Tag Archives: matthew a. rarey

Big plans for ‘The Big E’

Legate injects faith into nation’s 6th largest fair, plans its expansion into gaming .. .

Priding itself as New England’s “state fair,” The Big E is the biggest annual event of the Eastern States Exposition (ESE). It’s a lot like most state fairs, but with one unique Catholic difference: Sunday Masses on the fair grounds — including one celebrated by Bishop Timothy A. McDonnell of Springfield, Mass.

Betting on The Big E


Legate Gene Cassidy (left) became president of the Eastern States Exposition in 2012

If there are no yelps from Massachusetts liberals, it helps that The Big E is not a state fair per se. Exemplifying Yankee self-reliance, the 96-year-old institution receives no taxpayer funding, and it’s led by many committed Catholics — including the ESE’s CEO, Gene Cassidy.

A member of Legatus’ Western Massachusetts Chapter, Cassidy took the helm last year after having served the previous 10 years as director of finance, vice president, and COO of the non-profit organization dedicated to promoting New England agriculture, history and culture.

“I want people to see the company I lead as a faithful organization,” said Cassidy. The public Masses, he said, are an effective means of re-evangelizing fallen-away Catholics and introducing the faith to newcomers. “I’ve had some warm discussions with people saying they had not been to Mass in 35 years and it was a great experience for them.”

This year’s fair — Sept. 13-29 — follows a record-setting 2012, which saw an unprecedented 1.3 million visitors. And Cassidy plans to make The Big E even bigger with the proposed addition of the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino New England on the fairgrounds. It’s a gamble he believes the ESE needs to take.

A native of West Springfield, where the ESE’s 175-acre fairground is located, Cassidy was raised in an Irish Catholic household, “so my life has been heavily influenced by people who took going to church seriously.” He also credits his faith to the nuns who taught him to lead a life of prayer and to be mindful of others.

“I listen a lot and put other people first and foremost,” he explained. “That informs me in making decisions mindful of the greater good, both of our employees and an audience of 1.3 million. It helps me make successful decisions.”

One of those decisions has been tough for Cassidy personally: lobbying for a modest-sized gaming resort on the fairgrounds. “My father was a degenerate gambler who, when I was eight, left my mother and brother and me, so I suffered the ill effects of gambling.”

However, he said, it’s “providential that I’m here in charge of this incredibly responsible institution and that we could be the ones in charge of gaming in Western Massachusetts.”

Cassidy said he believes it’s the right move.

For the first time ever, Massachusetts will be awarding gaming licenses — two in Eastern Massachusetts and one in western, and the ESE has been working to convince the city of West Springfield to support having a casino in its city limits.

Not only would the city receive a share of the gaming revenues, but a casino would likely sustain the ESE, which attracts money-spending visitors to the region and affords incalculable cultural benefits. The city will hold a referendum on Sept. 10 to decide whether to place a bid for a gaming license. And the state’s gaming commission will decide on the lucky three next April.

Why the need to persuade West Springfield on the benefits of gaming?

The clinch is that the neighboring city of Springfield is already a primary contender for Western Massachusetts’ sole gaming license, Cassidy explained. And if it should win the bid and build a casino as well as a proposed convention center, that could lure away many of the 120 or so organizations that currently host exhibitions on the ESE fairgrounds — from trade shows to antique fairs.

“These year-round events sustain the ESE,” Cassidy said. “The Big E is a big part of what we do, but it alone can’t finance running the fairgrounds.”

Spreading the faith


Bishop Timothy McDonnell processes out of Mass at the 2012 Big E

No fan of gambling himself, Cassidy said his fellow Legates helped him realize that gambling is no vice if enjoyed rightly. It even can serve virtuous ends.

“They’ve helped me make the decision in the context of preserving my own organization,” he told Legatus magazine. “How would Christ think about gaming in an altruistic environment? I came to realize they’re not mutually exclusive because having a modest-size gaming resort with a concert venue, too, can afford us the economic capacity to help us continue our mission: to propagate agricultural education, the industry of agriculture, and the history of New England.”

And propagate the faith.

Masses at The Big E started in the late 1970s when the ESE asked the local bishop to celebrate Mass on the fair’s first Sunday. It became a tradition, eventually expanding to two Masses every Sunday of the fair — one under the big circus tent and another at a small Baptist meeting house from the 1860s, one of many historic New England structures reassembled on the fairgrounds. A Protestant service is also held on Sundays.

“We get a 100% positive response,” Cassidy said. “I receive many letters, phone calls and emails from people who are especially moved by having Bishop McDonnell here.”

Monsignor Chris Connolly, diocesan vicar general and Legatus chaplain, calls every Mass “a key moment for evangelization, whether celebrated in a basilica, cathedral, or under a tent. And the fair gives expression to some of the important aspects of our faith, including the celebration of Mass as well as having the Massachusetts Citizens for Life, who staff a pro-life display.”

The Big E will also host the local Legatus chapter’s September meeting. Monsignor Connelly will celebrate Mass for Legates on Sept. 19; Cassidy will speak and give a behind-the-scenes tour.

Legate Larry Eagan said that like Cassidy, The Big E has been a part of his life for a long time — providing amusement, business (he is president of Collins Electric Co., which has been providing services to the ESE for over 90 years), and spiritual edification.

“Sunday mornings at The Big E have become a special time for our family — a refuge of holy calmness as vendors and performers prepare for the 100,000 visitors that day,” Eagan said. “Attending Mass under the circus’ big top is a unique experience. Despite a backdrop of dangling trapeze ropes, stacks of hula hoops and the aroma of hay, the universality of the Mass has struck me every year. Ironically, the ‘circus-like’ atmosphere helps me focus more on the Liturgy of the Word and Eucharist.”

And Eagan’s family isn’t the only one in on that sanctifying act.

“One year, while walking up to receive Communion,” Eagan said, “I saw some vaguely familiar faces. Then it hit me: They were family members of a balancing act I had seen at the circus the night before!”

