Tag Archives: faith

Evangelizing extended family hands on life-enriching gift of faith

Today, even secular media are heralding the importance of family to the well-being of children. We see advertisements advocating for the family dinner table. While they may also be trying to promote certain food products, the message is clear: the wellbeing of children rests on the well-being of the family. The Church always has known this: each of us is part of the Body of Christ and if one of us suffers, we all suffer (1 Corinthians 12:26). She also speaks of the family as the domestic Church, and of parents being the first preachers of faith to their children (Lumen Gentium, II, 11). But so much seems to be getting in the way: school projects; soccer and basketball games and practice, even on Sunday; both parents needing to work long hours, missing family meals and the opportunity to say grace before meals together; faith-filled grandparents being hundreds of miles away; cell phones disrupting family time together; and social media even replacing family as the source of faith and strength for children.

Faith, the cornerstone for living, always has been passed on by one generation to the next. But in today’s mobile society the standard form of family is the nuclear family. And that family size continues to get smaller, and children can be denied the great gift of another brother or sister. This can breed a false sense of self-sufficiency with the resulting sense of social isolation, despite parents and children being thoroughly exhausted from efforts to be members of the local and business communities. The gift of being part of the healing Body of Christ is not recognized. What can be done to build up the family, the domestic Church, and to support the family’s role in passing on the faith?

Methods of social communication can help, with grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins using such communication media as Skype and FaceTime. But are they ever used to pass on the faith? Do families use them to pray together while miles apart? We are encouraged to tell each other we love each other, as we end conversations, but do we bless each other? Are diverse vocational roles recognized among family members: married, single, clergy, consecrated life? Is the rich potential of grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins, with their ability to be evangelizers to young family members, recognized, or are they also socially isolated, even by choice? They also need to experience the gift of being part of the Body of Christ.

We may fear to speak of faith to family members and others because of fear of being alienated by loved ones. There are simple ways to pass on the gift of faith. And who can object to a simple, “God bless you; I am praying for you”? Efforts need to be made to be present to each other, if possible, even if only at some holidays. A strong witness is a beloved grandparent going to church at such times.

When family members are present in our homes, there is evangelization in saying grace before meals with each other, even if family members choose to be silent witnesses to it. And the most important is the gift of love we share with each other, as each baptized person is part of the Body of Christ, even when not recognized by some. And what children experience, they will mimic in adult life and in their own nuclear families. That is how they will or will not pass on the life-sustaining and life-enriching gift of faith.

MARIE HILLIARD, MS, MA, JCL, PH.D., RN, is senior fellow at The National Catholic Bioethics Center. She has an extensive background in nursing, medical ethics and public policy (and is the former director of the CT Catholic Conference). She is a canon lawyer, co-chairs the Ethics Committee of the Catholic Medical Association, is president of the National Association of Catholic Nurses USA, and is a Colonel (Ret.) in the U.S. Army Reserve, where she served as RN for over 20 years. Having published extensively, she has likewise won Catholic Press Association award recognition.

WHAT TO SEE: Men of faith on the rise

Kingdom Men Rising
Dr. Tony Evans, Kris Franklin, Lecrae, Tony Dungy, Jonathan Pitts
Run time: 116 min
Rated PG

Tony Evans gets right to the heart of what it means to be a real man.

“You can be a male but not a man,” he says. Evans explains: “Malehood has to do with your biological gender. Manhood has to do with your submission to divine authority.”

By that, Evans means that each man is called to be a “Kingdom Man.” In his new documentary, Kingdom Men Rising, he calls upon men to stop being “lame,” rise up, be men of Christ, and fulfill their God-given responsibilities as husbands, fathers, and living examples to others.

It’s what Evans — author, media personality, and pastor of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas — calls “biblical manhood,” and he knows it’s a tall order given today’s broken culture. Yet the culture can only heal if more men live for the kingdom and pass along that heritage of faith to their own children.

Kingdom Men Rising features interviews with Evans along with his sons and daughters, each of whom is successful as a performing artist, author, or preacher. There’s also award-winning Gospel singer Kris Franklin, Christian hip-hop artist Lecrae, pastor Jonathan Pitts, Super Bowl-winning coach Tony Dungy, and ex-NFL players Jon Kitna, Troy Vincent, and Tim Brown. Each offers insights and life experiences affirming the need for men to emerge as committed and responsible Christians.

