Tag Archives: Catholic Business leader

Business Virtue Begets Leadership Charisma


Legatus founder Tom Monaghan has often expressed that it is ultimately The Golden Rule and his Catholic values that led to his greatest successes, both in and out of business. Legatus is founded on those same principles, supporting virtuous business leadership. It is also the basis of The Journey to Excellence Program offered by the Spitzer Center for Visionary Leadership.

The program is based on Fr. Robert Spitzer’s identification of the “Four Levels of Happiness” reflecting classical and Christian insights into the human desire for happiness. The Four Levels begin with Level 1 — immediate gratification of the self; Level 2 — ego-centeredness; Level 3 — a contributive ethic of working toward the greater good; and Level 4 — striving for ultimate goodness. For secular organizations, the goal is to create at least a Level 3 environment which promotes the Golden Rule of doing unto others as you would have them do unto you.

It was Fr. Spitzer’s talk on the “Four Levels of Happiness” at a Legatus chapter which first got the attention of Jim Berlucchi who was the executive director of Legatus from 1991 to 2001. Father Spitzer was still the president of Gonzaga University at the time.

“When I heard this talk, in Ventura, California, I made a directive to have him speak to as many chapters as possible,” Berlucchi said. “It was such a relevant message. I got him to speak at our national meeting and then he became our international chaplain for several years.” In 2003, Berlucchi helped co-found the Spitzer Center for Visionary Leadership and later became its first executive director.

The Four Levels of Happiness was a program that Fr. Spitzer had used at Gonzaga University and rolled out as a business program — called Journey to Excellence — through the Spitzer Center in 2008. The goal, he explained, is to overcome selflimiting behaviors by enhancing the culture, virtue, and leadership through helping employees understand happiness based on what philosophers and theologians have agreed on for over 2,400 years.

According to Berlucchi, the program helps participants recognize their own behaviors that are holding them back personally, and ultimately hampering the culture of the entire organization. “It brings Catholic values into the workplace in a way that is nonsectarian,” Berlucchi said.


Father Spitzer explained that he was nearing the end of his time at Gonzaga when he started the Spitzer Center to keep his corporate work going. “The Journey to Excellence program helps to integrate Catholic formation to a more pluralistic audience,” he said.

The goal, Fr. Spitzer explained, is to get everyone thinking and acting on a Level 3, collaborative way. Level 4 includes transcendence and faith, but in a business environment, he said that it is offered on a volunteer basis but often with surprising results.

“The Golden Rule is another way of saying Level 3, wanting the good for others that you want done to you,” Fr. Spitzer said. “That will lead to looking out for what is just to all of the stakeholders.”


Rob Reed and his wife Stacie are members of the Omaha, Nebraska Chapter. He is the president and CEO of Physicians Mutual Insurance and brought the Journey to Excellence program to his 1,000 employees last year.

“You think you have a good handle on things, but the assessment of our company culture was illuminating,” he said. “It pointed out many positive things, as well as the areas where we could use improvement.”

Although the fourth level has to do with God, Reed offered it to his employees. “We got rave reviews,” he said. “It showed a yearning to explore that spiritual side. It’s something that will affect them beyond what they do for eight hours at work.”

Reed noted that changing the culture of an organization takes time but it’s worth the commitment. “It’s been pretty cool to see all the leaves that have grown from this original seed.”

Andy Newland, president of Hercules Industries, and his wife Lori belong to the Denver Legatus Chapter. Five years ago, he immersed his 530 employees in the Journey to Excellence program. “As a Catholic business owner, we subscribe wholeheartedly to wanting a company where people are happy to come to work,” he said.

Newland said they’ve made several changes to encourage greater cooperation and move to a Level 3 organization. “We changed our compensation program and got rid of commissions, creating a fully salaried sales force with a group bonus,” he said. “Commissions were leading to self-serving purposes often against the common good.” He explained that this rectified situations such as one branch delivering 70 miles away to a customer who was only one mile from another branch, in order to gain the commission.

Another tangible result was the establishment of an employeehardship fund allowing people to make charitable donations to help co-workers with needs such as help when a flood destroys a home or a when someone needs help traveling to a funeral. “We were shocked by people’s strong desire to help one another and the amount of support that poured in,” Newland said. In two years they have raised over $100,000.