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

Learn more: TheBigE.com

Summit Speaker: William N. Thorndike Jr.

Matthew Rarey chats with William Thorndike, a speaker at the 2014 Legatus Summit . . .

William Thorndike Jr.

William Thorndike Jr.

One of the more unknown, but highly anticipated speakers at Legatus’ upcoming Summit is William N. Thorndike Jr., who founded Housatonic Partners, a Boston-based private equity firm, in 1994. He currently serves as its managing partner.

Last year, Thorndike authored The Outsiders: Eight Unconventional CEOs and Their Radically Rational Blueprint for Success. He profiled iconoclasts whose character and business traits were radically opposed to the “rock star” CEO image, which Thorndike says is exemplified by Donald Trump.

The seven men and one woman he wrote about had persevered in business in unconventional ways that all led to one destination: measurable success over the long term. They scored extraordinarily well according to Thorndike’s index for achievement:

“In assessing performance, what matters isn’t the absolute rate of return but the return relative to peers and the market. You really only need to know three things to evaluate a CEO’s greatness: the compound annual return to shareholders during his or her tenure and the return over the same period for peer companies and for the broader market.”

Thorndike spoke with Legatus editorial assistant Matthew A. Rarey.

What inspired your invitation to the Summit?

Tom Monaghan read The Outsiders and some of the ideas and themes resonated with him. That’s not surprising if you look at how he ran Domino’s. He thought they might resonate with CEOs attending the Summit, too, such as how best to manage businesses for a variety of shareholders over time.

What is the thrust of The Outsiders?

The overarching idea is for CEOs to be successful over the long term by optimizing profitability and investing profits back in the company. As I note in the book, sometimes the best investment opportunity is your own stock.

This book is really about deployment capitalization over longer periods of time, say 20 years, how owners can achieve that. Tom Murphy was masterful at doing that when he was CEO of Capital Cities/ABC, Inc.

Murphy is one of your featured “iconoclasts.” How do he and other such CEOs diff†er from “rock star” CEOs?

They tended to be first-time CEOs. They kept a low profile in their interactions with the press and Wall Street, comfortable going their own way even if it meant causing comment and disdain among their peer group and the media. They were generally humble and analytical — not charismatic backslappers. They were focused intently on creating long-term value for shareholders and in maintaining strong relationships with customers and employees. And they were often legendarily frugal, but not in their devotion to family. They were all devoted to them.

Should The Outsiders particularly resonate with Catholic business leaders?

Well, there’s this deep consistency between running a business successfully over the long term and a set of broader values and principles consistent with Christian faith. Running a business with long-term benefits for customers, employees, and shareholders means having long-term consistency. This requires enduring ethical principles compatible with Christianity.



Breathing new life

Leading Legates talk about building and revitalizing membership and their chapters . . . 

Joe and Paula Melançon with Thomas Monaghan

Joe and Paula Melançon with Thomas Monaghan

In business there’s an old saying that if you’re not growing, you’re dying. Legatus has always prided itself on growth, spurred by the vision of founder Tom Monaghan and his mission to “spread the faith.” As a result, Legatus’ membership has increased nearly every year since its founding in 1987.

Legatus’ executive director John Hunt says the hallmark of the most successful chapters is their attitude toward service: They treat their responsibilities as a sacred honor to fulfill well.

The following are some of Legatus’ leading membership builders offering insights into growing new chapters and breathing new life into existing ones.

Marching Baton Rouge

Ending 2012 with 94 member couples, Baton Rouge is Legatus’ largest chapter. Membership chairs Joe and Paula Melançon have played a major role in building it up from 20-some couples since taking on the role in 2007. But Baton Rouge does have something extra special going for it, says Paula: “Catholicism is in the bones of the people in Louisiana.”

Thomas Monaghan with the Genesis Chapter

Thomas Monaghan with the Genesis Chapter

Martini magic. To build momentum in the early days, “we hosted small cocktail receptions at home and invited friends,” remembers Joe, a member of Legatus’ board of governors. “Our chaplain, Fr. Miles Walsh, and other members were present. There was a lot of one-on-one conversation.” The majority of prospective members would join on the spot or down the road.

Just say ‘no’ to no. Joe continues: “My motto is that if someone says no to joining, they really don’t mean ‘no,’ they just mean that I or someone else hasn’t done an effective enough job convincing them. I usually say that right now may not be a good time to join, but ask them if it would be appropriate if I followed up in a year or two. Nobody has ever turned me down. We’ve often had members join a couple of years after being introduced to Legatus.”

Toledo’s silver touch

When the Michigan Chapter moved to Toledo and renamed itself the Genesis Chapter, “there were only 24 or 27 members,” remembers chapter president Bob Savage, one of Legatus’ founding members. “As of now, we have 63 paid members and we continue to grow.” The move to his native Toledo “reinvigorated” Savage, who brings more than 25 years of chapter-building expertise to the table.

Tim & Steph Busch

Tim & Steph Busch

Talking points. Great speakers not only enrich chapter meetings, Savage says, but energize members, attract new ones, and build Legatus’ influence within the local church. “Our formula is that each year we have seven months covered by: 1) our bishop, 2) our chaplain who prepares us for Advent, 3) two priest panels on different topics, 4) a panel of high school principals or seminarians, and 5) two local practicing Catholic CEOs — not necessarily members — who form a relationship as they learn about the chapter. With this formula we have seven months covered and virtually no expense.”

Evangelical calling. Savage adds that members “owe it to the Church to be evangelical” about Legatus. An effective outreach to clergy inspires priests to tell prospective members in their parishes about the group. (Guests at a recent meeting included 58 priests and religious.) This approach benefits the chapter, but is also a boon for the local Church. “We need to remember that Legatus doesn’t exist for itself, but to be active in the local church, too.” It’s important that local church leaders know that in Legatus they have “a pool of successful, committed Catholics whom they can call on to serve the Church’s needs.”

