INDIANAPOLIS — For 10 minutes each day, between 3 and 4 p.m., Robert Teipen and as many as 11 of his non-Catholic employees gather in a conference room at their business to pray the Liturgy of the Hours.
“I had always tried to operate my workplace ethically, but I didn't feel that was enough,” he said. “I felt I needed to be more visible in the practice of my faith.” This realization led Teipen to begin praying the Liturgy of the Hours with those employees who were interested when the Jubilee Year began.
Teipen, owner of an Indianapolis certified public accountant firm, is one of 80 members of Civitas Dei, a regional group founded two years ago by Shawn Conway, David Gorsage and Mike Maley to answer Pope John Paul II's call to bring faith to bear in the marketplace.
“People tend to think that ethics and business are an oxymoron, or that faith and profit don't mix. We're trying to change that,” added Conway. “The essence of Catholic social teaching and John Paul II's exhortations has been that Catholics should build a free and virtuous society. There is a moral dimension to the marketplace. It is a calling worthy of our highest ideals, like anything else.”
Civitas Dei holds 10 Masses per year, which are followed by a breakfast and lecture at the Indianapolis Athletic Club. The group holds other social and spiritual events throughout the year.
“We want members to be exposed to catechesis, Catholic thinking and Catholic teaching,” said Conway. “We want them to know it's OK to be Catholic 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”
It's an idea that seems to be catching on. Conway says that he hopes to start chapters in Denver and Minneapolis-St. Paul next fall, and the group is in discussion with individuals in Dublin, Ireland, about starting an international chapter as well.
“The archdiocese, the archbishop and myself are most willing to support groups such as these because we see it as part of the New Evangelization called for by Pope John Paul II,” said Monsignor Joseph Schaedel, vicar general for the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. “Among business people there is a hunger for a deeper spirituality and there is also a real need for catechesis and religious education. We've lost whole generations,” added Msgr. Schaedel.
Msgr. Schaedel, who has served as chaplain for Legatus for seven years and also serves as chaplain for Civitas Dei, says that he has seen both organizations bear fruit. “The organizations educate and evangelize their members and get others excited about their faith. In both organizations, I've seen where current members have encouraged other members to join. In some cases the invitees have been people not truly active in the practice of their faith. Once exposed to the membership, they resume the practice of their faith.”
“I've belonged to Sertoma clubs over the years,” said Teipen, “but this was the first organization I've found that was willing to help me build upon my faith from a Catholic perspective. If I'm going to spend my time in these other secular clubs why not be involved in something that will strengthen my faith?”
In some respects, Civitas Dei's work compliments that of the older national organization Legatus, a fraternal association of Catholic business leaders and their spouses, established by Domino's Pizza founder Thomas Monaghan in 1987.
In fact, George Maley, father of Civitas Dei's founding vice chairman Michael Maley, was the founder of the Indianapolis chapter of Legatus and currently sits on the advisory board for Civitas Dei.
To date, Legatus has more than 1,200 members in 40 chapters across the U.S. and worldwide.
Through mutual support and shared experience, Legatus participants receive the encouragement of peers in their attempt to imbue their professional lives with greater ethical practice and more complete Christian commitment.
“As presidents, CEOs and general partners, we are involved in plenty of professional organizations, non-profit organizations, and fundraising projects,” said Rita Illig Leibelt, president of Los Angeles-based Illig Construction, who has been a member of Legatus for four years.
Legatus is different, though, said Leibelt, because “it helps us to learn more about our faith.”
She said that her involvement in the organization has helped strengthen not only her spiritual life, but also her business decision making.
“The construction industry can be quite volatile,” Leibelt said. “During the last recession we felt strongly about retaining our team. We knew that it would be very difficult for someone to find employment in the industry, and so rather than laying off employees we all shared the burden through salary cuts. Those of us who made more took a larger hit, but we were able to retain our team and when things turned around we had our team intact.”
Leibelt added that she frequently tells employees that she will keep them in her prayers.
Leibelt also recalled the time an invitation crossed her desk for a local event sponsored by Planned Parenthood. “I decided I could not support that event either with my presence or my dollars,” she said. “Even if the event promoted women, I had to draw the line. You encounter these kind of things frequently.”
She and her husband Klaus recently attended a Legatus retreat led by Father William Watson, vice president for mission at Gonzaga University.
“Without Legatus I probably would not have taken the time to attend a retreat or work on my spirituality,” Leibelt said, “but they offered the venue and I knew I had to take advantage of it.”
Bill Burleigh, retired chairman of E.W. Scripps in Cincinnati and an eight-year Legatus member, agrees. Legatus is “a reminder that we are Catholic leaders in the world and that there are obligations and responsibilities that go with that,” said Burleigh. “There is more to life than making a name for yourself on Wall Street.”
Russ Bellant, writing for the Toronto-based NOW Magazine, criticized Legatus as an “elite Catholic club of millionaires.” Others disagree. “Catholic CEOs face ethical and moral dilemmas of a particular nature,” said Msgr. Schaedel. “These organizations offer a great forum for members to get together for support and to discuss these issues freely, in line with the teachings of the Church.”
Criteria for membership in Legatus is based upon number of employees and revenues. This actually helps make the organization more effective, says the group, by reaching leaders whose faith will impact others.
Civitas Dei membership is not as strictly limited. Conway comments that Civitas Dei was unknowingly designed to compliment Legatus because it is open to any and all members whose primary vocation is business.
Bob Teipen says this isn't just good for the soul — it's good for business.
“I believe that prayer adds to productivity. Our business has increased, and yet the last tax season was one of ease and peace. I believe the Lord is blessing our effort,” commented Teipen.
Teipen's enthusiasm for the faith has extended beyond his own business as well. He has set up a company, Intermirifica Inc., with the hopes of launching a Catholic radio station in Indianapolis. To date he has raised $25,000 of the $3 million necessary to launch the station.
“In the New Economy people are not only interested in business,” concludes Civitas Dei cofounder Conway, “but they are interested in the business of life as well. We provide a faith environment for business people. Any business that is conducted as a result of the association is merely a byproduct. We see our areopagus, or center of missionary activity, as the marketplace. That is our calling.”