Meet the Former Swiss Guard Who’s Teaching Priests to Run a Tight Ship

I recall how intimidated I was when, as a seminarian at the Pontifical North American College in the 1990s, the Swiss Guard took the pitch for our “friendly” game of soccer. Our team was dubbed “The North American Martyrs”—a funny nickname that stuck in those days because, more often than not, we were killed (sometimes even slaughtered) by our opponents. And none were more formidable than the Swiss Guard.

The Swiss Guards whom I have known through the years are fiercely loyal soldiers of Christ’s Vicar on earth, who pledge in the Name of the Blessed Trinity to lay down their lives in defense of the Holy Father. As it happens, they’re also genuinely nice guys—the kind you can enjoy a meal with at Roman hangouts like Cantina Tirolese near Borgo Pio, a favorite of then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.

Shortly after Pope Benedict XVI was elected in 2005, I was privileged to attend the annual swearing-in ceremony of the Pontifical Swiss Guard in the Cortile San Damaso. The world’s smallest army was marking a watershed moment in its illustrious history: the anniversary of the bloody Sack of Rome on May 6, 1527, by the troops of Charles V. 147 of 189 Swiss Guards lost their lives that day, in a most valiant and successful effort to protect the life of the besieged Pope Clement VII, who took refuge in the Castel Sant’Angelo. At the conclusion of that elaborate ceremony, the Swiss Guard Band lightened up things a bit by playing an instrumental version of Gloria Gaynor’s 1978 hit, “I Will Survive,” which brought a smile to everyone’s face.

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Fast forward to 2019. I now find myself a friend of a former Swiss Guardsman, Mario Enzler, the author of a memoir entitled My Life with a Saint, soon to be published by Newman House Press, and written in honor of the centennial of the birth of St. John Paul II. Enzler is a gregarious, warm, good-humored man who has a brilliant mind and a profound love for the Church and Christ’s Sacred Priesthood. His wealth of knowledge and experience affords him unique insights into the mysterious world of the Vatican and the more diverse universal Church.

He served in the Swiss Guard during the pontificate of John Paul II around the same time that I was a seminarian in the Eternal City. Following his time as a Swiss Guard, Mario became a successful international banker and now is a professor at the Catholic University of America’s Busch School of Business, where he created the Master of Science in Ecclesial Administration and Management in 2017.

The degree program requires 30 credits and can be completed in one year. It features an interdisciplinary approach, with courses in business administration and ethics, sacred theology and canon law taken on campus for a minimum of one intensive summer session. Principally, though, the program is conducted online. Although the primary role of a priest is liturgical and sacramental, he is also called upon to deal with more mundane things—an aspect of pastoral ministry for which no seminary adequately prepares a man. Thus, this program aims at the ongoing formation of priests as good shepherds and good stewards, so that they may be better equipped to serve as faithful pastors and effective administrators in the dioceses, parishes and religious orders, and other institutions of the contemporary Church.

This program attracts serious, orthodox priests (and likewise the occasional bishop), who are being taught how to integrate the often less attractive, arduous tasks of budgeting, accounting, financial reporting, personal and business management, public relations, human resources, asset maintenance and communications strategies into a healthy spirituality of parish ministry. This enables the participants to learn how practical business skills can be joined to their accumulated theological acumen, thus developing their spiritual formation as priests of Jesus Christ committed to the new evangelization. As this program continues to grow from year to year, with increased exposure and enrollment, we can only hope that more priests will invest their time, treasure and talent in this unique program under the trustworthy direction of Professor Enzler.

Photo credit: Catholic News Herald/YouTube


  • Fr. Nicholas Gregoris

    Fr. Nicholas Gregoris is a founding member of the Priestly Society of Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman and managing editor of The Catholic Response.

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