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.”
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.
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.
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.”
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.