Striking gold in California

Tim Busch, a member of the Orange County Chapter, has spearheaded the founding of most California chapters and is busy helping to launch another in Santa Barbara. “It’s been a joy having brought in hundreds of members through the grace of the Holy Spirit,” says Busch. “I know Legatus has changed my life, so it’s an easy sell.”

Sell the vision. Busch’s bottom line: “Sell to people that Legatus is their path to salvation. Tell them they’ll learn proper formation through the routine of monthly meetings, but also bonding and socializing with like-minded people who, over time, will become their inner circle.” Because America is evicting faith from the public square, “committed Catholics need to know they have to develop their faith by associating with people whose faith is critical to their survival. You need to evangelize each other, and then the unchurched and fallen-away Catholics. And you can’t count on your parish on Sunday to adequately form you because it’s serving a diverse population. You have to go beyond that, and the movement to join is Legatus,” he says.

Mike & Beth Anne FitzPatrick

Mike & Beth Anne FitzPatrick

Take ownership. Although just a couple of people might found and form a chapter, Busch says this is no strategy for long-term success. If those founders should leave, “you lose the culture, the momentum. So you have to have a dedicated group of people who feel true ownership of the chapter and build it over time.”

Success in six easy touches

Michael FitzPatrick, a member of Legatus’ board of governors, co-founded the Northern New Jersey Chapter in 2000. It doubled in size to 52 couples in the first six years. To evangelize new members, he recommends applying the “six touch” approach developed by Malcolm Baldrige, the late guru of organizational excellence.

FitzPatrick explains: “Baldrige believed that the first time a new idea is presented we reject it because our lives are so full to begin with. The second time we reject the new idea to affirm our original decision. The third time we’re approached, we listen to the message because someone believes we’re important. The fourth time the message is received we consider looking into the idea. The fifth time we look into the idea, and the sixth touch convinces us that this was our idea from the beginning; this is something I want to join.

“We can reach potential members in a variety of touches: a letter from a member, a follow-up letter from Legatus headquarters or the chapter, a copy of your most recent Legatus magazine, a note inviting them to an upcoming chapter event, or a note with the chapter’s annual event programs. Make a personal phone call and invite them to lunch with another chapter member. Imagination is the key; activity is the glue.”

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

Guarding eyes, minds and hearts

Atlanta Legate’s anti-porn remedy helps men, women, families, seminarians . . .

Never before has the “private” act of viewing pornography had such public consequences. With the advent of the Internet, porn is pandemic. With gross annual income well over $14 billion in the US alone, the insidious industry is destroying marriages and families, darkening intellects, and deadening hearts by corrupting how we perceive and relate to the opposite sex.

Moral passion

Ryan Foley

Ryan Foley

Rather than simply lamenting the darkness, Ryan Foley is lighting a bright light. A member of Legatus’ Atlanta Chapter, Foley is vice president of business development for Covenant Eyes, a company  offering Internet filtering and accountability software. Complementing the software are educational tools, freely available on their website, that teach good Internet use and expose the dangers of porn.

“I’m applying my apostolic passion, my love for souls, to this initiative,” says Foley, 40. It’s a fatherly passion, too. He and his wife Melissa have children — Kyle, 15; Molly, 6 and  Clare, 5— who are growing up in a porn-soaked culture. Indeed, the largest consumer of Internet porn is the 12- to 17-year-old demographic. With so many young men’s perception of women being twisted by porn, Foley is concerned about his own daughters’ future marriage prospects.

Foley is one of six children brought up in a devout Catholic family. His father was an FBI agent, “so from a young age we were always discussing issues of justice, morality, virtues,” he explained. Service in the Air Force gave Foley a background in electronics and integrated systems that he later applied in the private sector in the field of high-tech security systems.

As a member of Regnum Christi, however, he later felt called to apostolic work and became executive director of Mission Network, an umbrella organization for all of the movement’s North American virtue-based programs. Later he started his own company, Faith Interactive, to teach parishes and faith-based organizations to “build software-based tools that would allow members to share ideas, conversations and opportunities.” He also helped start ePriest.com, an online resource for clergy of which he remains executive director.

He joined Covenant Eyes last year, applying his passion for security in support of families, working to protect them from Internet pornography.

Covenant Eyes

Covenant Eyes has two components. The filtering software lets adults set time limits and block websites based on a young person’s level of maturity. Used in tandem or separately is the company’s accountability software. It monitors how the Internet is used, rating sites according to maturity level and sending a report to an “accountability partner” whom the user selects, such as a spouse, friend or mentor. Today more than 110,000 people use it.

If no filtering/blocking settings are employed, says Foley, “Covenant Eyes users can roam wherever they want in the World Wide Web.” But because they know they will be held accountable to someone they esteem, “they might rethink which ‘countries’ they want to visit and ask why they would want to do go there in the first place.”

Any “bad trips” can occasion a conversation with one’s accountability partner. Foley is his son’s.

“Kyle is applying his own filter and learning to make good judgments,” he explained. “It’s a method of maintaining your online integrity that seems more in line with the Catholic notion of responsibility. I can’t always be blocking you. At a certain point you have to develop good habits and virtues that carry on through life.”

These habits and virtues are essential for boys and men specifically because they are online pornography’s main audience. “It’s a tool for the devil to steal our integrity,” Foley said. “Even seminarians aren’t immune nowadays. They’re good men, but affected by a bad culture.”

Priestly freedom

The largest Catholic seminary in the United States has been using Covenant Eyes for seven years. Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Md., houses 178 men in formation.

“The problem of Internet pornography gets worse each year as potential baggage that we might encounter in any kind of new seminarian,” said seminary rector Monsignor Steven A. Rohlfs.

If a young man comes in with a mild attachment to porn, Monsignor Rohlfs says they can work with him. “Usually they’re very eager to be free of it. It’s refreshing for them to hear they’re not going to be kicked out, but that I will help and I don’t have a shorter fuse than God does.”

