Five faces of faith
Everyone who has been a part of Legatus throughout its three decades has a different story to tell, but all share the mission of studying, living and spreading the Catholic faith in their business, professional and personal lives.
To mark the 30th anniversary of Legatus, we present five members whose achievements and leadership uniquely reflect what all Legates are striving toward as they seek to be “ambassadors for Christ” through good works, good ideas and high ethical standards grounded in the faith.
PA senator guided by faith
John DiSanto was a second-generation family business owner when he joined Legatus as the Harrisburg, PA, Chapter was forming in 2015, but he since has added another dimension to his professional life: that of a state senator.
Last year, he was elected to the 15th district Pennsylvania Senate seat after withstanding attacks in the primary and general election for his positions on life and family issues. Although he was already a faithful, practicing Catholic who tried to make moral decisions in his business life, DiSanto said Legatus has encouraged him to be more conscious of his faith, especially now that he is an elected official.
“On the political side,” DiSanto said, “it’s a whole other ballgame because the legislature frequently gets involved in people’s personal lives.” For example, when the state senate recently considered a bill banning abortions after 20 weeks, he said, “That was one of the few times I really felt the gravity of office weighing upon me.” Ultimately, his faith guided him to support the bill.
As a businessman, DiSanto grew the family construction and development company into a leading firm and now serves as managing trustee of the Terra Trust, a real estate development and investment trust. His community service has included overseeing the rebuilding of Bishop McDevitt High School and helping to build homes for Habitat for Humanity.
DiSanto and his wife, Maria, were inspired to join Legatus after hearing how Tom Monaghan started it and why Harrisburg Bishop Ronald Gainer wanted a chapter in the diocese. Additionally, DiSanto said, “My wife and I are very busy people and it appealed to us as a time to be together and work on our faith.”
Retired CEO; pro bono lawyer for homeless
When Colorado Springs Legate Richard Eitel retired in 2008 as CEO of Memorial Health System, he was by no means finished serving others. He went to law school to help those who are disadvantaged.
Today, his law practice revolves largely around pro bono work and many of his clients are homeless people and others being served by Catholic Charities.
Since joining Legatus in 2012 – the same year he graduated from the University of Denver Law School – Eitel said membership has had a profound impact on his life and that of his wife, Joyce. “We’ve met and become good friends with a group of pretty amazing people – people of strong faith – and I think being exposed to the members of our chapter as well as the speakers has really reinforced and strengthened our faith . . . I can honestly say I think my faith life has grown tremendously in the last five years and Legatus has been a big part of that.”
Eitel said as fellow Legates who are involved with outreaches to those in need have sought his help for people they are trying to assist, he in turn has referred clients to them for aid. He credits the common faith of Legatus members and their commitment to living out Christ’s teachings with bolstering the work he does.
“Every person we touch is an opportunity to evangelize in some way. Like everyone else, I fail a lot, but I hope my whole life is one that’s living out the mission of Legatus.”
Founder, Elgon Winery (Uganda); acting CFO, Immaculate Heart Radio
His children say he is the worst retired person in the world and Chuck Haas agrees.
After a successful career that included 15 years at Intel Corp., and co-founding Covad Communications and MetroFi, Inc., Haas, a member of the Napa Valley Chapter since its chartering in 2010, now is applying his business acumen to helping the people of Uganda and Catholic radio in California.
Haas said reading Bob Buford’s book, Halftime, which advocates devoting the second half of life to serving God, gave him a different perspective on what kind of business he should pursue. The book was distributed to Legatus members after founder Tom Monaghan met the author and decided his message was tailor-made for Legates.
