Tag Archives: Bismarck Chapter

Bismarck CEO: motivate staff as a Catholic servant-leader

Vern Dosch, Vice President of Legatus’ new Bismarck Chapter which chartered October 22, is an ardent proponent of servant leadership. As president and CEO of National Information Solutions Cooperative, a technology company headquartered in North Dakota, Dosch, 66, credits that philosophy with attracting and retaining its talented workforce.

“If you take care of your people, if you invest in your people, if you’re empathetic and compassionate and create that type of a trusting environment, people will come and people will stay,” said Dosch, who wrote about his company’s cooperative business model, servant leadership, and shared values in his 2015 book, Wired Differently.

Dosch will share some of the lessons and insights he has obtained over 44 years with NISC when he addresses the 2020 Legatus Summit as a featured speaker. He recently spoke with Legatus magazine.

What are you going to be speaking about at the Legatus Summit?

My talk is really going to be about two main topics: One is just my own Catholic journey.

The second will focus on what it means to be a Catholic in the work environment, specifically a Catholic as a servant leader.

What is a servant leader?

There is this vision or persona of the CEO as the smartest guy or gal in the room who has to be up on all the topics and an expert on every facet of the organization. At NISC, we have about 1,400 employees, customers in all 50 states, diverse products, and a very diverse workforce. I’ve really come to understand that the role of the CEO isn’t to be the smartest person out in front, but to create an environment and culture where people can grow and thrive. So for me, my role has become more of a facilitator, more of a servant to the talent that we have in this organization — which can create an environment that will cause really good, smart people to come here and stay here.

How does the servant leader model benefit your company?

Particularly with the current generation [of employees], it isn’t just about money. They want to work for a place they believe in. They want to work for a CEO, a management group, and a board of directors that they can trust. That is just as important as their wage. Don’t get me wrong. You’ve got to be competitive, but creating an environment where they feel empowered and appreciated is important.

How does your Catholic faith inform your approach as CEO?

My Catholic faith teaches me humility, compassion, and the importance of taking care of others. In this line of business, traditionally all the focus is on the bottom line of the organization and returning shareholder wealth. But for us, the philosophy is to create an environment, encourage people to stay, earn their trust, and serve them so that they understand you’re willing to invest in their career and you’re willing to invest in them personally.

Every place has a mission statement, but if you were to walk through the halls of NISC and you asked people to describe the major motivation of this organization, they would tell you, “Do the right thing always.” For me, “do the right thing” is the basis of my Catholic faith.

What have been your impressions of Legatus?

My biggest surprise was when I walked into our first chapter meeting and saw the other people who were there. I was like, “What? I’ve known you in the community for all these years, and I didn’t even know you were Catholic.” It’s just been an extraordinary experience and allowed me to build some relationships with people who I had known casually for years, but didn’t really know that we shared the same Catholic faith. Legatus has been one of the most affirming things that I’ve been involved with in terms of strengthening, affirming, and encouraging my own Catholic faith, and for that I’m just so grateful.

New warmth permeates North Dakota

It was a little over two years ago when Legatus central regional director Ken Darnell reached out to Bishop David Kagan of Bismarck, North Dakota, to gauge the bishop’s interest in starting a Legatus chapter there. Some 13 years earlier, Bishop Kagan had been a Legatus chapter chaplain for the Rockford, Illinois Chapter, and it left a lasting impression on him.

“He was well familiar with Legatus and was extremely supportive of having a chapter in his diocese,” said Darnell, who added that the bishop then promptly sent letters to several prospective Legatus members.

“It makes a huge difference to receive a letter like that from your bishop,” Darnell said.

Steady two-year growth towards charter

Since those early days in the summer of 2017, Legatus’ Bismarck Chapter has seen steady, incremental growth.

On October 22, the Chapter held its official chartering event at the University of Mary, beginning with Confession, rosary, and Mass in Our Lady of Che Word Chapel, followed with cocktails and hors d’oeuvres, a hearty five-course dinner, and Mr. Monaghan’s traditional ‘fireside chat’ – nestled by a Great Plains crackling fire – in the Harold Schafer Leadership Center. Afterward, new members enjoyed an after-glow event at University of Mary president Monsignor James Shea’s residence. Monsignor Shea, an in-demand speaker at many Legatus chapters, was also a concelebrant at the chartering Mass.

“Legatus is one of the best-kept secrets in the Catholic Church,” said Dr. John Warford, president of the new Bismarck Chapter. Warford, an orthodontist, former mayor of Bismarck, and former Dean of the University of Mary Business School, said the invitation he received two years ago from Bishop Kagan “piqued his interest.”

“I didn’t know much about Legatus, but upon further investigation into it, I thought it would be a perfect fit for me and my wife Jennifer,” said Warford, who decided to join after attending the Chapter’s second meeting.

“Legatus is a vehicle for attendees to increase their faith,” Warford said.

Dr. Raymond Gruby and his wife of 50 years, Joyce Gruby, are the co-chairs of the Bismarck Chapter’s Program Committee. They were among the first couples to become members.

“Everything about Legatus seemed to be excellent,” said Dr. Gruby, an orthopedic surgeon who led a practice. He and Joyce said they have made several friendships with the other couples who attend the Chapter’s monthly meetings.