Usually within a year of starting to work with a young man on this problem, “he has his freedom. That’s the operative thing, because when you’re addicted you don’t have your freedom,” he said.

Monsignor Rohlfs likes Covenant Eyes because it “treats the men as adults,” allowing them to go wherever they want on the Internet but with the knowledge that they will be held accountable. Each seminarian has two accountability partners. The first is his spiritual director, a priest, with whom he can discuss anything in confidence.

A report also goes to his formation advisor “who acts in the external forum,” meaning that troubling patterns in the Covenant Eyes reports — any problems a seminarian discusses with him in general — will be reported to the rector and figure into the seminarian’s evaluation, which is sent to the faculty and his bishop.

The upshot is that if these young men are ordained they will be better equipped to help boys and men struggling with porn as well as other dependencies. “If they have experienced the benefits of this sort of safety net themselves, one that encourages virtue and good habits, then they can recommend with confidence this remedy to other people,” said Monsignor Rohlfs. “It will make them better confessors.”

Covenant Eyes includes everyone at Mount St. Mary’s — students as well as faculty and administration — monitoring all Internet-accessible devices. Everyone has an accountability partner, making it what Foley calls a “Covenant Eyes campus,” something he is working to promote among Catholic schools from the elementary to college-level. “The men have to know we’re not asking them to be accountable in a way we aren’t,” Monsignor Rohlfs said.

A 50-year fix?

“I talk about the five A’s of Internet porn,” said Dr. Peter C. Kleponis, a counseling psychologist specializing in pornography addiction. “It’s affordable, accessible, anonymous, acceptable (especially among young people, who joke about it), and aggressive, a highly addictive substance that ’effects changes in the brain.”

The situation is dark, with over half of marriages ending in divorce because one party has an obsessive interest in Internet porn. But Kleponis is realistically hopeful.

“It will take 50 years to quell this epidemic,” he explained. “I compare it to tobacco. Decades ago doctors knew smoking was bad, but everybody was doing it. It was acceptable. It took 50 years of intense education and millions dying before we finally got the message. We haven’t gotten rid of cigarettes, but generally our culture has accepted the fact that smoking bad. We’ve been educated. Porn is the same. We need to educate people.”

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

For more information, visit CovenantEyes.com

Legatus charters in San Jose

Legatus’ Silicon Valley-based chapter charters with hyper-speed connection . . .

L-R: Bishop Thomas Daly, John Hunt, Ken hurley

L-R: Bishop Thomas Daly,
John Hunt, Ken Hurley

The hyper-speed connection between the San Jose Chapter’s first meeting and chartering reflects the dynamism, drive and synergy of Silicon Valley, the high-tech capital of the world in which many of these new Legates are leaders.

Just three months after its first meeting last September, Legatus’ newest chapter chartered on Dec. 18 with 20 member couples. San Jose Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Daly, the chapter’s chaplain, celebrated Mass, followed by dinner and remarks by John Hunt, Legatus’ executive director.

Rapid chartering

The evening program was hosted by the chapter’s program chair Sal Caruso and wife Josephine, parents of seven.

“The event at our home was really a lot of fun for us,” said Caruso, an American-born, Italian-educated architect and founder of Salvatore Caruso Design Corporation. “It was an honor to be with such an incredible group of people — people who really strive to be true examples of Christ in their workplaces and communities.”

The chartering Mass took place in the prayer chapel that Sal designed. “We had a harpist,” Caruso said, “and with Bishop Daly saying Mass before a stained glass window of the Divine Mercy of Christ, it was just beautiful.”

The time between the chapter’s first meeting and its chartering, he noted, was “near record-breaking.” Indeed, San Jose joins elite company in chartering within the first half-year of its existence. The only other West coast chapter to have done so is Orange Canyons in Southern California.

“The key to successful chapters is strong leadership and a sense of ownership among members,” said Paul F. Blewett, Legatus’ West Region director. “They have that in spades in San Jose,” a chapter with a unique distinction, he noted. “No other Legatus chapter has this kind of presence in the high-tech industry.”

The ball started rolling back in 2011 through the initiative of Bob Masi, a former member of Legatus’ San Francisco Chapter, who reached out to San Jose Bishop Patrick J. McGrath about starting a chapter in Silicon Valley. The bishop agreed, which began the process of reaching out to Catholic professionals about Legatus. They, in turn, engaged other Catholic leaders.

One of the chapter’s initial movers-and-shakers, Ken Hurley, now serves as its first president. After being invited to the introductory meeting last August and seeing so many people he knew through professional and Catholic circles, he and wife Ginny signed up.

“Then we made an aggressive movement to contact people in our networks,” said Hurley, president of semiconductor firm Nanya Technology Corporation.

The chapter already had 15 member couples when it first met in September. Word of mouth and the prominence of its first speakers quickly brought membership up to the requisite chartering level.

In addition to Caruso and Hurley, the officer roster includes Ben Glenn, vice president and 2014 president-elect; Mike Wilmer, membership chair; Bernie Vogel, treasurer; and Barry and Charlotte LeMay, liturgical coordinators.

The newly chartered San Jose Chapter

The newly chartered San Jose Chapter

Members’ hopes are running high, said Hurley, not only for increasing the chapter’s own numbers over the next year, but having San Jose serve as the launch pad for other area chapters.

Amen, says San Jose’s chaplain. “The Church needs Legatus,” said Bishop Daly. “Our members have a love for Christ and a tremendous sense of pride in what it means to be a Catholic — also a firm recognition of the challenges to the faith and culture. They’re in positions of influence to confront these challenges head-on.”

This is especially important in the Bay Area, he said, whose “old Catholic culture collapsed some time ago, but now we have all these Catholic politicians professing to be Catholic, but who are not. And there’s this PC attitude in the Bay Area against the Church’s opposition to things like redefining marriage. So we need to encourage and build up this great group of Catholic men and women — people who won’t just sit back and take it, but take the Bay Area back to Catholic roots going all the way back to the Spanish missions.”

