News

Christian community drives diocese's new General Manager

Justin Lachal sits down to talk to TMA

By Mark Brolly

June 7 2021 

Justin Lachal has worked in high-end finance but he enthuses about Christian communities and the life of a parishioner.

The new General Manager of the Melbourne diocese has spent all his 50 years immersed in Roman Catholic parish life but he has a couple of “ins” into the Anglican world.

His home parish is St Martin of Tours in Rosanna, where Anglican clergy couple Adam and Heather Cetrangolo were married and once involved, while a mutual friend of Mr Lachal and Diocesan Registrar Malcolm Tadgell helped put him on course to his new appointment.

“I’m a big fan of Christian communities and I do feel I know them and understand them,” Mr Lachal told TMA.

“Christian communities are where the world ought to be in a way because young people get to talk to old people. You get that whole range and I’m not sure there’s so many other places that encourage that sort of thing.

“I do hear the mission to Make the Word of God Fully Known, I hear that, but I think the Word of God is present in the communities, so I suppose my little vision is to help the parishes flourish as Christian communities.”

To that end, Mr Lachal refers to a principle from the corporate world he has left, that parish properties need to aim for their “highest and best use”. But he is quick to dismiss any concerns that that would mean only in a material sense.

“Often highest and best use can be community-building, it doesn’t have to be highest and best financial use. It’s just highest and best practical use.”

Having worked at Jones Lang LaSalle, the second biggest property management company in the world and with clients including Telstra, ANZ and Australia Post, he knows what best practice looks like in that environment but acknowledges the challenges facing churches, such as heritage overlays, can be different.

He wants to be rid of the language of the Anglican Centre or Diocesan Centre being the administrative area adjacent to St Paul’s Cathedral, preferring the term Diocesan Services.

“I want to move away from the word ‘centre’ because it’s not the centre, the centre is the parishes,” he says. “So in the communications I’ll be trying to push, it will be a service centre. I do view myself as having quite a lot of bosses – I’ve got the obvious bosses of the bishops and the Archbishop – but if the parishes want to use me as an employee, as a service entity, the more they do that, the happier I’m going to be.

“I’m telling all the people I work with that the more they get out, the more they can help parishes, the happier I’m going to be.”

Mr Lachal and his wife, a doctor (“She’s 5 foot 1 and I’m 6 foot 5 so we’re a bit of an odd couple”), have three teenage boys, one aged 19 who is in the Army Reserves, another doing VCE and the youngest in Year 9.

He sees the similarities between his own tradition and Anglicanism and refers to the management theory of a cathedral and a bazaar to describe the differences in governance. Sometimes you can structure communities like a cathedral or a bazaar, and while Anglicans have many beautiful church buildings, organisationally they appear to be more like a bazaar or marketplace.

“Marketplaces get things done as well with the noise and bustle,” he says.

“One of the things about coming out of COVID is that we have to re-learn what it’s like to be with people a little bit. Sometimes it’s not super good fun, sometimes there’s a bit of honest conflict, people of good hearts can disagree on both sides. The Catholics would just have a hierarchy to rely on but the Anglicans, they have a noisy process and there’s virtue and honour in that noisy process and you just have to know it for what it is. It doesn’t mean there’s personal animosity, it just means we’re all working together towards a better solution.”