Tag Archives: Legates

Dove in the sky … after the storm of a lifetime

Fort Lauderdale Legates extend much-needed help to the Bahamas

Hundreds of people are still living in temporary homeless shelters, more than four months after Hurricane Dorian swept through the Bahamas. The Catholic schools on the two hardest-hit islands, Great Abaco and Grand Bahama, were nearly destroyed, as were entire homes and neighborhoods by the hurricane’s 185 mph winds and powerful storm surge.

Total Wipeout

“Abaco in particular, had just about everything wiped out,” said Jim Cavnar, the founder and president of Cross Catholic Outreach, a Florida-based relief and development ministry that provides supplies and emergency relief to the poor worldwide.

Cavnar, a member of Legatus’ Fort Lauderdale Chapter, and David Adams, the vice president of missions for Cross Catholic Outreach, traveled to the Bahamas in late November to meet with Archbishop Patrick Pinder of Nassau, whose territory includes Great Abaco and Grand Bahama.

Adams, who is also a member of Legatus’ Fort Lauderdale Chapter, said he and Cavnar went for an “intense” one-day trip where they met with the archbishop and his staff to discuss the ongoing relief efforts and the islands’ long-term recovery needs, which include resettling about 450 people still displaced and living in a sports arena that has been transformed into a temporary shelter.

“At one point, there were over 2,000 internally displaced people,” said Adams, adding that many were housed in large tent shelters adjacent to the Nassau arena. Those who have left the shelters have moved in with relatives in the United States and elsewhere, or dispersed into the neighborhoods around the arena.

The vast majority of the internally displaced people were Haitians who had migrated to the Bahamas after fleeing the crippling poverty and political instability in their country. Many of them were living in rickety “shantytowns” made of scrap wood and tin.

“It’s not unusual to find that those who are the most impacted by natural disasters are people who are the poorest, and they have the least capacity to recover,” said Cavnar, who founded Cross Catholic Outreach in 2001.

“Like a bomb went off”

Hurricane Dorian made landfall in the northwest Bahamas on Sept. 1, and lingered for several days. At its most powerful, Dorian was listed as a Category 5 major hurricane, peaking with one-minute sustained winds of 185 mph and generating destructive gusts over 220 mph, along with a storm surge possibly as high as 23 feet.

Hurricane Dorian unleashed massive flooding across the Bahamas and destroyed as many as 13,000 homes, wiping out entire neighborhoods. The storm demolished utilities, airport landing strips, schools, hospitals, churches, pharmacies, and grocery stores, among other structures.

“It’s like a bomb went off there,” Adams said.

The hurricane displaced about 14,000 people, 10,000 of them being school-age children. At least 69 people were killed, though the actual death toll may be significantly higher. In total, the hurricane wreaked $7.5 billion worth of damage.

“They had to evacuate everybody on Abaco, and a lot of people in Grand Bahama, because there was no electricity. The water system went offline and there were no stores open where you could buy food or anything,” said Cavnar, adding that the government evacuated residents to the Nassau shelters.

Sent supplies within days

“We are not set up as an organization to be first responders,” Cavnar said. “We don’t send teams of people into disaster areas to respond. Instead, I would describe us as the first suppliers of the first responders.”

True to its mission, Cross Catholic Outreach has sent hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of supplies to the Bahamas to help the local Church and first responders with the overwhelming relief work, as well as basic food and hygiene goods to help displaced people get by.

Within days of the disaster, Cross Catholic Outreach sent $5,000 worth of hygiene kits to the worst-hit areas. In late September, the relief ministry sent more hygiene kits – more than 6,800 total – as well as dozens of pallets containing 544,320 Vitafood meals.

Cross Catholic Outreach also collaborated with the United Way of Broward County to send an additional 40-foot container of Vitafood to Nassau, and shipped three more containers in early October. Two large containers of food, medicine, and other assorted items were also sent in November.

“The archbishop couldn’t say thank you enough. He told us how some of the customs agents who had to inspect and clear the 40-foot containers told him they couldn’t believe how high a quality some of those goods were,” said Adams, a retired senior foreign service worker who joined Cross Catholic Outreach as its first vice president for missions.

Cavnar said his ministry has also secured a 40-foot container filled with roofing material. The container is in Miami, and will be shipped to the Bahamas when local officials give Cross Catholic Outreach the go-ahead.