“We wanted an atmosphere that respected human dignity,” he said. “And when people want to come to work, you are also going to do better in business.”

PATTI MAGUIRE ARMSTRONG is a Legatus magazine contributing writer


The Scarlet and the Black – Making Church-sense of Finance

First of its kind

“It’s not simply helping the Church with a program on church management, but it’s giving everybody a chance to deepen their faith and deepen their commitment to all the different missions of the Church,” said Hillen, 52, a member of Legatus’ Northern Virginia Chapter.

Hillen, a former public company CEO who is a professor in George Mason University’s School of Business, helped to develop a financial management program to teach basic management and financial skills to pastors, lay leaders, and religious who operate parishes and other Church-affiliated institutions.

The Program on Church Management, which is offered through the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome, is in its first year, and has students — priests, bishops, deacons, religious, and lay people — from North America, Asia, Africa, Europe, and Australia.

“It really is an effort for the universal church,” Hillen said.

Guarding against scandal

The Program on Church Management, Hillen said, is an initiative that was founded in response to a directive launched two years ago by Pope Francis, who said that Church leaders at every level should be educated in basic management and financial skills so as to help guard against financial scandal or the mismanagement of the Church’s assets.

“The Church has to be exemplary in the way she uses material means, both in an ethical and spiritual way, but also in an economic way,” said Monsignor Martin Schlag, the director of the Program on Church Management who splits his time between Rome and Minnesota, where he also serves as a business professor at the University of St. Thomas.

Monsignor Schlag said Christians, especially pastors and those trusted with running ministries and other Church agencies, have to give testimony to the Gospel in the way they deal with money, otherwise they would be denying what the Church teaches.

“How can we teach business ethics or the teachings of the Church if we as a Church don’t abide by its teachings?” Monsignor Schlag said.

The program took shape as conversations deepened between representatives from the Vatican Curia, led by Cardinal George Pell, the Australian prelate who led the Vatican’s Secretariat for the Economy, and an international advisory council of Catholic business leaders, led by Hillen.

Blending business, social teaching, ethics

What emerged was a one-year program where students would not only learn basic accounting and management skills, but also study the Church’s social teaching, as well as business ethics, leadership, asset management, negotiating, and real estate management, among other topics.

“This is a special program in management. It’s not meant to be like a business degree,” said Hillen, who added that it was originally thought the program would be for two years until it was decided that Church leaders did not need that extensive a program.

“So basically, the first piece of advice from what became the International Business Leaders Advisory Council, of which I’m the chairman, was to make the program shorter, crisper, and more relevant to the management and financial challenges that these priests and nuns are likely to face,” said Hillen, who co-authored a new book on business leadership entitled, What Happens Now?: Reinvent Yourself as a Leader Before Your Business Outruns You.

The Program on Church Management is split between four intensive full-time weeks over the course of the year, with periods in between in which students attend classes one afternoon a week and on Saturday mornings.

“We have classes in negotiation, classes in leadership, classes in basic management, with a specialized class in management in ecclesial organizations,” Hillen said. “We have classes in basic finance, asset management, budgeting, financial reporting, financial controls, people management, governance, project management, real estate management.

Competent fiscal and faith shepherds

“It’s a basic competency in these areas,” Hillen added. “Why? Because the Church owes it to the faithful to competently manage the temporal resources under its custodianship.”

The faithful have a right to expect transparency and accountability from their leaders, especially when it comes to financial management, said Monsignor Schlag, who also teaches a course in the program.

“We teach management, economics, and finance, so the participants get the basics of knowledge so that they can understand what lay people are telling them, that they can control what’s being done, and they know what they have to delegate,” Monsignor Schlag said.

“The priests and religious also get a better feeling for the way the economy works and for giving spiritual guidance for people who work in business,” Monsignor Schlag said.

Hillen added that the program — which has a number of co-sponsoring organizations that include the University of St. Thomas, the Catholic University of America, and the Leadership Roundtable — also offered a good opportunity for he and other legates in the United States to offer their expertise and skills in service to the broader Church.

“It’s like a perfect fit for the interests of the Legatus members who are generally business leaders and love their Church,” said Hillen, who also serves on his parish’s finance council in Virginia.

