Tag Archives: mission

Easy rider – had everything but God


For one thing, Mudd learned he was only as good as the horse he was riding. The fact that he could win good prize money one weekend, and then go a month without winning anything else, also kept him humble.

But if anything, his two years of competing professionally in rodeos showed Mudd that he was going to have to work twice as hard as some of the bigger and stronger competitors who excelled in that physically demanding sport.

“People were saying, “Man, if you were bigger, you’d be winning a ton of money.” But I’m not, this is how God made me. Mudd, 54, grew up in Louisiana wanting to do nothing other than rodeo from the time his father put him on a horse at about four years old.

Mudd left the professional rodeo circuit after a couple of years and became a salesman. He used the insights he gained from his rodeo years to build a successful sales and business career, but he was angry at God.

Slipping downward

“I wasn’t winning, and rodeo was all I knew. It was my identity,” said Mudd, who grew up in a Catholic home where his mother taught him and his siblings their prayers, and always made sure the family went to Mass on Sundays.

Even as a teenager, Mudd said he felt a close relationship with God and enjoyed going to church. But over the years, as the rodeo trophies piled up and life’s responsibilities increased with marriage and a business career, Mudd said he lost sight of the big picture.

He woke up one afternoon, hung over from a party the night before. He walked to the bathroom to wash his face and saw his reflection in the mirror.

“‘I saw a man in the mirror I despised,” Mudd said. “I knew my momma raised me better than this.”

Alone before God

That low moment — hitting rock bottom as it’s known in recovery circles — led to Mudd realizing he was an alcoholic. He didn’t know it at the time, but it was the first step on a journey that would lead him to a conversion experience, spawned from spending time before the Blessed Sacrament. The path would lead Mudd to rededicate himself to the Catholic faith and to pour his energies into apostolic endeavors like leading retreats, speaking at parishes, and building chapels in Mexico. He joined Legatus and had become a founding member of its Lake Charles Chapter.

But ultimately, Mudd learned that as a husband and a father, God had given him a vocation and that becoming a loving, attentive husband and father was his true path to holiness and salvation. “The things I’ve been able to do are all because of God,” said Mudd, who has been married to his wife, Kelly, for 29 years. They have three daughters, two of whom are now married, and three grandchildren, including one on the way.

Mudd and Kelly were high school sweethearts back in the late 1980s growing up in Creole, located in Southwest Louisiana.

Hooked on rodeo

One of Mudd’s earliest memories is being about four years old on a horse, working cattle with his father until they made money. One day, his father put him in a horse show, where he won a few ribbons and buckles.

“I was hooked,” said Mudd, who grew up competing in rodeos. In high school, he was a state and national rodeo champion. So was Kelly, who in high school won a national all-around rodeo title.

“That’s how I started relating success, through the rodeo, that if you work hard at it, you’d win a prize,” Mudd said.

He and Kelly went on to college. She graduated with her degree, but he quit halfway through to pursue rodeo full-time. He turned professional when he was about 23. He competed as a steer wrestler, an event where he would ride alongside the steer, jump off his horse, grab the steer by the horns and slide before throwing it down.

Mudd was a good competitor, but not having the size or strength of top-level rodeo athletes led him to leave the professional world after a couple of years. It was a moment he did not expect.

Humbled and hungover

“Rodeo is a humbling sport,” Mudd said. “It’s not like football or basketball where you sign a multimillion-dollar contract. In rodeo, you get what you win, so if you’re not winning, you’re not eating.

“I thought, ‘What am I going to do now? I had no college education. I had no trade,” Mudd said.

But what he did have was a rock-solid work ethic that he had developed through his father’s example and from his experiences in rodeo. He went into car sales, and started a waste management company in his late 20s that he later sold to a corporation. He bought a small oilfield heavy construction company and built it into a successful enterprise.

Along the way, however, Mudd said he developed a drinking problem. The nights partying in college and on the rodeo circuit grew to the point that he estimates he was drinking 16 to 20 nights a month.