Matthew A. Rarey is Legatus Magazine’s editorial assistant.

Changing the culture for Christ

These San Diego Legates have found fullness of life through nearness with death . . .

lylesmugAs classmates conducted combat missions in Vietnam, a Naval Academy midshipman back home planned and executed a mission to create rather than destroy — by proposing to his high school sweetheart at the 1968 Army-Navy game. Thankfully, the 19-year-old gave her “Aye, aye.”

Despite Navy’s gridiron defeat that day, Dick and Martha Lyles have proved a winning team since marrying after his 1969 graduation.

Arduous journey

Theirs has been a blessed, albeit arduous journey — Dick’s two deployments to Vietnam, his ensuing business career, three children and seven grandchildren, surviving a fire that destroyed their home, and discovering divine callings through brushes with death.

Members of Legatus’ San Diego Chapter, Dick and Martha told Legatus magazine that their encounters with mortality have encouraged them to devote themselves more fully to living and sharing the Catholic faith, which has been their lifelong bond and joy.

Tragedy struck in 2004 when Dick lapsed into a coma after an allergic shock to drugs treating a lung infection. He even stopped breathing for 10 minutes. Doctors told Martha there was nothing else they could do. “That’s when she pulled out all the stops,” Dick interjected.

She contacted everyone they knew, asking for their prayers. From their local parish all the way to Legatus headquarters, people offered Masses for Dick’s recovery. “I want more time with him here on earth,” Martha prayed to God. “We’ll do good together if You will let us.”

Two days later the infection had disappeared. Unbelievable, said the shocked doctors. The next day they brought him out of the coma. After several weeks of learning to eat, talk, and walk again, his recovery was complete.

The couple, however, has no doubt that it was a miraculous cure — with the reciprocal obligation to serve God and bring as many souls to Him as possible. The Lyles say they discerned their particular mission by embracing the new evangelization — the call to proclaim the Gospel anew using all available means of social communication.

Taking the call to heart, the Lyles are touching lives for the Lord in a variety of ways. One is Dick’s weekly radio show distributed by EWTN called “The Catholic Business Hour.” The program focuses on careers and business from a Catholic perspective. Another is through the faith-and-family-oriented columns that Martha writes for HuffingtonPost.com.

Martha’s diagnosis and recovery from breast cancer two years ago deepened the couple’s commitment to making the most of their lives. They devised a more comprehensive way to coordinate their efforts and to engage others to join the new evangelization. So last year they launched the Catholic Renewal Campaign to focus on culture, leadership and public policy.

Film and politics

lylesmug2Dick and Martha firmly believe that culture precedes policy — and that film profoundly impacts culture. So rather than deplore Hollywood degeneracy, Dick became CEO of Origin Entertainment several years ago and the couple founded The Genesis Initiative to produce movies, television shows, and documentaries with Catholic themes and values.

“Taking back the culture requires real investment,” said Barbara Nicolosi Harrington, executive director of Galileo Studies at Azusa Pacific University. “Dick appreciates that. He’s a business guru who can make great, high-quality films possible.”

Origin has two big-budget films in the hopper. For Sinners: The Fatima Story is about Our Lady’s 1917 apparitions in Portugal, and Mary, Mother of the Christ is a prequel to The Passion of the Christ.

The Lyles also believe that renewing America’s Christian culture requires political action. To this end, they are working to establish a network of Catholic political campaign managers who can help faithful Catholics get elected to local, state and national office.

The initiative is still in formation, but the Lyles are working with U.S. Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.) to develop a pro-family, pro-community legislative focus that could be actualized through an institute for campaign managers.

“We’ve written a book, gotten the technology together, and know the secrets of success,” Dick said. “We just need to put together the training programs, recruit people, and get it done.”

Faith and family

Dick said he especially loves Legatus for introducing him to like-minded Catholics. Dick and Martha worked with Philadelphia Legate Tim Flanagan, founder of the Catholic Leadership Institute (CLI), to develop CLI’s “Good Leaders, Good Shepherds” executive leadership program for Catholic clergy.

Kansas Archbishop Joseph Naumann has attended several CLI workshops, including one last summer where he met the Lyles.

“Dick and Martha impress me as a couple truly taking the new evangelization seriously, doing what they can in their spheres of influence to help re-evangelize our culture,” he said. The archbishop readily agreed to write the introduction to the Lyles’ new book. Answer Your Call, slated for release on March 1, is aimed at helping people become more adept at discerning God’s call and using their particular gifts to fulfill their purpose in life.

“Our job in life is to integrate God’s grace to achieve our purpose, which ultimately means achieving sainthood in this life and eternal happiness in the next,” said Dick. “We believe this is an authentic Catholic response to books like The Purpose Driven Life.”

Although Dick tends to be the public face of their efforts, the couple says they are completely complementary.

“For every time I’ve put Dick first, he’s put me first,” said Martha. “It’s a harmonious, almost musical relationship. We work hard at it, but that’s what strengthens our marriage.”

Even mundane moments, she said, serve to build up one another — like using car rides to discuss a chapter in their book or to discuss building a playhouse for their grandkids.

Rather than build a run-of-the-mill playhouse the kids would one day outgrow, the Lyles used a nine-hour drive to brainstorm the project. The result is a fantastic structure they call the “Earth Exploration Module,” where kids can don lab coats and examine the abundant nature in the couple’s 40-acre estate with a canyon running through.

“The grandkids love it,” said Dick. “In fact, we all love it. It’s what came out of one of the most stimulating trips we’ve ever taken. There’s never a moment to lose for faith and family.”

Matthew A. Rarey is Legatus Magazine’s editorial assistant.


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All roads lead to Rome

Legatus pilgrims discover the glories of Ireland and the Eternal City while on pilgrimage . . .

From the green fields of the Emerald Isle to the stone-gray boulevards of Rome, nearly 20 Legatus pilgrims toured holy sites in Ireland and the Eternal City from Oct. 10-21.