Said Hillen, “It’s kind of funny to bounce between a little parish finance council and then to serve on a finance council for the whole Vatican.”

BRIAN FRAGA is a Legatus magazine staff writer.

When God’s calling becomes your mainstay


David R. Fields is a “cradle Catholic” who always had a sense of service. When he found his budding career as a schoolteacher wasn’t providing enough to support his growing household, he took a job with Xerox — more lucrative, but less satisfying.

“I had this itch while working at Xerox to help people. So what could I do?” he recalled. “I had a calling — as a Vincentian.”

While attending a Lenten soup supper at his parish, St. Elizabeth of Hungary in Altadena, CA, Fields was invited to a meeting of the St. Vincent de Paul Society, whose members seek to grow spiritually by offering personto-person service to the needy and suffering in whom they “see the face of Christ.”

He accepted, and was hooked. “My sense of giving back was satisfied by volunteering at St. Vincent de Paul,” he said. “It kept me grounded in my Catholic faith.”

As he climbed the corporate ladder to senior management positions at Xerox over 25 years and later at a construction management firm, Fields also ascended through leadership positions in the Society. In 2010, he joined St. Vincent de Paul of Los Angeles (SVdPLA) as fulltime executive director, overseeing 145 parish-based Conferences of Charity, two thrift stores, and a variety of programs assisting the poor and disadvantaged.

It was all by the guidance of the Holy Spirit, he said.

“Being a Vincentian is a vocation – not a job,” said Fields. “It’s the most rewarding opportunity I’ve had in my life. My life as a cradle Catholic through a solid Catholic education prepared me to accept this calling.”

That’s not to say the transition from the private sector to a thriving nonprofit environment was easy. ”It was the biggest challenge of my life,” he admitted.

“I was prepared, given my business background and volunteering experiences,” he said. “I told my wife when I first started that things would eventually level off. That will never happen. If it does, then I’m not fulfilling my mission.”

The most difficult aspect, he noted, is to weigh between making the “business decision” on matters like budgets and personnel issues or the “Vincentian decision.” And whereas once his focus was on keeping corporate stockholders happy, “my current stockholders are the poor and disadvantaged,” he explained. “What other way is there to satisfy the will of Jesus?”

Fields has found that following the Gospel mandate to serve others enriches his own faith. “I am deeply rooted in the Catholic tradition every day. Not many lay people have this opportunity,” he said.

That strengthening of his Catholic faith through his work “definitely spills over into my personal life,” he said. “I now have a higher calling that demands increased faith, integrity, and diligence.”

He became familiar with Legatus several years ago after SVdPLA’s public relations director arranged for him to speak at a Pasadena Chapter meeting. Fields and his wife Eleanor were touched by the faith, sincerity, and inclusion of Legatus and eventually became Pasadena Chapter legates themselves.

“At Legatus, I am surrounded by an array of motivated and inspired Catholic role models,” Fields said. “It is an environment that is nurturing and faith filled. It definitely juices up the Catholic engine.”

He encourages all legates to volunteer at their local parishes.

“It’s not enough to just attend Mass on Sunday and read the Bible daily,” he said. “Our goal is to be breathing and living Catholics extending ourselves into our local parishes and communities.The need is great.”


It only seems natural that John Abbate is a McDonald’s franchisee: his father opened a McDonald’s in Merced, CA in 1969, and John and his brother Jim practically grew up in the store, helping out by cleaning the underside of tables and picking up cigarette butts from the parking lot.

As John matured, he initially wasn’t interested in owning a McDonald’s. While he was earning his MBA at the University of Notre Dame, however, the brothers talked and decided to partner up in the family business. They now own more than two dozen restaurants in California’s Central Valley and manage some 1,500 employees.

Raised in a solid, close-knit Catholic family, Abbate’s faith was always important to him. As an adult, however, he could not quite come to grips with how his faith related to his work. Having married his college sweetheart, Kaaren, he plunged headlong into developing and expanding the family enterprise. Meanwhile, the young couple suffered immense stress over infertility issues and attempts to adopt. They finally were able to bear a child and then adopt two more, but for Abbate that healthy work-family balance just wasn’t there.

“My problem was that my ambition just took over,” Abbate admitted on the EWTN program Force for Good earlier this year. “I had this goal, and it was driving this business. So ultimately it got to the point where it really started to affect our marriage and our relationship.”

