Tag Archives: new evangelization

Matt Pinto’s Passion for the New Evangelization

Matthew Pinto founded Ascension Press in 1998 with one goal in mind: to publish a book for Catholic teens titled Did Adam and Eve Have Bellybuttons?


Matt Pinto

But when the collection of 200 questions and answers took off€, Pinto got an idea for a second book and a set of flip cards. By 2002, sales from all three titles had provided enough seed money to hire a staff€ person and make Ascension a full-time venture.

Pinto has since grown the print-based publishing firm into a Catholic media company with a staff€ of 65 and a mission of presenting the truth and beauty of the faith as the sure path to authentic happiness in a hurting world. Ascension has more than doubled its sta€ff in over the past 18 months.


Although Pinto, a member of Legatus’ Philadelphia Chapter, founded the company to publish printed materials, Ascension today is largely about learning systems with videos and workbooks designed for small-group use in Catholic parishes. In following this direction, the company has tapped into — and may have even single-handedly created — a new focus on adult faith formation in the Church.

“Today, we have 40 learning systems on everything from Church history to Bible study, from ­Theology of the Body to prayer, doctrinal issues, Mary and the Eucharist,” Pinto said.

As president of Ascension Press, he says adult faith formation is essential to the New Evangelization.

“If we do not have a laity that is strongly catechized and knowledgeable, there’s simply no way we’re going to be able to have a material effect on the culture,” he explained. “Often, our faith formation ends with Confirmation. In the U.S. alone, there are millions of people of good will going to Mass on Sunday with an understanding of faith that is stunted and limited.”

Ascension Press’ adult learning materials are growing in popularity

Ascension Press’ adult learning materials are growing in popularity

Mike Gormley concurs. He’s the coordinator of evangelization at St. Anthony of Padua Parish in ­The Woodlands, Texas. His parish uses Ascension Press resources for its adult Bible study groups and Life Teen and middle school programs.

“Th­ere’s a great hunger among Catholics who were raised in the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s who didn’t get good evangelization, apologetics or catechesis,” he said. ­The Ascension Press programs, Gormley explained, are helping many of these adult Catholics get the education they missed when they were young.

Parishes access Ascension Press programs in a variety of ways, including purchasing DVD sets and workbooks. More recently, however, the company has added a video-streaming platform geared specifically to small-group use. Currently, more than 5,000 study groups are using their rapidly growing free “Access Ascension” digital platform.

Ascension also has an evangelistic media platform at AscensionPresents.com that introduces the Catholic faith to people through free video content by speakers like Fr. Mike Schmitz, Je†ff Cavins, Jason and Crystalina Evert, Matt Fradd and Leah Darrow. The site also o†ffers a series of long-form podcasts.

“Echoing the call of the New Evangelization,” Pinto said, “we are continually looking for ‘new methods and new expressions’ to transmit the faith effectively.”


Ascension’s growth and evolution from a publisher of three titles into a media company was marked by several watershed moments. ­The first, Pinto said, occurred in 2004 when he was invited to a private screening in St. Paul, Minn., of Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ about two months before its theatrical release. At the time, the company had a staff of about eight, but was growing quickly.

As he watched the film, Pinto thought, “­The symbolism in this film is off† the charts. Someone needs to explain this.”

Once outside in his car, he called a friend who was working with the film and said, “We need to do a Q&A book and we need to do it now.” For the next three hours, while driving to La Crosse, Wis., Pinto dictated 70 questions that would eventually become 100.

“Within just six weeks, we had the book ready to go, and it really was a marvel in a certain sense. On Ash Wednesday, the day the film opened, we announced to the Catholic world that this book was available. Up until this point, there had only been evangelical responses to this movie.”

Within eight days, A Guide to the Passion: 100 Questions about The Passion of the Christ, had sold 120,000 copies and went on to sell 1 million in 14 weeks, hitting No. 6 on the New York Times religion best-seller list. It was translated into six languages in six weeks.

Ascension also became the first company to respond to The Da Vinci Code phenomenon, again with a question-and-answer book, The Da Vinci Deception.