Help rebuilding Catholic schools

In addition to teaming with the Archdiocese of Nassau, Cross Catholic Outreach is partnering with Catholic Charities of Miami to aid storm survivors. Cavnar said his ministry has provided a $5,000 grant to Catholic Charities of Miami to support its hurricane response efforts, and has donated space in its Florida warehouse for Catholic Charities’ relief supplies.

Cavnar also hand-delivered a $5,000 grant check to Archbishop Pinder for the Archdiocese of Nassau’s recovery efforts. In speaking with the archbishop and his staff, Cavnar and Adams said the local Church has placed rebuilding Catholic schools as a pressing need.

“The archbishop said education is his key priority,” Adams said. “He said parents have been telling him that they won’t go back to Abaco until the schools are reopened.”

Adams and Cavnar expected to make another trip to the Bahamas by late December, this time to tour the devastated areas on Great Abaco and Grand Bahama. Since the islands are filled with debris and many roads are impassable, they were expected to fly over the islands in a helicopter or plane.

Adams said Cross Catholic Outreach may also be looking to build some affordable housing units for the internally displaced people, especially as it’s unlikely that the government in the Bahamas will allow residents to rebuild the flimsy tin and plywood shelters that were destroyed in Hurricane Dorian.

Cross Catholic Outreach has experience building shelters in other countries in Latin America, East Africa, and Asia. The ministry has also collaborated with other aid partners to provide medical care, clean water, care for orphans, and self-help programs around the world.

“We’ve also done cash grants in other countries that help families to finance their school expenses,” Adams said. “The grants help families to pay fees for school, for uniforms, and books. They also go toward scholarships.”

Cavnar said his ministry might allocate some money to help families in the Bahamas to send their children to Catholic schools. He and Adams expect to continue having conversations with Church leaders there about the ongoing needs in the Bahamas.

“Everything we do is to empower the local Church, whether it’s recovery from natural disasters or responding to poverty,” Cavnar said. “In some ways, the serious poverty we have all over the world is like a daily disaster for those who live in it. So our whole philosophy is to empower the local Church to respond to that disaster in an ongoing and effective way. That’s what our ministry is all about.”

BRIAN FRAGA is a Legatus magazine staff writer.

HealthNetwork came to our rescue like no other

There are so many benefits to being a Legatus member. One that I consider a Godsend is Healthnetwork Foundation. Many years ago, Walter and I became Healthnetwork GOLD supporters, as I thought that it would be a great safety net – an organization we could count on when we needed medical help.

It is scary as you get older and see more friends and family struggle with serious health issues, and the overwhelming indecision they face while trying to grasp their new reality. Where do they go for medical care, how do they get there, and whom do they see? All these decisions need to be made in a very short time, while they try and make sense of a diagnosis.

We are so grateful for Healthnetwork. We know from experience they will provide advice on where the right experts are. And, they will quickly jump into securing appointments with experts when we need them.

I had a heart attack a few years ago in Florida, and Walter called Healthnetwork. Without hesitation, Healthnetwork medical coordinators rallied and made connections on our behalf at Cleveland Clinic (#1 heart center as ranked by US News & World Report). Ultimately, I stayed in Florida for treatment, but we were reassured by the swiftness and compassion shared by our coordinator during a very stressful time.

Another time, our daughter, an anesthesiologist, was very concerned about her baby daughter’s soft spot which had not closed. I knew that we needed to get Healthnetwork involved. She asked for more information about the issue and Healthnetwork’s medical director provided research on the condition. They also identified experts who were available to see our granddaughter. She is now a very busy 12-year-old and a champion swimmer.

Walter and I are blessed with good health. Healthnetwork has proven very resourceful in providing physician referrals during the times we needed them most. We have also asked for help for dear friends. One friend had a serious heart issue. Because of Healthnetwork, he was put under the care of Mayo Clinic and lived another seven-plus years.

There are many more stories of families they have helped. Those who call upon Healthnetwork receive an outstanding level of care. Families have the privacy to explore their options. Healthnetwork offers guidance and connections at a very critical time. Because of our gratitude for the life-changing connections we have seen, we have increased our support levels with Healthnetwork.

We encourage other Legates to reach out to Healthnetwork. They are a phenomenal team whose resources are just what is needed when one is faced with stymying medical issues.