Kaaren “was finding it very difficult to live with my work attitude, focus, and priorities,” Abbate writes in his book, Invest Yourself: Daring to be a Catholic in Today’s Business World, released this year by Beacon Publishing. Emotionally exhausted and adrift, they decided to attend a Catholic conference together. After a presentation on Medjugorje, the site of alleged Marian apparitions, John felt “an internal tug” to make a pilgrimage there. The next year, in 2006, he did just that — and returned with a whole new outlook.

“It was a week in prayer, a week in solitude. There was nothing about work there,” he said of his pilgrimage. “It really allowed me to refocus on what I wanted out of life.” He began to dedicate himself to improving his work-family balance.

That same year, he read two books that had a profound impact on his perspectives. Scott Hahn’s Ordinary Work, Extraordinary Grace encouraged him to “understand that work must be integrated into one’s spiritual life, as another opportunity to serve God and his kingdom. “That opened my eyes to how I could still be this really great employer, executive, and talented business person, but do it in a way that was sanctifying my work as one more extension of my faith.”

He also was inspired by Matthew Kelly’s The Dream Manager, a business parable about a service-industry employer making a difference in his employees’ lives by helping them overcome the daily problems that represent hurdles to their dreams.

“I live in a community that faces a multitude of social and economic issues that manifest themselves in the workplace,” Abbate said. “I could fundamentally relate to the storyline, people, and problems this company faces.”

He resolved to take greater interest in the lives and well-being of his employees and to focus on building relationships. He developed a business philosophy for building self-worth among his employees, affirming their talents, and allowing them to put their families first — just as he’d learned to do.

“I realized that ultimately our purpose is about being a gift to others,” he said. “It’s not just about being a gift to ourselves and maximizing our own utility. As a Catholic business leader, I feel it’s part of my responsibility to bring hope into my business and employees’ lives,” Abatte writes in his book. Introduced to Legatus a decade ago by another McDonald’s owner, Abbate became an At-Large member for a number of years before finally joining the Santa Barbara Chapter. “I am a true believer in surrounding yourself with other individuals whose life example challenges you to actively live your faith in culture,” he said of Legatus. “Their strength of character and dedication to the Catholic faith always inspires me on my own spiritual journey.”

GERALD KORSON is a Legatus magazine staff writer.

Indiana bishops, lawmakers, and Legates team for Catholic public service

On Monday, February 12, a group of Legatus members gathered legislators, businessmen, and clergy at an annual dinner in Indianapolis to celebrate the call to Catholic public service.

This Evening with the Catholic Bishops of Indiana began in 2015 when Tim Rushenberg, vice president of the Indiana Energy Association and member of the Indianapolis chapter of Legatus, began talking with Senator Ed Charbonneau of Valparaiso and State Representative Bob Morris of Fort Wayne about putting together a dinner where a handful of legislators could meet the Archbishop, now-Cardinal Tobin. Conversations continued and interest spread, and with the help of Glenn Tebbe, executive director of the Indiana Catholic Conference, Tim soon extended invitations to all 30 Catholic legislators of Indiana. As the event grew, two additional Indianapolis Legatus members quickly stepped up to assist Rushenberg and Tebbe in sponsoring the event: Jim Zink Sr., and the late Tom Spencer and his wife, Gayle. The first dinner in 2015 hosted 48 attendees, including U.S. Senator Joe Donnelly, then-Lieutenant Governor Sue Ellspermann, and then-Attorney General Greg Zoeller. Since 2015, eight additional Legatus couples have joined Rushenberg in supporting the dinner.

This year’s fourth annual event kicked off on the Monday before Lent with a cocktail reception at Ruth’s Chris Steak House in downtown Indianapolis. After a welcome by Tim Rushenberg, the guests enjoyed an exquisite meal during which all five Catholic bishops of Indiana offered their messages of gratitude and encouragement to the elected officials. During his opening remarks, Archbishop Charles C. Thomson of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis reflected on the noble vocation of public service and thanked those present for their support of the Catholic faith. “I treasure the dialogue we have here together. Thank you for your presence and your witness. You must keep Jesus as the center and be guided by your Catholic faith in all you do as you respond to the call to be missionary disciples.”

