Tag Archives: matthew a. rarey

To Jesus through Mary, down Mexico way

Our Lady of Guadalupe inspires Legates on 2nd annual pilgrimage . . .

guadalupeAlmost 500 years after Our Lady of Guadalupe set in motion Mexico’s mass conversion, her appeal remains as profound and enduring as the miraculous image she left on St. Juan Diego’s cloak in 1531.

The 77 pilgrims on the second annual Legatus-Papal Foundation pilgrimage to Mexico, Sept. 13-14, had experiences similarly profound and, they hope, enduring in effect.

“We Legates have the obligation to bring Christ to the world in a big way, but with utter humility, just like Our Lady of Guadalupe,” said John Hale, a member of Legatus’ Detroit Chapter.

Hale’s company, Corporate Travel, arranged the trip, and he was joined by wife Kristan and four of their five children, ages eight to 13. “The kids were so caught up in the joy of Our Blessed Mother that they didn’t want to leave!” he said.

A natural collaboration

Tom and Glory Sullivan, members of Legatus’ Jacksonville Chapter and The Papal Foundation, first suggested a joint Legatus-Papal Foundation pilgrimage to Mexico.

The couple has been traveling to Mexico for decades to visit the Blessed Mother’s shrine as well as a girls’ school. A combined Legatus-Papal Foundation pilgrimage was a natural fit, especially given the overlap in membership. The leadership of both organizations concurred, and the generous turnout — up more than 30 from last year — suggests this may become an annual event.

“Each time we go, it gets better,” said Tom Sullivan. “On this pilgrimage we shared testimonies the night before we returned home. You couldn’t help but cry when you heard how the Blessed Mother touched so many lives.”

Later one of the pilgrims emailed him and Glory. “She told us the pilgrimage changed her life. ‘But I’m mad at you,’ she said. ‘I didn’t want to change!’”


The pilgrims’ first stop was Mexico City’s Metropolitan Cathedral of the Assumption of Mary. Then it was on to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, where St. Juan Diego’s cloak or tilma is on display.

“I passed the tilma more times than I could tell you,” remarked Suzanne Rea of Legatus’ Detroit Chapter, who traveled with husband Tony and two grandchildren. “Mary’s love was enveloping!”

Pilgrims climbed Tepeyac Hill, where a chapel marks the first of five Marian apparitions, before returning to the basilica for Confession and a private Mass.


On the second and final day of the pilgrimage, the pilgrims visited Villa de los Niñas, a boarding school for some 3,000 girls run by the Sisters of Mary. It is one of 15 such schools in eight countries around the world, each single-sex and known in English as “Boystown” and “Girlstown.” Mexico’s Boystown is in Guadalajara, while Girlstown is in Chalco, east of Mexico City.

The schools award scholarships to impoverished but promising students. In addition to rigorous academics and practical training, the students are catechized and inspired to evangelize society.

“The pure joy on these girls’ faces just melted you away and put life in complete and total perspective,” said Legatus tour leader Laura Sacha.

Fr. Daniel Leary, who celebrated Sunday Mass at Girlstown, said it was “a grace encountering girls who are like the roses from Mary’s tilma, they’re so beautiful.”

“These girls have dedicated their lives to the Blessed Mother in repayment for the privilege they have of being there,” said Tony Rea. “They thanked us, but we wanted to thank them for letting us help.”

The combined effect of visiting Our Lady of Guadalupe’s shrine and Girlstown made this pilgrimage, said Tony, “the most moving of all” the Marian sites he and Suzanne have visited the world over.

MATTHEW A. RAREY is a Chicago-based freelance journalist.

A passion for the gospel

Legate Deacon Larry Oney fosters evangelization and entrepreneurship in Uganda . . .

Deacon Larry Oney

Deacon Larry Oney

Deacon Larry Oney believes that proclaiming the Gospel shouldn’t be limited to the pulpit — something he backs up with words and actions.

A member of Legatus’ New Orleans Chapter with his wife Andi since 2002, Oney is renowned far beyond Louisiana for his dynamic preaching and fearless defense of the faith.

Humble beginnings

In February, Oney traveled to Africa where he gave a day-long retreat for members of the Ugandan parliament and the president’s cabinet, which was then under fire from President Barack Obama for supporting a bill criminalizing same-sex “marriages” and imposing life imprisonment for repeated homosexual acts. (The bill passed despite Obama’s empty threat of yanking U.S. aid to the impoverished, heavily Catholic country.)

“Evangelization is my passion,” says Oney, 57, father of five. Pursuing this passion in a big way, however, would be impossible without significant personal means: He is chairman and CEO of Hammerman & Gainer, Inc., which provides third-party administrative management, business process outsourcing, and project management services.

“Business can be a tool, arrows in the quiver of the Lord,” says Oney. “We see that in scripture with men of means like Joseph of Arimathea. He used his influence and wealth to help the Lord. This goes straight to the heart of Legatus: Catholics who can support many initiatives, not in a loud, boastful way, but strong and silent — and deepen their own faith through the fellowship and mutual support that Legatus provides.”

oney-1Oney has come a long way from growing up unchurched in Louisiana’s Protestant north, another state altogether compared to the deeply Catholic south, home to five of Legatus’ most vibrant chapters.

“We had 11 kids in my family — Catholic-sized, but not Catholic,”

Oney laughs. He was always a believing Christian, but came into the Church 30 years ago. He was later introduced to Legatus by Danny Abramowicz, the legendary football star and co-host of EWTN’s Crossing the Goal.

Being on fire with the faith eventually enkindled Oney’s vocation as a permanent deacon, which in turn led to many more opportunities to preach and give retreats throughout the country. (He was ordained five years ago.) Realizing the limitations of a one-man show, he recently founded Hope and Purpose Ministries to expand the New Evangelization through a host of media initiatives and collaborations.

