Rallying hundreds of Legates from around the country, January’s sold-out 2020 Legatus Summit East at the beachfront Ritz-Carlton in balmy Naples, FL — the first of this year’s reinstated bi-annual Summits — was lavishly hosted by the Pittsburgh Chapter, with many recognizable touches of the ‘steel city.’ With “Iron Sharpens Iron: Co-Responsibility of the Laity” as its theme, the event featured rousing speakers who each addressed an integral facet for laity to effect a strong Catholic witness now — in business, sports, parishes, community, family, and in inspiring the next generation of Catholics to carry the torch.
Poised to win
Fittingly, the opening night kicked off with keynote speaker Rocky Bleier, former NFL running back and fourtime Super Bowl champion for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Bleier, who had been seriously injured in Vietnam in midfootball-career, reminded his listeners that they’re all in the “hope business.” As he was fast losing hope of ever playing again during his nine-month recovery, he turned to his faith, and got an encouraging nudge from his coach. “The team’s not doing well. You can’t quit — we need you.” Bleier got the push he needed, and worked his way toward walking, then running again — back onto the team. “If I would have quit, I wouldn’t have won those four Super Bowls. Our destinies are our choice. And the one who wins is the one who thinks he can.”
Leading others to be better
Another opening night highlight was a motivational splash by Mike McCartney, Genesis Chapter Legate serving on the Board of Governors, and master executive coach. Citing the “iron sharpens iron” verse in the Book of Proverbs, McCartney noted that like-minded Catholics spur each other to be better Catholics. He extended the parallel to business: “If your team isn’t getting better, you shouldn’t be the leader. The challenge is to be better than you already are — and that starts right inside our homes, the domestic Church.”
American Catholics — hope of the Church
Bestselling author, theologian, and president of the Augustine Institute, Dr. Tim Gray took the challenge further. “We assume it’s up to religious and priests to do the fighting [for the Church].” Even of recent scandals, he said, “Have we the laity been sexually pure? Why are we surprised, then, that the clergy have their failures?” Noting the Church is now in the age of the laity — foretold at Vatican II — laity “are not to be passive spectators.” To be Christian now takes heroic courage and virtue, Gray said, which don’t go unnoticed. “We need to make our presence known in the culture.” He wrapped on an inspiring note: “We in the Church in the U.S. are the hope of the entire Church — there’s no pro-life movement in Europe, no anti-abortion movement, either, because the laity are ‘dead’ there.”
“I served a saint”
Former Swiss Guard to the late Pope St. John Paul II, Dr. Mario Enzler, who spoke on authentic leadership, actually learned his faith just by watching the Pope interact with others — and with God. Prior to that, Enzler was barely catechized. “Leadership needs to be behaved,” he said. “I remember seeing the Pope kneeling on the chapel floor for five hours, praying.” Spending time with John Paul II made me desire what he had.” From John Paul II’s close-up example, Enzler extends four best practices for leaders — not wasting time, attentiveness to little things, embracing sacrifice, and surrounding oneself with wise counsel. Enzler’s forthcoming book on his time with the late pope, I Served A Saint, debuts this spring.
Faith-focus on the family
Since effective Catholic evangelism begins in the domestic Church — the family at home — Catholic families need to nurture their faith, and guide their children in remaining true to it. Renowned speaker Jason Evert — also the event’s emcee — discussed building holy families in four ways: praying as a family at Mass and receiving the sacraments; exemplifying purity in word and deed; pursuing each other and remaining engaged; and patience in persevering through rough times.
An immensely insightful presentation came from Walt Heyer, who’d suffered childhood trauma and abuse, spurring him in adulthood to transgender to a woman — only to see his marriage, parenthood, and successful career utterly collapse under the harsh financial, emotional, and spiritual fallout. “I lost everything,” he said, admitting to then becoming homeless and alcoholic. Ultimately turning to Christ for help, Walt transitioned back to being a man in his 50s. “Afterward, I knew I’d serve Him for the rest of my life, knowing He can redeem the most broken of lives,” he said.
Other remarkable presentations included:
Fr. Carlos Martins • presented largest sacred-relics exposition
Fr. John Riccardo • on being a great instrument for God at this pivotal moment in the Church
Helen Alvaré • on positive lay witness for all things genuinely Catholic
Vern Dosch • life lessons of a servant leader
Pete Burak • on successful engagement with millennials
Kerry Cronin • on love and friendship in the digital age
As always, the Summit provided numerous opportunities for daily Mass, rosary, adoration, and Confession – with many priests and bishops in attendance. January’s event also featured a special Relics Chapel with the largest collection of sacred relics worldwide – including a piece from Mary’s veil, and fragments of the Lord’s crib, Crown of Thorns, and True Cross – where faithful could pray before each relic for intercessory healing and assistance, and make third-class relics of their own by touching personal objects to saints’ reliquaries.
The upcoming 2020 Summit West will take place September 17-19 in Colorado Springs, at the exclusive Broadmoor Resort. For more information and earlybird registration discounts, visit legatus.org/SummitWest2020.
CHRISTINE VALENTINE-OWSIK is Legatus magazine’s editor.