WALTER AND JANET KNYSZ are Legates of the Detroit Chapter

The displaced executive

During difficult economic times, businesses may struggle to remain afloat and even larger corporations might find it necessary to restructure and downsize. Business owners may seek creative solutions, and top professionals may lose their jobs and have to reinvent themselves. Here are the stories from three Legates who have pulled through such tribulations through entrepreneurial savvy and with the help of their faith.

 Man with a plan

Bill Orosz, an Orlando Legate and CEO of Hanover Capital Partners LLC, has weathered housing-market meltdowns, business crises, and other hardships during his long career in real estate. But the Harvard Business School graduate knows such cycles are to be expected in any industry.

“Ultimately, every business has its ups and downs, and every entrepreneur has experienced changing market conditions, regulations, capital constraints, and personnel issues,” Orosz said.

After he and his partners sold their residential construction company to an Orlando-area savings and loan in 1984, Orosz stayed on as CEO. Although the firm did well despite a weak housing market, it was shut down along with its parent company during the S&L crisis in 1991.

“Overnight, without notice, I was jobless,” Orosz said.

Investing nearly all of his remaining savings, he bought developed subdivision lots on favorable terms, wrote a business plan, and prayed for direction. “Long story short, within 24 hours I had raised $1.5 million in equity and was in business,” he recalled. “Thank you, Holy Spirit!”

The experience, he added, “was difficult, but it was the best thing that ever happened to me.”

In weathering the challenges of entrepreneurship, Orosz gives credit to his partners – not only his business partners, but also his life partner of 41 years.

“My wife, Jody, has an uncanny sense about people and timing, and she has always been a great sounding board when difficult decisions need to be made,” Orosz said. “And having great partners who understand the nature of the business and are focused on long-term success makes it much easier to navigate difficult times.”

Maintaining very conservative financial principles has been a key to getting through rough economic patches, he explained. Even when forced to downsize staff, Orosz and his partners have been able to keep key team members and talent in place.

There are upsides to enduring difficulties in business: Hard times reinforce one’s humility, he said. And “if you learn from hardships, you never actually experience ‘failure.’”

Recently honored by the Orlando Business Journal as the 2019 Developer of the Year, Orosz remains conscientious about “giving back” to his Church and community from the fruits of his success, both in financial gifts and volunteerism. 

Strength in diversification

 Dan Cristiani of Clarksville, Indiana, has found ways to keep his excavation business operating through good times and bad. It survived the Great Recession of 2008-2009, although it changed the way he runs his enterprise – and transformed him and his family in intangible ways as well.

What started as a small landscaping and snown removal business decades ago has morphed into Dan Cristiani Excavating, which performs large-scale land cleaning and site preparation for construction projects. The enterprise has expanded to include a trucking company and a chain of landscaping outlets selling mulch, topsoil, and other goods. Dan’s wife, Anne, had started an equipment rental company, which enabled Dan to rent what he needed at a discount rather than purchase new heavy equipment.

“This diversity helped us get through the recession,” said Dan, a Louisville (KY) Legate.

The recession and housing crisis, in turn, changed the excavating business, turning its focus from primarily subdivision development to include commercial, municipality and government contracts. Field supervisors were brought into weekly meetings to help strategize more effectively to keep the business operating. For the Cristianis, who were raising their five children and caring for Dan’s mother at the time, there were many sleepless nights.

“Stress levels were definitely escalated,” Anne recalled. “Dan had incredible pressure needing to keep 125 employees working to receive a paycheck to feed their families.”

Prayer is a pillar of strength for the Cristianis. “There is no way we got through the tough economic times without our faith in God,” Dan said. Both he and Anne were raised as strong Catholics and have witnessed the power of prayer in their lives. Committing to weekly Eucharistic adoration, Anne said, “has been a total game changer for us both professionally and personally.”

The Cristianis use their business success to benefit worthy causes through acts such as donating mulch and topsoil for Catholic Charities housing, offering beef to feed the homeless, and completing construction projects and volunteering time to assist the area 4-H Club.

A transformative transition

After UBS Investment Bank acquired Charles Schwab Markets in 2004, Brian Deane was retained as a director and senior trader on UBS’s cash equities desk. Four years later, amid the financial markets meltdown, his job was eliminated, just two months before the Deanes’ third child was born.