Faith and works

Underscoring the fact that the world is small when love is large, Oney attended Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans with a young Ugandan seminarian recruited for priestly service in Louisiana’s Houma-Thibodaux diocese.

When now-Fr. Simon Peter Engurait was about to be ordained in 2012, he mentioned to Oney his consternation that members of his family wanted to attend but were unable to do so because of the cost.

oney-2“Without skipping a beat, he said he would talk to his wife about hosting them, which they did — all five of them, including putting them up in their home,” Fr. Engurait said.

Today, the priest is deeply moved that Oney is focusing so much attention on the needs of his fellow Catholics back home in what he calls “the Pearl of Africa”— needs material as well as spiritual.

“The conviction with which Deacon Oney preaches and shares the Good News is deeply inspirational and transformative,” says Fr. Engurait. But he also draws attention to that famous passage in the Letter of St. James: “So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.”

When Oney traveled to Uganda earlier this year to speak and preach, he noticed not only the spiritual richness of the people, but their material poverty. Oney moved quickly to establish a bank to give micro-loans to Ugandans whose capacity to evangelize is hampered by economic insecurity.

“Like many developing countries, Uganda has a lot of unexploited or under-exploited economic opportunities,” says Fr. Engurait. “One of the key inhibiting factors is lack of financing — pure lack or prohibitively high lending rates and terms. So this micro- banking initiative to support income-generating activities is a significant effort in meeting people’s needs for a better livelihood.”

Oney has already secured over $50,000 in loans to Ugandans, averaging $1,000. (Given the exchange rate and comparative poverty of Uganda, this would equal about $1.32 million in America.) Most of the recipients are 16 couples associated with the Emmaus Center, a focal point of charismatic Catholicism in Uganda.

The people in this community want to evangelize, Oney notes,  “but they need to feed their families.” Starting small enterprises  with secure outlooks — raising chickens to sell the eggs, for example — presents “a ridiculous return on investment.” Oney is working  on formalizing this loan process, which provides “a leg-up, not a hand-out.”

“Like Legatus, this is faith in action and entrepreneurism. If they’re successful, they can become lenders, too, not just borrowers. The expectation is that these little businesses will grow and they’ll pay the money back.”

Countering materialism

Ralph Martin

Ralph Martin

This summer Oney will visit Uganda a second time, not only to check up on the loan recipients, but to speak at the first International Leaders Conference of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal to be held on the African continent. Others sharing the podium at the June 30- July 12 event include Ghana’s Cardinal Peter Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.

Oney describes the meeting’s aim as strengthening participants in their personal faith and spiritual lives while teaching them the leadership skills and techniques necessary to evangelize effectively.

Renewal Ministries, led by its founder Ralph Martin, has worked in Uganda for about 20 years, hosting retreats, meeting with local prelates, and focusing on catechetical training and resources to counteract the challenges of Pentecostals. Renewal Ministries arranged Oney’s February retreat for Ugandan members of parliament — a regular activity enjoyed by the leaders of this strongly Catholic country.

Martin, a member of Legatus’ Ann Arbor Chapter, says Oney’s impact in Africa has been impressive, “partly due to the fact that Africans are perhaps more receptive to an African-American. One of the major challenges we’re encountering there is the mindset of Western materialism that’s trying to conquer the globe. This underscores the necessity to advance and deepen Catholic evangelization efforts.”

As for Deacon Larry Oney, he notes that material concerns can be valid, and if validly addressed, nurture the spiritual life. Materialism, on the other hand, “puts Mammon in the place of God altogether.”

MATTHEW A. RAREY is Legatus magazine’s editorial assistant.

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Evangelizing through music

John Hale’s mighty musical mission brings  the Gospel to secular venues . . .

From the halls of Hayden’s Vienna to the shores of Normandy, from the Vatican and Carnegie Hall across the seas to Sydney, John Hale is bringing Catholic music to the wider secular culture – usually with standing ovations.

“One way to draw people to the beauty of the faith and fall in love with God is through the arts,” said Hale, a member of Legatus’ Detroit Chapter. “We can criticize the banal types of music endured today or feature something higher that engages people in God through a musical experience.”

Evangelical Mission

John Angotti

John Angotti

Hale is president of Corporate Travel Services, an agency founded to serve the business community. But for the past 10 years, a division of CTS has been devoted to group tours featuring Catholic choirs that anyone may accompany.

CTS arranges travel and accommodations, secures concert venues, and facilitates publicity. A single tour might bring together a host of choirs under the direction of a single artistic director. Performances attract many music lovers who might not otherwise set foot in a church, where many performances are held. However, even if the venue is secular, the music is sacred — whether chant, classical or contemporary.

“It’s like what the Holy Father said about priests going out of the sacristy and engaging the world,” said John Angotti, a composer and conductor who has worked with Hale for almost 10 years. “Lay Catholics have that mission, too: bringing the Gospel to the world outside the walls of a church.”

Hale concurs. “In the process of serving so many good people, I’m learning a great deal about our faith and musical heritage, both of which I love sharing the world over.”

Hale’s father-in-law, Joseph Di Franco, founded CTS. Although the agency offers business and leisure travel plus educational tours, its musical roots run deep. Di Franco, from whom Hale and his brother-in-law bought the business six years ago, worked with the Grand Ole Opry for 20 years, producing shows and working with Opry talent on cruise ships. Then CTS began branching off into faith-based travel — pilgrimages for parishes and dioceses.

John Hale

John Hale

“A number of parish and diocesan choirs wanted to come along and sing,” Hale explained from his office in Dearborn Heights, Mich. “We seized a terrific opportunity.”

First the choirs sang at Masses in places like Notre Dame Cathedral and St. Peter’s Basilica, which already were on the pilgrimage schedule. “Then as we began working with more accomplished choirs, they wanted to have stand-alone concerts. We took our production expertise and gave them the opportunity to sing sacred music on iconic secular stages, from the Sydney Opera House to Carnegie Hall.”