­The company soon began publishing The Bible Timeline, developed by Jeff† Cavins, a former Protestant minister and revert to the Catholic faith. Th­e color-coded memory learning system follows the story of salvation history from Genesis to Jesus, showing how and where the Bible’s 73 books fit into it. More than 1 million people have gone through the program, which took Ascension Press in a new direction as Pinto realized that more people could be reached through such learning systems than through books.

Matt and Maryanne Pinto pose with their six children

Matt and Maryanne Pinto pose with their six children

Growing up in an entrepreneurial family, Pinto gained a familiarity early in life with creating and running businesses. As a college student at Temple University in Philadelphia, he started a boutique advertising company and ran it until 1991. When, at 21 years old, an evangelical Christian challenged him about his Catholic faith, he decided he had some learning to do.

While driving around to meet with graphic artists and printers, he listened to audio cassette tapes about the faith: “My mind was blown away by what I heard.” His re-education in Catholicism convinced him to use the skills he had acquired in advertising and marketing communication for the sake of the Church and the gospel.

Pinto’s work has helped Ascension Press reach into nearly 10,000 parishes, giving Catholics solid, appealing programs for young people and adults. Among them is Our Lady of the Rosary in Coatesville, Pa., where Tim Irwin has taught the Confirmation class with his wife Karen for 15 years. Only during the last two years, however, has the parish used the Ascension Press Chosen program, which won the 2015 Ministry Resource of the Year and Book of the Year award from the Association of Catholic Publishers.

“I see the difference,” Irwin said. ’

The program is user-friendly, relevant and designed with up-to-date videos that connect with his students, he said, adding that he thinks Ascension understands the importance of creating materials that articulate not just what Catholics believe, but why.

Irwin credits Chosen with transforming a student who came to him and his wife with a reputation for being challenging.

“We saw him take to the program and to the whole Confirmation experience in a really positive light,” Irwin explained. “By the end of the program, this kid was connected and in tune with what he was learning.”

JUDY ROBERTS is a Legatus magazine staff writer.

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Doing something amazing for the Church

Every serious Catholic wants their parish to be amazing.

cover-nov16But a vibrant parish that is on fire for the Catholic faith, that offers great opportunities for catechetical and adult faith formation, that cultivates a welcoming presence, and that provides important ministries does not just happen.

Denver’s Bishop-elect Jorge Rodriguez says a new program co-founded by Legatus members John and Mari Ann Martin is already setting new parishes — including his own — ablaze for Jesus and his Church.

For the last two years, Denver Archbishop Samuel Aquila has been “promoting among the Catholic community the formation of disciples — and the Amazing Parish program — to revitalize parishes and bring back Catholics to our pews,” the bishop-elect told reporters at the Aug. 25 news conference announcing his appointment.

Holy Spirit inspiration

John Martin, a member of Legatus’ Denver Chapter, and Patrick Lencioni, a nationally renowned business consultant, know that an amazing parish is the end result of organizational health, a commitment to prayer and a focus on evangelization and Christian discipleship.

“Our goal and hope is to build healthy parishes that are warm, loving, excited, on fire; that make strangers who open the door feel warm and loved; and that reach out to those who have left the Church,” said Martin, who co-founded the Amazing Parish program with Lencioni in 2013.

Bishop Jorge Rodriguez

Bishop Jorge Rodriguez

Hundreds of parish leadership teams from across Canada and the United States have attended Amazing Parish conferences in Denver and Detroit. Lencioni and Martin are planning a conference next March in Atlanta that they hope will draw 250 parish leadership teams and 1,500 people.

“It will be our largest one yet,” said Lencioni, a New York Times best-selling author who founded The Table Group, a California-based business consulting firm.

Martin and Lencioni, both devout Catholics, were feeling moved by the Holy Spirit a few years ago to do something important for the Church. They were brought together by a mutual friend, Curtis Martin, the founder and chief executive of the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS).

Lencioni took a flight from California to Denver in early 2013 to meet John Martin for the first time. Sitting together in Martin’s kitchen, they didn’t know ahead of time what they were going to be talking about — or even why they were meeting.

