Tag Archives: focus

What is most important right now? Fruitful discipleship.

Fr. John Riccardo

I personally find the beginning of a new year a most helpful time, an especially energetic time, a time to think deeply about making some new goals regarding those areas in my life that I most want to turn my attention to, both physically and spiritually. As St. Teresa of Avila was fond of saying, albeit in an entirely different context, the new year is a time to “begin again.” I know that many of you share these or similar sentiments at this time of year. With that in mind, could there possibly be a better theme for this Faith Matters article than “Renewed Purpose?”

The theme calls to mind a question that I increasingly ask myself, thanks to Pat Lencioni and his excellent book The Advantage: “What is most important right now?” Questions in general are helpful, for they serve to clarify things for us, but this question in particular I find especially helpful and continually return to it. Another way to think of this question is, “If I could only do one thing over the course of the next six months, what should that one thing be?” This question can be used at work, in marriage, in family life and for our personal lives as disciples of Jesus.

Perhaps for some of us the answer to that question is to finally make a commitment to set aside time each day to pray. Not to squeeze God in, not to settle for praying in the car or while I’m working out (though those are fine places to pray!), but to put into my calendar an appointment to “waste” time with Jesus daily. For others of us perhaps we might decide to make a commitment to spend time each week for an hour in front of the Blessed Sacrament, to attend daily Mass, monthly Confession, or pray the rosary every day. Maybe for more than a few of us it will be to commit to ponder over the Word of God in a deliberate and intentional way each day, perhaps starting with the Gospels.

Countless others, I’m sure, come to mind. Let me offer one resolution in particular, though, that I think is worth pondering at length as we enter this year with “renewed purpose.” It comes by way of Curtis Martin, a co-founder of FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students). Curtis makes it a point to say that Jesus calls us not simply to be faithful disciples but to be fruitful disciples. From my experience, many (most?) Catholics don’t think this way. Many see faithfulness, getting my life finally under the Lordship of Jesus, as the “ultimate” goal. Now, to be sure, you and I are called to be conformed to Jesus, to put the mind of Christ, to bring everything in our lives under His loving rule. However, as Curtis reminds us, Jesus called the disciples – you and me! – to bear fruit (cf. John 15:1-10), and to go out and make disciples. This isn’t the task of bishops, priests, deacons and religious; this is the task of every friend of Jesus. And in a particular way, I think, this privilege is worth the members of Legatus praying about intently.

As a priest and pastor, I believe that one of the most helpful things men and women like you can offer the Church and the world is to spiritually multiply, that is, to ask the Lord, “Who are You calling me to share my life with in the year ahead, Jesus? Who are You inviting me to walk with in a deliberate way, to mentor, to disciple (yes, that’s a verb)?” You know how many people respect and look up to you. This is a gift God has given you. He has placed you on a lampstand so as to shine with His light, and to bring them into a life-changing encounter with the only One who can satisfy the desire of every human heart: Jesus. May the year ahead be one filled with renewed purpose and abundant fruit!

FR. JOHN RICCARDO is a priest of the Archdiocese of Detroit. He was ordained in 1996 and currently serves as pastor of Our Lady of Good Counsel in Plymouth, MI. He is passionate about the new evangelization and offering others a life-changing encounter with Jesus.

Maintaining Lasting Faith – FOCUS

In just two decades, the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) – begun by Denver Legate Curtis Martin – spread to 137 college campuses worldwide. Post-graduation impact spans a lifetime.

Nineteen years after the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) began as a Catholic ministry serving students on a single college campus – Benedictine College – the organization has grown to more than 660 full-time missionaries serving on 137 college campuses in the U.S. and abroad. Known for its Christ-centered evangelization, discipleship and friendships, the work of the apostolate has an impact long after students graduate. It goes with them wherever they go.

Catholic envoys to students, young adults everywhere

FOCUS operates using recent college graduates who devote two or more years of their post-collegiate life to serve as missionaries on campuses in 38 U.S. states, two campuses in Austria and one in England. FOCUS estimates that by 2022, some 75,000 students who have been through FOCUS programs will have transitioned into their own Catholic parishes and communities.

Former FOCUS missionaries, Kevin and Lisa Cotter, of Denver, CO, described their experience with the organization as pivotal in their own faith formation.

“Within a few days of being on campus, I met my FOCUS missionaries,” said Lisa. Originally from Overland Park, KS, she attended Benedictine College in Atchison, KS. There, she participated in FOCUSled Bible studies, as well as FOCUS’ mentorship program, Discipleship. During her sophomore year, she led a FOCUS Bible study. Lisa so enjoyed her experiences with FOCUS that she attended a FOCUS National Conference during her freshman year.

Attending that event with approximately 500 fellow students in Omaha, NE, Lisa remembers thinking, “I had no idea there were this many college students who are interested in their faith!”