Highlights of the trip’s first leg included following in the footsteps of St. Patrick and Blessed John Henry Newman — and attending the chartering of Legatus’ Dublin Chapter (see page 14).

Joe Melançon speaks with Pope Benedict XVI on Oct. 17

“The beauty of seeing the first chapter outside North America chartered was overwhelming,” said Joe Melançon, a member of Legatus’ Baton Rouge Chapter who attended the Oct. 11 event. “We all know about the difficulties the Church in Ireland is suffering through, but being at the chartering was an affirmation of the faith in Ireland.

“Ireland is a deeply spiritual place, and when you combine it with the chartering evening, it’s hard to top,” Melançon said.


After Ireland, the pilgrims journeyed to Rome where highlights included a walking tour of the ancient city; a tour of the catacombs; lunch with students at the North American College, where most U.S. seminarians live and take classes; and a private tour of the Sistine Chapel, followed by a tour of the Vatican Secret Archives.

One of the high points was an Oct. 17 general audience with Pope Benedict XVI. Legates had VIP seating near the front of St. Peter’s Square, packed with thousands of pilgrims and visitors. At the end of the general audience, Melançon presented the Holy Father with Legatus’ annual contribution to the Holy See. He said his moment with the Pope was an overpowering experience that he will never forget.

His wife Paula said she was thrilled with the meetings Legates had with Vatican officials. “We were given the opportunity to meet with two offices in the curia,” she said. “The Holy Father’s opening of the Year of Faith, in which we Catholics are called to live the faith more dynamically, was wonderfully significant for us.”

Two priests served as spiritual guides during the pilgrimage. In Ireland, Dublin Chapter chaplain Fr. Michael Mullan, LC, guided Legates. In Rome, a native Texan did the honors: Fr. John C. Vargas.

“The Legatus pilgrimage gives them an opportunity to see and visit places and shrines that even life-long residents of Rome don’t ever get to see — and also to meet and learn from major Vatican prelates,” said Fr. Vargas, procurator general of the Redemporist order in Rome.

“The most beautiful experience for me as their spiritual director was to witness members’ faith and their searching hearts for an ever more profound union with our most holy Redeemer.”

Bill Bowman (left) poses with Gordon & Ann Stevens
of the New Orleans Chapter atop Santa Croce
University with St. Peter’s Basilica in the background

On their last night in Rome, pilgrims enjoyed a reception atop the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross. Several of the Legates are longtime friends with two of the university’s priests — Fr. John Wauck and Fr. Robert Gahl — who gave a pre-reception lecture about religious liberty in those heady days before the U.S. presidential election.

Enjoying a bounteous buffet of wine and cheese, Legates mingled against a backdrop of Rome’s magnificent views, including St. Peter’s Basilica beneath a rose-tinged sky.

“I enjoyed myself so much that I changed my mind and have decided to attend the summit in Scottsdale next February,” said Dr. Vicky Loberg of the Peoria Chapter.

Matthew A. Rarey is Legatus magazine’s editorial assistant.

Explosion of faith

Legatus members in Nebraska have teamed up to aid in campus’ Catholic revival . . .

In a state blessed with rich farmland, Nebraska Legates are among its most prodigious “farmers” — laboring in the Lord’s fields. One “field” they are cultivating with special care is the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) by helping to renew the campus’ culture through its Newman Center.

Six Legate couples have been involved on the Center’s Leadership Council — all of them members of the Lincoln Chapter except for Omaha’s Paul and Bernadette Esposito. And so far their efforts are paying off, yielding bumper crops of young Catholics well-formed and passionate about the faith.

“My involvement and love for the Newman Center stems from the fact that I converted to Catholicism there some 41 years ago,” said John Miller, a real-life farmer who serves on the Leadership Council with his wife Pat. They are members of Legatus’ Lincoln Chapter.

A great problem

Some 2,500 students are actively involved in the Newman Center’s ministries, including receiving the sacraments (daily Mass and Confession), forming Bible studies, engaging in pro-life work, and joining two organizations launched on the Newman Center’s explosion of faith — a national Catholic fraternity and sorority.

Although only half of UNL students who identify themselves as Catholics go to the Newman Center, the level of participation has grown exponentially over the past 20 years. This poses a big problem: The Newman Center’s church and facilities have become too small to accommodate its burgeoning apostolate. The church, St. Thomas Aquinas, seats just 325, and all four Sunday Masses are standing-room only.

To meet this growing challenge, the Newman Center is conducting its “A Great Problem to Have” capital campaign to build new facilities, including houses for the fraternity and sorority. Legates on the Newman Center’s Leadership Council are spearheading the campaign — $10 million of its $25 million goal raised to date — as well as serving on the committees guiding the regular operations of the apostolate, which is forming a new generation of Catholics.

This new generation includes converts (about 25-30 are received into the Church annually through the Newman Center) and alumni who have graduated to the priesthood and religious life.

Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz

Lincoln Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz, who sits on the Leadership Council, said he applauds its evangelization efforts. Because the well-formed Catholics coming out of the Newman Center are “a leaven” for the whole state, his fellow Nebraskan prelates — Grand Island Bishop William J. Dendinger and Omaha Archbishop George L. Lucas — also support it in word and deed. The three men also serve as the capital campaign’s spiritual chairs.

“I think many of these young people have seriousness about the ultimate goals of life,” Bishop Bruskewitz told Legatus magazine. “Many students who casually join the Newman Center find themselves enthused and driven by a strong sense of defending the faith and spreading it to others.”

Catholic revival

Since being appointed bishop 20 years ago, Bishop Bruskewitz said he has seen a greater receptivity to the Catholic presence on campus.

“They’ve become more welcoming toward the good things the Center is doing,” he said, whereas previous administrations “just weren’t as accepting. But now we have a climate where we can have a Eucharistic procession through campus each year, something hard to imagine happening in the past.”

