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Meet the Chaplain: Fr. Charles Canoy – Ann Arbor Chapter


Father Charles “Chas” Canoy is the rare Legatus chaplain who actually worked for Legatus as a regional director in the 1990s.

Father Canoy, 45, the chaplain of Legatus’ Ann Arbor Chapter, was also once a marketer for General Mills who dreamed of getting married and starting a family. However, an Ignatian retreat he undertook helped give him the clarity he needed to enter seminary in 2001.

Today as pastor of St. John the Evangelist Church in Jackson, Michigan and as a Legatus chaplain, Father Canoy finds that his professional background helps him relate better to those whom he ministers. He recently spoke with Legatus magazine.

How difficult was it for you initially to give up your dream of having a wife and family?

It took a real dying to self for me to relinquish that vision I had for my life. It took doing the 30-day version of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius for me to get over my selfishness, to trust in God’s will for me, and to say yes. You know, when you’re living your everyday life, I think it’s easier to dismiss God’s promptings and nudges during our short daily prayer time. But in such a long silent retreat with no communication with the outside world, it’s just you and God.

How much have you seen Legatus change since you were a regional director in the 1990s?

With a lot more chapters since the ‘90s, its reach has broadened and its membership has diversified. It used to have a strong Midwest feel, but with such developments like the rise of the western chapters and the unique flavor that all those Louisiana chapters add, the Summits have a more universal vibe than ever!

How does your professional background help you in your role as a chaplain?

Having that initial business background helps me to appreciate the great achievements our members have accomplished. I understand the significant influence they have in their workplaces. The bottom dollar and quarterly profits may be how the world measures the effectiveness of business leaders, but we all know that legacies and what makes effective men and women truly great lie not simply in the numbers, but in the lives they have helped fulfill and transform both in the here and now and for eternity.

What do you see as Legatus’ benefits?

More and more faithful Catholic business leaders are receiving the formation and support needed to live their faith more openly instead of being a “closet Catholic.” It’s difficult to be a bold witness when you feel like you’re the only one trying to do so. The forums really help the members learn from each other and persevere in swimming against the cultural currents in order to be those shining witnesses that our families and our communities need.

How has Legatus impacted your priesthood?

The members are so inspirational! With all their creativity and passion for building up God’s kingdom, compassion for the less fortunate, and joie de vivre, they are great examples of the faith lived out in the real world. They are great witnesses of how God works through the members of His body if we are only willing to say yes and to be available and invest our resources to accomplish his healing and saving work in the world.

What are your hobbies and interests?

I love playing golf and hiking in the great outdoors! I just finished my sabbatical in the UK and made sure I played some of those great links courses in Scotland. Legatus member Deacon Dan Hall even came over for a week to enjoy them with me. A big highlight and dream-come-true for me was breaking 80 when I played the Old Course at St. Andrews!

Who are some of your spiritual heroes?

Hands down, my biggest inspiration is St. John Paul the Great! We are truly blessed to have lived under one of the greatest pontificates in the history of the Church.

Full circle: From Legatus employee to chaplain

Father Chas Canoy used to work as one of Legatus’ regional directors . . .

Fr. Charles Canoy

Fr. Charles Canoy

Fr. Charles Canoy
Ann Arbor Chapter

Father Charles (“Chas”) Canoy once worked for Legatus, but he began discerning his priestly calling long before that. While working as a marketer for General Mills, he says, “God began nudging me toward a vocation that would not market Cheerios anymore, but would promote something that satisfies the hunger of the soul instead of the stomach.” Passionate about the New Evangelization (check out his YouTube channel), the Lansing diocesan priest tries to instill that passion in Legates as well as seminarians at Detroit’s Sacred Heart Major Seminary, where he teaches and is associate director for undergraduate formation.

Tell us about your call to the priesthood.

I’d dreamed of having a wife and family, so I had to discern whether a priestly vocation was really for me. I decided to study a couple of years of philosophy at Franciscan University, knowing that was something seminarians studied anyway. Later, a 30-day Ignatian retreat helped me to overcome my selfishness and fears regarding priesthood and to trust in the Lord. I entered the seminary and was ordained in 2005.

By the way, I met a young lady at Franciscan and we dated seriously. That ended, of course. But a year after I was ordained, she entered the Sisters of Life. Now we’re both very happy that God got his way!

How did you become acquainted with Legatus?

I actually worked as the Great Lakes regional director back in the late ’90s. My ex-girlfriend was from around Ann Arbor, and one day she said, “I’m taking you to Domino’s Farms for Mass today.”

Not knowing it was the headquarters of Domino’s Pizza, I thought, “Domino’s Farms? I’ve never heard of St. Domino before!” Anyway, after Mass the priest struck up a conversation with me about my background, and the next thing I know I’m set to have a job interview with Legatus.

How would you like to see the Ann Arbor Chapter progress?

Legates need to be comfortable and confident having a conversation about life’s struggles and how their faith and relationship with the Lord help them to meet those challenges and give purpose to them. I would like to see our chapter members enter into a few small groups — forums — in which they meet once a month to do just that.

How do you approach your role as chaplain?

I see my role as providing the foundational grace of the sacraments at each Legatus event. I also try to provide some context and continuity between the events by suggesting how a particular message given to the group at the monthly event may relate to past speakers, to their vocation in the world, or to what is currently going on in the Church locally or worldwide. Of course, keeping them in prayer is also an important task of a chaplain.

Can you recommend any particular devotion?