The film, which had a two-day theatrical release before being marketed to churches, touches upon many issues involving men today, including fatherless homes, pornography addiction, promiscuity, abortion regrets, and life balance. The cast is almost entirely African American, as is Dr. Evans’ preaching style, but the message applies to all men, even if the language and theology is distinctly evangelical at times and might require clarification for Catholic viewers.

“This life is a spiritual battle, [and] you better be ready for a fight because there’s Satan on the other side [and he] wants to take you down,” Dungy says at one point, channeling his best Pope Francis. The devil might try to take men down, but Kingdom Men Rising invites them to stand strong and walk by faith.

GERALD KORSON is a Legatus magazine staff writer.

Knowing and spreading your faith

As I have shared in past columns, I enjoy reading books. Every now and then, I come across a special one. Recently, I came across such a book. I was getting ready to go on vacation, so I stopped by the Catholic bookstore next to our chapel to find something for the trip. The title of a book on display caught my Attention: Forty Anti-Catholic Lies, A Myth-busting Apologist Sets the Record Straight, by Gerard Verschuuren, Ph.D.

Tom Monaghan

After a couple of chapters, I knew it was going to be a great book, and on finishing it I think it is a book every Catholic should read. It is very clear and well written, packed full of useful and interesting information, and it is understandable for a layman like myself.

As I read each chapter, I was impressed by the author’s knack for taking complex topics and explaining them in a clear and non-threatening fashion. When I travel, I try and strike up conversations with those I sit next to and after listening to how they are doing or letting them talk about their interests, I try and bring up something about faith. If they seem open, I will sometimes ask if I can mail them a book. Most of the time, they are open to the gesture. I think this book will work well for this type of evangelization, which I believe comes across as non-threatening because they get to read the book in the privacy of their own home. There are many former Catholics who have stopped practicing their faith and just need a little nudge to come back to the Church.

I am excited because I also believe this book will help Catholics who want to better understand their faith or to assist those who regularly experience anti-Catholic rhetoric being thrown their way. Another reason I think this book is well suited for ministry in the skies (the abovementioned practice of sharing one’s faith while flying) is because while Verschuuren presents the uncompromising truth about what the Church teaches, he does so in charity. I believe this will go a long way in not alienating non-Catholic readers because I do not think they will feel attacked.

To give you a flavor of some of the topics addressed, this book set the record straight regarding accusations about the Catholic Church ranging from the Church being oppressive to women to rejecting science… And accusations that Catholics worship statues and Mary to the Church inventing purgatory and many other commonly misunderstood subjects.

I will be giving copies to all the members of the board of governors at our meeting later this month, and I have already ordered plenty of copies to have on hand in my office to give away… all a part of studying, living, and spreading the Faith!

TOM MONAGHAN is Legatus’ founder, chairman, and CE

Return to faith – overcoming scar of clerical abuse

Paul Zsebedics could never bring himself to throw away the T-shirt with a picture of Christ’s face that his mother gave him years ago.

Zsebedics was barely a practicing Catholic when he agreed to chaperone a group of high school students on a weekend retreat at the Franciscan University of Steubenville. He wore that old T-shirt.

In a metaphorical and literal sense, Zsebedics put on Christ for the first time.

Encountering Christ anew

“I think I did it because I knew I was going with others to this retreat who had something that I didn’t, and I was sort of hiding behind Jesus,” said Zsebedics, 52, a member of the Tampa Bay Chapter, and CEO of VoloForce, a software company.

On that weekend retreat several years ago, Zsebedics met Jesus in a deeply personal manner. Encountering Christ in a Eucharistic Adoration gathering, Zsebedics said the Lord physically intervened in his interior life.

“This was miraculous, not a metaphor,” Zsebedics said. “Jesus Christ reached into my chest with His hand. I actually felt it. He grabbed my heart. I gasped. That was it. My life was changed forever.”

As he later knelt down and wept, Zsebedics felt a peace envelop his entire body. Nothing in that moment would have been able to take that consolation away from him, not even the pain of being a sex abuse survivor.

Betrayed altar boy

“There is no amount of money that can ever heal the way that Jesus Christ can,” said Zsebedics, who was an altar boy in the third grade when he was sexually abused by one of his parish priests in Queens, New York.

After finishing their altar service training, Zsebedics said the priest escorted each of them separately into a bathroom in the sacristy, where he abused them. Not even 10 years old, Zsebedics and the other boy did not understand what had happened.

