Tag Archives: John Burger

Great Lakes double-header

Legatus’ Fort Wayne and Grand Rapids Chapters both chartered in December . . . 

Two chapters in Legatus’ Great Lakes Region chartered in December, capping a year that saw greater than 20% growth in the region.

The Grand Rapids, Mich., chapter chartered on Dec. 6, and the Fort Wayne, Ind., chapter followed 10 days later.

“The fourth quarter of 2013 was a period of extraordinary growth for Legatus, with the chartering of three chapters in our Great Lakes Region, including [in November] Lansing, Mich.,” said Legatus executive director John Hunt. “The enthusiasm of the charter members of these chapters was palpable as they began the chapters in service to the Church in their respective dioceses.”

Grand Rapids

In Grand Rapids, Bishop David J. Walkowiak celebrated Mass at the Cathedral of St. Andrew, followed by a welcoming ceremony and dinner at Cathedral Square, the diocesan headquarters.

“Bishop Walkowiak gave a wide-ranging talk on a whole variety of issues, including some of the most important moral issues facing the Church today, as well as the importance of Legatus in helping to have intelligent Catholics talk about their faith in the public square,” said chapter president John Bursch, a partner at the law firm Warner Norcross & Judd and former Michigan solicitor general.

The bishop, who began his tenure in Grand Rapids last June, also gave the keynote address after dinner.

Nancy Haskell

Nancy Haskell

Grand Rapids had a Legatus chapter beginning in 1999, but it became inactive several years ago. When Great Lakes regional director Nancy Haskell wanted to reinvigorate the chapter, Bursch and his wife Angela were among the first to sign on.

“We quickly got on board and did our best to recruit some other folks,” said Bursch. Members started meeting in May 2013, and the chapter reached the minimum CEO membership for chartering — 20 — in time to launch in December.

A third of the 21 CEO charter members, including Bursch, belonged to the original Grand Rapids chapter. “We were very excited to have the opportunity to be part of the Legatus organization again,” he said.

Faith formation

The Grand Rapids Chapter with Legatus staff and Bishop David Walkowiak

The Grand Rapids Chapter with Bishop David Walkowiak

New members are “really enamored with the idea of having a monthly opportunity for faith formation with their spouses and to be able to take that knowledge and use it in the workplace,” Bursch said, adding that it’s been important to him and his wife on a number of levels.

“First of all, it gives my wife and me a guaranteed date night once a month, which is incredibly important,” he said. “We have five wonderful children at home who keep us very busy, so this is a great opportunity to know we’ve always got this night set aside.

“And finally it’s a great reminder, just like going to Mass can be a great reminder, of the importance of using faith in everyday life,” he continued. “As Bishop Walkowiak has said, it’s critically important that we have individuals who are willing to publicly explain the Catholic faith. Engaging in faith formation with some of the most prominent members of our business community can only help that.”

Grand Rapids chapter officer Michael Hollern, global procurement director at Steelcase, said he and his wife Fran appreciate Legatus.

“Legatus is so much about knowing and living our Catholic faith, maybe not so much about being activists, but clearly about being actively faithful and living and preaching by our action,” Hollern said. “We need to be more outspoken for our faith when the right time presents itself but that should be coming from a living-the-faith modus and not simply just defending the faith only when someone is speaking against us.”

Fort Wayne

The Fort Wayne Chapter

The Fort Wayne Chapter

In Fort Wayne, Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend celebrated the chapter’s chartering Mass at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, with a homily given by Fr. Dan Scheidt, pastor of St. Vincent’s in Fort Wayne. Bishop Rhoades was the keynote speaker at the dinner which followed at a local restaurant. Twenty-one CEO members and their spouses chartered.

“We are looking forward to growing Legatus,” said Thomas Pentenburg, Fort Wayne Chapter president. He said the growth has already been quite fast, since conversations about starting a chapter started in mid-2013. Those conversations took place among “several individuals from Fort Wayne who had experience with other chapters, including the Genesis Chapter in Toledo, Ohio, and the Indianapolis Chapter.”

George Witwer, CEO and chairman of Humanizing Technologies, a software company, said he was pleased to find that Bishop Rhoades was supportive from the get-go when he spoke to him about kicking off Legatus locally. Witwer already was a member of the Indianapolis Chapter due to his business there.