“It was really encouraging to know that I was not alone in my Catholic faith,” said Lisa. “It gave me a lot of hope.”

She said attending the conference again during her junior year solidified her faith.

“Who do you say that I am?”

“I realized that living for Jesus wasn’t just a ‘club’ I was in during college, but that I had to commit my entire faith to Him, even when I was no longer surrounded by my FOCUS community,” said Lisa.

Her husband, Kevin, agreed.

“These conferences helped me to see the impact of FOCUS across the country,” said Kevin. “This helped me see how I could contribute to the Church in a similar way and prepared me to have the role that I’m currently in.”

Kevin currently serves as senior director of curriculum at FOCUS’ Denver support center. He’s authored three daily devotional books, and he and Lisa have published Dating Detox through Ignatius Press/Augustine Institute.

Following graduation, Kevin pursued his master’s degree through the Augustine Institute, and then he and Lisa returned to Benedictine to serve as FOCUS missionaries for two years.

Lisa and Kevin have three children. Lisa operates her own apostolate, Made to Magnify, and is a Catholic author, speaker and podcaster. She’s attended 13 FOCUS conferences. The couple hosts weekly Bible studies in their home for 10-12 young adults from their parish, Our Lady of Lourdes.

Expanding parish involvement

FOCUS alumni find myriad ways to take ownership of their faith. Many continue to evangelize in their own spheres, families, and contribute to local parish life.

Audrey LaVoy, of Tracy, MN, got involved with a FOCUS Bible study during the spring of her freshman year at South Dakota State University in Brookings, SD. She discovered it through an announcement in a Newman Center bulletin. That involvement led her to FOCUS’ Discipleship program and to attend the 2013 SEEK Conference in Orlando with her two older brothers.

“I used to think that I was already very Catholic, because I believed in God and we went to Mass and CCD regularly, but I didn’t incorporate it into the rest of my life,” said LaVoy. “I thought that friends who attended daily Mass in high school, that that was just for them. Only they wanted to be that involved. I was good enough where I was at.”

“FOCUS taught me how to continuously learn and go deeper,” she added. “There’s always more that you can gain in a deeper relationship with Christ.”

LaVoy graduated in 2015. She and her husband Mark have financially sponsored three different FOCUS missionaries, helping them to pay for their living expenses.

“By doing that, we’re helping them to reach others,” said LaVoy.

In addition, she’s also a song leader and helps teach CCD at her parish, St. Mary’s.

Effecting religious vocations

Other alumni have embraced religious vocations as a result of their involvement in FOCUS. In fact, more than 600 alumni have pursued the priesthood or religious life. One of them is Father Brian Lager, pastor at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Plainville, KS and St. Thomas Catholic Church in Stockton, KS.

Originally from Angelus, KS, Fr. Lager attended Benedictine College on a football scholarship. He was first introduced to FOCUS as a freshman.

“I saw they were offering Bible study on Wednesday nights,” said Fr. Lager. “I had attended CCD on Wednesday nights, so I thought I might as well keep it going.”

“I was one of seven kids and we went to Mass every Sunday, but it wasn’t a living faith,” explained Fr. Lager. “It was passed on to me. I didn’t know how I was going to do that in my own life. FOCUS made it come alive.”

After graduation, Lager served as a FOCUS missionary at the University of Nebraska and Troy University in Troy, AL.

“He who has ears, let him hear…”

While serving as a missionary, he heard the call to the priesthood.

“I was praying an hour of adoration every day,” he said. “When the Lord knocks long enough, you just can’t say no anymore.”

Lager entered St. John Vianney Seminary in Denver in 2006, and was ordained in 2012 for the Diocese of Salina, KS.

“FOCUS gave me a worldview in which we go out and evangelize and share our faith,” said Fr. Lager. “In everything I do as a pastor, and every decision I make, the goal is how do we evangelize? Is it something attractive or is it something ugly? How are we presenting ourselves in our community?”

He explained how that plays out in his parishes.

“When I look for employees, teachers, or those who do ministry, I want people who can win others over, even if it’s just answering the telephone,” said Fr. Lager. “Even in our meetings or finance council, it’s not just about how we are using our money, but how are we bringing about the growth of God’s kingdom here on earth? I never would have had that mentality if I had not been a part of FOCUS for so long.”

“FOCUS is the most effective organization I know in evangelizing students and launching them on a path of life-long mission, said Margot Kyd, a retired executive from Sempra Energy, who serves on FOCUS’ board of directors. “It has given me much hope for the future of our Church.”