“Being in the third grade, you don’t know much about the world,” Zsebedics said. “At the time, it was confusing. The older you get, you see what’s going on and you begin to know what’s happening.”

Growing up with that horrible memory turned Zsebedics off to the Catholic Church, which he saw as having no moral authority, especially since his childhood parish — Our Lady Queen of Martyrs – turned out to be “an epicenter” of clergy sex abuse. Zsebedics’ own sister was abused by one of the parish priests.

“A lot of bad priests were brought there,” Zsebedics said. “A lot of altar boys and others who worked in and around the rectory were abused in one way or another by those priests, and the diocese covered it up for many years.”

Damaged view of Church

The horrible experience also shaded Zsebedics’ view and understanding of sexuality for many years.

“Looking back, you bring this garbage everywhere you are in your life. You look at sexuality differently,” he said. “Back then in the 1970s, nobody talked about what sexuality is and how one is supposed to look at sexuality in general. You become numb. You try to figure it out and understand.”

As an adult, Zsebedics fell in love with Ellen, a young Pan Am flight attendant in New York with whom he would later elope. Ellen’s mother, a devout Catholic, arranged for the couple to meet with a priest and have their civil marriage convalidated.

Though he attended Catholic schools for 12 years, Zsebedics said he was “poorly formed” in the faith, and was not very supportive when Ellen, who was baptized Catholic but never received her other sacraments, enrolled in RCIA. When Ellen received Holy Communion for the first time, Zsebedics watched in bewilderment as she started crying.

Powerful return to faith

“All I can think of is why is this woman crying over this Jesus cookie?” Zsebedics said. “At the time, I was thinking, ‘She should be crying because she’s marrying the greatest man on earth, which is me.’”

Their parish priest subsequently encouraged the couple to complete “St. Louis de Monfort’s Way of Total Consecration to Jesus Through Mary.” Our Lady’s promise of drawing the soul closer to her son had its desired effect. Both had powerful conversion experiences.

“It changed the direction of our family,” Zsebedics said, adding that he and Ellen, who have been married 23 years in the Church, developed a prayer group with other families. Their family also grew.

Today, they have six children whose ages range from 9 to 27. Their 18-year-old son, Andrew, recently told them he plans to enroll in seminary to discern the priesthood.

Priceless gift of healing

“My wife and I were joyful that we had a son who was open to discernment,” said Zsebedics, who, though he was abused by a priest, encouraged his children to be open to the Lord’s call, even if that meant the priesthood.

Zsebedics also said he regularly prays for his abuser, who died in 2016. Zsebedics added that he has spoken with diocesan officials in New York to erect a shrine to St. Maria Goretti at Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church to aid in the healing of sex abuse survivors.

“Bishops will often ask, ‘What can I do to help you heal?’ It’s very difficult when you tell them, ‘Absolutely nothing,’” Zsebedics said. “There’s not a dollar in the world that can actually make up for this priceless gift of faith and healing that we received through the Blessed Mother and her son, Jesus Christ in the Eucharist.” L B

BRIAN FRAGA is a Legatus magazine staff writer.

Business and faith: A match made in heaven?

I recently served on A discussion panel where Catholic business leaders explored the degree of compatibility between faith and business practices, including corporate charitable giving. A distinct mix of opinions was expressed. In an era when it cannot be agreed that 2 + 2 = 4, can business people be as divided as the rest of the country? Or perceive that faith presents different dictates to different people? Is there no common denominator?

Probably not, but let’s try two ideas on for size.

My dad, a businessman and one of the most charitable people I’ve known, always spoke of “helping the least of our brethren.” Judging from our mailbox at home while growing up, it seemed that every mission around the world depended on his good will.

Try one more. “Children are a gift from God,” said Mother Teresa, whom my wife and I met many years ago while volunteering at Caligat, her “Home for the Destitute Dying” in Calcutta. She was remarkable in her approachability, energy, and good humor.

Perhaps not all readers would agree with my dad and Mother Teresa, though it’s hard to argue with the Gospels and a saint. Thus, in exploring the alignment between business and faith, it might be instructive to ask business people to assess their actions, processes, and charitable commitments through the lens of how well they are serving the least of our brethren, including children.

Looking through this lens, I would submit that in the sea of all the good things that businesses and their people do, there are two opportunities that are overlooked: improving education and addressing fatherlessness.