“I learned what a terrific organization it is for faithful Catholic CEOs, so I spoke to our bishop about it, and Bishop Rhoades said he’d love to get a Legatus chapter going,” Witwer said. “It’s remarkable how quickly the chapter has gotten off the ground  and how well it’s been received. I’m just thrilled with how it’s going to help with the growth of faith in the Fort Wayne area.”

Members are excited too because they are helping to start a new chapter in sister city South Bend.

“I’m thrilled that with the success in Fort Wayne things are looking positive for us to get a chapter going in South Bend as well,” said Witwer, who is a member with his wife Dianne. “For the diocese as a whole this is a fantastic advance, and I think it’s going to help with the New Evangelization taking root here in South Bend.”

That and the 20% growth this year in the Great Lakes region makes Haskell happy as well. The more members share the Legatus mission, she said, “the more impact we have on the world.”

Said John Hunt, “Chapters are prepared to move into 2014 with a level of excitement that is appreciated by Legatus and its founder, Tom Monaghan.”

JOHN BURGER is a Connecticut-based writer, editor and author.

Jimmy Sheehan’s mission to heal

Legatus’ 2013 Ambassador of the Year models passion and patient perseverance . . .


This is a story of patients and a doctor’s care, of suffering, patience and perseverance, of a man with a passion — and a bit of impatience.

All of those qualities have driven 74-year-old Dr. Jimmy Sheehan throughout his stellar career. With his wife Rosemary’s help, Sheehan has accomplished much: an impressive career as an orthopedic surgeon in his native Ireland, the design of a world-renowned knee replacement system that bears his name, and the establishment of private hospitals.

From carpentry to surgery

After performing some 12,000 knee and hip replacements, Sheehan retired as a surgeon in 2003. He could have enjoyed a life of leisure in some southern clime, but that wouldn’t be Jimmy Sheehan. A member of Legatus’ Dublin Chapter, he no longer dons surgical scrubs or sits down with patients for consultations, but he is actively engaged as executive director of the Galway Clinic, one of the private hospitals he has founded in Ireland.

“Our obsession is the patient’s journey and looking at everything through the patient’s eyes as to what happens in their journey through life as a patient,” he said in an interview after returning from the Legatus Summit in Phoenix, Ariz., where he received Legatus’ Ambassador of the Year award. “If you use that as a guiding principle everything else follows.”

Born in Kerry in 1939, Sheehan was a boy who liked to take things apart and put them back together. “I always liked working with timber,” he said.

When his interests evolved from carpentry to medicine, he found bone surgery attractive “because of the reconstruction nature” of it. Though there had not been any physicians in his family, Sheehan and all four of his siblings went into medicine — most as doctors and one as a pharmacist.

Sheehan qualified in orthopedic surgery in 1966, when artificial hips were in the early stages of development. “We were able to do something for hips but not for knees,” he told Legatus magazine, “and that led me into the development of artificial knees.”

The young doctor got an apprenticeship with Sir John Charnley, the British inventor of the Charnley hip prosthesis. Sheehan realized he needed “much more in-depth exposure to engineering,” he said in a 2010 article in the Galway Advertiser. And so he returned to university to study bio-engineering. He earned a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering and went on to establish a joint replacement unit at Dublin’s Cappagh Hospital. Surgeons began using the Sheehan Knee Replacement System in the late 1970s.

Private clinics

Galway Clinic reception area

Galway Clinic Atrium

In the early 1980s, financial difficulties in Ireland led to massive cutbacks in health care, largely a government-run enterprise.

“We had very considerable waiting lists for artificial joint surgery, as well as other high-tech areas such as open heart surgery” due to health care rationing, Sheehan recalled. “As a practicing surgeon I was frustrated with the lack of facilities, and it was that frustration that led to the development of Blackrock.”

The Blackrock Clinic, near Dublin, would primarily serve people with private insurance — about 30% of the population. Sheehan and his brother Joe, also a physician, and several colleagues felt this move could help alleviate some of the pressure on the public health care system.

