he wasn’t caring for patients directly at Trinity Health, he was working behind the scenes to support the physicians who provided the care. Now at the seminary, though he doesn’t interact directly with seminarians, he aims to be a careful financial guardian to support those who are instructing and shaping future priests. In turn, those priests then serve their parishes and the larger community.
“At the end of the day, everything we do here to fulfill the mission—which is forming men to become priests—has to be geared around that,” Piszker said. “All of my efforts behind the scenes are to ensure we have a good operating budget and that we’re running as efficiently and effectively as possible to fulfill the mission of Sacred Heart Major Seminary.”
Though Piszker agreed to be interviewed by Mosaic, he prefers to stay in his office and out of the limelight.
“I’m the finance guy. I am in the background and that’s the way it should be,” said Piszker. “The focus should be on everyone who’s doing the hard work of educating the seminarians. That’s Father Burr and the others leading that charge, and I’m just here to support what they’re trying to do.”