Cornering Carnegie

New York City’s Carnegie Hall has become a regular venue for CTS performances. Each year Hale produces a show with a decidedly Catholic theme. Last year 250 singers, professional soloists, and players from the New York Philharmonic presented The Mass of the Children by John Rutter. The year before, they featured Catholic composer and songwriter John Angotti. This year, they’re producing the Hyland Mass in November.

“Taking liturgical music into such a secular setting exemplifies the mission of Jesus,” Angotti said. “We were like missionaries, taking the Gospel into Carnegie by singing a message of hope and harmony.”

Angotti and Hale are planning a performance of his new musical, The Now Testament, a contemporary re-telling of the Old Testament hero Job’s story.

Steve Petrunak

Steve Petrunak

“John Hale is the genuine real deal,” Angotti said. “His charism is very compassionate and gentle. He’s all about service, and if there’s an issue, he always wants to make it right, even if means he has to take a hit. That’s why I like to work with him.”

Hale has also struck a harmonious chord with Stephen Petrunak, music director of St. Blase Catholic Church in Sterling Heights, Mich. He has worked with Hale for the past eight years as an artistic director and conductor. They first met when Hale gave a presentation for Petrunak’s parish music program in 2005.

“Everything we do together has that sense of promoting the Gospel and furthering the Kingdom of God,” said Petrunak, who has been artistic director for several CTS concerts at Carnegie. Now the two are planning a musical pilgrimage to Poland, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia.

Eric Dale Knapp, a New York City-based conductor, said Hale has done a lot for the development of choirs and their ability to tour worldwide.

“He creates great events,” says Knapp. “It’s not easy. One model works in New York, another in Rome. He’s able to identify the differences and respond to them, creating programs that people enjoy participating in. And of course they center on Catholic music. I’m not Catholic myself, but it’s just wonderful.”

D-Day Plus Rome

music-1In June another Hale tour will blow into France for the “2014 Salute to Valor Music Festival” commemorating the 70th anniversary of the D-Day Landing. And next year CTS will ring in the New Year as it hosts the American contingent of the 40th International Congress of Pueri Cantores in Rome, Dec. 26, 2015-Jan. 2, 2016.

Pueri Cantores, the official youth chorale of the Catholic Church with federations in 37 countries, will convene in the Eternal City with 5,000 singers. CTS is arranging travel for upwards of 600 American singers, grades four through 12 — as well as 800 family, friends, and clergy.

“We selected CTS because John cares about more than the travel business,” said Jan Schmidt, executive director of the American Federation of Pueri Cantores. “He cares about our mission. He has the best contacts of any travel agency serving the Vatican. And most important, he’s a devout Catholic himself.”

All of the Pueri Cantores choirs will sing at the World Peace Day Papal Mass at St. Peter’s on New Year’s Day. For the English-speaking choirs, Hale has organized a special “Mass of Nations” at St. Paul Outside the Walls as well as concerts at other Rome churches.

Hale says he’s honored to serve a higher cause.

Singing in Rome, he said, will help these young people “realize the universality of their faith and understand the gift they’ve been given to share as part of the living legacy of our Church. They’re evangelized and they’re also evangelizing. I’m tremendously excited by the opportunity to be part of the transformation in these young Catholics’ lives. It’s very humbling.”

MATTHEW A. RAREY is Legatus magazine’s editorial assistant.

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Is Catholic health care a thing of the past?

Matthew Rarey: consolidation, regulation, and persecution pose a three-fold challenge . . . 

Health care providers are taking a beating from ObamaCare, and Catholic hospitals and physicians fighting to keep the faith are no exception. Many suspect that the end game is not only a singlepayer system, but a shutdown of faith-based delivery.

“Catholics should be worried,” warns John M. Haas, president of the National Catholic Bioethics Center. “It’s not so much a Catholic identity issue within Catholic health care, but fierce and relentless threats from government and a profound shift in cultural attitudes regarding issues such as contraception.”

Such threats have already forced the Church out of other social ministries — including adoption services — thanks to laws and mores condoning same-sex “marriage.”

Regulatory culture

A statue of the Blessed Mother stands in front of Loretto Hospital in New Ulm, Minn.

A statue of the Blessed Mother stands in front of Loretto Hospital in New Ulm, Minn.

John F. Brehany is executive director and ethicist of the Catholic Medical Association, an association of individuals across the country dedicated to learning, implementing, and sharing their faith in the health care industry. Most of its 2,000 members are physicians.

He cites two factors militating against a robust Catholic identity in health care.

“First, the federal government is actively hostile to the Catholic faith and at best indifferent to the protection of conscience rights in organized medicine,” Brehany says. Of particular concern is the Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate. This employer requirement to provide insurance plans covering contraceptives, abortifacients, and sterilization procedures is “proving a real challenge to the Catholic institutional presence in health care.”

The U.S. Supreme Court heard cases seeking the mandate’s repeal in late March and is expected to give its ruling at the end of June.

Second, says Brehany, is the financial pressure being exerted upon health care providers to stay in business. To “cut more costs out of the delivery structure, many are consolidating,” he notes. Encouraging this trend is the need to comply with ever more burdensome federal regulations — a costly procedure that’s putting many physicians out of private practice.

“Government has so ramped up regulations and penalties for compliance with federal law that private physicians are being driven out of business and joining hospitals,” Brehany explains. “They can’t afford the software systems and lawyers necessary to letting them know whether they’re in continual compliance,” thus avoiding crippling penalties. When Catholic hospitals consolidate with non-Catholic hospitals for similar reasons, these consolidations can pose “a challenge to maintaining a robust Catholic identity.”

