Tag Archives: Joe Melançon

Breathing new life

Leading Legates talk about building and revitalizing membership and their chapters . . . 

Joe and Paula Melançon with Thomas Monaghan

Joe and Paula Melançon with Thomas Monaghan

In business there’s an old saying that if you’re not growing, you’re dying. Legatus has always prided itself on growth, spurred by the vision of founder Tom Monaghan and his mission to “spread the faith.” As a result, Legatus’ membership has increased nearly every year since its founding in 1987.

Legatus’ executive director John Hunt says the hallmark of the most successful chapters is their attitude toward service: They treat their responsibilities as a sacred honor to fulfill well.

The following are some of Legatus’ leading membership builders offering insights into growing new chapters and breathing new life into existing ones.

Marching Baton Rouge

Ending 2012 with 94 member couples, Baton Rouge is Legatus’ largest chapter. Membership chairs Joe and Paula Melançon have played a major role in building it up from 20-some couples since taking on the role in 2007. But Baton Rouge does have something extra special going for it, says Paula: “Catholicism is in the bones of the people in Louisiana.”

Thomas Monaghan with the Genesis Chapter

Thomas Monaghan with the Genesis Chapter

Martini magic. To build momentum in the early days, “we hosted small cocktail receptions at home and invited friends,” remembers Joe, a member of Legatus’ board of governors. “Our chaplain, Fr. Miles Walsh, and other members were present. There was a lot of one-on-one conversation.” The majority of prospective members would join on the spot or down the road.

Just say ‘no’ to no. Joe continues: “My motto is that if someone says no to joining, they really don’t mean ‘no,’ they just mean that I or someone else hasn’t done an effective enough job convincing them. I usually say that right now may not be a good time to join, but ask them if it would be appropriate if I followed up in a year or two. Nobody has ever turned me down. We’ve often had members join a couple of years after being introduced to Legatus.”

Toledo’s silver touch

When the Michigan Chapter moved to Toledo and renamed itself the Genesis Chapter, “there were only 24 or 27 members,” remembers chapter president Bob Savage, one of Legatus’ founding members. “As of now, we have 63 paid members and we continue to grow.” The move to his native Toledo “reinvigorated” Savage, who brings more than 25 years of chapter-building expertise to the table.

Tim & Steph Busch

Tim & Steph Busch

Talking points. Great speakers not only enrich chapter meetings, Savage says, but energize members, attract new ones, and build Legatus’ influence within the local church. “Our formula is that each year we have seven months covered by: 1) our bishop, 2) our chaplain who prepares us for Advent, 3) two priest panels on different topics, 4) a panel of high school principals or seminarians, and 5) two local practicing Catholic CEOs — not necessarily members — who form a relationship as they learn about the chapter. With this formula we have seven months covered and virtually no expense.”

Evangelical calling. Savage adds that members “owe it to the Church to be evangelical” about Legatus. An effective outreach to clergy inspires priests to tell prospective members in their parishes about the group. (Guests at a recent meeting included 58 priests and religious.) This approach benefits the chapter, but is also a boon for the local Church. “We need to remember that Legatus doesn’t exist for itself, but to be active in the local church, too.” It’s important that local church leaders know that in Legatus they have “a pool of successful, committed Catholics whom they can call on to serve the Church’s needs.”

Striking gold in California

Tim Busch, a member of the Orange County Chapter, has spearheaded the founding of most California chapters and is busy helping to launch another in Santa Barbara. “It’s been a joy having brought in hundreds of members through the grace of the Holy Spirit,” says Busch. “I know Legatus has changed my life, so it’s an easy sell.”

Sell the vision. Busch’s bottom line: “Sell to people that Legatus is their path to salvation. Tell them they’ll learn proper formation through the routine of monthly meetings, but also bonding and socializing with like-minded people who, over time, will become their inner circle.” Because America is evicting faith from the public square, “committed Catholics need to know they have to develop their faith by associating with people whose faith is critical to their survival. You need to evangelize each other, and then the unchurched and fallen-away Catholics. And you can’t count on your parish on Sunday to adequately form you because it’s serving a diverse population. You have to go beyond that, and the movement to join is Legatus,” he says.

Mike & Beth Anne FitzPatrick

Mike & Beth Anne FitzPatrick

Take ownership. Although just a couple of people might found and form a chapter, Busch says this is no strategy for long-term success. If those founders should leave, “you lose the culture, the momentum. So you have to have a dedicated group of people who feel true ownership of the chapter and build it over time.”

