Tag Archives: catholic business

A Catholic take on endorsing a college major

We make a mistake when we try to steer others into business careers, if our rationale is focused strictly on practicality.

Sure, a business degree is one of the few undergraduate majors that leads to a good job upon graduation. And pay levels in business disciplines offer some of the most lucrative starting salaries. But when we convey practical considerations alone, we miss the central reason that Catholics should chose business as a major.

I tried to convey a practical rationale to my own kids without success.

When my eldest began to think about a college major, I was quick to point out that business has the good-paying jobs. Despite my mild protests, she ended up majoring in art and became a wonderful grade school teacher.

When my second came along, I tried to encourage him to follow in my footsteps as a business guy. But he chose philosophy as his major, and became a well-published college professor.

My third was a really organized child, so I tried to convince her that she would make an outstanding accountant. But she chose theology, and became a cloistered nun. What a blessing!

So, as you can see, I took three swings and missed each time. My kids all made great choices, but my advice wasn’t very helpful.

Here’s what I did wrong. Pope Francis has remarked on several occasions that business is a noble vocation. It is noble because it requires the practice of virtue, and it is a vocation because we are called to the profession through action of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit uses our God-given talents, interests, and yearnings of the heart to encourage us to select a career of meaning that helps make the world a better place. Our choice of major helps each of us become the unique and irreplaceable person that God wants us to be.

When business is done well, it serves to make the goods of the earth more readily available for everyone. Businesses analyze the honest needs of real people, create high-quality products and services that meet those needs, and do it all at a price that makes sense in the marketplace. If business is a calling to serve in a virtuous way, then that’s what I should have been telling my children while they were making their college major choices.

One in every five people earns a business degree – that’s more than any other field. But many people chose business for the wrong reasons. If you chose business without discerning whether God is calling you to this profession, you will likely be disappointed with your choice.

So when children, friends, and relatives ask your advice on college majors, respond this way: First, tell them that they should seek to find a career that excites, challenges, and makes the best use of their talents, interests and yearnings of the heart. The world doesn’t need another person who is bored with their job!

Second, tell them that business is a noble vocation. It’s a calling from God that is discernable through prayer. Business can make the world a better place, and businessmen and women are called to use their many talents to make that happen.

Third, tell them about the excitement you feel going to work each day in living out your Christian commitment through your work. Tell them about your frustrations, but also tell them about your joys. Tell them that in your own small way, you are salt for the earth, providing a Christlike flavor to everyday life.

Finally, encourage them to pray for guidance, and remind them that you will be praying for them as well.

BRIAN ENGELLAND is the Pryzbyla chair of business and economics in the Busch School of Business and Economics at The Catholic University of America. His latest book is Force for Good: The Catholic Guide to Business Integrity, published by Sophia Institute Press.

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


Overcoming the racial ravine in business

There are many different types of business relationships on all different levels in the business community. As Legatus members, we are in a unique position to help overcome the racial divides that can negatively affect our businesses. The reality is that we are in an environment where our workforces are more diversified. Each day, millions of people go to work with a feeling of anxiety about how their day will go, how they will deal with racial (or gender) prejudices they encounter, or how they will overcome the stereotypes associated with them due to the color of their skin.

Deacon Larry Oney

While there are many ways to overcome racial divides in business relationships, I draw your attention to four easily shared and implementable strategies that stem from our Catholic faith. The first three have to do with awareness; while the fourth is about experience.

1. Appearance: Color and Dress

When you first meet a new business associate, give the person the benefit of the doubt. Try not to judge the person by skin color or the way he or she is dressed. Skin color is not something that they can (or should) change. And mode of dress may be of cultural or religious significance.

Jesus often ate with sinners (see Matthew 9:10-17, Mark 2:13-17, and Luke 5:29-39). He did not tell them what they could wear to the meal. Jesus probably did not even dominate the conversation. He listened. He learned what they thought and how they viewed the world. Jesus gave each person present the dignity due him as a human being—valid in his own right, regardless of his current situation or job.