As the largest event yet, 48 of the 92 attendees were Indiana legislators and their guests, including Congresswoman Susan Brooks of the 4th District and representatives from the offices of Governor Eric Holcomb, U.S. Senator Joe Donnelly, and Congressman Todd Rokita.

In speaking of the purpose and impact of this annual event, Rushenberg shared how the evening has provided an opportunity for the legislators to grow in their relationships with one another as well as with the Catholic bishops. “We’ve been very particular about not being political at all, being very nonpartisan,” stated Rushenberg. “It’s just about Catholic fellowship and public service as we gather leaders of the Catholic business community with the bishops and state legislators. It’s about building one another up and being Catholics together. There is no political agenda, no lobbying. The event is there to celebrate being a Catholic in public service and to enjoy fellowship in our Faith. The generosity from Legatus members is the key to this whole event, and I hope that members in other states can carry the banner for this model.”

MARGARET MCGOVERN is Legatus’ Great Lakes Zone Manager.

The demotion of truth

I recall listening to a lecture given by a university president, and it was clear to me that he was more interested in impressing his listeners with his virtue than enlightening them about his subject, which was the War Between the States. When he had presented his thesis to his mentor, he was told that there are many theories about the Civil War, and it may be that they are all wrong. The president rejoiced in this notion because of its spacious liberality. We can all be researchers without suffering the embarrassment of being more wrong than anyone else.

Dr. Donald DiMarco

I thought, in my apparent naiveté, that the Civil War actually took place and that the primary interest of a good researcher lay in discovering the truth of what happened. The truth of the matter, however, seemed to evaporate, yielding to the politically correct notion that we can all be tolerant of each other because nobody is right anyway. The truth is elusive. What is important is liberality, tolerance and a pluralism of ideas. A university president, I thought, should be made of sterner stuff.

My president would not have been as confident as he was if it were not for the fact that he knew that liberalism was in the air. He was not going to boast that his thesis was any better than anyone else’s. He was not going to impose his views on anyone. Nonetheless, he did make a concerted effort to convince the members of his audience of his liberality. I left the lecture hall disgruntled. Truth had been demoted; self-aggrandizement had been promoted.

There is a Latin adage about which most people are familiar: De gustibus non disputandum est (Concerning matters of taste, there is no dispute). The corollary adage, with which relatively few are familiar, is: De veritate disputandum est (Concerning matters of truth, there must be dispute). Truth is real. Its discovery confers broad benefits, including freeing us from the darkness of ignorance. We should not be complacent about our ignorance. We should dare to make the personal and collective journey toward truth. We are derelict if we do not, being content with but the illusion of liberality.

Pride is the most deadly of the Seven Deadly Sins. It is also the easiest to conceal from oneself. It manifests itself chiefly in three ways: 1) presumption, by which we attempt to do things beyond our strength; 2) ambition, by which we have an inordinate love of honors; 3) vanity, by which we crave the esteem of others. Vanity, in turn, is divided into three vices: boasting, ostentation and hypocrisy. The person who says, “I may be a lot of things, but I am not a hypocrite,” is really boasting, and therefore guilty of pride. The person who declines mentioning that he discovered any aspect of truth may believe himself to be humble, but is really craving the approval of others. Sundry vices ensnare us in the net of pride in so many subtle ways.

On the other hand, we need not be boastful if we state something that we know to be true. We know that truth is not of our own making. Its apprehension should stir in us a sense of gratitude, as well as humility. “It is truth, not ignorance,” as Jacques Maritain has stated, “which makes us humble, and gives us the sense of what remains unknown in our very knowledge.” Moreover, in sharing the truth with others, we are not seeking their praise, but attempting to enlighten their minds. It sometimes requires courage to tell the truth. It never requires courage to hide from it.

There are some Catholic apologists who believe that they would frighten students away if they presented them with the undiluted truth of what the Church teaches. But the essential attractiveness of the Church lies precisely in its truth which has, as Pope St. John Paul II avers, a certain luminescence or “splendor.”

C. S. Lewis was an immensely successful apologist for Christianity without having to dilute it. The British philosopher and selfpublicist C. E. M. Joad read C. S. Lewis. Although Joad was, at the time, an atheist, he praised Lewis, stating that “Mr. Lewis possesses the rare gift of making righteousness readable.” Joad, influenced by what he referred to as the “network of minds energising each other,” published The Recovery of Belief in which he stated his reasons for accepting the Christian faith.