Improving education has many definitions. Many businesses donate books, provide reading tutors, and teach STEM classes. All good. But to me, real improvement will rely on market forces – yes, good ol’ competition – when poor kids and their parents are given the freedom to select from a menu of public, private, religious, cyber, and home educational options that fit their circumstances and preferences. But the forces of the public school monopoly are strong, vocal, and well funded. Some school choice advocates have declared this the civil rights issue of our day. But where are voices of business leaders, whose instincts I have to believe, despite divisions, lean toward free markets? I don’t hear them.

Nor do I hear business leaders weighing in on fatherlessness despite nearly 20 million kids in the U.S. living without their dads. Most are being raised by single mothers, nearly 50 percent of whom live in poverty. Too many families, the key building blocks of society, are shattered. Too many kids live desperate lives marked by loneliness, neglect, gangs, drugs, crime, pregnancy, hopelessness, failure in school, and lack of love. In the mid-1960s, the vast majority of children lived with both parents. To be sure, some were poor and faced enormous challenges.

But with two parents in their corner, they at least had the fighting chance that too many kids today lack. What happened? We could debate the causes forever. But sadly, and with tragic consequences, our culture seems to have concluded that dads are obsolete and unnecessary, to be tossed onto some 21st-century trash heap with other anachronisms. And so too many of our kids suffer without the love, hard work, protection, discipline, and guidance of their fathers – while we delude ourselves that mothers can do it all.

What can businesses do? Plenty. There are numerous agencies, non-profits, private groups, and individuals doing heroic work both to offer kids a better education and rebuild fatherhood. In supporting any of these initiatives with their drive, creativity, and intelligence, business leaders can help many of the least of our brethren while witnessing to what our faith prescribes.

BILL MCCUSKER is Founder & CEO of Fathers & Families, Inc., whose mission is improving the lives of children, mothers, and families by building awareness of the importance of fathers, and by helping fathers be better fathers. He is recently retired from the business world where he spent 36 years in executive and marketing leadership roles. www.fathersfamilies.com.

Catholics don’t use ‘religion’ to discriminate – but natural law

Because the natural law is accessible to everyone through the power of reason, it tells each one of us what ought to be done or what should not be done. It does so in an absolute sense – no matter what, whether we like it or not, whether we feel it or not, whether others enforce it or not. In short, moral rights and moral duties are not just beliefs, but are objective truths rooted in a moral order.

Moral rights and moral duties are by their very nature not only absolute but also universal; if they were not, one could not claim that human rights are applicable to all humanity, regardless of race, ethnicity, nationality, culture, religion, or political affiliation. Societies and governments that violate the natural law with their legal laws cannot last long because they go against the moral order. Just as we cannot violate the physical order – the physical law of gravity, for instance – without getting hurt, we cannot violate the moral order of the natural law – the moral law of respect for human life, for instance – without hurting ourselves and society

When Catholic doctors use religious reasons of conscience for not providing an abortion, or Catholic pharmacists use religious reasons of conscience for not providing certain pills, their actions are not a matter of “imposing beliefs” on others, but of following the natural law that we all have in common through the power of reason. So we are not dealing here with an exemption of the civil law based on beliefs, but rather with a universal moral right based on the natural law. This is not a matter of their having freedom to do what certain religious individuals or institutions want, based on personal opinions and beliefs, but instead a freedom to do what they must do, in accordance with the natural law. What secularists ask them to give up is not their personal beliefs but their fundamental rights.

…Can religion be an excuse for discrimination? The answer is yes and no. On the one hand, the answer is yes, depending on what discrimination means. If it just means “making a distinction,” then those who say Catholics discriminate are themselves discriminating against Catholics as well. But if discrimination is seen as something morally good or bad, then we need to face the fact that Catholics have valid reasons to discriminate, for their reasons are based on the natural law that we all share – Catholics and non-Catholics alike.

On the other hand the answer can also be no. Once we reduce religion to mere set of beliefs and opinions, untested by reason, anything can go under that banner – even white-supremacist beliefs that qualify as “religion.”

Excerpt by Gerard M, Verschuuren, Ph.D., from his latest book Forty Anti-Catholic Lies: A Myth-Busting Apologist Sets the Record Straight (Manchester, New Hampshire: Sophia Institute Press, 2018), from Chapter 39, “Catholics Use Religion to Discriminate,” pp. 315-322.

GERARD M. VERSCHUUREN is a human biologist, specialized in human genetics. He also holds a Ph.D. in philosophy of science, and is a renowned writer, speaker, and consultant on the interface of science and religion, faith, and reason. He has written over 10 books. Learn more at www.where-do-we-come-from.com.