Consolidation, not compromise

John Haas

John Haas

In 2012, Catholic Healthcare West relinquished its formal Catholic identity in order to expand its network to include non-Catholic hospitals, thus increasing its marketing power and profitability. Now called Dignity Health, it may be a harbinger of further consolidations by which Catholic health care providers drop their Catholic identity for the sake of the bottom line.Despite that change in name and formal identity, “there’s more than meets the eye with the Catholic Healthcare West issue,” Haas notes. Dignity Health’s transformation was made in consultation with the Church and approved by former San Francisco Archbishop George Niederauer. It has promised to run its Catholic hospitals in accord with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) document Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services.

“But it now means that the overarching system of Dignity can bring non-Catholic hospitals into the system and have them continue doing things Catholic hospitals can’t,” says Haas, citing sterilization procedures. “Dignity has said none of its hospitals can perform abortions, however. There’s still a strong Catholic moral influence.”

Haas says that consolidation is the trend of the future.

“You can find almost no freestanding hospitals anymore — they’re all entering into collaborative arrangements to survive,” he told Legatus magazine shortly after returning from a meeting in Rome, where he is a member of the Pontifical Academy for Life. “When a non-Catholic hospital or system puts pressure on a Catholic partner to do things not in accord with moral law, that’s where the threats come in.”

The National Catholic Bioethics Center, led by Haas, gives ethical guidance to Catholic health care providers considering collaborative arrangements with non-Catholic entities, helping them stay true to their Catholic identity. A major concern is maintaining the principle of non-material cooperation with evil.

The NCBC worked with one Catholic health care system for over a year to maintain its integrity through the consolidation process, Haas says. The $620 million deal did not happen until the NCBC affirmed that no ethical or religious directives would be broken.

“What came into play were tubal ligations, contraception, and sterilization, which are such a miniscule part of the overall delivery of health care but in our day and age, such a neuralgic issue,” says Haas.

Peter Breen

Peter Breen

For now, vigilant bishops are key to ensuring the Catholic identity of Catholic health care, Haas says. However, a game changer may be in the works: The Obama administration’s repeal of conscience provisions, which had allowed health care providers to receive federal funds despite refusing to perform procedures the Church deems unethical, could threaten the very existence of Catholic health care.

“You often hear people saying with great bravado that a Catholic hospital would close down before it did abortions [to receive the government funding so vital to their operation],” he notes. “If it came to that and a Catholic hospital refused to do abortions, the state could take it over and say this institution exists by our leave as a non-profit. It’s happened before in Church history, but not yet here in America.”

Catholic health care in the catacombs?

Peter Breen, executive director and legal counsel of the Thomas More Society, says the movement in politics to devalue faith-based ministries has turned into active hostility.

Concerning mergers between Catholic and secular health care institutions, Breen says “there’s a real fight over whose ethics will win out.” In a case not yet made public, the Thomas More Society is defending a Catholic doctor that a secular hospital involved in a partnership with a Catholic hospital refused to hire because of his opposition to administering abortifacient birth control.

Even more ominous, Breen cites a recent suit that the American Civil Liberties Union filed against the USCCB because its Ethical and Religious Directives bars abortion.

“I don’t mean to be apocalyptic,” says Breen, “but if Catholic bishops are unable to set ethical guidelines for institutions calling themselves Catholic, we’re going to have a hard time maintaining an official relation between the Church and not-for-profit Catholic health facilities. If the ACLU is successful, we’ll be put in a tough spot as a Church.”

Joseph Piccione, senior vice president for mission and ethics at Peoria, Ill.-based OSF HealthCare System, says he’s hopeful yet realistic about the continuance of that fundamental part of Catholic discipleship and identity: caring for the sick.

“When we see how Catholic ministries have struggled to remain active even in oppressive communist regimes, we know that we have a learned flexibility from their example,” says Piccione, who holds a licentiate in theology as well as a civil law degree. “We need to be quick on our feet and find ways to continue to serve. Why? Because that’s what the Lord wants of us.”

MATTHEW A. RAREY is Legatus magazine’s editorial assistant.

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Full circle: From Legatus employee to chaplain

Father Chas Canoy used to work as one of Legatus’ regional directors . . .

Fr. Charles Canoy

Fr. Charles Canoy

Fr. Charles Canoy
Ann Arbor Chapter

Father Charles (“Chas”) Canoy once worked for Legatus, but he began discerning his priestly calling long before that. While working as a marketer for General Mills, he says, “God began nudging me toward a vocation that would not market Cheerios anymore, but would promote something that satisfies the hunger of the soul instead of the stomach.” Passionate about the New Evangelization (check out his YouTube channel), the Lansing diocesan priest tries to instill that passion in Legates as well as seminarians at Detroit’s Sacred Heart Major Seminary, where he teaches and is associate director for undergraduate formation.

Tell us about your call to the priesthood.

I’d dreamed of having a wife and family, so I had to discern whether a priestly vocation was really for me. I decided to study a couple of years of philosophy at Franciscan University, knowing that was something seminarians studied anyway. Later, a 30-day Ignatian retreat helped me to overcome my selfishness and fears regarding priesthood and to trust in the Lord. I entered the seminary and was ordained in 2005.

By the way, I met a young lady at Franciscan and we dated seriously. That ended, of course. But a year after I was ordained, she entered the Sisters of Life. Now we’re both very happy that God got his way!

How did you become acquainted with Legatus?

I actually worked as the Great Lakes regional director back in the late ’90s. My ex-girlfriend was from around Ann Arbor, and one day she said, “I’m taking you to Domino’s Farms for Mass today.”

Not knowing it was the headquarters of Domino’s Pizza, I thought, “Domino’s Farms? I’ve never heard of St. Domino before!” Anyway, after Mass the priest struck up a conversation with me about my background, and the next thing I know I’m set to have a job interview with Legatus.

How would you like to see the Ann Arbor Chapter progress?

Legates need to be comfortable and confident having a conversation about life’s struggles and how their faith and relationship with the Lord help them to meet those challenges and give purpose to them. I would like to see our chapter members enter into a few small groups — forums — in which they meet once a month to do just that.

How do you approach your role as chaplain?