Recovering awareness for Christ

“FOCUS is reclaiming our college campuses for Christ and reigniting a fire of love for Christ among tens of thousands of college students across the country,” said Kyd. “This growing army of young people are sharing their faith in authentic, relevant ways that are attracting our youth in droves and changing the direction of their lives toward virtuous lives rooted in love for Christ.”

That, she said, will have a lasting impact.

“Church leaders are recognizing the growing number of dynamic leaders among FOCUS’ alumni and increasingly exploring ways to leverage this potential for the Church,” Kyd concluded.

TIM DRAKE is a Legatus magazine staff writer

Hope despite a hostile culture

JOHN HUNT writes that despite the Culture of Death, we are called to bring the hope of Christ . . .

John Hunt

John Hunt

by John Hunt

During our annual pilgrimage through Lent, we have an opportunity to refresh our understanding of the Economy of Salvation (i.e., Christ’s atonement for our sins) made manifest in the Lord’s guidance of his Church.

It’s important that we, in our human frailty and spiritual aridity, come to Jesus as pilgrims who seek the strength to be his apostles to the world because being apostolic is what we are all called to be.

Often our response to the call to be Christ in the culture, the marketplace, the parish and the home is: “Really? You want me to be your ambassador, your legate to the world!?” Well, we are called to represent Him for one concise reason: As Legates, we have been blessed with our Catholic faith, and we’re charged with bringing that faith into the marketplace and the culture — and sharing it with others.

With Easter and Pentecost behind us, we must call upon the same Holy Spirit who inspired the apostles to take Jesus’ message to the whole world. Today we are called to be those disciples to mankind. And why not? For as the Holy Spirit lifted up the early Church, we too have every reason to be joyful and optimistic in the face of a culture that threatens our religious liberty and the very life of the Church. This is a time when our faith is under attack on all sides.

The trust Our Lord places in each of us during these challenging times should be cause for joy because he has called us to be his foot soldiers. However, we are not alone. Those marching beside us in the New Evangelization are young and old. Business executives bring wisdom, trust and life experiences. A younger generation brings youthful passion for Christ. Fine examples are found in the university-based Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) and the Dallas-based Young Catholic Professionals.

It’s no accident that each of us has been placed here at this time to engage the culture despite the massive forces arrayed against Christ and his Church. With prayer as our weapon and spiritual fortitude as our shield, we must go forth in confidence to proclaim that His will be done! We are all called to the cross. After all, if not us, then who?

JOHN HUNT is Legatus’ executive director. He and his wife Kathie are charter members of Legatus’ Chicago Chapter.

Taking it to the next level

Legate KATHLEEN EATON BRAVO rebrands Birth Choice as Obria Medical Clinics . . . .

Legate Kathleen Eaton Bravo has long been a trailblazer in the pro-life pregnancy center movement, but now she is taking her vision for ending abortion to a new level.


Kathleen Eaton defends the unborn at the 2012 March for Life in Washington, D.C.

What’s in a name?

On Feb. 1, the Birth Choice Health Clinics Eaton Bravo had led for 28 years were rebranded as Obria (pronounced OH-bree-uh) Medical Clinics. The change, part of a strategy to offer life-centered sexual and reproductive health care to young women and men in a secular, sexualized culture, was sparked by a decline in Birth Choice’s patient numbers.

Birth Choice responded in part by closing and relocating several clinics, but in the process it became clear that the name wasn’t working.

“When we did focus groups, they didn’t like ‘Birth Choice,’” Eaton Bravo said. “They didn’t know if it was pro-life or pro-choice.” Some thought the name reflected an agenda and others thought Birth Choice was a birthing center. By contrast, the name Obria Medical Clinics resonated positively with both men and women.

To supporters who didn’t like the new name because it didn’t mean anything to them, Eaton Bravo explained that in the world of marketing, meaning is less important than effective branding. “I said, ‘What does Apple have to do with computers? But we all know what it is.’”

From their work in the hospitality industry, Orange County Legate Steph Busch, vice chair of the Obria board, and her husband Tim know the trend is to use more neutral names.

Justin Alvarez

Justin Alvarez

“People are looking in all aspects of their life for something unique that meets their needs and applies to them,” Steph Busch said. “I think Obria offers that possibility.”

Of the 10 names presented to Birth Choice by Breviti, a company that has successfully branded more than 900 organizations, Eaton Bravo liked Obria right away.

Her reasoning was simple: Obria starts with “OB,” suggesting an emphasis on women’s health, although the clinics will treat men as well. The root of the name is from the Spanish “obra,” which means “to work,” and the insertion of the letter “I” reflects personal responsibility. Eaton Bravo, a member of Legatus’ Orange Coast Chapter, said the new name incorporates the good work the organization does for the sanctity of life, both in and out of the womb.

Key to choosing Obria, she added, was that no one owned the name and all the web addresses attached to it. “In today’s world you don’t just think up a name,” she explained. “Every word that you could imagine that sounds good, somebody owns.”