Uganda captured Haas’ attention when he heard a Ugandan friend of Fr. Athanasius Kikoba, parochial vicar of St. Joseph of Cupertino Parish, ask on a tour of California’s Napa Valley why grapes were not grown in his country. Haas began researching tropical viniculture, leading to the startup of the Elgon Winery in Uganda in 2015 and, a year ago, a vineyard nursery that already has produced 2,500 new grape vines and eventually will produce 100,000 vines a year. A 5-acre vineyard also has been planted. The objective, Haas said, is to give Ugandan farmers another cash crop besides coffee, the country’s largest export, and better financial and ecological returns. In November, Haas started Solar Cooking Uganda, Ltd., to replace charcoal, wood and kerosene with clean, fast and less costly solar electricity.
Another Haas company, C&E Development Co., LLC, is majority owner of Solar Cooking Uganda and also owns the land and tower for Immaculate Heart Radio stations in San Francisco and San Diego.
Haas’ wife, Ellen, said her husband has always had a desire to do good, but that Legatus has put him in a community of people who encourage him in those pursuits. Haas said Legatus also has given him a better Catholic perspective on how business and faith can be combined. “I think Legatus has helped me formulate how you start a business, which is different from how I started 20 years ago.”
Financial exec fights for beliefs in public square
Jeff and Nanci Hyman didn’t hesitate when they were approached about starting a Legatus chapter in DuPage County, IL.
They immediately embraced founder Tom Monaghan’s vision of a group whose members could share values, grow in their faith and then transmit those values to their respective companies. “That to me was the kind of organization I would consider being a part of,” Hyman said, “because it’s not about making money. It’s about making people better Catholics and helping people – each and every one of us – get to heaven.”
A financial services executive and founding president of the DuPage Chapter, which was chartered in 2015, Hyman said he and Nanci consider each Legatus meeting to be “the ultimate date night” because it affords them the chance to be with people who are like-minded and want to talk about their faith. “It’s addictive to hear what other people are on fire about.”
For example, Hyman said, “A couple of years ago we got on fire about the pro-life movement.” The couple went to a pro-life rally being held to counteract a pro-abortion demonstration. “It was just so rewarding. We did it with love and a positive message.” Another time, the Hymans joined a group protesting outside a Planned Parenthood facility and prayed for the women who would go there. “If it weren’t for Legatus,” Hyman said, “I’m not sure I would have found my way to those two things. It’s helped us grow in our faith, share it, evangelize and go out there and fight for what we believe in.”
After a Legatus meeting, the Hymans typically discuss the evening’s message at home, talking about how it can play a role in their lives. “That is a wonderful thing because it helps your marriage grow even stronger,” Jeff said. “. . . Not only do you talk with each other, but you can share it with your family. Legatus is a great example we want to show our children – that we’re not afraid to go to a public place and be with people and outwardly talk about and learn about our faith.”
Pediatric dentist, father of 18
Legatus is all about family for Troy and Christy King of the Orlando Chapter.
Not only did they first learn about the organization through a family connection – Christy’s father, former Central Region Director Brian Von Gruben – but, as the parents of 18 children (13 of them adopted), they can attest to what Legatus has done to strengthen their marriage and witness of openness to life.
Troy, a pediatric dentist, said going to a monthly Legatus meeting as a couple has led him and his wife to have a weekly date night. “It’s made us a better set of parents, better ready to evangelize our kids, better ready to meet the challenges they have for us. It gives us a chance to sit down and make sure we’re on the same page and have a clear conscience when we go into the following week with our kids.”
Troy said Legatus also has pushed him and Christy to decipher what God has in store for them and not to be comfortable in their Catholicism. In his dental practice, it means being outwardly Catholic in the office, but Christy added that wherever they are, “Legatus has made us more willing to talk about faith.”
However, having a large family of children between the ages of 3 months and 17 often doesn’t necessarily involve speaking, Christy said. “It’s really just living everyday life, showing up at Mass and letting people see the possibility of what it looks like, making it look doable and approachable. I think that’s more our witness than anything we have to say about it. We’re living the life we’re called to lead. Anybody who knows our kids, our family, can see how it works.”
JUDY ROBERTS is a Legatus magazine staff writer.