New chief financial officer to join diocesan staff in September

Newly named chief financial officer Debra Thomas joins the diocesan staff on Sept. 1. She comes with more than 25 years of experience in financial operations, information technology, administrative functions and business process redesign. 

Debra Thomas Courtesy photo Debra Thomas

Thomas will oversee all financial operations of the diocese and play a central role in managing information technology and human resources.

She recently completed a nearly eight-year tenure with the Massachusetts Department of Transitional Assistance, where she served as deputy chief financial officer and then as chief financial officer, managing large financial and administrative operations. 

Prior to that, she worked for 12 years for the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, as a senior project director for budget and legislative affairs and as division director, first for business reporting and fiscal operations in the Bureau of Waste Prevention, and later for technical and financial support in the Bureau of Waste Site Clean Up.

Thomas holds a bachelor's degree in business management from Lesley University and a master's degree in public administration from Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government.

"Debra Thomas will bring a constellation of skill sets and financial acumen to the diocese," Bishop Alan M. Gates said in announcing the new hire. "Bishop Harris and I found her altogether engaged and ready to be part of the leadership team here, and those with whom she has worked testify not only to her effective work with budgets and accounting, but also to her understanding of the mission served by those financial systems."

Thomas's hire is the result of a four-month search process that included an advisory team which conducted interviews and made recommendations to the bishops. It comprised key leaders involved with the financial life of the Diocese of Massachusetts and the Cathedral Church of St. Paul.

Thomas succeeds interim chief financial officer Cynthia Hallenbeck who has served since September 2020 when the diocese contracted with the professional services firm CliftonLarsonAllen (then blumshapiro) to oversee a thorough review of diocesan financial systems. During that time, together with diocesan controller Tom Hamel and other CLA contractors, Hallenbeck has overseen the transition to new accounting software, implementation of new protocols and safeguards, and review of diocesan endowments and invested funds. She also instituted monthly Zoom gatherings on financial matters for congregational leaders and supported the diocese and its churches in applications for the Payroll Protection Program and Employee Retention Credit. 

“Cynthia has brought years of experience as a financial services professional and, more recently, as an interim chief financial officer, to several nonprofit organizations. She has led our diocese through a much-needed update of our financial systems and provided skilled leadership through the challenging times of the past two years," Canon to the Ordinary Bill Parnell said. "She and the team from CLA have set the stage for the Diocese of Massachusetts, the Cathedral Church of St. Paul and related organizations supported by our Treasurer's Office to move forward with confidence as we welcome Debra Thomas as chief financial officer.”  

Hallenbeck will continue to be available in the coming weeks to complete specific projects and provide transitional support to new chief financial officer Debra Thomas.