When we encounter new faces that may be different from our own, it is important that we remember that each person deserves human dignity because it is imparted by God Himself. Just as Jesus valued all those around him, so too should we value each person.

2. See a Person, Not a Group

When Jesus was walking through Samaria (John 4), he met a Samaritan woman. Although taboo for many reasons, he spoke to her. In the end, he offered her “living water” (verse 10). Jesus saw the individual woman, not the entire population of Samaria. However, through this woman, many wonderful things came to pass for her entire town.

Each day, we have business dealings with different types of people. When we encounter a person from a minority group, we must be aware that the person before us does not represent that entire ethnic group. Try to refrain from utterings like “you all” when addressing the individual.

3. Education

Don’t assume a level of education one has based on his skin color. Also, do not assume that he is not capable of being educated in a certain way due to skin color. Rather, consider asking your employees to join you in becoming involved in the local educational community.

4. Be Merciful

Lastly, to endeavor to overcome racial divides, we need to remember that each new encounter lends itself to an opportunity for mercy rather than charity. People are in the United States for a variety of reasons. For some, it was because an ancestor emigrated here generations ago or their parents might have escaped horrible conditions in getting here. Still others were illegally brought here as slaves and their families have nevertheless made this country their home. Whatever the reason, each person that you are doing business with has a unique story. Jesus was a foreigner in Egypt for many years, which was a sanctuary for the Holy Family (see Matthew 2:13-15). Whatever the individual story, we all have an important part in the Catholic community to try to help heal the racial divides that we are currently experiencing.

DEACON LARRY ONEY, a Legate and permanent deacon in the Archdiocese of New Orleans, is a premier Catholic speaker, dynamic teacher, author, radio host, and founder of Hope and Purpose Ministries. He is chairman of the board of the largest African-American-owned third-party administration/program management firm in the U.S., HGI Global. His newest book is Amazed by God’s Grace: Overcoming Racial Divides by the Power of the Holy Spirit (Word Among Us Press).

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.

Serious business in the nation’s capital

Leave it to Legatus members to change the course of history.

The Catholic University of America’s incredibly popular business program — led by Legatus members — grew into a full-fledged business school in 2013. Now the school is taking another bold step in its offering of authentically Catholic business formation.

In May, CUA received a $15 million gift from the Tim and Steph Busch Family Foundation. The Busches are longtime members of Legatus’ Orange County Chapter. Their gift is the largest single donation in the university’s 129-year history. Five other donors brought the total to $47 million. The funds will help grow CUA’s business school, which has been re-named The Tim and Steph Busch School of Business and Economics.

Tim Busch is the founder and CEO of Pacific Hospitality Group, which operates a group of luxury hotels. He also founded the Napa Institute and The Busch Firm, a law firm in Irvine, Calif.

Explosive growth

Tim and Steph Busch

Tim and Steph Busch

The Busches say they chose CUA because they believe in the school’s mission.

“I’ve been on the board of Catholic University for the past 12 years,” Tim Busch said. “In the beginning I didn’t know much about it. But the more I became aware of the school and its mission, the more I got enthused.”

Catholic University will use the funds to renovate Maloney Hall, which will house the business school. The money will also help develop new academic programs in the school, including an Institute on Human Ecology.

CUA always had a business department, but in the last decade the department saw explosive growth. More than 700 of CUA’s 4,000 undergraduates now major in business.

“In 2010, the department was growing like something out of The Sorcerer’s Apprentice,” said CUA president John Garvey, a member of Legatus’ chapter in Washington, D.C. “We could not contain the students. It seemed appropriate to build a school for them. Other Catholic universities have business programs, but I don’t know if they integrate faith and finance in the way that we do.”

John Garvey

John Garvey

In a secular Master of Business Administration (MBA) program, students learn to maximize profit. A few schools have elective courses on ethics. But when CUA founded its business school in 2013, the goal was to turn business education on its head by integrating Catholic social teaching in every class, Garvey explained.