The bishop also credits the revival to the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS), founded by Denver Legate Curtis Martin. Active on 74 campuses nationwide, the ministry’s biggest “team” of Catholic missionaries (13 last year) serves at UNL.

Working out of the Newman Center, FOCUS missionaries present students with the fullness of the faith through one-on-one evangelization, forming small Bible studies (last year the Center had over 100, with 550 students involved) and being a visible presence at campus events.

All this has helped Catholics break out of their “ghetto mentality,” according to the Newman Center’s director of development, Jude Werner.

“When I was a student 20 years ago, maybe 150 students were involved with the Newman Center,” explained Werner, 37. “It was a small, isolated group.”

Major credit for the Center’s revival also goes to Fr. Robert Mata, Werner said. When he was appointed the Newman Center’s pastor and chaplain 15 years ago, the priest “brought in a whole new evangelistic mentality — bringing in FOCUS, growing the Center’s programs, establishing a student Knights of Columbus council, then later the fraternity and sorority.”


Despite its successes, however, the Newman Center still has mountains to climb.

“Students today have more challenges than ever before,” said Werner, noting the draw of a popular culture antithetical to Christianity. “So every day we’re out in the trenches helping students see the beauty of Christ’s love and the sacraments versus the empty promises of our culture. People are drawn to where they see happiness and joy.”

And it’s not just the Newman Center staff, Werner said, but the student members who are evangelizing UNL. “Having other students seeing peers who are happy, joyfilled Catholics is the best marketing we could ask for.”

Regarding the Center’s cramped quarters: “If you’re a Catholic who is not firm in the faith and you’re coming here week after week and being forced to stand, you might just stop coming. It’s inconsistent with an open, evangelistic community to stand in a corner at Mass.

“You never can be content with too many students involved,” Werner explained. Yet overall “we’ve got too many people coming to Mass, too many great things going on that we just need room and resources to do better. It’s an embarrassment of riches we need to capitalize upon.”

Legates have been instrumental in that capitalization process, he said.

“Both the Newman Center, an essential ministry of the Church’s new evangelization, and I personally, as a lay professional, have benefited significantly through the involvement of Legatus members,” Werner said. “The professional guidance, moral leadership, and personal mentoring of these men and women have been instrumental in our ongoing success — and our ability to impact thousands of students with the message of Christ’s love each year.”

Lincoln Legates Keith and Pat May, both on the Leadership Council, hope their grandchildren will be among the future beneficiaries.

“We’ve got 17 grandchildren,” said Pat May, who was married to Keith at the Newman Center chapel in 1969. The couple prays that at least some of them will go to UNL and benefit from the Newman Center.

“What really drives me is seeing these amazing young people, so alive with the faith,” said Keith May. “There are many 30-somethings active here in the Church in Lincoln who went to the Newman Center. It’s edifying to see, and we hope to do our bit to serve the current and future generations.”

Matthew A. Rarey is Legatus magazine’s editorial assistant.

For more, visit huskercatholic.org

Living the fullness of TRUTH

Legate Chris Aubert teaches what it means to be a real man through word and deed . . .

Chris Aubert recognized the human face of evil at a young age. His late father, Henri, told stories of surviving Buchenwald By playing the violin to entertain the SS, who also forced him to serenade prisoners making their death march to the “showers.” Among those who heard Henri play a prelude to a satanic symphony of screams were his parents and sister.

Fearing another Holocaust, his father named his son Christopher to obscure his Jewish identity. Aubert’s early lack of religious devotion obscured it all the more: His Bar mitzvah marked the last time he attended temple.

The American Holocaust

Cardinal Daniel DiNardo

Eventually the native New Yorker became a successful attorney in his adopted city of New Orleans. Living a self-centered life and splashing in the shallows of hedonism, Aubert didn’t think deeply about the two pregnancies he caused — the final solutions to which were the checks he wrote the abortionists.

“If I took a wrong turn in life, I justified it by saying something like, ‘Hey, everyone does it and no one got hurt, so what is the big deal?’ This excuse was used for frequent indiscriminate sex without love, guiltless partying of all kinds, and many other things for which today I am, frankly, embarrassed.”

Light first pierced Aubert’s soul in the early 1990s when he heard abortion referred to as “the American Holocaust.” Up to that point, abortion was an impersonal issue to him — just the purging of an inconvenient blob of tissue. But the Holocaust: That he knew on a deeply personal level. How could abortion even begin to compare with the nightmare from which his father never fully woke?

The question got him thinking about the big questions in life. Soon God became his first consideration. The decisive turnaround happened when he met his wife, Rhonda, a cradle Catholic who led him to the faith, which he embraced in 1997.

As for recognizing the evil of abortion, the watershed moment in Aubert’s conversion came when the father of six saw an ultrasound of his first child. “I want to meet the person who says that is not a baby!” he remembers saying out loud.


Today Chris divides his time between his law practice and two non-profit ministries: Fullness of Truth and his personal ministry to men. His involvement with Fullness of Truth, a lay apostolate dedicated to the New Evangelization, was initiated through a series of serendipitous events born of a disaster — Hurricane Katrina destroyed the Auberts’ Louisiana home, so they moved to Texas.

There Aubert reconnected with his friend, Fullness of Truth cofounder Ken Zammit, who asked Aubert to help him jump-start the fledgling organization. Aubert did so — and more. Today, Fullness of Truth hosts parish and regional conferences to bring fallen-away Catholics back into the fold, to introduce non-Catholics to the faith, and to encourage and educate faithful Catholics.

“The conferences are incredible things,” Aubert said. “I’ve seen marriages changed, people throwing away their contraceptives and starting to have babies, conversions and vocations.”

Aubert is heartened by strong support for the ministry in dioceses like the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, where Cardinal Daniel DiNardo addressed a benefit dinner for the organization.

“Chris Aubert is a man whose deep conversion to the Catholic faith drew him into a genuine mission of proclaiming the beauty and dignity of all human life,” Cardinal DiNardo told Legatus magazine. “His reverence for life is a powerful witness to many, especially to men who desire a deeper friendship with Jesus.”