Success in six easy touches

Michael FitzPatrick, a member of Legatus’ board of governors, co-founded the Northern New Jersey Chapter in 2000. It doubled in size to 52 couples in the first six years. To evangelize new members, he recommends applying the “six touch” approach developed by Malcolm Baldrige, the late guru of organizational excellence.

FitzPatrick explains: “Baldrige believed that the first time a new idea is presented we reject it because our lives are so full to begin with. The second time we reject the new idea to affirm our original decision. The third time we’re approached, we listen to the message because someone believes we’re important. The fourth time the message is received we consider looking into the idea. The fifth time we look into the idea, and the sixth touch convinces us that this was our idea from the beginning; this is something I want to join.

“We can reach potential members in a variety of touches: a letter from a member, a follow-up letter from Legatus headquarters or the chapter, a copy of your most recent Legatus magazine, a note inviting them to an upcoming chapter event, or a note with the chapter’s annual event programs. Make a personal phone call and invite them to lunch with another chapter member. Imagination is the key; activity is the glue.”

MATTHEW A. RAREY is Legatus magazine’s editorial assistant.

All roads lead to Rome

Legatus pilgrims discover the glories of Ireland and the Eternal City while on pilgrimage . . .

From the green fields of the Emerald Isle to the stone-gray boulevards of Rome, nearly 20 Legatus pilgrims toured holy sites in Ireland and the Eternal City from Oct. 10-21.


Highlights of the trip’s first leg included following in the footsteps of St. Patrick and Blessed John Henry Newman — and attending the chartering of Legatus’ Dublin Chapter (see page 14).

Joe Melançon speaks with Pope Benedict XVI on Oct. 17

“The beauty of seeing the first chapter outside North America chartered was overwhelming,” said Joe Melançon, a member of Legatus’ Baton Rouge Chapter who attended the Oct. 11 event. “We all know about the difficulties the Church in Ireland is suffering through, but being at the chartering was an affirmation of the faith in Ireland.

“Ireland is a deeply spiritual place, and when you combine it with the chartering evening, it’s hard to top,” Melançon said.


After Ireland, the pilgrims journeyed to Rome where highlights included a walking tour of the ancient city; a tour of the catacombs; lunch with students at the North American College, where most U.S. seminarians live and take classes; and a private tour of the Sistine Chapel, followed by a tour of the Vatican Secret Archives.

One of the high points was an Oct. 17 general audience with Pope Benedict XVI. Legates had VIP seating near the front of St. Peter’s Square, packed with thousands of pilgrims and visitors. At the end of the general audience, Melançon presented the Holy Father with Legatus’ annual contribution to the Holy See. He said his moment with the Pope was an overpowering experience that he will never forget.

His wife Paula said she was thrilled with the meetings Legates had with Vatican officials. “We were given the opportunity to meet with two offices in the curia,” she said. “The Holy Father’s opening of the Year of Faith, in which we Catholics are called to live the faith more dynamically, was wonderfully significant for us.”

Two priests served as spiritual guides during the pilgrimage. In Ireland, Dublin Chapter chaplain Fr. Michael Mullan, LC, guided Legates. In Rome, a native Texan did the honors: Fr. John C. Vargas.

“The Legatus pilgrimage gives them an opportunity to see and visit places and shrines that even life-long residents of Rome don’t ever get to see — and also to meet and learn from major Vatican prelates,” said Fr. Vargas, procurator general of the Redemporist order in Rome.

“The most beautiful experience for me as their spiritual director was to witness members’ faith and their searching hearts for an ever more profound union with our most holy Redeemer.”

Bill Bowman (left) poses with Gordon & Ann Stevens
of the New Orleans Chapter atop Santa Croce
University with St. Peter’s Basilica in the background

On their last night in Rome, pilgrims enjoyed a reception atop the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross. Several of the Legates are longtime friends with two of the university’s priests — Fr. John Wauck and Fr. Robert Gahl — who gave a pre-reception lecture about religious liberty in those heady days before the U.S. presidential election.

Enjoying a bounteous buffet of wine and cheese, Legates mingled against a backdrop of Rome’s magnificent views, including St. Peter’s Basilica beneath a rose-tinged sky.

“I enjoyed myself so much that I changed my mind and have decided to attend the summit in Scottsdale next February,” said Dr. Vicky Loberg of the Peoria Chapter.

Matthew A. Rarey is Legatus magazine’s editorial assistant.