I see my role as providing the foundational grace of the sacraments at each Legatus event. I also try to provide some context and continuity between the events by suggesting how a particular message given to the group at the monthly event may relate to past speakers, to their vocation in the world, or to what is currently going on in the Church locally or worldwide. Of course, keeping them in prayer is also an important task of a chaplain.

Can you recommend any particular devotion?

Yes: the practice of lectio divina and using the Ignatian method of placing yourself in the Gospel scenes as you meditate on the scriptures. Marian devotion and the daily rosary have also been a stable constant in my life, giving words to my prayer when I am too tired to have them for myself.

Do you have any priestly advice for business leaders?

Simply doing your work well glorifies God and garners the respect of those around you. But the Lord has also given you that platform in order to draw the people around you closer to him.

Developing your own relationship with Jesus gives you such a desire, as well as the insight on how best to share that gift with those around you.

MATTHEW A. RAREY is Legatus magazine’s editorial assistant.

Kansas chaplain loves the heartland

Despite his Irish roots, Wichita’s Fr. John Sherlock feels at home in Kansas . . .

Fr. John Sherlock

Fr. John Sherlock

Fr. John Sherlock
Wichita Chapter

It’s a long way to Tipperary, but Fr. John Sherlock “feels very much at home” in Kansas. After beginning his priesthood with the Legionaries of Christ — serving in Mexico and Spain — he was incardinated in the Wichita diocese in 1981. “The Legionaries had their apostolate, and it was very concrete. But I felt I had to be more among the people, the regular Joes in the parishes,” explains the rector of Wichita’s Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. In Kansas, his cups of Joe “runneth over” with earthy good sense tipped heavenward.

Tell us about your call to the priesthood.

When I was young, there were certain sentiments that I liked about the priesthood, and certain signs and inspirations that this was how I would serve the Church and the Lord. Coming from Ireland, I had a desire to serve the Church in the missions, particularly in Latin America. When I visited with recruiters from the Legionaries of Christ, I saw a way of getting to help there. I visited their seminary in Dublin for a weekend to see what it was like and never came out.

How did you become acquainted with Legatus?

Bishop Michael Jackels asked me to become his assistant chaplain back in 2008. Then when he was appointed Archbishop of Dubuque, he made me full chaplain last April.

What impact has Legatus had on the Wichita diocese?

The members are really trying to reach a higher level of intimacy with the Lord, to serve the Church, and to be good stewards of their goods. Some are important leaders within their parishes. In a way, our members are simple folk. They’ve got a wisdom from the years, as well as from on high. Being in contact with the Lord and with reality forms a rich spirituality.

How would you like to see the chapter go forward?

I’d like us to continue bringing in a variety of speakers, enriching us from different points of view — spiritual, social, or addressing pressing issues of the day. I think one of the upcoming speakers will talk about how the corporate world can reach out to the world today. I think that’s something we need to do a little bit more, to talk about stewardship.

You have a vocation, of course. Any avocations?

I really love traveling. I visit my family in Ireland twice a year, I’m ashamed to say! To celebrate my 25th ordination, I went around the world in a month: from Wichita to Australia to Asia, India, London, Ireland, then back to the States.

It’s fascinating to see the richness of humanity, and how we can all learn from each other. My ultimate goal is to get to the Holy Land.

Can you recommend any particular devotions?

I love to read the Gospels: What did Christ do, how did he react, how can we imitate him? And then the Marian devotions. I love praying the Memorare. I’ve been somewhat “contaminated” by devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe from my time in Mexico and seeing the devotion of the people.

I also remember once going to Lourdes with my mom. It was three o’clock in the morning, and we both went to the grotto. There I was with my Heavenly Mother and earthly mother, just the three of us. It was a unique experience, a unique blessing.

Do you have any priestly advice for business leaders?

If you can be instrumental in bringing others closer to the Lord, become that bridge. If members of Legatus can be a bridge that can serve as a help to bring Christ to others, I think that’s the best advice I’d give.

MATTHEW A. RAREY is Legatus magazine’s editorial assistant.

Shepherding Spiritual Shepherds

Omaha’s Institute for Priestly Formation helps priests fall in love with Jesus . . .

shepherds-1The seminarian was divided against himself and felt “overwhelmed by Satan,” which he confided to his spiritual director, Monsignor John A. Esseff.

But through a 10-week summer program at The Institute for Priestly Formation (IPF), the distressed seminarian realized that “so much in him had sold out to sin and become hardened that he was leading a double life, conforming outwardly to seminary expectations but unconverted within,” said Monsignor Esseff, whose brother George is a member of Legatus’ Ventura/LA North Chapter and member of IPF’s Mission Advisory Council.

“The grace of the retreat experience made [the seminarian] become truly himself through conversion of heart,” Monsignor Esseff said. “That joy of experiencing union with Christ gave him the most marvelous sense of freedom. Then he could really explore what he was called to and knew that the priesthood was his true calling. He’s now ordained and is a wonderful, happy priest.”

Bearing fruit

Monsignor John Esseff with Mother Teresa in the 1980s

Monsignor John Esseff with Mother Teresa in the 1980s

Monsignor Esseff — an exorcist for the Diocese of Scranton, Pa. — revels in his work as an IPF spiritual director. The priest has served as a spiritual director to Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, and he himself was mentored by St. Padre Pio.

He has assisted IPF since fellow Scranton priest Fr. Richard Gabuzda and three others founded it in 1994. They were inspired by Blessed John Paul II’s 1992 call for a renewed vision for the priesthood and seminary formation in Pastores Dabo Vobis (I Will Give You Shepherds).

The institute is located on the campus of Omaha’s Creighton University. IPF enjoys an affiliation with the Jesuit institution, which grants IPF students course credit. However, it’s a separate entity — a non-profit Public Association of the Faithful.