For better or worse –in business and marriage

“Married couples who work together to build and maintain a business assume broad responsibilities,” said Melissa Bean, now a vice chairman for JP Morgan Chase, from the floor of Congress during her years as a U.S. representative from Illinois. “Not only is their work important to our local and national economies, but their success is central to the well-being of their families.”

Husbands and wives who manage businesses together while raising their families can experience special challenges as well as joys. A few entrepreneurial Legate couples recently shared a bit about what that’s like and how their Catholic faith helps them succeed at work and at home.

Keeping work and marriage ever well

Dr. Chris Zubiate was in the behavioral health field when he met his future wife, Leah, who then worked in private equity. She became involved in behavior health through a volunteer opportunity and had her “eyes opened to a new world I had never been exposed to or really thought about,” Leah recalled.

Now married with two young children, the San Francisco Legates operate Ever Well Health Systems, a network of residential treatment facilities for adults with serious mental and emotional problems. Chris is Ever Well’s president and CEO, while Leah serves as an administrator with broad oversight of the flagship facility.

In the early years, Chris and Leah commuted two hours to their first facility – sometimes separately, sometimes together. “Initially, we weren’t covering our bills, and the time away from the family filled us with doubts,” Leah remembered. “Now, looking back, our commitment to the work was never more tested.”

On the days they commuted together “our commitment to each other was strengthened,” she added. “It allowed us to be together as a couple and reflect on our purpose and our faith.”

Work-life balance remains difficult, but having two little ones keeps the home life in the forefront. “Having the flexibility to start our work days at different times, the ability to work from home, or being able to alternate ‘late days’ is incredible at this stage and a real gift,” said Leah.

The company is open 24/7, she explained, so “it’s easy to become engulfed. We have to set boundaries with ourselves to not always be talking about work. Or for me, to not get so emotionally invested.”

Competition and compromise

Drs. Frank and Cheryl Mueller met as undergrads in the pre-med program at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, Texas. “I was attracted to Cheryl not only because she was pretty and smart, but also because she came from a Catholic family with strong work ethics and strong family ties,” Frank recalled. They were married shortly before entering medical school.

Cheryl planned to go into pediatrics, but Frank convinced her to join him in family medicine. Sharing a practice, he reasoned, would facilitate coordinating parental responsibilities.

“We have been practicing family medicine together in the same office for over 30 years,” said Cheryl. “We each have our own patients, but we cover for one another and are business partners as well as life partners.”

The San Antonio Legates’ three sons are grown now, but the Muellers remember the challenges during those child-raising years. Cheryl said she and Frank agreed that at least one of them should attend every important event in their kids’ lives.

“Even though our jobs required being ‘on call’ and responsive to our patients 24/7, we sincerely tried to be the best and most involved parents we possibly could be,” she recalled. “We both are so grateful to God and our families for providing the ability to accomplish this goal.”

Frank noted Cheryl and he have a “natural competitiveness” as to who brings in more patients or income, or who makes final decisions on managing staff or redecorating offices. “However, armed with Christian ethics and compromise, the problems get solved, and our relationship stays intact,” he said.

Passions and priorities

“For me, the challenge of being in business together is having to intuitively navigate two great passions of my life,” said Charlie Domen, president and CEO of DisplayMax Inc., a retail merchandising firm he founded in southeastern Michigan around 1993 with his wife, Susan, who is vice president. The Ann Arbor Legates admit “it is only through the foundation of faith that we are able to balance the peaks and valleys of managing business and family life.”

Charlie worked in sales and Susan was in office administration in the early 1990s when they each took side jobs merchandising products in grocery stores. That experience and their respective skill sets inspired them to start their own company offering services including inventory resets, retail fixtures, and store remodels

“Faith and our family are absolutely our priority,” Susan agreed. “However, as entrepreneurs, our business is certainly our passion. We are always open to looking at ways to improve our organization, to better serve our clients, improve processes and communication, and looking at better ways to integrate systems and software.”

Ensuring that their drive for entrepreneurial success doesn’t compromise family needs – the Domens have three daughters, ages 11 to 18 — is a key concern in addition to simply weathering the ups and downs of business.

Susan recalled a lean December when cash was tight and credit was thin. After a long-awaited receivables check finally arrived on Christmas Eve, jubilation turned to desperation when the bank placed a five-day hold on the funds. A generous bank manager came to the rescue and waived the hold. “That was our Christmas miracle,” remembered Susan. “We went out, got our tree and a few presents, and had one of our best Christmases ever!”