Chris Aubert and Patrick Madrid

Patrick Madrid, author and director of the Envoy Institute, frequently addresses Fullness of Truth conferences — most recently the June regional conference in Lafayette, La. That conference had an apologetics theme titled after Madrid’s book Where’s That in the Bible?

“I admire the fact that Chris wants others to avoid the problems he encountered in his previous life — especially pushing back the darkness about abortion,” said Madrid. “He’s also a very articulate and effective speaker. People need to be confronted in a genuine way, not candy-coated. He’s also a dedicated family man. Having met his wife and children, I can testify to the fact that he’s not a public face who promotes aspects of the faith but at home is different.”

Monsignor James Hart, pastor of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church in Keller, Texas, will host a Fullness of Truth conference at his parish in September. It will focus on teaching the Catholic faith. Monsignor Hart first became acquainted with Aubert after seeing him appear on EWTN’s The Journey Home, which features conversion stories. “He and Rhonda embody the faith, especially in their openness to life, which is a testimony to the Church’s teaching on marriage and family life,” he said.

Men and Abortion

Chris and Rhonda Aubert with their six children

Aubert speaks to thousands of men every year about abortion, spiritual fatherhood and what it means to be a Catholic gentleman.

“If they get me a ticket and a hotel room, I’m there,” he said. Speaking to men who have been affected by abortion is important, Aubert said, because “the number of men suffering silently is astronomical. I remember at the end of one talk there was an old man, maybe 75, standing at the side waiting over an hour until the line [of men waiting to talk with me] was over. He walks over to me and starts to cry, says ‘Thank you,’ and walks away. That guy had such a scar. It happens every time I talk about men and abortion.”

Aubert hopes to extend that message with the book he’s writing. The working title is Real Men Don’t Kill Their Kids.

Dorinda Bordlee, vice president and senior counsel for the Bioethics Defense Fund, said she admires Aubert for being “a witness to truth and life.”

“Like all of us, he’s made terrible mistakes,” said the New Orleans-based attorney. “But what makes him a man of character is that he learned from them and tries to prevent others from falling into the trap of abortion — and the pain it’s brought to women and the unborn children these men will never meet in this life.”

Matthew A. Rarey is Legatus magazine’s editorial assistant.

Holy days in England & Eternal City

Legates return from faith-filled pilgrimage, which included a papal audience . . .

Legates gather in the Vatican Gardens

This year’s annual pilgrimage brought Legates not only to the banks of the Tiber, where they plunged into the eternally effervescent depths of Rome – but also to the banks of the Thames, where they discovered the lesser-appreciated Catholic heritage of England, where the once cruelly persecuted faith continues to water the country’s spiritual life.

Nearly 50 Legates made the pilgrimage, some opting for both legs of the trip. The London portion (Oct. 12-16) drew 16 pilgrims while 36 journeyed to the Eternal City from Oct. 16-23.

Monumental Rome

Joe and Paula Melançon, members of Legatus’ Baton Rouge Chapter, are still coming off the incredible high of the unexpected apex of their pilgrimage: meeting face-to-face with the Holy Father. Organizers asked the couple to represent Legatus to Pope Benedict XVI only moments after they and fellow Legates had taken VIP seats in St. Peter’s Square for the Pope’s Oct. 19 weekly general audience.

Joe and Paula Melancon meet the Holy Father

“Perhaps it was very wise not to tell us ahead of time,” said Joe Melançon, vice chairman of Legatus’ Board of Governors, who was tremendously moved by the experience. His wife Paula shared in his anxious anticipation: “We said a rosary with our group as we sat there waiting, and that certainly gave us time to steady ourselves.”

When it came their turn to meet the Holy Father and to extend Legatus’ well wishes, “the compassion in his eyes and facial expression is what got me through the process of getting the words out,” Joe Melançon said. Though the meeting was brief, the Pope’s full and unhurried attention made them feel like “it was just the three of us alone in St. Peter’s Square.”

Highlights of the Rome portion of the pilgrimage included:

• Dinner with Cardinal Raymond Burke, prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura at the Vatican (click here for a related story). “It was a really fine experience,” said David Prest of the Palm Springs Chapter, who traveled with wife, Michaeleen.

• Thirty minutes alone in the Sistine Chapel by special permission of the president of Vatican City. “Just being there in silence, then praying for the Pope’s intentions in the place where he was elected made me realize that we [Catholics] are all in this together,” said Elizabeth DeMars of the Baton Rouge Chapter, who traveled with husband Tom.

Historic England

While the path to Rome has been trod by many a Legatus pilgrim before, the journey to England was a first.

“Every place we went was a unique and lovely experience,” said Jack Carew, a member of Legatus’ Board of Governors, who traveled with his wife Barbara. “The Tower of London was one of the high points, no pun intended, and we were allowed to visit and pray inside St. Thomas More’s cell, something specially arranged just for us. Seeing sites like this and Tyburn [where many Catholics were martyred] and learning about the trials and tribulations of the Church in England was a real eye-opener for me.”

Fr. Joseph Fox, OP, leads a tour

Pilgrims also visited Tyburn Convent, which honors the 105 English martyrs executed nearby; touched the altar upon which Blessed John Henry Newman said his first Mass; and at the Dominican Studium in Oxford, met some of the monks serving as modern-day missionaries to an increasingly post-Christian Britain.

Legates lauded the work of Legatus staff and Fr. Joseph Fox, OP, who served as the pilgrimage’s spiritual director. A canon lawyer, Fr. Fox taught at the Angelicum and worked at the Vatican for 22 years.

Already at work on next year’s pilgrimage to Ireland and Rome, Legatus conference director Laura Sacha encourages members to make a pilgrimage abroad in order to become more faith-filled and better-informed ambassadors for Christ back home.

Matthew A. Rarey is Legatus Magazine’s editorial assistant.