Bond of faith fortifies friendships

“I think people look forward to seeing one another after a month has gone by, and then catching up on each other’s lives,” Joyce said. “There is a real intimacy in our group, a real caring for others. And of course, we have that great bond of our Catholic faith, and it’s very beautiful.”

The Diocese of Bismarck encompasses the western half of North Dakota. Despite its large territorial area, the diocese represents a modest demographic for prospective Legatus members.

“The people who have joined are terrific. And it’s been a blessing for me to get to know them, not only as Legatus members but as friends,” said Darnell, who spoke of the strong Catholic community in Bismarck.

“They’re just good people,” Darnell said. “They don’t wear their success on their sleeves. They’re strong in their faith and have great values.”

Keeping standards high, content solid

Warford said the key to building the new chapter in Bismarck requires one-on-one relationship building. He spoke of the importance of keeping standards high and not watering down membership requirements or content of the monthly meetings.

“Rather, we want to strive to create a Legatus chapter that is extraordinary. Sustainability is important, and I hope for incrementally large growth as time goes on,” Warford said.

Drawing compelling national speakers to Bismarck can be a challenge given traveling logistics. Still, the Chapter has been able to land nationally known Catholic speakers such as pro-life leader Abby Johnson and lay evangelist Ralph Martin, the president of Renewal Ministries.

“We want to continue to pursue the best speakers,” Warford said. “We also have an extraordinary local pool of speakers.”

“Our focus is on developing relationships and exhibiting Legatus to people who could be potential partners in this,” said Gruby, who added that the monthly opportunity to attend Mass together, pray the rosary, enjoy a meal, and hear a talented speaker has invigorated his own faith.

“It’s been an excellent experience in that regard,” he said.

Joyce Gruby said spending an evening with other Catholic couples whom she and her husband can relate to professionally and who share a desire to grow in the faith has been an edifying and enriching experience.

“It’s just inspiring to all of us, to strengthen and grow in our faith,” she said. “And the speakers, of course, are instrumental in that as well.”

BRIAN FRAGA is a Legatus magazine staff writer.

New Bismarck chaplain sees how world longs for God


Father Thomas Grafsgaard, 33, is the chaplain of Legatus’ Bismarck Chapter, which was just chartered in October. Father Grafsgaard, ordained on June 13, 2013, is pastor of Saint Joseph Church in Beulah and Saint Martin Church in Hazen, North Dakota. He grew up in Bismarck and dreamed of becoming a doctor before he heard the call to the priesthood. He recently spoke with Legatus magazine.

When did you first suspect that you were called to the priesthood?

I’d always wanted to be a doctor, so I went to St. John’s University in Minnesota and got a biology degree. But during my junior year, I couldn’t stop thinking about the priesthood. I didn’t know why. I didn’t want to be a priest. I wanted a wife, a family, kids, and to be a doctor, but that call was relentless.

I studied abroad in Ireland in 2006, and it became pretty clear over there that God was calling me to the seminary. I’d say the call didn’t originate with me — it was definitely a call that God gave to me. I couldn’t imagine not being a priest now.

What is it about the priesthood that most brings you joy?

I certainly enjoy celebrating Mass. In hearing confessions, I am deeply edified and humbled by that. With the ministry of giving Christ’s mercy to people, it’s overwhelming, it’s such a gift that He left to His Church. I also enjoy being with people in every step of life. I could have a baptism followed by a funeral, wedding, or teaching in the classroom. Every day is different, and I love that. I’m learning new stuff every day, as far as what it means to be a priest and what it means to be a pastor.

What are some things you’ve learned in your six years as a priest?

I’ve learned the importance of simple kindness and charity, and also I’ve learned quickly how much the world longs for God. Being out in public, wearing the Roman collar, you see how much people are thirsting for God. To be a public witness to the reality of God and God’s presence in the world, it’s overwhelming and it’s very beautiful.

How did you get acquainted with Legatus?

Bishop David Kagan [of Bismarck] had contacted me, saying that there was going to be a meeting for people interested in an organization called Legatus. I knew nothing about Legatus and had never heard of it. But the bishop asked if I would be open to being the chaplain for our Chapter. From there, it just grew. I’ve come to really enjoy the Legates in Bismarck, and am very grateful to Bishop Kagan for having asked me.

What have been some of your impressions about the Legates?

I am edified by how much they desire to live their faith in the workplace, by being that leaven in society in living the Gospels and upholding Catholic social teaching. The Legates here in Bismarck have a tremendous desire to share, not necessarily by overt evangelization in the workplace, but in very subtle ways, to live the Gospel in a culture that is not always easy to do, especially in the workplace.

Who are your spiritual heroes?

Certainly, John Paul II. I was able to see him when I was a young high school student on a retreat-pilgrimage after my senior year in high school. Also, Pope Benedict XVI for his humility and his tremendous knowledge of history. I wrote my master’s thesis on Pope Benedict and the New Evangelization, so I’ve had a deep admiration for him for a long time.

What kind of spiritual impact did that retreat have on you?

You think the Church is big, but when you’re in North Dakota, you forget how universal the Church is, especially with the languages that are spoken, the cultures that Catholics live in around the world. I think that retreat helped me to understand more fully what it means to be Catholic.