Faith as a guide

These couples have in common a strong faith that permeates their lives both at work and at home.

“Our Catholic faith doesn’t only inform and impact our business, it forms and impacts our hearts, our families, our schools, parishes, and workplaces,” said Charlie Domen.

“One of the more practical and basic ways our faith has impacted our business is it allows us to see each person for who they are, the way Jesus sees them, not as a human resource, but as a human person,” he explained. That translates into generous wages and benefits for employees, prayer before meals, sponsorship of charitable events, and a culture that promotes trust and teamwork.

At Ever Well, Chris and Leah Zubiate echo that perspective.

“Our Catholic faith helps us steward our employees and resources to affirm the dignity of the vulnerable people we serve,” Leah said. “A lot of what guides us is opening ourselves to the Holy Spirit and following God’s will. We try to be open with our employees, residents, and customers about the strength of our Catholic faith and frequently make connections between what we do for work and our personal mission to serve the mentally ill.”

That principle is reflected in the company tagline: “Everything. For everlasting change.”

The Muellers rely on faith to guide their marriage as well as their medical practice.

“Our faith has always been extremely important to both of us,” said Cheryl Mueller. “It is important to be compassionate and understanding to patients who may be discouraged or irritable because of serious health problems. Both of us feel that spirituality is an important part of healing, and we try to include this in the way that we minister to our patients and our employees.”

Frank told of how Mass, prayer, the sacraments, and even Legatus gatherings help them decompress and “enjoy life again as a married couple.”

The Muellers will celebrate 40 years together in 2019, “and God-willing, we will work together another 10 years or so before retiring,” said Frank. “It has, in all aspects, really become a family practice.”

GERALD KORSON is a Legatus magazine staff writer.

Occupational hazards – persevering with grace

Married couples know it takes “work” to make a marriage thrive.

Some spouses work not just on nurturing their relationship, but on maintaining their business.

Two Legatus couples who own and operate companies shared their experiences and lessons learned from working together in business.

Mike and Judy Thompson, members of Legatus’ Rockford, Illinois Chapter, are co-owners of Ultrasonic Power Corporation, a leading global ultrasonic cleaning equipment company.

Andrew and Eva Berney, members of Legatus’ Phoenix, Arizona Chapter, for 18 years have together been running Titan Power Inc., a privately held for-profit specialty contracting business that employs 19 people.

Both couples navigated early difficulties to build businesses now thriving in competitive marketplaces. The Thompsons and Berneys also lead their respective companies with unapologetic Catholic worldviews. Both couples credit God for sustaining them in difficult times, and with blessing their businesses.

Mike and Judy Thompson – Rebuilding neglected family business

Any visitor walking through the corporate headquarters of Ultrasonic Power Corporation in northwestern Illinois will see numerous crucifixes at various entryways, and may spot Mike and Judy Thompson praying together before a meeting.

“It’s about witnessing and evangelizing. We don’t park our Catholic faith at the door. It’s a part of us and our business,” said Mike, 61, who along with Judy, his wife of 38 years and business partner, are co-CEOs of Ultrasonic Power Corporation, a company they bought from Judy’s father in November 2011.

Mike and Judy were living in Houston, Texas, when they decided to purchase the company from Judy’s ailing, elderly dad. As a young married couple in the 1980s, they had previously worked for the company until Mike took a job in the oil and gas industry.

When they returned to Illinois, they found a struggling business that suffered from a lack of top-level leadership.

“Whenever the primary owner becomes ill, no matter where you are, a company might run on momentum for a time, but ownership discussions and strategic decisions about the future get delayed,” Mike said.

For more than two years, Mike and Judy worked long hours at the office to stabilize the company’s financial footing and reposition it for growth.

“In the beginning, there was a lot of taking work home,” Judy said. “There were long days trying to understand the ins and outs of the business. Eventually, we made the rule that the work stayed at work and we separated that. Because otherwise, it would be all-consuming.”

Under Mike and Judy’s leadership, Ultrasonic Power Corporation has grown its bottom line and doubled its workforce from 15 to 30 employees. The Thompsons said they strive to establish a work culture that understands that family comes first.

