Legatus’ Fort Wayne Chapter posts rapid growth and feeds members’ spiritual hunger . . .
Take a brand new Legatus chapter. Add a supportive bishop, a proactive board, and dynamic, faith-filled regular meetings, and what do you get? Extraordinary growth.
Engagement and expansion
Chartered in December 2013, the Fort Wayne Chapter received Legatus’ 2014 Angott Award for greatest growth at the Annual Summit in January. (Click here for a related story.) The new chapter was able to add 10 new member couples last year, growing from 41 to 61 members including spouses in a single year. How did they do it? Through a combination of factors.
“We have a very supportive and proactive bishop,” said Diana Parent, membership chair and president of Sperry Van Ness/Parke Group. “Bishop Rhoades is a big fan and supporter of Legatus. He attended multiple meetings in establishing the chapter.”
Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades of the Fort Wayne-South Bend diocese was instrumental in getting the chapter started.
“I love Legatus and its mission,” he told Legatus magazine. “I love the idea of getting members together monthly for Mass, Confession, and a speaker where they can learn more about their faith and develop their own Christian community to support one another in faith. It’s a great model of serving the spiritual life of Catholic leaders, and I don’t know of anything else like it.”
In addition to the bishop’s support, members point to the pivotal role of the chapter’s board.
“We had a very active board locally and made a commitment that we would network as best we could with people in the community who might have an interest,” said past-president Tom Pentenburg, owner of Spherion Staffing in Fort Wayne. “We spread the word. It really wasn’t a hard sell: there are so many good features of Legatus and we had the backing of Bishop Rhoades.”
The board meets regularly, including a week before each chapter event to review the prospect list and make follow-up calls.
“It was an effort by our entire board,” agreed current chapter president, Deacon James Fitzpatrick, founding chair of Quality Dining, Inc. “With the assistance of our bishop, we put together a list of people who might qualify.”
The board also met for business lunches, working to create a list of about 60 potential members. Individual board members did one-on-one networking, and they asked new members if they knew of anyone else who might qualify.
“I think that personal touch always works,” said Fitzpatrick, who noted that Legatus’ Great Lakes Region director Nancy Haskell was also key in getting the new chapter off the ground.
“She helped identify companies and was like our guide and coach,” said Fitzpatrick. “She helped us follow Legatus’ rules, had good ideas, and was easy to work with.”
Haskell, who oversees 21 chapters in the region, said the chapter did an excellent job reaching out to potential members and having friends introduce them to the chapter. “They also offered good faith-filled evenings that included Mass, Confession, and fellowship,” she said. “They embraced the mission and shared it with others.
“They followed the mission textbook. They implemented it and let the Holy Spirit take over. They offer the sacraments, their chaplain is excellent, and they have a line for Confession! The board is really engaged. The regular board meetings are key for a successful chapter.”
Rather than holding one or two recruiting events throughout the year, the Fort Wayne Chapter brought new members in throughout the year, with as many as eight to 10 new prospects at some meetings.
Two of those new members were Steve and Laurie Grashoff. The couple had never heard of Legatus before being invited by Diana Parent and her husband.
“They invited us to a meeting in June 2014 as guests,” explained
Steve Grashoff, president of Peerless Cleaners. “Mass was at our parish, St. Vincent de Paul, and Fr. Leo Patalinghug was the speaker.”
Known as the “cooking priest,” Fr. Patalinghug is the founder of the Grace Before Meals apostolate. He prepared a dish and spoke about the faith. The country club where the meeting was held then prepared his dish and served it for dinner.
“My wife is a bit of cook, and I follow Fr. Leo on Sirius XM’s Catholic Channel,” said Grashoff. “It was an exciting evening.”
The Grashoffs joined the chapter a month later.
Another new member, Greg Erlandson, president of the Catholic publishing company Our Sunday Visitor, said that he’s already benefited from membership.
“It’s been great for fellowship and spiritual focus,” Erlandson explained. “Legatus is focused on business people who have a certain level of responsibility. It provides an environment where we can receive the sacraments, listen to a speaker, and discuss ideas of significance. There’s a bonding that takes place with other decision-makers. That’s been quite fruitful and has led, on occasion, to meeting with other people because of the contact of Legatus.”
Erlandson has also brought OSV’s resources to the chapter’s program committee.
“Our Sunday Visitor has access to a lot of authors,” said Erlandson. “We just had one of our best-selling authors, Susan Tassone, as a speaker, and we’ll be bringing in author Mike Aquilina.”
Bishop Rhoades added that he’s already seen benefits of the chapter for the diocese.
“Just in talking to members, I can see their ongoing formation as Catholic disciples taking place,” said Bishop Rhoades. “It’s really what I had hoped for.”
Chapter members mentioned several other elements that contributed to the chapter’s growth.
“We were given a very good chaplain,” said Parent. “Father Dan Scheidt has helped with membership recruiting and is a beautiful homilist. He provides the rosary and the sacrament of Reconciliation and Mass at every meeting. That’s made our events very worthwhile.”
Members praised the quality of the chapter’s speakers, including nationally known leaders like Mother Assumpta Long and author Matthew Kelly.
“The quality of our speakers has grabbed the attention of prospective members,” said Parent. “We can invite people, but they’re not going to come if they don’t find it worthy of their time.”
Bishop Rhoades identified another reason for the chapter’s growth: spiritual hunger.
“In our culture today, the Church and individual Catholics are facing increasing challenges,” Bishop Rhoades explained. “The growth shows that an organization like Legatus is really needed, and it shows the spiritual needs that people feel to have a regular event where they can gather socially, receive the sacraments, listen to a speaker on an important topic that’s relevant to their vocation and profession, and support one another.”
TIM DRAKE is Legatus magazine’s editorial assistant.