“John’s wife Mari Ann came down and asked, ‘What is this all about?’” Lencioni recalled. “We said, ‘We don’t know. We think we’re supposed to do something together.’”

The picture began to emerge when the pair drove to FOCUS’ headquarters to meet with Curtis Martin, also a member of Legatus’ Denver Chapter. Together they went to Mass, and during their subsequent meeting, the news broke that Pope Francis had been elected in Rome.

“In hindsight, we both see the hand of the Holy Spirit in it,” John Martin said.

“Things just started to happen from there,” said Lencioni, adding that he and Martin went to a coffee shop in Denver a short time later with some like-minded people and started brainstorming on how they could help the Church.

The group asked themselves a simple question: What is the greatest need of the Catholic Church that we would have a reasonable probability of creating something that could address that need?

“We spent two days praying about that, whiteboarding about that, thinking, trying to figure out what we could do to help the Church grow, to stop the decline, to help the Church become evangelistic and have a missionary outreach,” John Martin explained.

Building blocks

The answer soon revealed itself, addressing the area where Catholics most directly interact with the universal Church: their local parish.

“The parishes are like the outposts of the Great Commission,” said Lencioni, who explained that the group wanted to be obedient to what they discerned the Holy Spirit was saying to them.

The next step was figuring out how to strengthen parishes. About a month later, Martin and Lencioni convened a larger group of people from various Catholic ministries and organizations. They spent two days asking themselves what constituted an amazing parish.

“We had to figure out what it was if we wanted to help the Church build parishes in a better way,” Martin said.

The end result was a model informed by Church teachings, papal documents and best business practices. The group identified seven traits of an amazing parish that they further distilled into three basic building blocks: a reliance on prayer, organizational health, as well as discipleship and evangelization.

The most important block is prayer.

“An amazing parish should have prayer at every level from the pastor to the leadership team, the parish staff, parish council, and the altar society,” Martin explained.

“Before doing anything, we have to start by asking ourselves, ‘Are we submitting all this to God and turning to him in prayer for the intentions of our parish?’” said Lencioni, who added that it takes more to revitalize a parish than simply changing its management style.

“We need to pray for them — and to pray for the parish programs and ministries — to discern them and pray that God bless them,” Lencioni said.

Effective management

Patrick Lencioni speaks to parish leaders at an Amazing Parish event in Denver last year

Patrick Lencioni speaks to parish leaders at an Amazing Parish event in Denver last year

Along with a solid prayer life, an amazing parish needs to be a strong organization with solid management practices.

That’s not to say that the parish team mindlessly follows directives from the pastor’s office. A healthy parish requires the leadership team to trust one another, to have frank discussions and to engage well in conflict so that the team can then buy into commitments and decisions. Team members must also be willing to hold one another accountable and to prioritize the parish’s collective interests ahead of personal or departmental goals.

“The biggest paradigm shift here is that the pastor can’t do all of this alone, and he needs a team around him to truly rally around and share responsibilities for everything that has to happen in the parish,” said Lencioni, noting that many pastors generally were not trained early on in how to assemble a budget or build a management team.

“No catechetical or faith-formation program will achieve its full potential if the parish is not run like an effective organization,” Lencioni said.

A prayerful, well-run parish, he said, also has to be outward looking and prioritize forming Christian disciples in the pews who dedicate their lives to Jesus Christ — and who want to bring the Gospel to their families, relatives and neighbors.

“That’s the ultimate goal, to have every faithful Catholic being a disciple-maker,” Martin explained. “That’s Christ’s model. It’s the Great Commission. If there was an overriding marching order from above, it’s to make disciples of all nations.”

Lencioni added that no two parishes, even if they incorporate the three building blocks, will be exactly alike.

“There is no cookie cutter parish,” he said. “Parishes have different charisms. The parish has to look at who’s around them, what’s their situation and where did God plant them. A parish is not just its campus. It’s the entire district that they serve.”