“Up until that point professionally, I had worked through and survived three or four corporate mergers, multiple years of layoffs and downsizings in my industry and occupation,” Deane said, attributing much of the upheaval to the increasing automation on Wall Street. “In less than a decade, literally thousands of traders were replaced by machines.”

The challenge, he said, was that he didn’t have transferable skills. “My former profession,” Deane mused, “was disappearing. I could no longer identify myself as a Wall Street trader.” So Brian’s wife, Janine, re-entered the workforce to resume her career as a healthcare actuary, and Brian became a full-time, stay-at-home dad.

It was a transformative time for the Newark (NJ) Legate. His spiritual life had been “pretty dark” during his Wall Street years, and he was focused on making money for his firm. A nominal Catholic as an adult, he had resumed attending Mass weekly less than a year before his displacement. Soon after he lost his UBS job, another unemployed trader invited him to attend a men’s faith conference.

“Those twenty-four hours changed my life forever,” Deane said. “Men gave their witness and shared their struggles. They shared how their faith gave them purpose and meaning. We were challenged to be real husbands, real fathers, priests of our domestic church.” On fire, Brian immersed himself in his Catholic faith – Knights of Columbus, church ministries, even working toward a master’s degree in theology. But that was out of balance: just as during his working career, he was spending too much time away from his family and straining his marriage. “It took awhile for the spiritual light bulb to click on,” he said. “God placed me here to first serve my wife, second to serve my children, and then everything else.”

Eventually he founded a new company, Apostolic Financial Advisors, which caters to clients of faith. He emphasizes values-based investing, a philosophy that guides investment decisions based on moral principles and social responsibility – avoiding companies that support or profit from such evils as abortion, pornography, and other affronts to human dignity.

For Deane, it’s a way of living his faith more fully. “My wife always reminds me to preach the gospel and only use words when necessary,” explained Brian, who is involved in a number of Catholic and charitable causes. “I continually pray that this Wall-Street-trader-turned-soccer-dad-andCatholic-financial-crusader can help bring families back to church and closer to God.”

GERALD KORSON is a Legatus magazine staff writer.

What Legatus means to me…

Legatus members from across the country explain how Legatus has affected their lives . . .

From the beginning of the organization, Legatus has been focused on the faith development of its members. Legatus exists to help its members learn, live and spread the faith. As we reflect on the last 25 years — and look ahead to the next 25 — we asked members from across the country to tell us what Legatus means to them.

Bob Pliska

In a word, Legatus is the best. As a member for almost the full 25 years of this great organization, I have been truly blessed in learning to “study, live and spread the faith in my business, professional and personal life.”

When I originally joined as the young president of a publicly held commercial real estate company, it was a great opportunity to sharpen my skills as a businessman, be a good family man, and be social, all the while practicing and spreading our great Catholic faith. This made the sharing of business information, networking, and the faith experiences exciting and fun with the many dedicated and quality members of Legatus.

This great experience was only heightened when, after having been a member for several years, I became widowed at a very early age. I was left with two major challenges — a family to raise and a business to run at the same time. With the help of Legatus, I truly lived and put into practice the four key elements of Legatus: faith, family, business and social. I went from a very tragic situation to a very fulfilling experience.

The camaraderie of Legatus members and the quality of its many programs — all with similar faith, family and ethical business objectives in mind — have provided a rewarding successful life experience. Thank you, Tom Monaghan. And thank you, Legatus!

Bob Pliska
Detroit Chapter
Member since 1989

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Tim & Steph Busch

We joined Legatus 22 years ago during its infancy. By Divine Providence, the only chapter west of the Mississippi was in Orange County, which is where we lived.

The mentorship of Tom Monaghan and fellow member Catholic CEOs and spouses has greatly directed our faith formation. I returned to attending daily Mass and we were inspired to co-found two private Roman Catholic schools: St. Anne School and JSerra Catholic High School in South Orange County. It further inspired us to participate in the founding of 10 other chapters in the West. Through those efforts, hundreds of friends and acquaintances became members of the various west coast chapters.

Steph converted to Catholicism in 2000. Our children have witnessed our commitment to the faith, which will pay spiritual dividends for many generations to come. We are forever indebted to Tom Monaghan who, through the direction of the Holy Spirit, created such a fabulous organization.

