Tag Archives: Legatus forums

Legates enjoy confidential support amid life’s toughest challenges

Mike Sullivan doesn’t know what he would do without his Legatus Forum.

A member and former president of the Denver Chapter, Sullivan has been part of a Forum for 12 years. During that time, he said, the 11 Legates in the group and their families have experienced births, deaths, job successes and challenges, and significant spiritual growth. “I look around the room and see guys who are peers on many levels, but mostly we are tied together by our strongly held Catholic faith,” Sullivan said. “There is absolutely nowhere else in the world where I can go on a regular, long-term basis to experience the love and support that I get from these wonderful guys.”

Sullivan has been a vigorous promoter of Forums since 2007 when, while serving as chapter president, he was advised at a Legatus Summit to consider starting the small groups in Denver. He took the idea back to the Chapter, which today has 11 Forums – five for men and six for women. “Roughly 71 percent of the total Legatus membership of approximately 103 members in Denver are now in Forums, with a new one planned to start soon,” he said.

Deeper camaraderie

A Forum is a small group within a chapter that provides a “deeper dive” into the Legatus experience, said Mike McCartney, a member of the board of governors and the Genesis Chapter. “It is a confidential, close-knit group that discusses where your faith, your work, and your family converge.”

Legatus Forums trace their origins to Orange County Legate Mary Campbell and two other women from her chapter, who started a Forum based on their experience with groups in the Young Presidents’ Organization (YPO). Their idea took off, and today Orange County has four men’s and three women’s Forums.

Each Forum group meets monthly at the minimum and begins with an opening prayer and reading of a confidentiality statement, followed by short updates from each member and discussion. Sticking to the format is important and keeps the group from becoming something it’s not intended to be, said Laura Sacha, Legatus director of training and development. “A Forum isn’t a book club and it’s not to give advice and it’s not a social gathering.”

Peer-group privacy

Confidentiality is key and means that members do not share what is said in the group with anyone, not even their spouses. “You have conversations in that Forum you could never have outside of it,” McCartney said. “In fact, that is the bedrock: the number-one prevailing rule is unbending confidentiality.”

This is especially important when it comes to discussions about business. “In many cases,” McCartney continued, “this is a chance to run stuff by your peers, to get challenged, be supported, and explore options of how you would handle business issues that have far-reaching ramifications.”

Added Sullivan: “For some, it’s like having a private board of directors to assist in complex and thorny business issues.”

Legatus currently has 101 Forums – 55 for men, 44 for women, and two that are mixed. Of the 90 chapters, only 38 currently have Forums and Sacha said every chapter is being encouraged to have one Forum each for men and women by the first of the year.

The structure and format of Forums have worked well and so have remained unchanged since the groups were introduced, Sacha said. However, with the push to establish more Forums, an effort is being made to offer more structured training for facilitators and additional support for the groups.

 Where Forums flourish, chapters are solid

Forums are considered beneficial not only to individual Legates, but chapters as a whole. “Wherever you have Forums flourishing, you have a solid chapter,” McCartney said. “. . . Our data tells us that if you’ve got a vibrant Forum, it will be foundational for your chapter.”

Sacha said this is partly because membership in a Forum enhances the Legatus experience, making Legates more committed to the monthly chapter meetings and national events. It also leads to higher retention rates. “Some members renew just because of their Forum,” she said, adding that for many, the groups represent their core support system.

When their 21-year-old daughter, Courteney, was killed in an auto accident in 2017, Denver Legates Craig and Shelly Saeman said their fellow Forum members brought meals, prayed with them, and fulfilled other needs, including helping with funeral arrangements. Craig said the support continued after the funeral as Legates had Masses said for Courteney and called and texted him and his wife, inviting them to lunch and letting them know their friends were thinking of them.

Sacha said one of the strengths of Forums is that members know from the start they are with likeminded individuals. “It’s not like a layer of onion you have to peel off. It’s a given. You’re in that Forum and you can get to the real issues more quickly.”

NOTE: Must be a Legatus member to participate in a Forum. To start or revive a chapter Forum, contact Laura Sacha lsacha@legatus.org.

JUDY ROBERTS is a Legatus magazine staff writer.

Spiritual bonds

Legatus forums strengthen chapters and stress confidentiality, commitment, leadership . . .

When a Legatus member was scheduled for quadruple-bypass surgery recently, a group of his fellow Legates went to Mass together to pray for him.

Similarly, when two Legates lost their wives, they were able to openly share their grief in a private, confidential setting with several men from their chapter.

Such experiences illustrate what happens in Legatus forums, small groups of men and women who gather regularly outside the monthly Legatus meeting for personal spiritual growth and support.

