William Simon, Jr. – At Large Legatus Member
In 2002, William Simon, Jr., came within five points of unseating former California governor Gray Davis. The Republican gubernatorial nominee thought about running for public office again, but discerned that he was being called to ventures outside politics.
Simon, an At-Large Legatus member who lives in California, went on to found the Parish Catalyst, an apostolate aimed at helping vibrant and creative parishes learn from one another and capitalize on new ideas for their ministries and operations.
In the 1980s, Simon worked in the Southern District of New York as an assistant United States attorney when Rudolph Giuliani was the U.S. Attorney. Today, he is co-chairman of William E. Simons & Sons, an investment firm he cofounded in 1988 with his brother and their father, William E. Simon, Sr., the former U.S. Secretary of the Treasury. He spoke with Legatus magazine staff writer Brian Fraga.
How did the idea of the Parish Catalyst come together?
I wrote a book with a friend of mine, Michael Novak, called Living the Call, about the wonderful opportunities available to the laity in the Catholic Church. A friend of mine called and said, “I read the book, I think you might want to know what I’m doing in the evangelical tradition. You might want to do it in your Catholic tradition.”
In 2012 and 2013, we studied 244 parishes all over the country. We spent 18 months analyzing 3,600 pages of transcripts. We came up with 49 findings in our analysis, and we grouped those findings into four categories.
What are the four categories that make for a vibrant parish?
There’s leadership, which of course is important in anything, but it’s terribly important in parishes. There is also a focus on spiritual growth of the parishioners. There is the Sunday experience. Finally, there is a focus on evangelization.
What was it like working for Rudy Giuliani when he was the U.S. Attorney?
It was great. He was a young man at that point and so was I. I like to say I worked for Rudy before he was Rudy. When I ran for governor, he helped me and I helped him when he ran for president. I consider him one of my very closest friends.
Have you ever thought about going back into politics?
I went through a process of discernment. I realized that for someone of my political persuasion and religious beliefs, it would be hard to get elected. I’m a conservative Republican and an active Catholic. I love to live in California, but it’s not conducive to running for office for someone of my beliefs and ideology, at least at the statewide level.
When did you become a Legatus member?
I joined as an At-Large member three or four years ago. It’s been a great experience. I’ve known of Legatus for maybe 20 years. I’ve spoken at various chapters all over California. Tom Monaghan and I have been friendly for a long time. We’ve supported each other’s activities over the years.
What are your hobbies?
In years gone by, I played a lot of tennis and squash. But I find now that my body at almost age 66 can’t handle long periods of time on the tennis court, so I’m trying other things. I love to hike and climb mountains. I usually climb one or two large mountains a year. It also gives me time for contemplation.