“We’d drink and have a good ole’ time,” Mudd said.

The drinking led to that midafternoon where Mudd woke up with his wife not in bed; she had left the casino hotel where they were staying that weekend after he got pretty drunk the night before and passed out.

Lasso from the Lord

Deciding to become sober, Mudd said he was sleepless one night when he decided to drive to the church to pray, but found it was locked. He walked around the building until he found that the door to the parish Adoration chapel was open. He sat to the side of the Blessed Sacrament. He felt at peace when he left the chapel, and kept coming back.

God used that Adoration chapel like a lasso to bring Mudd deeper into the life of the Church and his calling as a Catholic man. He went on retreats, and built churches and chapels in Mexico. He went on a pilgrimage to Italy in 2010, where in Assisi he met Tom Monaghan, who told him about Legatus.

As his faith journey progressed, Mudd’s understanding of his vocation also deepened. Growing up, his father was a hard worker and good provider, but left the family spiritual guidance to his wife. That was Mudd’s approach early on in his own marriage.

“I wasn’t much of a spiritual leader at all,” said Mudd. Misplaced priorities, even in the early years of his renewed faith journey, led him to miss out on his daughter winning a beauty pageant, because he was on a retreat.

Today, Mudd still takes part in activities like church-building projects in Mexico, but he makes sure they do not interfere with family life at home. He retired from his business career last year and is thinking about opening a horse ranch to help men in recovery from substance abuse addiction.

Regardless of what he does next, Mudd said God and his family will always come first.

“You can’t give what you don’t have. That’s what I’ve learned on this whole journey,” Mudd said. “I’m just blessed.”

BRIAN FRAGA is a Legatus magazine staff writer

Mission Driven

Each of us has a mission in life: to get to heaven and take as many with us as possible. Beyond that mission, everything else is ancillary. Because we are human, we get caught up in “life” and lose our true north. To get back to that true north, we take time away, or “retreat.” “Retreat” takes many forms in our lives – perhaps it’s daily Mass, or our Sunday obligation of Mass, or annual spiritual exercises; even for some, and I hope this number is growing, it’s your monthly chapter event.

Stephen Henley

Especially during the busiest shopping season of the year, and then the fallout on our bank accounts, we can get wrapped up in the hustle and lose sight of our mission. By the time you see this column, it will be February, and perhaps a good time for you to revisit your annual resolutions. I encourage you to adopt what our founder and CEO has dubbed Tres Magna or the Big Three. Tres Magna constitutes going to Mass daily, praying the rosary daily, and receiving the sacrament of Reconciliation monthly.

Let us remember that our mission in Legatus is the same as it should be in our personal lives: to get to heaven and take as many people as possible. To that end, Mr. Monaghan established Tres Magna to again blend our Legatus mission with our personal mission. Legatus has created a certificate for those members who pledge to commit to Tres Magna, to serve as a reminder of that commitment. Place this certificate in a prominent place in your home, so it will remind you that with many other Legatus members and Catholics around the world, we are united in Tres Magna. You are not alone on your mission.

Mission Drift is a plague we all contend with in our companies. I recently read an article on Mission Drift which restated Harvard’s original mission was to “prepare ministers of upright character.” I think we can conclude this is not their mission any more. Conversely, our own organization, from its start on May 7, 1987, set its mission: Legatus’ mission has and continues to be to “study, live, and spread the Catholic Faith in our personal, business, and professional lives.” Simply put: find our way to heaven and take as many people as possible.

By now you will have seen several marketing pieces we’ve used to highlight and remind our members of our mission. Everything Legatus does – through local chapter events, forums, cohorts, and the Legatus networks, to the national and international pilgrimages, as well as the pinnacle summits – are all for enabling our members to fulfill this mission. These are ways for you to enhance your faith and community with fellow members to “study, live and spread your Faith.”

For more information on Tres Magna, refer to the January 2019 Chairman Column of the magazine found on Legatus.org. To download the certificate and take the pledge, log into Legatus.org, click the resources tab, chapter resources, and download Tres Magna. Or simply notify your chapter administrator.