Taking on the beast

With the rebranding of Birth Choice in California as Obria, Eaton Bravo hopes eventually to expand outside the state, developing Obria nationally as a competitive health-care model for serving young women and men who are not only facing a pregnancy but are in a lifestyle that could result in one.

To reach abortion-minded clients, Birth Choice clinics since

2006 have offered services that compete directly with Planned Parenthood, the nation’s No. 1 abortion provider. These include STD and HIV/AIDS testing, plus well-woman and prenatal care.

“We do everything Planned Parenthood does minus contraception and abortion,” Eaton Bravo said.

As part of the rebranding, she envisions Obria working with existing medical clinics, starting new ones, collaborating with faith-based primary-care community clinics and supporting local pregnancy resource centers in converting to a medical model. With the help of a $500,000 grant from the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, Obria plans to develop a network of 25 clinics in California, where the abortion rate is 40% above the national average.

nextlevel-1Obria also will be launching an Internet-based telemedicine program that will offer access to counseling services, health education and other pro-life educational materials in more than 20 states through partnerships with FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students) and Students for Life.

“If we don’t do something now,” Eaton Bravo said, “10 years from now the pregnancy center movement has a chance of becoming obsolete. We might still be serving and providing baby clothes, but not with a cutting-edge, faith-based model that reaches the patient instead of the donor.”

Ventura-LA North Legate Justin Alvarez, an attorney and Obria board member, said he believes one of the biggest challenges in the pro-life pregnancy center movement is a lack of consistency and differences in quality and approach, something the Obria brand can address.

“If you’re going to create a brand that can compete with Planned Parenthood and other organizations, you must have good quality control over everybody operating within that brand.” For instance, he said, a brand like McDonald’s is successful because of consistency. “It has a good product, it meets needs, and you know what you’re going to get.”

Janet Morana, executive director of Priests for Life and a member of Legatus’ Northern New Jersey Chapter, said she believes the more pregnancy resource centers can move in the direction of medical clinics like Obria, the more they can compete with abortion providers.

“It doesn’t mean other pregnancy centers don’t save babies,” she explained. “Just about everyone does free ultrasounds and pregnancy tests now, but they’re not medical clinics.”

If someone goes to an Obria clinic for something other than pregnancy and has a good experience, Morana said, she is more likely to return if she does get pregnant. “It’s really brilliant. If more centers go in this direction, we would be putting the abortion industry out of business more and more.”

Another benefit to pro-life medical clinics, Busch added, is their ability to reach and help women who are caught up in human trafficking or prostitution. For example, she said, if these women go to a clinic for STD testing, they have the opportunity to talk to a counselor and, in some cases, change their lives. “We really try to rescue some of these women who need some real guidance whether they’re pregnant or not.”

It’s also important, Eaton Bravo said, that pro-life facilities adopt a medical model to compete in and adapt to an environment being influenced by the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Under the new law, community-based health clinics are being expanded with the help of government funding under the Federally Qualified Health Clinics (FQHC) model.

However, to receive federal money, clinics must agree to dispense contraception and do abortion referrals. Obria hopes to partner with faith-based clinics that cannot accept these restrictions and help them get funding to continue operating.

Eaton Bravo likens the Obria model to the Gospel image of pouring new wine into new wineskins.

“We have to let go of 40 years and move into this new world of health care under the ACA,” she said. “We need to be wiser, define exactly what we are, and how we do it.”

JUDY ROBERTS is Legatus magazine’s staff writer.

Learn more:


In the Church, the future is now

John Hunt writes that young Catholics have injected a bright ray of hope in our country  . . .

John Hunt

John Hunt

Several months ago, I was invited to speak to a dynamic new organization — Young Catholic Professionals (YCP). I had been introduced to this Dallas-based organization and its founder Jennifer Baugh early last year.

I was immediately impressed with the passion and commitment to the faith that Jennifer and, in turn, the organization she shepherds have for the Church. So my anticipation was high as I boarded a flight to Dallas to fulfill my much anticipated engagement in August as part of YCP’s Executive Speakers Series.

Unfortunately, the building enthusiasm to share my life and faith experiences with these young people was dampened by inclement weather in the Dallas area, which forced us to land and park for two hours on the runway in San Antonio. My long-anticipated rendezvous with these Catholic millennials wasn’t to be … at least not this day.

My two hours on the runway ultimately served a higher purpose. It gave me the time to contemplate the gift of youth. Long before my ill-fated YCP appearance, I had come to a greater appreciation of young Catholics who are destined to lead the Church. World Youth Day — late July in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil — showed that this youthful phenomenon is worldwide in scope. (Click here for a related article.)