Inspiration

“What forums are intended to do is take the Legatus experience to a deeper level,” said Gary Rosaasen, who oversees the development of Legatus forums. “It’s an opportunity to challenge your faith and grow in it, to share things going on in your life — both good and bad — in a completely confidential environment.”

Mary Campbell

Legatus forums were inspired by the experiences Mary Campbell and two other women from the Orange County Chapter had with YPO (Young Presidents’ Organization) forums. “We were married to good men, we were Catholic, and we had similar values,” said Campbell. Knowing what forums could do to build closer relationships among like-minded people, the three decided to invite other women in their chapter to join them in starting a Legatus forum.

About a dozen women came to the introductory meeting and within a year, the group grew to 20 and had to be split in half. Today, the Orange County Chapter has six forums — three for women and three for men.

Campbell’s husband Bill told Legatus magazine that the women’s forum had been meeting for about a year when the men started to ask about it. “The women seemed to be getting something out of this so we said, ‘Why don’t we try it?’”

Since that initial success, the Campbells, along with Bill and Joanne Brown from the Orlando Chapter, have worked to grow Legatus forums. About 12 chapters now have forums, but Legatus’ board of governors would like to see more. Rosaasen, who is also national director for new chapter development, marketing and international chapters, said six more chapters are in various stages of developing forums for their members.

“A lot of chapters feel forums are optional,” Rosaasen said, “but actually a bylaw indicates chapters should provide members the opportunity to participate in a Legatus forum.”

Spirituality

Bill Campbell said the Legatus forum experience differs from that of YPO in that it adds a spiritual dimension. “That becomes inspirational many times when somebody shares maybe a recent sermon they heard or the fact that they made a decision to go to Mass daily and how that changed their lives. So you learn from your fellow members and see things that maybe you hadn’t seen — or you find a different way to pray or hear about the power of prayer in someone else’s life.”

Forum members also seek and receive practical help from one another with family and business concerns. “Seeing each other on a monthly basis and knowing more about what’s going on in each other’s lives truly makes you friends for life,” Bill Campbell said.

Tom Spencer of Legatus’ Indianapolis Chapter, which has had forums for five years, said that for him, the forum supplements other small groups he attends through the Cursillo and Christ Renews His Parish movements. Although those groups offer spiritual support, he said, the Legatus forum gives him a place to share business concerns with other Catholic professionals.

Besides benefiting the members who participate in them, Rosaasen said forums strengthen chapters and contribute to their overall health. “Typically, chapters with [forums] experience improved attendance at chapter events. Through forums, people become more committed to Legatus. There is increased membership retention and growth because people are more engaged.”

Confidentiality

Men from the Indianapolis Chapter’s men’s
forum meet on Nov. 15 2012

Most Legatus forums meet monthly, but the location and length of their gatherings vary. Spencer’s forum, for example, meets at St. Luke Parish on the north side of Indianapolis for several hours on the morning of the regular Legatus meeting.

Bill Campbell’s group, known as the Holy Spirit Forum, meets from 4 to 6 p.m. at a business club, a private room in a restaurant, or occasionally at a member’s home. After the forum meeting, most members stay on for dinner and additional discussion.

The Holy Spirit Forum begins with a prayer and statement of confidentiality, reminding members that what is said in the group stays there and is not to be shared, even with their spouses. Next, everyone gives an update on his business, family and spiritual life. After this, participants take time to help a member with a particular problem or explore a topic of interest. The meeting ends with a request for prayer intentions and prayer.

Rosaasen said the three most important characteristics of a Legatus forum are confidentiality, commitment and leadership. “Confidentiality is a forum absolute,” he said. Should someone break the seal of confidentiality, that person could be asked to leave the forum.

When a member does share a particular struggle or problem, Mary Campbell said, “we’re not there to be a psychologist or give advice, but to listen, to respond prayerfully, to support, to pray and maybe say, ‘I don’t know if this will help you, but this is what happened to me.’ We don’t ever want to prescribe advice, but we can say, ‘I had a similar experience.’ This part is really very powerful.”

Father Justin Ramos, O.Praem., who recently led a retreat for six women in one of the Orange County Chapter’s forums, said he was struck by the degree of intimacy among the members.

“These women knew everything about each other’s families and spouses,” he said. “They’re very, very close-knit. When I did a funeral for one of their spouses, all of them were there. They seem to have grown not only in great friendship, but in loyalty toward one another and the faith.”

Father Ramos said Legatus forums work because they’re uniquely Catholic. Members “trust each other. They understand where they’re all coming from. They can talk freely and know the response is going to be one they need.”

Judy Roberts is Legatus magazine’s staff writer