Through Legatus we met the amazing Fr. Robert J. Spitzer, S.J., Legatus’ former international chaplain. With him we co-founded the Magis Institute, a great ministry focused on spiritual life, especially the relationship between faith and reason. And by attending Legatus Summits, we were inspired to found the Napa Institute. Its mission — “Equipping Catholics in the ‘Next America’” — is elaborated at the Institute’s annual conference, held each July at the Meritage Resort and Spa in Napa.

Tim & Steph Busch
Orange County Chapter
Members since 1990

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Patrick & Andrea Molyneaux

Legatus is an incredible grace that helps us become the best version of who God wants us to be. If we could summarize Legatus in one scripture verse, it would be “iron is sharpened by iron, one person sharpens another” (Prov 27:17). The Legatus relationships we’ve established with like-minded Catholic leaders bring out the best in us. These relationships sharpen our encounter with Jesus Christ through His Church.

An example of that sharpening process happened in March 2011 when a fellow Legate invited us to put our pro-life convictions into action by praying with him in front of a Planned Parenthood operation the following Saturday. I agreed, and for the first time in my life I prayed in front of an abortion clinic. The surreal experience of watching pregnant women pass by and walk through a door to kill their babies changed me forever.

It was a wake-up call that made me realize I needed to do more to defend life. A few months later I felt inspired to leverage my network and influence and reach out to Bishop David Zubik and the Catholic Men’s Fellowship of Pittsburgh to organize a significant pro-life event in front of Planned Parenthood. Together we organized Pittsburgh’s first “Mass and Prayer Walk for Life,” scheduled for April 28, 2012.

This is the first pro-life initiative of its kind in Pittsburgh history. Our prayer is that it will become an annual event. The seed was planted by a Legatus member whose faith and convictions sharpened the faith and convictions of fellow Legates. Faith is indeed contagious, and Legatus helps it spread.

Patrick & Andrea Molyneaux
Pittsburgh Chapter
Members since 2009

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Larry & Mary Anne Eagan

We’ve received just so many gifts and blessings from being members over the past five years. But one of the greatest and most personal of all these gifts, I’d have to say, is having the sacrament of Reconciliation made available at our monthly meetings. It’s a sacrament we long for.

And our chaplain, Monsignor Chris Connelly, gives voice to the gifts of the Holy Spirit, especially the gifts of good counsel, wisdom, knowledge and understanding. He gives voice to them through both the confessional and Mass.

For us, Legatus has brought that Biblical verse about “the way of love” in 1 Corinthians 13 truly alive. This is especially true in relation to the sacrament of Marriage. Through Legatus, we have come to share more deeply in our search for God’s peace. We witness the faithful love of our fellow Legatus couples, and this helps strengthen our own commitments to love — love for the Holy Trinity and Our Mother Mary, for each other, for our family, our community and the world.

The sharing and enrichment of our faith at the monthly meetings and the Summits have inspired us to work diligently to develop ourselves further spiritually. Legatus magazine gives us a blueprint to explore our faith further through books, media and stories of inspiration.

Larry & Mary Anne Eagan
Western Massachusetts Chapter
Members since 2006

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John & Jennifer Feltl

I first heard about Legatus from a business contact, but it was a few years before I actually made a meeting. When I did, an historian-theologian priest gave a talk on the history of Catholic education in the United States. I came alone, but the next time I brought my wife. A date night with rosary, Mass and a speaker is the best date night on the face of the earth.

Before I joined, I was a cradle Catholic who took the faith for granted. The more we can learn and be trained in our faith, the better. The world today is so confused and in such need of evangelization.

Legatus is a real gift that is easy to make time for, including attending Summits. It’s a great way to help us all become better Catholics, better people, better husbands, fathers, owners, better everything. As a business person, I never had the tools or the forum to talk comfortably with other business people about our faith until Legatus. Now I’m not sheepish or ashamed at all to ask, “Do you know about Legatus?”

Legatus is also helping us do a better job of passing on the faith to our kids. Legatus gives us clarity through solid catechesis, especially through our monthly speakers and the two priests who serve as our co-chaplains: Fr. William Baer and Fr. Michael Keating. The spiritual direction they give is another reason why Legatus is so important to us.

John & Jennifer Feltl
Twin Cities Chapter
Members since 2009