Blessed John Paul II, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and now Pope Francis have all called Catholic youth to be authentically Christlike. The emergence of this youthful church, exquisitely prepared to evangelize their blind and drifting peers, is reason for hope for the Catholic Church of the 21st century.

But that’s not where the story ends because Young Catholic Professionals in Dallas is but a microcosm of the Holy Spirit’s work in the life of the Church in our country. The rapid growth and influence of FOCUS — the Fellowship of Catholic University Students — is also encouraging. (See related story on page 10.) FOCUS missionaries are populating campuses from coast to coast with an ever-growing impact on the culture. The vocations to the priesthood and religious life and the Catholic marriages that will blossom into faithful Catholic families are the future … and the future is now!

While I was disappointed by my inability to share my faith and professional experience with Dallas’ young Catholics due to a microburst storm, the result was inspiration to share with you my excitement for the future of the Catholic Church. May our prayers for the next generation of Catholics be humble and fervent!

JOHN HUNT is Legatus’ executive director. He and his wife Kathie are charter members of Legatus’ Chicago Chapter.

The crisis of fatherhood

Why men must step up and change the culture soon or we will all pay the price . . .

Last summer, Anders Breivik shocked the world when he killed 77 people in Norway. Abandoned by his father when he was one year old, the self-confessed terrorist and mass murderer has something in common with some of the most famous killers in human history: Adolf Hitler, Saddam Hussein, Billy the Kid, and Charles Manson, to name a few. They all grew up in fatherless homes.

Fatherless homes not only breed killers, but addiction and drug abuse, poor academic and job performance, low self-esteem, and a myriad of other social and physical problems. Unfortunately, children who live with their father and mother in the United States today are a minority (48%) compared to 1950 when 78% of all Americans had both parents in the home.

Responding to the crisis

Denver Legate Curtis Martin — who founded the Fellowship of Catholic University Students — has a unique perspective on fatherlessness. His missionaries live on 60 U.S. college campuses and hear firsthand about the effects of missing dads.

“It’s pandemic,” he said. “The woundedness of men and women from fatherlessness is probably one of the unique stories of our generation. They’ve grown up without dads or had little attention from them. When this happens, they fail to see the complimentarity of the genders, and [they are more likely to] engage in a self-indulgent lifestyle.”

In April, Martin spoke at a southern college. After his talk, he strolled across campus and saw hundreds of drunk college kids wandering about — and women who were “dressed to kill.”

“Three generations ago — in our grandparents’ era — people may have drunk too much at college, but there was not much promiscuity,” he said. “The next generation, people who are parents now, went to college and also saw drinking and a little bit more promiscuity. Today’s kids have sex without being in relationships. The average college campus is a death spiral.”

Jason Free

Author and speaker Jason Free knows that predicament firsthand. He grew up with a distant father, but by God’s grace found healing by embracing his Catholic faith in college. The problem, he contends, is that most men don’t know how to be good fathers.

“They haven’t been properly taught,” Free explained. “How do men grow up to be great businessmen or baseball players? They are mentored and coached. As with anything, you can have natural gifts — but you need mentoring and coaching.”

The author of Parenting on Purpose: 7 Ways to Raise Terrific Christian Kids, Free says fathers who grew up without a role model should seek out a mentor. But unfortunately, he said, most men don’t make fatherhood a priority but get caught up in their own interests or career.

“The only purpose of having a job is to fund your vocation — which is to be a husband and father,” Free said. “That’s your primary purpose in life. Some people think that being a husband and father gets in the way of their work life. But they’ve got to flip that around. You need to find ways to prevent your work from being all-consuming so the cycle can be stopped.”

Changing hearts

Pope Benedict XVI recognized the crisis of fatherhood 12 years ago when he said, “The crisis of fatherhood we are living today is an element, perhaps the most important, threatening man in his humanity. When human fatherhood has dissolved, all statements about God the Father are empty.”

As a result, dozens of Catholic men’s groups have sprung up over the past two decades, while older organizations have refocused on helping men become better dads and husbands.

Daniel Argue took the St. Joseph Covenant Keepers’ model in 1999 and began a men’s group at his parish in Rochester, Mich. The group of 20-25 men gathers twice a month to read and discuss books like Steve Wood’s Fatherhood or Curtis Martin’s Boys to Men.

“We ask the question: What can I do as a father, husband and worker to bring Christ to others? Most importantly: How do I bring Christ to my wife and children? The idea is not to preach, but to live as Christ wanted us to live,” Argue said.

And it’s working. Argue says one man was a lukewarm Catholic who said out loud at his first meeting, “I don’t even know why I’m here.” Today he is a faithful Catholic. Another had problems with drinking and driving. Today he’s a daily communicant. An OBGYN was challenged by the group to look into Church teaching; he eventually stopped prescribing contraception and became an NFP-only physician.

