Corporate Leaders Serve as Ambassadors for Christ
Legatus, the international organization that aims to help Catholic CEOs in their spiritual life, is celebrating its 20th anniversary.
BY DOREEN ABIRAAD
May 20-26, 2007 Issue | Posted 5/15/07 at 9:00 AM
NAPLES, Fla. — For Father Robert Spitzer, the value of Legatus is a matter of vision.
The international chaplain of Legatus and president of Gonzaga University said that members develop “a whole new consciousness on a cultural, spiritual and theological level.” This awareness colors their decision-making with regard to ethical, cultural and pro-life issues affecting the workplace, the family, and society in general.
“Before, perhaps they didn’t recognize the big issues coming up. Now they see them a mile away,” Father Spitzer said.
Legatus, an organization of lay Catholic corporate and business leaders, is celebrating its 20th anniversary this month, and the mission of members remains what it has always been: to study, live and spread the faith in their business, professional and personal lives.
Legatus has grown to more than 4,000 members in 75 chapters throughout the United States and Canada, with chapters in development in Ireland and Poland. Legatus has two categories of chapters: Chartered, which require 20 members who are CEOs of companies, and chapters in formation, which have fewer than 20 CEO members and working toward begin chartered chapters. A CEO can also belong to Legatus as an at-large member, without belonging to a chapter. Some at-large members start chapters.
Founder Tom Monaghan’s goal is to have Legatus chapters around the globe wherever there are enough qualified candidates interested in joining.
Monaghan, who amassed a fortune with Domino’s Pizza, went on to initiate a number of other Catholic concerns, including Ave Maria University. He credits the Holy Spirit for his inspiration to form Legatus (Latin for “ambassador”) following a private Mass with Pope John Paul II in 1987.
Membership is for the upper echelon of the business world, but a prerequisite to becoming a member is that the individual be a Catholic in good standing and have the desire to grow in holiness. Monaghan pointed out that not all members were “on fire” before joining Legatus. “But then, something changes dramatically. Before they know it, they’re going to daily Mass and praying the Rosary every day,” he said.
“My logic was that Catholic CEOs, whether they like it or not, are role models impacting many people by their faith and the way they live their lives. Therefore, they should be good ambassadors of their faith.”
Legatus maintains its fidelity to the magisterium, and 10% of its membership dues are given to the Holy See during the organization’s annual pilgrimage to Rome.
It was during the organization’s first such pilgrimage in 1988 that Pope John Paul II told Legatus members: “The world needs genuine witnesses to Christian ethics in the field of business, and the Church asks you to fulfill this role publicly with courage and perseverance.”
The sacraments are the backbone of Legatus. Each monthly chapter meeting begins with Mass and an opportunity for confession. As a result of the members’ involvement in Legatus, “the way in which members enter into the sacraments — mostly the Eucharist and confession — is more profound,” said Father Spitzer. “The Spirit is working.”
Monthly chapter meetings, in addition to Mass, include a leisurely dinner with a speaker, followed by a discussion. And since spouses are considered equal members in Legatus, attending the monthly chapter meetings “is like a date night with your spouse,” Monaghan said.
“By strengthening marriages, it leads to better families and better children,” Monaghan pointed out. His commitment to strengthening the family goes back to his early days at Domino’s, when he encouraged employees to invest in their marriage.
Legatus members are exposed to influential speakers on issues of importance to Catholics. The scheduled lineup for the Fall Summit in Colorado, for example, includes Cardinal Francis Arinze, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput, and James Dobson, founder of the evangelical Protestant apostolate Focus on the Family.
Regarding summits, they are conferences, and there are two a year. The fall summit is being held in Colorado in order to give geographical balance (they’ve often been held on the East Coast). They typically draw about 400.
Legatus doesn’t have any specific projects, nor does it engage in fundraising.
“This is part of the genius of Tom Monaghan,” said Stephen Beal, executive director of Legatus. “Each member has their own spiritual gifts. That truly is the spirit of Legatus.
“We have members in the media who are trying to get good family entertainment. Those in education are trying to bring good character education. They are on the frontlines of these cultural battles.”
“Bishops tell me that Legatus has a big impact on the Church because they are a group that the bishops can call on for help and support,” noted Monaghan. “They are people who can get things done. Just by being a member, they are saying, ‘I want to help. I want to serve the Church. I want to better my community.’”
Keith Fimian, chairman and founder of US Inspect, a home inspection company based in Chantilly, Va., noted: “Those of us in business, to run our companies, have to be members of a whole variety of organizations for a variety of reasons. This organization is the one that I enjoy the most by far because it allows me to deepen friendships with people I have a great deal in common with, whose interests I share and whose faith is of importance.”
“The purpose of Legatus is to help some of the most proven leaders in the Catholic Church to become better Catholics and thus be better ambassadors of our faith,” Monaghan wrote in Legatus magazine this month for the organization’s 20th anniversary. “If we do this, we will individually and simultaneously as a group change the world for good.”
Doreen AbiRaad is based in Fords, New Jersey.
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