Yes: the practice of lectio divina and using the Ignatian method of placing yourself in the Gospel scenes as you meditate on the scriptures. Marian devotion and the daily rosary have also been a stable constant in my life, giving words to my prayer when I am too tired to have them for myself.

Do you have any priestly advice for business leaders?

Simply doing your work well glorifies God and garners the respect of those around you. But the Lord has also given you that platform in order to draw the people around you closer to him.

Developing your own relationship with Jesus gives you such a desire, as well as the insight on how best to share that gift with those around you.

MATTHEW A. RAREY is Legatus magazine’s editorial assistant.

The heart of a brother

Br. Boylan is at the heart of the Holy Cross Brothers’ grace-filled mission . . .

Br. Francis Boylan, CSC

Br. Francis Boylan, CSC

Buddie Hadley’s job loading and driving a truck kept him on his toes, but it also gave him a pair of aching feet. And without health insurance, he had nowhere to turn for relief.

So when a co-worker told him about a clinic at Detroit’s Samaritan Center that could help him, Hadley paid a visit to the Center’s Dr. Margaret Ann Meyers. She diagnosed his problem as “arch drop,” asked for his shoe size and gave him some supports for his feet.

“She knows what she’s doing,” Hadley said. His feet no longer hurt.

Beacon of hope

Hadley is just one of 1,200 Detroit area residents helped every day through the multitude of community resources housed in the Samaritan Center, a former hospital located in what is known as the poorest zip code in the country. Eighty percent of young people in 48213 never graduate from high school — and 85% of the children are born to single mothers.

When Mercy Hospital closed in 2000, the owners began looking for a group to use the facility, but still provide some health care. Holy Cross Children’s Services, a nonprofit childcare and family preservation agency operated by the Holy Cross Brothers, stepped in. Together with SER Metro of Detroit, Holy Cross founded Samaritan Center, transforming the 27-acre campus into a center that houses a panoply of services, ranging from a primary care center to a 180-student charter high school.

Samaritan Center is also home to incubator businesses, a Head Start program, an after-school and summer tutoring program, an alternative college for adults over 18, a center that collects and distributes job-interview clothing for clients, employment and job-training services, and an assisted-living center for the elderly.

When Samaritan Center celebrates its 10th anniversary later this year, it will be in conjunction with the dedication of the new Ford Wellness Center — which will house a gymnasium, senior center and dental clinic staffed with dentists and hygienists from the University of Detroit School of Dentistry.

In its relatively short life, Samaritan Center has become a beacon of hope, creating almost 800 jobs. It’s spawned local redevelopment as well. New construction has replaced decaying buildings, a new grocery store opened and a vacant mall reopened.

“You can’t be in that building without feeling the energy,” said Scott Keller, president and CEO of Dynamis Advisors, which worked with the former hospital’s owners to find a new use for the facility. “It’s contagious and it’s bursting out to other parts of the community and neighborhood.”

Legatus connection

Before Holy Cross Children’s Services (HCCS) even acquired the building, its president, Br. Francis Boylan, CSC, brought together 20 fellow Legates to call on their expertise.

“If it wasn’t for Legatus members’ business skills in banking, business development and construction, we wouldn’t have been successful,” said Boylan, a member of Legatus’ Ann Arbor Chapter. “I wanted to do it, but I’m a social worker and I needed the business and construction skills, the real estate folks, all those different talents, to help make this project work.”

Keller said his firm has worked with other hospitals to find effective re-uses for their buildings, but Samaritan Center is the best example of a dramatic “before and after” transformation. “There probably hasn’t been a new grocery store in that neighborhood for 30 years,” he said. “There is story after story about little things that all add up. The neighborhood is definitely coming back.”

When Samaritan Center was a hospital, Keller added, the neighborhood had continued to deteriorate. “Hospitals are great from the standpoint that they employ a lot of people,” he said. “They generate payroll tax, which helps hire police and firefighters, but as generators of local economic development, they’re just not great. People come to work and leave; they don’t spur a lot of different things that occur from an economic development standpoint.”

Keller said he’s taken other clients to see Samaritan Center.

“People have come through that facility and have left with a lot of hope,” he said. “You don’t have to close a hospital and have it be just another indicator that the neighborhood is going the wrong way.”

History of helping

brothermugRay Weingartz, a member of Legatus’ Detroit Northeast Chapter, has been on the HCCS board for 10 years. In addition to everything the center does for its clients, Weingartz says he appreciates the facility’s spiritual aspect. The center provides Mass on Sundays in addition to a nondenominational chapel. Nearly 10 different church pastors maintain offices in the building.

Although Weingartz considers Samaritan Center to be the most important thing HCCS does, he said the organization continues to do significant work for young people through a network of homes and schools providing services daily to 1,000 children and families throughout Michigan. Founded in 1948 as Boysville of Michigan, a boarding school for Catholic boys who had serious home problems, the organization expanded to other sites in the 1970s. It became Holy Cross Children’s Services in 1998.

Keller said Boylan is to be commended for his willingness to take on the Samaritan Center project. “He had the vision and the faith — probably driven by the fact that a high percentage of the people that Holy Cross historically works with come from the neighborhoods around that hospital.”

Meyers, the physician who helped Buddie Hadley, said that when Boylan first proposed Samaritan Center as a one-stop facility, many said it couldn’t be done.

“From my perspective, Samaritan Center is really a miracle,” she said. “They’ve really hit all of the greatest needs of the community and looked at ways to provide resources. It’s an incredible thing.”

Judy Roberts is a Legatus Magazine staff writer.