Curtis Martin

Legate Curtis Martin has also stepped up his game to help men. In 2008, he teamed up with former NFL coach and wide receiver Danny Abramowicz to produce a series on EWTN called Crossing the Goal. The show engages men by tying together sports and the spiritual life.

“The last of the great prophets of the Old Testament was Malachi,” Martin said. “In the last sentence of his last prophecy, he said that God would send a prophet to turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers. Jesus is not only a prophet, He is our Savior who leads us to his Father. God is the perfect model for restoring order in the home.”

Protestants have also been forming men to embrace fatherhood. One of the most notable efforts was the 2011 movie Courageous. Actor Ken Bevel, who played Nathan Hayes in the film, notes how difficult it is to form a relationship with God the Father when you don’t have a good earthly father.

“When you look at kids today in fatherless homes, they have a failure to identify with physical fathers. How can they identify with our heavenly Father?” said Bevel. “I pray that God uses this movie as a way for men to reconnect to Him as a father.”

Actor Ken Bevel in a scene from the 2011 film ‘Courageous’

Courageous also makes the point that fatherhood isn’t just a matter of going through the motions, but rather modeling oneself after God the Father.

“We have to be very intentional about being fathers — planning out special moments, taking time to spend one-on-one time with our children,” Bevel said. “Those things are important and those are the times you can pour out your heart to them — and see the impact.”

Argue agrees, adding that selflessness is key to loving as God the Father loves. “Whenever I am looking at a relationship for what’s in it for me, then I am headed for trouble,” he said. “I have to look at how

I can give. If going to the bar or watching my football game is more important than spending time with my kids, then I’m being selfcentered. The same happens when you expect things from God.”

Sabrina Arena Ferrisi is Legatus magazine’s senior staff writer.


By the numbers

Fatherless children are twice as likely to drop out of school.

Half of all children with highly involved fathers in two-parent families reported getting mostly A’s through 12th grade, compared to 35.2% of children of non-resident father families.

Children in father-absent homes are five times more likely to be poor. In 2002, 7.8% of children in married-couple families were living in poverty, compared to 38.4% of children in female-householder families.

Even after controlling for income, youths in father-absent households still had significantly higher odds of incarceration than those in mother-father families. Youths who never had a father in the household experienced the highest odds.

Source: fathersforgood.org

The Pope & the New Evangelization

Cardinal Ratzinger wrote that evangelization should teach ‘the art of living’ . . .

Dr. Edward Sri

In an address to catechists and educators in the Jubilee Year 2000, then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger said that the New Evangelization entails more than proclaiming doctrines and moral truths. More fundamentally, it is teaching what he calls “the art of living.”

“How does one learn the art of living? Which is the path toward happiness? To evangelize means to show this path — to teach the art of living,” he says.

Living well isn’t easy. It requires many skills that are learned like an art form. Indeed, to find fulfillment in life’s most fundamental relationships (marriage, parenting, friendship, relationship with God), one must have an array of virtues such as patience, generosity, self-control and charity. For hundreds of years, men and women learned the art of living from a Christian culture that handed on the wisdom of how to live a happy life from one generation to the next.

But our de-Christianized, relativistic, “anything goes” society has cut itself off from this tradition. And Ratzinger is concerned that the essential values to live a happy life are no longer being passed on. Young people might learn how to succeed in a job, but they aren’t trained in the basics of how to build a successful marriage. We might learn how to invest our money wisely, but we’re unsure how to raise our children in the faith. Ratzinger says our relationships are stunted by the inability to possess joy and love:

“The deepest [human] poverty is the inability of joy, the tediousness of a life considered absurd and contradictory. This poverty is widespread today, in very different forms in the materially rich as well as the poor countries. The inability of joy presupposes and produces the inability to love, produces jealousy, avarice — all defects that devastate the life of individuals and of the world. This is why we are in need of a new evangelization — if the art of living remains an unknown, nothing else works.”

But how can the art of living be made known today? How can the Church make its voice heard in our relativistic world?

Ratzinger says we must make use of modern methods of communication. He underscores, however, that the New Evangelization will be carried out even more by the witness of Christians who embody a new way of life — Christians who question the mainstream and choose “not to live as all the others live, not to do what all do, not to feel justified in dubious, ambiguous, evil actions just because others do the same.” Christians who “look for a new style of life” different from what the world offers will illuminate the true path to happiness.

The fruit of the New Evangelization, however, won’t be seen quickly. Ratzinger warns of the temptation of impatience. The Roman Empire was not converted quickly, but over time and through small Christian communities. Even though the Christians were insignificant according to the standards of the world, they proved to be like leaven that eventually permeated the whole empire (Mt 13:33).

