A gourmet approach to chaplaincy
Monsignor Michael Billian talks about the joy of leading Legatus’ Genesis Chapter …
Monsignor Michael Billian
Monsignor Michael Billian, 53, just served 12 years as chancellor of the Toledo diocese. Before that he led one of Toledo’s premier Catholic high schools, giving him invaluable experience as an educator and fundraiser. Just a few months ago — in September — he got his first full-time parish pastoral assignment. As the chaplain of Legatus’ Genesis Chapter, he’s intimately involved with the chapter’s exciting role as host of the upcoming 25th anniversary summit next February in Naples.
Tell us about your call to the priesthood.
There was no lightning-bolt moment. It was nurtured over a long period of time by my family and the priests and religious in my school and parish. In the eighth grade I got an invitation to attend Holy Spirit Seminary High School here in Toledo. It was a great time of discernment. By the time I graduated I’d decided the priesthood was still my call, so I went to seminary. I also took summer classes at Bowling Green State University where I earned a Master’s in education, which prepared me for the various educational and administrative assignments the bishop asked me to assume after I was ordained in 1984.
How did you become acquainted with Legatus?
I knew about Legatus, especially through graduates of Central Catholic High School, where I served as president and pastor from 1987 to 1999. Some of them were founding members of Legatus. [Toledo-area members helped forge the original now-retired Michigan Chapter.] I became involved with Legatus six years ago when they decided to form the Toledo or “Genesis” Chapter. They had lunch with Bishop Leonard Blair and I, as his chancellor, went along. At the end of the meeting the members asked Bishop Blair to appoint a chaplain. Two minutes later I was appointed.
What impact has Legatus had on the Toledo diocese?
Bishop Blair recognizes that Legates are leaders in their professional fields and he wants them to be leaders in diocesan life, too. Already a number of Legates have leadership roles in the diocese, serving on various councils and committees. The bishop likes to keep them very informed on things going on, and he counts upon their advice, especially in financial matters, like with his annual appeal.
The way we’ve approached membership — I’ve worked closely with our membership chairman — is very parish-focused. I’ve helped arrange meetings with pastors and Legates. We ask the pastor to suggest potential members who tend to be people already involved in parish life.
As leaders in the business and professional fields, Legates have an opportunity — a gift to be recognized — to see things from a broader perspective. They tend to be attuned to the larger direction and vision of the Church, so I and Bishop Blair consider them a very supportive force for the benefit of the diocese.
How would you like to see the chapter progress?
In September we inducted our 80th member. But we’d like to expand geographically. Right now the deepest pockets of our membership reside in the northwest Ohio part of the diocese, so we’re working to expand membership in other areas of the diocese.
You have a vocation, of course. Any avocations?
I like to cook. I’m pretty good with Italian, but I take on all cooking challenges. I’m not a good recipe follower: I like to experiment and make great eating experiences. I love to cook for others. I’m happy that I’ve been able to raise a lot of money for church programs by turning my meals into fundraisers. A word of advice for cooks: If you put your heart into your cooking — if you put care and consideration into what you’re making — that makes it gourmet, however simple the dish.