“Ignorance of rules is not the primary reason for misdirection in business,” he said. “We need to focus on guiding the students to becoming better people who instinctively make better moral judgments. Aristotle says that virtue is a habit, a practice that becomes second nature. We need to train people thoroughly, and this can’t happen by only taking one course.”

Ethical standards

William Bowman, dean of the business school, remembers what happened when Enron — one of the world’s largest energy companies — collapsed in 2001 because of unethical accounting practices.

William Bowman

William Bowman

“After the Enron scandal, a priest friend of mine — Fr. Michael Barrett — said, ‘What about business ethics?’ He had been a stockbroker and had a real understanding of the business world, but he also knew about Church teaching. He led me to read several encyclicals dealing with the free market system,” Bowman explained.

Bowman, a member of Legatus’ DC Chapter, spent several years studying Church teaching on business and economics.

“This is a very new area, looking at business through the Catholic lens,” he said.

One of the biggest contributions to this field comes from Andrew Abela, CUA’s provost and founding dean of the business school. Abela spent three years researching every papal encyclical, Vatican II document, and papal speech on business. In 2009, his findings were published in A Catechism for Business. The book answers 100 tough ethical questions for business leaders.

Philosophy and theology are the foundation of the university’s business school curriculum. Students can expect to read several encyclicals like Pope Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum, Pope St. John Paul II’s Centesimus Annus and Pope Francis’ Laudato Si. They study the themes of subsidiarity, solidarity, virtue, entrepreneurship and human ecology.

“So it’s not just about accounting and finance,” Busch explained. “We want students to understand why we do what we do.”

A higher standard

Steph Busch, a business partner with her husband, decries the theological drift in many of the country’s Catholic colleges.

“There is so much liberal teaching in universities,” she said. “It’s out on a limb and it doesn’t speak to mainstream society. We hope that CUA’s business school can change the rhetoric. Students need the right formation.”

The Busch School also wants to become a center for sharing “best practices” in the world of Catholic business.

A combination of modern and classical design is envisioned for the Maloney Hall renovation, shown in this architectural rendering

A combination of modern and classical design is envisioned for the Maloney Hall renovation, shown in this architectural rendering

“We bring in Catholic businessmen and women to talk about what their faith has to do with their work,” Garvey said. “Turnout from the students has been overwhelming.”

In the long term, CUA wants its business students to learn what it means to be good stewards who can serve society and the common good. Once the school graduates students with doctorates, these leaders can influence future businessmen and women.

“We realized that a professor in a business school can impact 100,000 students in his or her lifetime,” Tim Busch explained. “The school’s mission is to impact how people think.”

Although there are some elements in the Catholic Church critical of the free market system, the Busches point out that Catholic social teaching reveals that business is a force for good when done right.

busch-students“We are all called to co-create with God,” Tim Busch said. “Handouts will always be necessary as a safety net for the poorest of the poor, but at the end of the day, it’s better to teach someone how to fish than just to hand them a fish.”

The Busch family is serious about the idea that business people have a responsibility to give back to society.

“Capitalism is in trouble because of this attitude among some to take all that they can as long as it’s legal,” he said. “We want to develop a higher standard than just profit, even though profit is important.”

Tim and Steph Busch firmly believe that a business can be ethically run, treat its employees and customers with dignity, be profitable and give back to society.

“I give credit to Legatus,” Busch said. “It has really formed us. Through it, we have really deepened our formation in the faith and how it relates to work.”

SABRINA ARENA FERRISI is Legatus magazine’s senior staff writer.

Learn More: business.cua.edu

Growing a business school at CUA

The Catholic University of America’s Busch School of Business and Economics offers an undergraduate degree in business. Graduate students can earn a master’s degree in one of five business programs: Master of Science in Business Analysis, Master of Science in Management, Master of Science in Accounting, Master of Arts in Integral Economic Development Management, and Master of Arts in Integral Economic Policy Development.

The university hopes to offer an MBA and a doctoral program in the future. A post-doctoral fellowship begins this fall on how to teach business as a force for good. —Ferrisi.