“New evangelization cannot mean immediately attracting the large masses that have distanced themselves from the Church by using new and more refined methods,” Ratzinger says. Instead, “it means to dare, once again and with the humility of the small grain, to leave up to God the when and how it will grow (Mk 4:26-29).”

The name that Cardinal Ratzinger chose for his pontificate points in this direction. In a book-length interview published in 1997 as Salt of the Earth: The Church at the End of the Millennium, Ratzinger turns to St. Benedict as a model for the kind of renewal that the world needs today. In late antiquity, just as the decadent Roman Empire was starting to collapse on itself, a young Roman nobleman named Benedict abandoned the mainstream ways of living. Though escaping the notice of most people in his time, St. Benedict and the monastic communities he founded carried the Gospel through difficult times and attracted many others to a better way of life. Benedict’s small movement eventually became what Ratzinger calls “the ark on which the West survived.”

Similarly, the Church today is entering a new era which will be characterized by the mustard seed — small groups that seem to have little significance in the world, Ratzinger says. But these small groups of Christians who, like St. Benedict, depart from the secular, individualistic patterns of living pave the way for new models of life in our morally chaotic society.

“There are Christians who drop out of this strange consensus of modern existence, who attempt new forms of life,” he says in Salt and Light. “To be sure, they don’t receive any public notice, but they are doing something that really points to the future.” For the Holy Father, the New Evangelization will be carried out in a particular way through new movements, families and other small Christian communities who, like those followers of St. Benedict, will be the seemingly insignificant mustard seed that eventually transforms the culture.

Edward P. Sri, STD, is provost and professor of theology and scripture at the Augustine Institute in Denver. The author of two Catholic best-selling books, he is a founding leader of Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) and often speaks to Legatus chapters.

The power of generosity

John and Carol Saeman help build the Church by leveraging time, talent and treasure . . .

John & Carol Saeman

John & Carol Saeman

When you mention the word “philanthropy” to any serious Catholic in Denver, they immediately think of John and Carol Saemen. Most major Catholic educational initiatives in the area — as well as various Catholic charities focused on the poor — have found patronage in the Saemans, who are also founding members of Legatus’ Denver Chapter.

The couple has generously given of their resources, time, talent and leadership, said Robert Lemming, chairman of Seeds of Hope, a tuition-assistance program that helps poor children attend Catholic schools.

“And whenever possible, they try to do it without having their name in print,” he added. “The Saemans don’t want the focus to be on them.”

Early influences

When John Saemen was growing up, he frequently saw his parents helping others. His understanding of generosity was molded by their example.

“They were hard-working, farm-labor people from the Midwest,” he told Legatus Magazine. “They were very generous to their neighbors and the Church.”

Later, John had the opportunity to work with Bill Daniels, the “founding father” of the cable industry. Daniels spent a major part of his life giving back to the communities he came from.

“He was a great philanthropist; it was a great education to work with him,” John explained. “For him, it was a foregone conclusion that we had to be generous with the resources that God gave us and share with people in need.”

The Saemans’ first major gift was to Samaritan House, a project of the Archdiocese of Denver to help the homeless. Their involvement began because of their friendship with a priest, Monsignor C.B. “Father Woody” Woodrich.

“Father Woody was always giving away his coat to homeless people,” said Carol Saemen. “It made a deep impression on us. We finally gave him a coat and made him promise to keep it.”

Monsignor Woody had a vision to found a homeless shelter in the early 1980s. The Denver cathedral had a shelter attached to it, but it wasn’t efficient.

“We would have cocktail parties to try to raise funds, and no one would come,” said Carol. “No one was interested. We had to overcome that. It was very humbling, but we had to keep going.”

Samaritan House took years to get off the ground, but it became Denver’s first stand-alone shelter. Today, residents receive a bed, food, clothing and various services on site, including case management, medical care, and referrals for employment, social service assistance and educational opportunities.

One of the things the Saemans like best is that Samaritan House helps get residents back on their feet. People have to register when they arrive and work at getting a job. Counselors help residents get their lives together again.

“It’s not just a shelter,” Carol explained. “People can leave their money in a kind of bank account, but they have to work at pulling themselves up by their bootstraps. It’s geared towards getting people to achieve self-sufficiency.”

Educational focus

Though John and Carol have given to charities aimed at helping the poor, they have turned their sights on organizations that help educate the faithful. Denver has attracted some of the most dynamic organizations in this regard.

The Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) is one the fastest growing Catholic organizations in the country. Headquartered in Denver, the group sends missionary teams to do outreach among college students, teaching them about Jesus Christ and the Catholic faith.

FOCUS founder Curtis Martin met the Saemans at an ordination ceremony in Denver nine years ago. The couple got involved with FOCUS immediately. Yet, as always, their involvement went far beyond simply writing a check.