Bishop Fulton Sheen’s success in bringing people into the Church is legendary. In no way did he adulterate the truth to make it appear more palatable. It is the truth, not its shadow, which makes us free. By contrast, the skepticism announced by Pontius Pilate—“What is truth”— does not epitomize the man of tolerance, but one who betrays truth.

DR. DONALD DEMARCO is a Senior Fellow of Human Life International, professor emeritus at St. Jerome’s University (Waterloo, Ontario), adjunct professor at Holy Apostles College (Cromwell, CT), and regular columnist for St. Austin Review. His books, including latest work, How to Remain Sane in a World That is Going Mad, are available through Amazon.com.

Does the Holy Spirit lead your business?

Does the Holy Spirit guide your personal life, your family life and your business? One CEO expressed his approach to the role of the Holy Spirit in his life as “I look for signs, I look for things I should be doing,” he said. “I want to live my life doing what God wants me to do.” That was not always the case prior to this decision. There was a time he was so focused on his business, it almost cost him his marriage and led to a crisis of faith. Reflecting on that time in his life, he said, “As you get pretty successful, you start to think it’s all you and that you’re something special.”

Bishop Sam Jacobs

Around that time he made a retreat, which began the transformation. He then decided to make more time for his family and for community service, with his public roles becoming increasingly altruistic.

And he learned an important lesson. A true disciple and business leader cannot live a contradictory double life. In the words of Jesus, a disciple cannot serve God and money. Instead, integrity must be a fundamental virtue of the Christian business man or woman. There can be no split between faith and daily business practice.

What makes the difference between a truly Christian business and one that is basically secular in nature is the role of Jesus and his teachings. The former does not have just a Christian front, while interiorly being secular, but is truly Christian, founded on solid moral principles and virtues.

The Christian business belongs to the Lord – because the leader has invited Jesus to be the Lord of his or her life. Like Jesus the Christian business leader seeks the will of the Father in every aspect of life, family and business.

On the other hand, the secular business follows a different code, where profit is more important than relationships or integrity. The bottom line becomes like a self-made god to which everything is sacrificed. It becomes the lord that is at the center of every decision.

However, where Jesus is Lord, the Holy Spirit is invoked and attended to in formulating the direction of the company. Being the Spirit of truth, the Holy Spirit, in His perfect timing, will guide the owner one step at a time in accomplishing God’s plan for the business. What is needed is trust in God’s divine purpose. At times it may seem odd to follow what God is asking you to do. While the lead of the Spirit, properly discerned, may sound implausible or even impossible, following it will prove beneficial in the long run.

This paradigm shift to the Lordship of Jesus and the lead of the Holy Spirit will result in becoming the leader Jesus desires you to be, following his example. It is the leadership of service, what God has modeled for the greater common good. Because the Christian business leader is a committed servant of the Lord, he or she is conscious of the accountability that must be given. To whom much is given, much is expected.

From Baptism and Confirmation, the Christian is filled with the Holy Spirit and with the various spiritual gifts of the Spirit. What would happen if a Christian business leader would begin to employ these gifts for the good of the business enterprise? Would decisions be different? Would discernment enable better decisions?

Would managing conflicts be handled differently if the Holy Spirit had been invoked from the beginning? Whenever you have human beings working together, there will be misunderstandings, drama and differing points of view. Jesus experienced this often in His life and the early Church did as well. The first step is to pray for the Holy Spirit’s guidance. Following His lead, there is the need to hear both sides. When a decision is made, all parties must accept the decision and move on; or not accept the decision and find another job. That may sound harsh, but if one of the parties cannot move forward, then that party will continue to cause problems.

A Christian business leader can lean on personal wisdom, strength and other natural gifts or can lean on the presence, power and plan of the Holy Spirit, Who in turn will provide the various fruits needed for the business to be effective. The choice comes down to following God’s plan or one’s own plan.

Retired in 2013, BISHOP SAM G. JACOBS is Bishop Emeritus of the Houma-Thibodaux Diocese. In 2014 he celebrated 50 years as a priest and 25 years of episcopacy (bishop).