Michèle George: Human value made all the difference
On Sept. 28 General Synod marked the retirement of Treasurer Michèle George, a woman who will be remembered not only for clear communication and financial management but also for the hard work she did in understanding and supporting Church House ministries.
Since 2009, Ms. George has overseen finances, IT, and building facilities for General Synod. She was General Synod staff on the Council of the North and provided strategic financial advice to everyone from the Primate and General Secretary to other directors and the Council of General Synod.
Ms. George, a Dalhousie-educated chartered accountant, said her persuasive father convinced her to enter the field. She specialized in taxation for many years and realized the career allowed her to support a growing family.
"I got amazing experience," she said of her time in the private sector. "But after a while you get to the point where you're not adding human value. To be able to add that value, and in an environment where faith underpins everything—that makes an entire difference in how you work."
Ms. George moved to manage finances for several faith-based organizations. She served on the board of the Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Toronto, first as volunteer treasurer then as president. She worked for the Sisters of St. Joseph, helping them sell major properties to invest in ministry. Currently Ms. George is on the board of Mary Centre, an agency that serves developmentally challenged adults.
On a national stage, Ms. George was known for her clear financial reporting to the Council of General Synod. She answered questions directly and when she did not know the answer, took the time to follow up later.
At Church House, Ms. George gained the respect and appreciation of General Synod staff.
"I think Michèle's particular gift was the gift of integrating into the life of Church House," said Archdeacon Michael Thompson, General Secretary of General Synod. "She worked hard to understand the work of other people in the house."
In a farewell speech at last week's event, Ms. George thanked staff for the passion they have for their work and encouraged them to "hold on to their dreams."
The advice was a demonstration of steadfast faith in hard times as General Synod faces a challenging financial future. Revenues are down significantly and another process of cutbacks and restructuring will now arrive sooner than even Ms. George had predicted.
"Change involves denial, anger, and acceptance," said Ms. George of the church's future, "But it can be a very fruitful thing that can regenerate and re-energize the church."
Ms. George said that recent restructuring at General Synod has led to new life. She cited the example of the residential school crisis and how through that process, the church became more willing and better able to support Indigenous self-governance and justice work.
As she leaves, Ms. George said she will remember how the church was thoughtful in working through discernment processes before making major decisions.
The outgoing treasurer has one more meeting—the Council of the North until Oct. 4—then she begins her retirement. Ms. George plans to see the world (Spain is next), spend time with her grandchildren, and pick up her long-neglected needlework hobbies.
Her volunteer commitments will remain and she might include a couple of courses in theology and Biblical history. Already Ms. George has a certificate in Catholic Leadership from St. Michael's College, University of Toronto.
As part of her Sept. 28 farewell, Ms. George's work was honoured in a chapel service. She selected the hymns including "Make me a channel of your peace," based on the prayer of St. Francis. The Primate offered a special blessing, thanking God for Ms. George's ministry and praying for a healthy retirement.