“We’re not resting on our laurels,” Mike said. “We know we’re blessed, but we also know we’ve been put through trials. Had it not been for our faith in God, or even our association with other like-minded CEOS through the Legatus organization, I think we would have been less happy and given in somewhat to despair.” “This was definitely a learning experience for the both of us,” Judy said. “But I can’t imagine doing this with anybody else. I wouldn’t have been able to do this without him.”

Mike compared growing a business “in phases” to developing a marriage over many years.

“We’ve gone through a lot of those learning curves, the ups and downs, the frustrations, the feelings of despair and thinking, ‘Why the heck did we do this?’” said Mike, adding that he and Judy feel the responsibility for the well-being of their employees.

“I think Jesus was the first and greatest servantleader,” Mike said. “If we’re not serving our people and helping them to get their jobs done, tearing down any barriers and encouraging them, then we really are not going to be a successful business.”

Judy said she and Mike have also learned to complement each other for a job well done. They have grown in their faith, gotten more involved in their parish, and last year both went on a pilgrimage to Rome.

“Even on the most difficult of days,” Judy said, “We remind ourselves it is our job to get each other to heaven.”

Andrew and Eva Berney – Recognizing skill sets, faith priorities

Like any successful management team, Andrew and Eva Berney have an organizational chart.

“One of the things we discovered when we started working together as husband and wife was that there was a tendency to not know which areas you should step your foot in or not,” said Eva, who is the vice president and director of finance and administration for Titan Power, Inc.

“One of the things we did early on that helped was we created an organizational chart so that we would really be aware of what his responsibilities were and what my responsibilities were, and communicating that to the rest of our team,” Eva said.

Andrew worked at Titan Power, Inc., for seven years before he purchased the company in 1997. Eva, who had a background in property management, joined the business shortly after she and Andrew married in 2000.

“I brought a different set of skills than Andy had,” Eva said. “He’s more on the technical side of the business and I’m more of the management, HR, and accounting side.” The organizational chart helped Andy and Eva, as well as their employees, to better understand their roles in the company.

“It really helped us respect each other, and it also helped communicate to the employees who was responsible for what,” Eva said.

There were some early financial difficulties. Andy and Eva often worried about making payroll.

“We dealt with it together,” Eva said. “Both of us realized how important it was to seek counsel, so we sought counsel from professionals such as CPAs, attorneys, and people we knew who were already in business. We both realized that we don’t know everything.”

Both also relied on their Catholic faith to establish an ethical business culture. They pray everyday before work and tithe ten percent of their business earnings and personal income. They say that God has rewarded their faith with amazing growth in the company.

“We’ve seen that the more we give, the bigger the company gets,” Andrew said. “We see God working in that. And as we grow, our charitable donations grow too. He has blessed us in that area.”

“We’re very aware of how our faith and the decisions we make affect our employees,” Eva added. “We really feel that God has put them with us and we’re supposed to take care of them. We do that through our prayers and making good decisions for the company so they can have a stable environment and go home at the end of the day and be with their families.”

Andrew and Eva are already thinking about their lives after Titan Power. They recently brought their son, Stephen, aboard, and he has already shown good business instincts. Andy and Eva joke that he is their retirement plan.

“Our goal is when we retire to do more ministry work,” Eva said. “We don’t envision ourselves retiring and sitting around. We know the rewards that come from doing God’s work that He is calling us to do.”

BRIAN FRAGA is a Legatus magazine staff writer

When a leader has soul

We work with varying types of leaders – in business, parishes, neighborhoods, schools, and professional groups. Some succeed, some slide.

Christine Valentine-Owsik

Like a strong business plan, a good leader’s strategy assures attainment of his objectives. It doesn’t mean he seeks to dominate the team, or steal credit for their ideas, or run his ship like a tyrant. He hits the home run when he effectively inspires the group — they want him to succeed, and he mentors them — and his team puts forth whatever it takes. Surprisingly, they’re not envious of his money, stuff, or stature. They love him, and find joy in working with him.

In almost four decades of professional work, I’ve come across very few leaders I’d categorize like that. But one stands out.

In the ad agency business, almost anything goes. They’ve been known to employ ‘creative moral constructs’, shortcuts, deceptions, idea-lifting, and employ any vice to get clients and make big money. Fresh out of college at my first big agency job in the early 80s, I excitedly wrapped an ad-strategy book I’d give at our lunchtime pollyanna at a swank hotel Christmas party that day. They’d have a live big-band, I’d wear my new velvet dress, get up early and fancy my hair and makeup, and catch an earlier morning train into Philadelphia. After ogling over endless tables of ice sculptures, cocktails flowing from multiple bars, disco lighting effects, and designer hors d’oeuvres, it was finally time for the blind gift-exchange. As each staffer’s name was called, he or she was presented a name-labeled gift from a large grab-box holding them all.