Fr. Richard Gabuzda

Fr. Richard Gabuzda

Six seminarians attended its first summer session in 1995. Some 2,000 have followed. More than 80% of U.S. dioceses have not only entrusted their seminarians to IPF’s summer school, but have sent their priests and seminary formation personnel to other IPF programs, including 30-day Ignatian retreats and a three-year course to train spiritual directors.

Indeed, Ignatian spirituality has breathed life into IPF since its inception. Father Gabuzda, Kathy Kanavy and Fr. John Horn, SJ, participated in a 30-day Ignatian retreat at Creighton in the early 1990s. The retreat so strengthened their relationship with Christ that “it became clear God had called us together – along with Fr. George Aschenbrenner, SJ – to do something more,” said Fr. Gabuzda, IPF’s executive director.

In response to John Paul’s call for spiritual formation to be at the heart of priestly ministry, said Fr. Gabuzda, “we founded a novitiate dedicated to the charism of diocesan priests in order to draw seminarians and priests into a deeper encounter with God, and to draw the people they serve into that encounter as well.” Unlike religious orders, he noted, diocesan formation does not include a novitiate or time set apart for spiritual preparedness.

Deeper love for Jesus

IPF’s summer school for seminarians, its keystone program, begins with an eight-day silent retreat, followed by daily classes and one-on-one meetings between each seminarian and an assigned spiritual director.

“In seminary so many things are going on that you can get distracted from your prayer life,” said Matthew Clarke of Illinois’ Springfield diocese, who is studying at Mundelein Seminary. He attended IPF’s summer school last year. “IPF strengthened my prayer life and relationship with God. It’s steeped in Ignatian spirituality: in a nutshell, to see God more clearly, to love him more dearly, and to follow him more nearly.”

Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila

Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila

Clarke, 43, credits IPF for giving him a model of prayer and spiritual life so necessary to “entering into that close relationship with Christ that’s the basis of priesthood.”

The bishops sending their seminarians and priests to IPF programs are in lock-step with Clarke’s sentiments.

“I remember when I first attended the Institute for Priestly Formation in 2004 for a 30-day silent, directed retreat,” said Denver’s Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila, a member of IPF’s Bishops Advisory Council. “My spiritual life was forever changed and deepened in a way I never thought possible. I learned to pray like I never had before. Those weeks brought forth in me an even deeper love for Jesus, a new and lasting awareness of my sonship in the Father, and the possibilities of the life of grace in the Holy Spirit.”

The spiritual formation that priests and seminarians receive from IPF, he continued, “equips them to serve as diocesan priests, a calling that requires deep intimacy with the Trinity and Mary. That’s because a priest cannot invite others into true intimacy with God without having that kind of relationship himself. Once he experiences this true intimacy, it changes his preaching, teaching and celebration of the sacraments.”

The main goal of IPF’s formation is to help priests and seminarians “fall in love and stay in love with God,” said Denver’s spiritual shepherd, who sends his seminarians and priests to IPF programs each year.

Legatus connection

Tom Pogge

Tom Pogge

Tom Pogge, a member of Legatus’ Omaha Chapter, is IPF’s director of mission advancement and executive director of its fundraising wing, The Institute for Priestly Formation Foundation.

Pogge, 65, enjoyed a long career as a corporate lawyer before joining IPF in 2006 and taking on these twin roles that were a natural given his background in executive decision-making, finance, and fundraising. A longtime member of the Serra Club, Pogge already had an abiding love and appreciation for the priesthood.

His evangelistic fervor for IPF has helped broaden its support base, undergirding its ongoing expansion. The program to train spiritual directors — a three-year program that meets three weeks per year at Mundelein Seminary — is doubling in size this spring to 154 priests. And Pogge envisions an expansion of IPF’s facilities at Creighton, including an international center for priestly renewal.

“Having lived through all the changes from Vatican II and the confusion that came out of it, I think we’re seeing a renewal of the Church and what the Council Fathers were really calling for starting to emerge,” he explained.

“To renew the Church, we need strong, spiritually healthy priests. And when people learn about what IPF is doing to serve this holy purpose, they’re excited — and rightly so.”

MATTHEW A. RAREY is Legatus Magazine’s editorial assistant.

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Georgia chaplain credits parents for vocation

Savannah’s Fr. Daniel Firmin felt a call to the priesthood as a teenager . . .

Dr. Daniel Firmin

Dr. Daniel Firmin

Fr. Daniel Firmin
Savannah Chapter

Father Daniel Firmin, 35, carries a big load: diocesan chancellor and vicar general — and chaplain to three Catholic groups, including Legatus. However, the burden is light: “I keep St. Teresa of Avila’s advice close to my heart: ‘Let nothing disturb you, knowing God is in control.’” He credits his parents for encouraging his vocation. Before marrying and pursuing a call to serve the poor, both had discerned a religious vocation. Their willingness to let God lead gave the second of their seven children the courage to answer his own call.

Tell us about your call to the priesthood.

I thought the Lord was calling me beginning in my teenage years. I didn’t want that at all, but the thought just wouldn’t leave. So after my first year of college, I thought I’d check it out. I was accepted as a seminarian and sent to the Franciscan University of Steubenville’s pre-theology program. After that my bishop sent me to the Pontifical North American College. I said, “OK, Lord, I’m heading to Rome, so unless it’s really clear you don’t want me to go, I’m going.” I went, was ordained a deacon in St. Peter’s Basilica, and was ordained a priest back home in 2004.

How did you become acquainted with Legatus?

I’d known about Legatus, but actually met some members after I was assigned to Savannah a few years ago. First I met Marty Hogan on St. Patrick’s Day, and later John Roth, a parishioner at the cathedral. He attends the Latin Mass I celebrate there. They told me about Legatus and their wanting to start a chapter. I said I’d be happy to assist. I facilitated a meeting between them and Bishop Gregory Hartmayer, who gave them his blessing. I’ve helped and served as chaplain since we had our kick-off meeting in December 2012.