Blackrock “was a groundbreaking initiative in the Irish context,” said John Reid, a Dublin attorney who serves as president of Legatus’ Dublin Chapter. “There wouldn’t have been as much a history of private hospital care in Ireland. Most would have been public hospitals owned by the state. Jimmy and Rosemary faced a lot of opposition from political parties and various people trying to put obstacles in the way of their setting up the hospitals.”

Blackrock’s success caught the attention of a group of people in the medically underserved West of Ireland. Here too Sheehan had to overcome local political opposition. But the Galway Clinic finally opened in 2004. Dr. Phil Boyle, who treats fertility problems at the clinic, attributes the success in part to Sheehan being “a hugely capable negotiator” and a keen planner.

“He did it on time and within budget, which is unheard of for any kind of project of that magnitude in Ireland,” Boyle said. “He spent a long time making sure he got all the planning correct, and he knew exactly all the expenses that were involved and calculated it perfectly.”

Sheehan’s wife of 46 years, Rosemary, was involved in the planning. “Rosemary said to me recently that for the hospital in Galway, which cost about 100 million euros, they did all the finances on the kitchen table,” Reid explained. “That would be typical of them.”

Today, Galway employs about 500 people and has 146 beds. It offers orthopedic services and boasts state-of-the-art radiotherapy, open-heart surgery, PET/CT imaging, laser eye therapy and robotic prostate surgery facilities. According to The Irish Times, the clinic recently showed a 25% profit increase in 2011.

Catholic mission

The Hermitage Clinic in West Dublin followed Galway. Sheehan created these hospitals to offer high-tech services and newly evolving services like interventional vascular surgery, but there also is a strong Catholic element to the clinics.

“One of my interests is that with the religious orders largely withdrawing from health care due to lack of numbers, I felt it was important that those of us in the laity took up that role, to propagate the culture of Catholic hospitals,” Sheehan said.

A prominent chapel is at the heart of the Galway Clinic, right off the main lobby, with wards surrounding it named for Our Lady of Knock, Blessed John Paul II, and Blessed Mother Teresa. A full-time chaplain provides spiritual care.

Sheehan ensures the “very strong Catholic ethos throughout the hospital, so that no procedures are undertaken that are in any way offensive to the Catholic belief.”

Boyle can attest to that. A student of Dr. Thomas Hilgers, the American doctor who developed Natural Procreative Technology, Boyle was the first doctor to bring NaPro technology to Europe. It’s an approach to treating infertility by using natural methods.

“When I went to apply for work in the Galway Clinic, he said that unless the fertility treatments I provided were in keeping with the Catholic ethos, he wasn’t interested in me working at the clinic at all,” Boyle said of his 2004 job interview with Sheehan.

Sheehan’s clinics do not offer in vitro fertilization or other such treatments. “People respect the fact that we make it absolutely clear that we are a Catholic hospital,” Sheehan said. “There’s no ambiguity about us. That’s an important aspect, that we’re happy to portray our faith.”

The clinics’ Catholic element is at the heart of Sheehan’s vocation as a health care provider, Reid said.

“His motivation is that every person is a child of God with a unique dignity,” he explained.

Sheehan told the Galway Advertiser in 2010: “The only reason we exist is patient care. Medicine is all about human relationships backed up by scientific fact. I regret to say that in medicine we’ve [become] somewhat oblivious to the needs of the patients and forgotten that the only reason we are there is for them.”

Legatus in Éire

missiontohealmugA founding member of Legatus’ Dublin Chapter, Sheehan actively circulates among the members and guests at meetings. His membership and his reputation as a “leading businessman and health care person is great for the reputation of the chapter,” Reid said. “And because people know he’s also a good Christian, he encourages people to live out their faith.”

The root of Sheehan’s success, Reid said, is his deep prayer life. In spite of a busy schedule, he explained, Sheehan makes “time for prayer, reflection and contemplation — and time before the Blessed Sacrament every day.”

As for Jimmy and Rosemary, their Legatus membership has been “very beneficial to us both,” the doctor said. “I was involved in the first meeting in Ireland almost 10 years ago, by invitation, and attended because I felt it should be supported. I’ve only missed one meeting. It encourages you, and I think even the recent Summit meeting was inspiring. You come back refreshed and motivated to participate more actively in faith-related aspects.”