I couldn’t make sense of it. A number of senior staffers were unwrapping little bags of what looked like sugar or flour. Did they bake after-hours? Huh?

My supervisor, a middle-aged, very orthodox Jewish man, signaled me over to the lobby door.

“Listen, I know you don’t know what you’re seeing here…but they give ‘substances’ as gifts.” Then he said, “You need to move on from this place. I hate to lose you on the team, but will give you a glowing reference. Just don’t waste your time here anymore.” And he helped me get my next position as a legal writer and researcher.

What I remember most about him was, he put in a full day (almost no one else did), and he won many awards for his terrific work, but the agency wouldn’t promote him. He’d always say just the right – but wrong – thing. He’d blurt out the truth about duplicitous co-workers, crooked clients, invoice- and timesheet gouging, hushed office affairs, ‘situations’ that everyone else accepted.

But he told the truth. And he wore his integrity and faith on his sleeve. He prayed before eating lunch at his desk, and took Jewish holidays off to go to synagogue. He was a gentleman and a devoted dad and husband. He coached me in writing tactics, on making winning business pitches, and approaching media executives.

Much of what I learned about my craft – and owning my integrity – I learned from him. We keep in touch to this day.

CHRISTINE VALENTINE-OWSIK  is Legatus magazine’s Editor.

Business meets faith – and they get along well

“Don’t let the collar fool you,” our executive director (and Legatus member) Janet Morana tells the new employees of Priests for Life, as she speaks about my role as national director.

She helps our staff – which consists of approximately 50 people in various branch offices — to avoid a common misconception people have about the connection between their work and their faith.

The misconception is that somehow, conducting business in the context of faith means being less business-like, or exempting oneself or one’s company from the very best practices and highest standards of the profession with which one is associated.

Faith does not justify being less qualified, less disciplined, less professional, less precise, or less determined to succeed. If anything, conducting business as believers means we are more compelled to strive for excellence.

Why? Because we know that our work not only means earthly progress but heavenly progress, and by our professional excellence we seek to give God the glory, as His sons and daughters.

Indeed, the Church teaches that the good we bring into the world by our professional work endures into the world to come! (see Vatican II, Gaudium et Spes, n. 36-39).

Janet tells our Priests for Life employees, therefore, that the priest who is also their employer is going to be no less demanding than any other employer.

Let’s take a practical example that often arises: the need for good planning. As people of faith, we believe in the Holy Spirit and rely on his inspirations. But it would be silly, and indeed contrary to faith, to think that this stance of faith exempts us from board meetings, rigorous business plans, training sessions, and accountability to deadlines.

On the contrary, the intelligence we exercise in strategic planning, the wisdom to consult our own experience and that of others, and the discipline to set and keep deadlines, are in themselves gifts of that same Holy Spirit. Planning should never be divorced from prayer, but neither should prayer replace planning.

Another aspect of the relationship between faith and the business environment is that one’s place of business should be a place where the religious freedom of the employees and the employer can live nicely together.

A Christian business is not a religious community; the employees can be of different faith backgrounds. And Christian employers want their employees – whatever their faith may be – to feel free to express and practice it.

And the same goes for the employer. His or her practice of the faith is not at all an imposition of religion on the employees. This was made clear in the whole battle over the Obama HHS Mandate, which sought to force employers to cover abortion-inducing drugs in the health insurance offered to their employees. Priests for Life, as well as Legatus and many others, challenged this mandate in court. We ultimately prevailed.

But one of the arguments the other side made – and a common misconception – was that we were forcing our employees to adopt our religious beliefs and practices. Not at all. Rather, the legal argument was that the government could not force us to violate our faith as we conduct our business.

My friend Joe Brinck told me long ago that on his business stationery he had the motto, “We Defend Life from Fertilization to Natural Death” – a simple, powerful example of being God’s witness in the workplace.

The Christian faith is based on the Incarnation. God really does get mixed in with human flesh and blood, relationships, families, businesses and nations. We can, indeed, each be a faithful believer and a top-notch professional.

FRANK PAVONE is national director for Priests for Life – the largest ministry in the Catholic Church focused exclusively on ending abortion. Learn more at www.ProLifeCentral.com