STEPHEN M. HENLEY is Legatus’ executive director.

Making Room At The Inn

It was the vacation of a lifetime for Paul Wilkes and his wife, Tracy, when they booked a four-week trip to India in 2006. They were simply looking for “something a little different.” Their two boys were grown. Tracy ran a home for underprivileged kids in Wilmington, North Carolina. Paul was a successful author and freelance writer for such notable publications as The Atlantic and the New York Times and had taught journalism at Columbia and Notre Dame.

A side trip on their way to visit a Trappist monastery, however, became the detour of their very lives. That fateful trip resulted in Paul founding the Home of Hope in India with the mission to build homes for orphaned and abandoned girls.


After breakfast at their hotel in the city of Kochi, a personal driver picked up Paul and Tracy for some sightseeing. The driver talked proudly of Kochi’s past and present. Paul was very distracted by the many crippled and maimed children—mostly girls— begging on the streets.

The Wilkes planned to visit a Trappist monastery later that afternoon but at two o’clock, the driver said they had more time so was there anything else they would like to see? “I’m Catholic,” Paul said. “There are so many sick and bedraggled kids begging on the street. What is my Church doing about this?”

“I could tell you,” the driver said, “but, if you don’t mind, sir, I’ll show you.”

Soon, they entered the gates of Prathyasha Bhavan—which translates as Home of Hope— an orphanage that housed 75 girls run by the Salesian Sisters. The gates swung open and a group of girls came running out, smiling and waving at the visitors.

Sisters Sophie and Thresia showed Paul and Tracy around, then offered them some tea. The sisters had asked for nothing, but Paul was ready to offer a donation when he noticed a little girl wearing sunglasses standing near Sister Sophie. It seemed out of place. They can’t even afford rice, Paul thought recalling the meager pantry he had just seen. “Why is she wearing sunglasses?” he asked.

Sister took off the glasses. One of Reena’s eyes was dark and clear, but the other was scarred and dull. “Sister told me that six-year-old Reena was begging on the street with her mother who was mentally ill, when they were separated in the crowd,” Paul said. “Reena was kidnapped by the ‘beggar Mafia,’ who routinely do this sort of thing. They held her down and gouged her eye to make her a “better beggar”. It made her more pitiful, so people would give more money, which the beggar Mafia would immediately take.

“I grimaced in horror,” Paul said. “And she returned my look of horror with the most beautiful and trusting smile I had ever seen.”

Paul and Tracy continued on to the Trappist monastery, but their minds and hearts remained at the Home of Hope. It is mostly girls that beg since boys in India are more valued and expected to work to help support their families. Although the Salesian Sisters gave loving care to the girls, they lived in deplorable conditions and slept on a concrete floor at night.

Before leaving Kochi, Paul felt compelled to see the Home of Hope again and made a silent commitment: Reena, somehow, some way, I want to — I AM – going to make your future better than your horrible past.


Back at home, Reena’s smile stayed with Paul just as the words of his third-grade teacher, Sr. Mary at St. Benedict’s in Cleveland, Ohio, had done. “Does it matter that you were alive? Will this world be a better place because of you?” she had asked them.

Paul’s grandparents immigrated from Slovakia. His parents had only sixth-grade educations and his dad worked in a coal mine, but there was always room for more at the dinner table. The lessons of his childhood never left Paul; charity was a constant alongside his successful journalism career.

Paul’s first thought was to raise money for foam mattresses. He succeeded but the mattresses failed. There was no room to store them and they quickly became dirty on the floor. At that point at 68 years old, working on another book [he has 20 in all now] and teaching part-time at the University of North Carolina, Paul had just begun receiving Social Security. The check amount was about the same as his teaching job.