Asked if he has a favorite Scripture passage, Sheehan pointed to the lines from St. Paul’s letter to the Romans which are prominently displayed outside the chapel in the Galway Clinic: “Sickness brings patience. Patience brings perseverance. Perseverance brings hope” (Rom 5:3-4).

Sheehan has admittedly been impatient at the lack of care many of his countrymen suffered. But he has persevered, using both medical skills and business acumen to do something about it.

JOHN BURGER is a Connecticut-based freelance writer and editor.

The Roe v. Wade of marriage

The decision in California’s Prop 8 trial could impact marriage nationwide . . .

It could turn out to be the Roe v Wade of marriage.

Perry v Schwarzenegger opened in a federal district court in San Francisco on Jan. 11, with expectations that the case will eventually reach the U.S. Supreme Court.

If it does, the high court could decide on the constitutionality nationwide of same-sex “marriage.”


California’s Supreme Court ruled in May 2008 that a ban on same-sex “marriage” violated the state’s constitution. Californians responded by getting Prop. 8 on the ballot. It passed in November 2008, and the state Supreme Court upheld it.

Meanwhile, the American Foundation for Equal Rights filed suit on behalf of two same-sex couples in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California to challenge Prop. 8’s validity.

State attorney general Jerry Brown declined to defend the law, saying he agreed with the plaintiffs. So private legal groups have stepped in to defend the amendment, including the Alliance Defense Fund.

The plaintiffs were represented by Theodore Olson and David Boies, who argued their case for same-sex “marriage” largely on civil rights grounds. They tried to demonstrate that Prop. 8 passed on the basis of anti-homosexual bias.

“The arguments being made by the pro-same-sex-marriage side are extreme interpretations of the Constitution that should be rejected by the court,” said Jordan Lorence, senior counsel for Alliance Defense Fund, who was part of the legal team defending Prop. 8 in court. “For example, that there is a constitutional right for an individual to force the government to redefine marriage.” The Supreme Court already rejected that approach, he said, when polygamists tried to do just that in the 1880s.

“Prop. 8 was a reasonable decision by the voters,” Lorence explained. “If it’s struck down, it will give a legal basis to challenge the decision in the 30 other states where voters have passed measures defining marriage as a union of a man and a woman,” as well as the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as the union of one man and one woman for the purposes of federal law and provides that no state shall be required to give effect to a law of any other state with respect to a same-sex “marriage.”

Religious liberty

In the estimation of Alan E. Sears, president, CEO and general counsel of the Alliance Defense Fund, the challenge to Prop. 8 raises important questions, such as whether citizens have a right to govern themselves.

“Does a society have the ability to define its own order?” he asked. “The family is the first institution. It precedes all other forms of government.”

Sears, a member of Legatus’ Phoenix Chapter, is also concerned about religious and civil liberties. If same-sex “marriage” is legalized, will others have the right to conduct their affairs according to the dictates of their conscience? Elane Photography, for example, is one of the Alliance Defense Fund’s clients. Its owner, Elaine Huguenin, was ordered by New Mexico’s human rights commission to pay damages to a woman who had asked her to photograph a same-sex commitment ceremony. Huguenin refused because of her religious convictions.

“Adopting same-sex ‘marriage’ would make it discriminatory to even advocate that marriage between a man and a woman has some higher value to society,” said Bill May, chair of a lay Catholic coalition supporting Prop. 8.

The three-week trial was presided over by U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn Walker.

Observers were cautiously hopeful of the outcome.

“The record is being made,” said proponent Charles LiMandri, a San Diego attorney who had been active in the Prop. 8 campaign. He was referring to the testimony and data that will be examined in the almost-certain event that a higher court will take an appeal from the losing side in this trial.

“We want to get a good testimony and good exhibits out there, so they’ll say this proves that voters had the right to decide the issue and it’s not based on any animus against gays,” said LiMandri, a member of Legatus’ San Diego Chapter.

There are “tons of sociological data supporting the fact that marriage is good for those involved in it” — and for any children who are produced by it. “No society has survived that has adopted another model,” LiMandri said.

John Burger is a freelance writer and the National Catholic Register’s news editor.