Profound impact

The Amazing Parish program’s website offers resources, webinars, videos and reading materials for parish leaders to study. Lencioni and Martin have held three conferences in Colorado and one in the Archdiocese of Detroit to bring parish leaders together and share best practices. The conferences feature well-known Catholic speakers such as Curtis Martin, Matthew Kelly, Jeff Cavins, Matt Maher and others.

Archbishop Allen Vigneron

Archbishop Allen Vigneron

In a letter to his fellow bishops earlier this year, Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron of Detroit endorsed the Amazing Parish program, saying he was edified and energized by the presentations and conversations he had throughout the three-day conference last April.

“More than 200 of our parishes participated in this conference to strengthen our parishes in sharing best practices and to be re-energized and more fully equipped for the New Evangelization,” Archbishop Vigneron wrote, adding that the conference had left a “profound impact” on the archdiocese.

Bishop-elect Rodriguez also wholeheartedly endorsed the program, saying, “We’re doing this Amazing Parish project and there is a lot of life. As much as we present the true Jesus, I think people will come back [to the Catholic Church] because they really need it.”

BRIAN FRAGA is a Legatus magazine staff writer

Learn more: AmazingParish.org

Rediscovered roots

The New Evangelization is taking root in the picturesque country setting of Donegal — a beautiful part of northwest Ireland where local traditions and Irish culture remain vibrant.

Legate Dr. Timothy O’Donnell, president of Christendom College, gathers with students of the 2015 Columcille Institute

Legate Dr. Timothy O’Donnell, president of Christendom
College, gathers with students of the 2015 Columcille Institute

With a commanding view of the Atlantic Ocean, the bay, beaches and windswept hills, a small group of American and Irish college students gather at Ards Friary for three weeks every summer to learn how Catholicism shaped the soul of Ireland — and how they have a role to play in revitalizing the Christian roots of Western Civilization.

“Ireland is a country that, if it were to rediscover its Christian roots and really become fervent, could, within two generations, really turn around and have a profound impact on Europe and the rest of the world,” said Timothy O’Donnell, president of Christendom College in Front Royal, Va.


O’Donnell, a member of Legatus’ Northern Virginia Chapter, said the St. Columcille Institute exists to form leaders for the New Evangelization. Since Christendom College instituted the program four years ago, dozens of students from Christendom and other American colleges have traveled to Ireland to study the Catholic faith with local Irish college students.

Timothy O’Donnell

Timothy O’Donnell

The students learn about the Catholic sacramental imagination, not only in the classroom but in nature. In the morning, they are attending Mass, classes and Eucharistic adoration, then later in the day they are hiking mountains, taking in scenic ocean views, visiting shrines or having a pint of Guinness in a local pub.

“They get a sense of what Catholic festivity really means, and what the true foundation of friendship is,” O’Donnell said, noting that the great Christian writers G.K. Chesterton and C.S. Lewis used to vacation in Donegal.

“There is a Catholic-Christian pedigree in this area,” O’Donnell said. “It allows the students to get back into contact with the beauty of God’s creation and form really good friendships. So you end up having conversations not only in the classroom, but over meals and when you’re going on hikes and walks together in the evening.”

The St. Columcille Institute is named after a sixth-century missionary evangelist born in County Donegal who founded a number of monasteries in Ireland and on the island of Iona, where he began a great mission to Scotland. Trained in the school of Christian asceticism and monasticism, Columcille was one of the great lights of the early Middle Ages.


The institute grew out of an idea that O’Donnell and other Christendom leaders had been mulling over for several years. In 2012, during a Eucharistic Congress in Dublin where O’Donnell was a featured speaker, many Irish attendees expressed their desire for solid doctrinal teaching and catechesis.

Discerning the movement of the Holy Spirit, O’Donnell said Christendom College decided to launch the St. Columcille Institute in 2012. The program focuses on three areas: apologetics, history and literature.

With apologetics, students learn how to present and defend the Catholic faith. A theology course examines timeless questions surrounding the problem of evil, the historicity of the gospels and the resurrection of Jesus. Students also read papal encyclicals and writings on the New Evangelization.