Paul considered that those girls in India did not need mattresses; they needed a respectable home with beds. He decided to live simply on just Social Security and his mission began. Rather than try to repair a dilapidated structure, Paul started raising money for a new home. “I started speaking in parishes and Rotary Clubs and anywhere I could,” Paul said. “I had no administrative experience, but there’s a thing called faith.”

Paul raised enough money and let the Salesian Sisters supervise building the home. Once that was complete, knowing there were 500,000 other girls on the streets of India, Paul kept going. Thirteen years later, 12 homes have been funded and 4,000 girls have been helped. “Some only stayed a few days or weeks until we could figure out their situation and return them to responsible relatives,” Paul said. “Other girls stayed and have gone on to school and/ or married. There are 1,000 girls currently in residence.”


Legates John Clegg and his wife Clare met Paul years ago when he came to speak at their parish, Our Lady of the Star, in Ponte Vedra Beach. The Cleggs are among the founding members of the Jacksonville, Florida Chapter, and John served as president from 2014-2015. “I found Paul’s story in dropping everything to do this remarkable,” John said. “I would call Paul four or five times a year to keep in touch.”

Six months ago, after construction on the 11th home began, John surprised Paul with an offer to completely pay for home number 12. That home, called The Little Flower in Imphal, India, is now under construction.

John explained that supporting the Homes of Hope mission is a natural extension of his years in pro-life work. He appreciates that around 95 percent of all donations go directly to building homes. Paul takes no salary.

“What he does is so simple,” John said. “He finds nuns from the orders of Salesians, Carmelites, and Franciscan Clarists who are already caring for abandoned children, and he builds them a home. It costs around $300,000 and once it’s built, the sisters are self-sufficient. I am hoping this [funding an entire home] will set a trend which will make Paul’s life easier. If money were no object, he could build more homes.”

John writes back and forth with the sisters of The Little Flower home who call him “Uncle” and send their heartfelt thanks. “When the new home is ready, I will go out for the dedication,” he said.

Today, at age 80, Paul sometimes visits during construction and makes a final visit at the time of dedication, frequently accompanied with his wife. “When I go to India, my feet never touch the ground,” he said. “The feeling of those little hands grabbing your hand and the back of your shirt—it doesn’t get any better than that.”

For more information, visit HomeofHopeIndia.org  

PATTI ARMSTRONG is a Legatus magazine contributing writer.

Living the faith

During my brief tenure as your executive director, many of my friends have asked me what has impressed me the most about Legatus.

You may recall that Kathie and I have been members of the Chicago Chapter for over 15 years and should certainly be familiar with Legatus and its mission. But our visits to chapters around the country have confirmed something we have known all along: Legatus members are faith-filled, generous, competent, busy people who manage to find time to serve the Church, their families and society in a myriad of ways.

Why do I mention this? In my last article, I began a discussion of the Legatus mission and its relevance to the world. The fact that Legatus members “study, live and spread the faith in their personal, business and professional lives” is more than a noble aspiration. As we have observed, it is truly a mission – not simply “the Legatus mission,” but a mission given to us by Jesus Christ. Can we do less than fulfill our proper role in service to mankind?

One might say that there is such a thing as a dead faith, a faith without works. It’s found wherever one’s life is separated from one’s belief. Certainly this is not the case with the Legatus members I have come to know. In seeking to live a firm faith, they often find that they go beyond their abilities and ultimately gain a deeper understanding of their capabilities and responsibilities. In doing so, without realizing it, they are spreading the faith to others by their example and work ethic.

My sense is that Legatus members understand the daily opportunities that are theirs to live out their faith in ways that are unique to leaders in business and society. They know that fulfillment of one’s faith for the good of all is not implicit in one’s talents, successes achieved or acclaim received.

This was made clearer to me as I spent time with Legatus members at the recent Fall Summit in Seattle. Over coffee or lunch, I learned of the myriad good works so many are fostering in their dioceses, parishes, communities and, yes, in their families.

I am humbled by these good people, Legatus members who are truly embodying the Legatus mission to “live the faith.” It has indeed been a privilege to come to know more such individuals as I have visited chapters across the country.