Daniel Daou resigned his position as vice chairman of his family's thriving computer-services company, Daou Systems Inc., so he could serve the Church full time. Now chairman and chief executive officer of the Missionaries of Faith Foundation — with an executive leadership team that includes Scott Hahn, Jeff Cavins, Patrick Madrid, Matt Pinto and Alan Napleton — he's leading the charge to marshal information technology for the cause of Christ. Daou recently spoke with Register features correspondent Tim Drake.
Drake: Tell me about your experiences growing up in Lebanon and France?
Daou: I was baptized and grew up in a Catholic family. We were Maronites (an Eastern Catholic rite); however, my family and I grew up in the Latin rite. Lebanon is the only country in the Middle East that used to have a majority of Christians and is governed by a Christian (Maronite) president.
In 1973, the first bomb that exploded in the 20-year Lebanese conflict came to our house. We were all wounded and came close to death. I still have facial paralysis and shrapnel in my heart. When the war broke out again in 1975, my parents did not want to take a chance. My mother, even though Lebanese by origin, was born in a French country and was a French citizen. We grew up speaking French at home, and so our family fled to France.
What brought you to the United States?
Coming to the U.S. had always been a dream for me. My brother had come here and, when I finished high school in Paris, I came to attend the University of California at San Diego. I loved computers and wanted to obtain a degree in computer engineering. Now my entire family lives here.
How did you fall away from the Church? And what led you back?
When I was a teen-ager, I stopped practicing the faith and fell into sin. In France, the Catholic faith was very weak and not too many people spoke about God or religion. When I came to the United States, I was approached by evangelicals. They ignited in me a love of Scripture. I actually grew up reading the Bible and have loved it since I was very young. They rekindled this fire in me. When I tried to get involved with my local Catholic parish, nobody called me back and I felt unwanted. Meanwhile, my evangelical friends were knocking on my door daily and praying for me.
It wasn't until five years later that I met a Maronite priest, Father Antoine Bakh. He took the time to answer my questions from a scriptural perspective. Two issues hit home immediately for me: Mary and the Eucharist. It was obvious for me that, by reading the Scriptures, you could understand both. I came back to the Church the night before my wedding. My wife had grown up as an evangelical. She became a Catholic a year or so after we were married.
What prompted you to leave your booming business?
I had devised a five-year vision in 1995 that was to make Daou Systems Inc. the leader in health-care information technology services. At the time, the vision seemed crazy. But after a tremendous amount of work, we accomplished our goal with two public offerings in just over three years. Daou did $14 million in 1995 and more than $100 million in 1998.
After that, I felt that my job was over there. I had been asked to run the company in 1994, at age 29. During that time we made 11 acquisitions in 18 months and grew the company to $120 million. I felt I had accomplished my vision. I am more of an entrepreneur and felt I was no longer the right man for the job. They needed someone more operationally oriented.
While running the company I also taught up to three Bible studies a week, and so I felt strongly called to serve God full time in the ministry. I had actually promised God that, if I ever found myself financially secure, I would serve him all my life, full time. The Missionaries of Faith was started in 1997; I got involved full time in 1999.
What is the mission of the Missionaries of Faith Foundation?
To be at the service of the Church by bringing Christ to the world through the use of sound business principles and state-of-the-art technologies.
In what ways are you achieving that mission?
First, we are attempting to build several different apostolates which are synergistic, such as Envoy magazine and Basilica Press. Second, we are using technology to deliver these services to the four corners of the globe through the launch of our Catholic Internet portal. We have also introduced @Home with the Word, the first-ever Internet-based Bible study online, and we have proven that the concept works. We have signed up more than 1,500 members in the first five months alone. In addition, we are planning on making all of our services and products available in many different languages to assist the Church in her evangelization efforts in a more effective way.
‘Our mission is to use state-of-the-art technologies and sound business principles to bring Christ to the world.’
What will e3mil.com do?
E3mil.com stands for evangelization in the third millennium. It will bring the best of the secular portals (such as Yahoo) and the best of the religious Web sites into one. Catholics will be able to access a filth-free Web site which will open up a safe door to the Internet. But they will not have to compromise professionalism or features when accessing e3mil.com. They will have many features that are only found on secular portals, such as electronic greeting cards, a super-store for purchasing goods, a safe search engine, an electronic auction page, yellow pages and a career page, as well as faith-related items.
All of the features we built were customized for what Catholics will want. For instance, the auction module will not only allow people to sell or buy items but barter as well — something that larger families could use often.
On the faith side, we have great talents on our team, and all of them are working hard to create content that helps Catholics live a fuller life in Christ.
Tim Drake writes from St. Cloud, Minnesota.