“They have a beautiful ranch in Northern Colorado,” Martin said. “They invited our staff of 50 people for chili. As John and Carol met our staff, they grasped the depth and breadth of FOCUS. This led to greater enthusiasm, which led to greater engagement.”

Today the Saemans have a national leadership role in helping FOCUS expand from 35 to 100 campuses.

“They teach others to be lifelong investors in the faith,” said Martin, a member of Legatus’ Denver Chapter. “They teach the power of generosity in the Church.”

The couple is also involved with the Augustine Institute, a graduate school dedicated to teaching scripture, Catholic doctrine and history by using the best of modern technology. Many of its students take online courses.

“The Saemans have been a tremendous help from the beginning,” said Dr. Tim Gray, president of the Augustine Institute. “John is like the E.F. Hutton of the Catholic world. When he speaks, people listen because of his wisdom and penetrating insight into people and how things run. Carol has a heart for evangelization like few people I have met.”

Infinite leverage

The Saeman family with Pope Benedict XVI

The Saeman family with Pope Benedict XVI on May 4, 2009

The Saemans also back groups like ENDOW, Seeds of Hope, the two seminaries in Denver, the Papal Foundation, the Susan B. Anthony List and organizations that defend traditional marriage.

“ENDOW helps women learn about the dignity of womanhood,” said Carol. “Young women today don’t know how to be a mother, a worker. They get so many mixed messages. This group helps them help themselves.”

Seeds of Hope has helped over 11,000 inner city children go to Catholic schools in Denver through tuition assistance. Without Seeds’ efforts, Lemming said, many of Denver’s inner city Catholic schools would have closed.

“The Saemans like to support things which have leverage,” he said. “This has infinite leverage. When these kids get an education you not only lift them up, you lift up their families and give stability to their neighborhoods.”

The Papal Foundation assists the Church in the developing world by providing grants to a variety of building and aid projects. The Susan B. Anthony List works to advance the role of pro-life women in the political process.

The Saemans have also been instrumental in encouraging other Catholics to be generous with their resources. They often invite friends to their ranch in order to connect them with the leaders of Catholic organizations. Many of these friends have gone on to become benefactors.

When it comes to discernment about giving, the Saemans discuss projects and consult their three children who make up the board of their family foundation.

“Most of the time, we feel that God brings projects to us,” said Carol. “We obviously pray over our giving, and we are very dependent on our Archbishop Charles Chaput. We get lots of ideas from him.”

John and Carol regard Legatus as one of their greatest blessings.

Through their chapter, they attend monthly meetings, travel and take part in the Great Adventure Bible Study.

“To be with like-minded people is incredible,” said Carol. “I’m a convert, and it is a blessing to be where ‘two or more are gathered.’We recently spent four days with a few Legatus couples. We sat around and talked about the fact that in five years we have become a family and a community — and Legatus did it.”

The Saemans’ philanthropy has inspired many fellow Legates to give back. When it comes to generosity, the Saemans believe it is simply something that they are called to.

“We feel strongly that we have been abundantly blessed,” said Carol. “If we are to be welcomed into the Kingdom, we must be faithful stewards of what He has given us — and teach our children how to give.”

Sabrina Arena Ferrisi is a Legatus Magazine staff writer.

The power of focus

Vince Lombardi used to tell his rookie players that he wanted them to focus on only three things: God, family and the Green Bay Packers. Nothing else. I picked up on that in the early years of Domino’s Pizza. I told our people it is God, family and Domino’s.

Our best years were the ’80s. In fact, during that time we were the fastest growing restaurant chain in history. We went from 300 to 5,000 stores in 10 years with a record 954 store openings in 1985.

The main reason for this tremendous growth was a fanatical focus. We had only pizza and Coke in our stores, only two sizes of pizzas, and we only offered 12 oz. cans of Coke. Nothing else. Our hours were short. We were only open from 5:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m. and until 2:00 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.

With this focus, we had some of the busiest pizzerias in the country — without sit-down, without long hours and with a very limited menu.

But the key was we “handled the rush” — those 20% of the hours when we got 80% of our business. Because we stayed focused and handled this peak time, people got what they wanted: fast delivery.

Many franchisees complained that I was limiting their potential by restricting their operations. Over time, for various reasons (including lots of pressure from franchisees), we eased up on those restrictions, and sales went down … as well as profits.

I eventually had to rebuild the company. My strategy was to be more focused, and it worked. Some have said that Domino’s comeback in the ’90s was the greatest in the history of the restaurant industry.

I am trying to apply this same focus as Chancellor of Ave Maria University. We are attempting to offer only the most important majors and to do them extremely well. It is a lesson that I learned the hard way.

Perhaps you can learn from my mistakes by having a fanatical focus on God, family and your “core” business.