What impact has Legatus had on the Savannah diocese?

Our chapter is still in formation, but Legatus has already had an impact insofar as it’s affecting members in a beautiful way through an increased love for the faith and a desire to learn more. Beyond that, some of our guest speakers have also addressed the local Catholic high schools — speakers like Andreas Widmer, the former Swiss Guard, and Barrie Schwortz, an expert on the Shroud of Turin.

How would you like to see the chapter progress?

After we charter and get critical mass, I’m hoping Legatus will really take off and significantly impact the Diocese of Savannah. Of course I’d like to see us grow in numbers, but more importantly, continue to see the faith impacting members’ lives.

How do you approach your role as chaplain?

I help a lot with recruiting, but most importantly I’m a resource for prayer — like being asked to pray for members’ loved ones going through a difficult time.

I answer a lot of questions about the faith and what’s going on in the Church. I also challenge members, holding before them the importance of faith in their lives, their families and businesses.

Can you recommend any particular devotion?

I use the Magnificat a lot — the meditations, the daily Scripture readings. And the daily rosary is key. Most important is quiet prayer time with the Lord. The necessity of it is something that we really can’t skip. The Magnificat and the rosary help with that.

Take St. Teresa of Avila’s prayer: “Let nothing disturb you, knowing that God is in control. Do not allow the Evil One to disturb your peace.” Keep that peace and that level attitude of “I’m not going to let this disturb me. It will pass. The job will be done.”

MATTHEW A. RAREY is Legatus magazine’s editorial assistant.

A pilgrimage with the saints

Legates participating in annual pilgrimage are Christ in disguise to one another . . .

Following in the footsteps of saints, Legates traversed Italy from Rome to Florence to Venice during the annual Legatus pilgrimage Oct. 8-17. These three cities also served as stepping stones to holy sites associated with some of the Church’s most important saints.

Pilgrims attended Mass at all the sites, often celebrated by the group’s spiritual guide, Fr. John Zuhlsdorf.

Keith Armato, a member of Legatus’ Chicago Chapter and Legatus’ board of governors, went on the pilgrimage with wife Mary and 21 others. He also helped plan the event.

“What we wanted to do was not only experience our own spiritual thoughts by being near saints and praying at the sites associated with them, but also to experience other religious communities and see what they’re doing and how they’re being formed,” he said.

Sanctity in spiritus

The Benedictine monastery at Norcia occasioned one such experience, combining a perspective on contemporary sanctity with the aim of visiting a site associated with saints. The lively monastery is built on the ruins of the birthplace of Saints Benedict and Scholastica.

“The priests and monks were very pleasant,” explained John Radick of Legatus’ Twin Cities Chapter, who was accompanied by wife Martha and son Logan, 12. “And it was very interesting for our son to see young men living an austere life but pretty darn happy.”

Other highlights included:

• In Rome, Mass at the miraculous side altar of Santa Andrea delle Fratte (St. Andrew in the Thicket). Bishop Robert C. Morlino of Madison, Wis., celebrated Mass for pilgrims at that altar.

• In Venice, the rare experience of having Mass in the crypt below the Basilica of San Marco, where the bones of St. Mark once rested. The Patriarch of Venice intervened to secure this privilege.

• In Assisi, walking in the footsteps of Saints Francis and Clare.

• In the traffic-free centro storico of Florence, traveling back in time to absorb the beauty of the Renaissance’s birthplace.

And of course, the hallmark event of the Rome segment of any Legatus pilgrimage — presenting the Holy Father with a gift consisting of 10% of Legates’ annual dues.

A gift for Pope Francis

Logan Radick greets the Holy Father on Oct. 9

Logan Radick greets the Holy Father on Oct. 9

At the Oct. 9 general audience with Pope Francis in St. Peter’s Square, Radick and son Logan were presented to the Holy Father on behalf of Legates worldwide.

“I was told that the Holy Father is not comfortable in English,” Radick said. “I greeted him in Spanish and then gave him a very short message that a friend from Chile helped me phrase properly.”

In English, that message read: “Holy Father, we are honored to present this gift to your missions on behalf of all of the members of Legatus. We pray for you and our Church every day and ask that you bless our family and pray for us as well.”

Son Logan was in awe. “It was almost like being closer to God, by being near the Pope,” he said. “It was very personal, because I was the only person I could see [in the receiving line] who had his head, hand, and rosary blessed by the Pope. He also gave me a thumbs up!”

Accompanying his parents on pilgrimage was also a birthday gift: Logan turned 12 shortly after it officially ended. An additional gift was the friend he found in Br. John Yep, son of Chicago Legates Chris and Mary Anne Yep. A seminarian studying in Rome, Br. John spent time with the pilgrims and turned a boy’s disappointment — Logan was not admitted into the scavi, the Vatican necropolis, for being underage — into an impromptu Roman holiday.

Christ in disguise

“It’s amazing what happens when you bring Legatus members together on pilgrimage,” noted Legatus’ conference director Laura Sacha, who organized the pilgrimage and accompanied the pilgrims. “You see transformations, mere acquaintances develop into lifelong friendships and faith experiences that are so private, yet people are willing to share.”

For Keith and Mary Armato, this pilgrimage had added significance. They’ve taken more than 50 trips to Italy. During this trip they celebrated their 39th anniversary.

Mary Armato believes she and her fellow pilgrims experienced the essence of pilgrimage: “The destination of every pilgrimage is ultimately Christ. He is the way we follow, and he is our light along the way. Our companions on this journey were Christ traveling with us in disguise, and we were Christ in disguise to each of them.”

MATTHEW A. RAREY is Legatus magazine’s editorial assistant.

Turning the tide

A group of Legates come to the rescue of Philadelphia’s inner-city schools . . .

Embroiled in turmoil and allegations of scandal for much of the past decade, the Philadelphia archdiocese has witnessed a mass exodus of parishioners and staggering deficits.