“The New Evangelization is really the old evangelization, but new in the sense that there are many people in countries where the Gospel has been proclaimed previously who have not been evangelized at all,” O’Donnell explained.

Students also learn the importance of using modern means of communication, such as film, television, social media and the Internet to proclaim the New Evangelization. For example, Vatican Radio’s director of English-language programming teaches workshops for the institute on the art of communication.

Eily Weichert

Eily Weichert

“The whole focus of the apologetics class is learning to defend the faith gently, but strongly, so you can connect with people,” said Eily Weichert, a Christendom alumnus who graduated this past spring. Weichert, 21, attended the St. Columcille Institute in 2015, and said she learned a lot about her Catholic faith.

“The overall message of the program was defending your faith in really subtle ways,” she explained. “It was very moving.”

In addition to apologetics, students also learn Irish history and the incredible contributions that Ireland made to the Catholic Church — particularly from the sixth to ninth centuries. As O’Donnell noted, Pope St. John Paul II taught that a country which doesn’t know its history will have no future.

“We want to give the students a sense of the history, the patrimony, the remarkable story, oftentimes untold, about the role that Ireland had in Western culture and Western civilization,” O’Donnell said.

Closely related to the patrimonial lesson is literature. Students read several short stories and other writings by notable Irish and European authors that raise fundamental questions about the meaning of life, death, marriage, family and what it means to be a good man or good woman.


James Sheehan, a member of Legatus’ Dublin Chapter, presents a leadership talk at the St. Columcille Institute. He tells students the importance of their taking on leadership roles in society.

James Sheehan

James Sheehan

“It’s a dynamic program for young people,” Sheehan said. “Those students I spoke with seemed to be entirely enjoying the experience.”

Weichert said she not only learned a great deal in the classroom, but also from taking nature hikes with her peers and instructors — and while sitting in pubs and conversing with local residents.

“It was gorgeous scenery and the people were very genuine and interested in hearing about you,” she said. “It was a life-changing event for me in many ways.”

Of course, Catholic spiritual formation is woven through the three weeks that the students stay at Ards Friary, which is owned by Franciscan Capuchins and includes more than 200 acres of scenic waterfront countryside.

The program offers morning Eucharistic adoration, followed by breakfast, then classes, daily Mass and a common meal. Some of the local Irish college students who attend the program are not familiar with devotions like Eucharistic adoration, but they quickly learn.

“Everything is done to communicate that the faith should be like the air we breathe,” O’Donnell explained. “It’s not just something we do on Sunday. So you get into the rhythm of regular prayer, and it just flows out of the beauty of God’s creation.”

Christendom may expand the St. Columcille Institute to two summer sessions if interest and demand continue to increase, though he said the program as currently organized is working well.

Said O’Donnell, “We’ll just see where the Holy Spirit wants us to go.”

BRIAN FRAGA is a Legatus magazine staff writer.

Learn more: Christendom.edu/academics/st-columcille-institute/

Legatus was founded for times like this

It’s clear that Legatus’ founding in 1987 was the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in a period of change in the Church and the culture following Vatican II. It was also a response to Pope St. John II’s call to the New Evangelization.

John Hunt

John Hunt

And the response of the Catholic business community over these past 28 years has been an example of executives embracing the scriptural passage: “Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more” (Lk 12:48).

This is not to suggest that our members would not have served their fellow man had they never been introduced to Legatus. But the Catholic business community continues to be drawn to Legatus and its mission as witnessed by the 2015 membership growth to heights previously unattained.

Year-end executive membership of 2,634 and a comparable number of spouse members is a 6.7% increase over the prior year’s high watermark. This endorsement of Legatus is particularly evident in the six new chapters that achieved charter status in 2015: Austin, Texas; Rockford, Ill.; Lake Charles, La.; Hartford, Conn.; Washington, D.C.; and St. Charles, Ill. As always, I encourage you to share your Legatus experience with your fellow parishioners and executive friends in order that any executive, anywhere in the U.S. who appreciates our mission, is given the opportunity to join.