Appointed in 2011, Archbishop Charles Chaput, OFM Cap., has overseen property liquidation and last year’s final press run of the archdiocese’s 117-year-old newspaper. Despite budget and staffing cuts, the archdiocese still faces a budget deficit of more than $5 million for the 2013 fiscal year.

Innovative approach

Archbishop Charles Chaput

Archbishop Charles Chaput

Slowly the tide is beginning to turn. Doing their part, Philadelphia Legates are easing the strain by rescuing some of the archdiocese’s poorest inner-city schools under the umbrella of Independence Mission Schools (IMS).

“The Independence Mission Schools effort has been more than innovative, it’s been vital to keeping Catholic education alive in Philadelphia’s economically challenged communities,” Archbishop Chaput told Legatus magazine. “Jack Donnelly, James Broussard, and Bill Curtis have shown extraordinary leadership matched only by their generosity.”

Led by Donnelly, the three Legates serve on the 15-member board of this new nonprofit organization that the archdiocese entrusted last summer with managing 14 elementary schools enrolling some 4,000 students — two-thirds of them non-Catholics.

“We’re doing this because we are Catholic,” explained Donnelly, CEO of a construction management company. “These inner-city children — their public schools are so bad — they have no opportunity to succeed. What we’re doing fills a desperate need.”

Even though “we’re blind to the faith of the students,” Donnelly says the Independence Mission Schools are authentically Catholic, using the archdiocesan-approved religious curriculum and welcoming religious teaching orders. The archdiocese appoints one member to each of the 14 individual IMS boards, which works in tandem with the IMS executive board to promote academic excellence and greater self-sufficiency.

Experienced administrators

Jack Donnelly

Jack Donnelly

For the three Legates, IMS is a labor of love forged in friendship and collaborative efforts that began far from Philadelphia.

About 10 years ago, fellow Legates from Louisiana introduced Broussard to St. Augustine High School, a top-ranked Catholic school in New Orleans that was then headed by Fr. Joseph Doyle, SSJ, a Legatus chaplain.

When it came time to build an extension, Broussard called upon his friend Donnelly, who regularly made site visits to ensure the school got fair deals from building contractors. After Hurricane Katrina, Broussard, an insurance executive, helped negotiate insurance claims, calling upon the help of Bill Curtis, whom he also introduced to Legatus.

“Jim [Broussard] is a legend in the Philadelphia insurance business,” said Curtis, partner in the insurance brokerage Porter & Curtis. “I was happy to help.”

After all of Donnelly’s assistance, Broussard said he was “indentured to Jack.” So when Donnelly asked Broussard to help with a project closer to home, he was happy to return the favor.

school-1That project was supporting an elementary school, St. Martin de Porres, which Donnelly’s suburban Wayne parish had taken under its wing. Located in Pennsylvania’s 10th Congressional District, which is among the poorest in the country, the school was in bad financial straits, straining the already cash-strapped archdiocese.

To help put it in the black, Donnelly founded the Friends of St. Martin de Porres, bringing Broussard and Curtis on board. Five years ago the archdiocese agreed to let the Friends run St. Martin de Porres as an independent school on the condition it remain Catholic.

“The principal is a nun of the Sisters of St. Joseph, and another six nuns are involved in the school, so there was no question about the school’s continuing Catholicity,” Donnelly explained. With the support of the Friends, who have worked with the school’s board to institutionalize fundraising and maintain good business practices, the school now has a $5 million endowment, maximum enrollment at 450, a new preschool program, and its eighth graders are scoring at a 10th grade level in reading and language skills.

“It’s been such a success that when the archdiocese’s ‘Blue Ribbon Commission’ last year slated 13 inner-city schools for closing or merger, Jack asked Archbishop Chaput if we could run them under a structure similar to the Friends of St. Martin de Porres,” Curtis explained. “I said to Jack, I’ll do anything I can to help.” Broussard followed suit, and Independence Mission Schools was created to shepherd these 13 almost-lost schools to greener pastures.

Accountability, ecumenical appeal

school-2The annual IMS budget is about $18 million, of which students’ parents pay about half. IMS gives $4 million in scholarships, most of which is generated by donors taking advantage of Pennsylvania’s Educational Improvement Tax Credit program, which allows a company paying state taxes to divert them to scholarships. The rest is raised from individual donors and foundations.

“I’m working on our development initiatives in this area,” said Broussard. “As a former salesman, I always end up on development.” He explained that it’s important to “make this project more ecumenical from the standpoint of contributions.” Some foundations, for example, are wary of supporting causes they see as parochially Catholic. Marketing IMS to non-Catholic sources of funding means stressing the positive impact the schools are having on society, educating poor children in bad neighborhoods, and instilling virtues in them.

“Not only that, but we’re bringing good business practices to these schools,” he said. “We’re bringing an element of accountability that’s important because most of our donors are demanding performance.”

IMS is already having an ecumenical appeal, Broussard noted. A Jewish supporter recently gave $250,000, the Philadelphia School Partnership’s Great Schools Fund has awarded IMS a $500,000 planning grant, and one IMS school received a $600,000 grant to institute the Phaedrus program — a blended-learning model incorporating technology into classroom instruction.

Overseeing day-to-day operations is IMS president Al Cavalli.

“These schools are sanctuaries — the only meaningful way these children will get to the eighth grade academically prepared for high school,” he told Legatus magazine. “We’re also creating quality people who know they have the obligation to be decent human beings.”

Cavalli hopes the IMS model of entrepreneurial lay leadership will be adopted by other dioceses that operate beneficial, yet financially burdensome inner-city schools.

But IMS should not get too much credit, remarked Bill Curtis. “We’re just continuing the efforts of 100 years’ worth of people who have gone before us,” he said. “We’ve been entrusted with a legacy worth saving. We’re just as interested in evangelizing these children as we are in educating them.”

MATTHEW A. RAREY is Legatus magazine’s editorial assistant.

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