As you read this edition of Legatus magazine, hundreds of members will have gathered in Orlando for the 2016 Legatus Summit. A highlight is the presentation of our awards for outstanding service.

Ambassador of the Year Award: Randy Hammond, formerly of the Denver Chapter and now a member in Phoenix, has been the consummate example of sharing Legatus — both in his personal and professional life. Randy’s Catholicism literally transforms his office environment.

Bowie Kuhn Special Award for Evangelization: Mike Heck of the St. Louis Chapter has been a source of hope and a strong example of Christian love to his peers both within Legatus and without.

Courage in the Marketplace Award: David Daleiden, founder of the Center for Medical Progress. In 2015, the Center’s videos exposed the truth about Planned Parenthood and prompted Congress to initiate its own investigation. Read all about the Summit and our outstanding award winners in the March issue of Legatus magazine.

JOHN HUNT is Legatus’ executive director. He and his wife Kathie are charter members of Legatus’ Chicago Chapter.

Youth, the New Evangelization and the ‘theology of work’

Father Mike Schmitz, 40, is a priest of the Diocese of Duluth, Minn. He is chaplain of the Newman Center at the University of Minnesota-Duluth and director of Youth and Young Adult Ministry for the diocese. Father Schmitz is a frequent columnist for Duluth’s diocesan newspaper and he frequently delivers talks and lectures across the country. Many of his talks are available from Lighthouse Catholic Media. Father Schmitz spoke with Legatus magazine staff writer Brian Fraga.

Fr. Mike Schmitz

How did you discern your vocation to the priesthood?

I was raised Catholic. My parents were every-Sunday-Mass Catholics. But I really didn’t care too much about it. I would do whatever I could to avoid going to Mass. I had an encounter with Christ through Confession when I was 15. That really affected me in a way that I said to myself, “This is real.” There was an interior recognition that “I need this, I need Jesus.” It led me down the road to asking God what He wants.

What are your duties at the Newman Center?

I’m primarily the chaplain at the Newman Center, but in some ways I am the director as well. If it was a parish, I’d be like the pastor, responsible for teaching on a daily basis and running the operation, working on administration and management.

And your work in young adult ministry?

My work in the Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministry consists of two primary areas — the formation and coordination of youth ministers and executing the programs. My work with youth ministers and directors of religious education in the parishes involves spiritual formation with them, offering them ongoing training and coordination. As for execution, we look to deliver programs, events and retreats all throughout the year.

We also put on different rallies and create opportunities for students to serve, to get away for a while, to get some formation and have an encounter with the Lord

How do you engage the youth and young adults?

One of the main obstacles for everybody — not only the youth — is the desire to focus on the most important things, but not being able to because of distractions. Some of them we invite into our lives and some of them are just there. When it comes to young people, it’s very similar to how you engage them as how you would engage adults. A big part of that is creating a space that is a little more free of distraction or least one that is essentially oriented toward intentional relationship.

One of the big obstacles, in addition to distractions, for young people is a lack of understanding of what relationships are. There has been a kind of cultural shift in what constitutes relationships among young people. So many friendships today are transitional or completely impermanent.

Even relationships that are meant to be permanent in regards to the family are now questioned. So when it comes to proposing having a relationship with Jesus, a relationship with God, you first have to tell them who Jesus is and then you have to show them what a relationship is. Ultimately, if their lives are going to be changed, it’s almost always done through authentic relationships.

What do you plan to address at the Summit?

What I’ve been reflecting on, praying about, and thinking about is “the theology of work.” It sounds kind of abstract, but what is God’s plan for work? Working in the secular arena, working in non-Catholic circles, does that mean that for most of my life or most of my day I put aside my faith? Or is that: “No, when I go to work, I’m saying yes to God?” Sainthood is saying yes to God. What’s our vision of work? That’s the main thing.

AN ABRIDGED version of this interview was published in the December 2015 issue of Legatus magazine.

From Africa with love

Milwaukee Legate Chris Hoar’s mission of mercy aids poverty-stricken children

In an African village, Christopher Hoar asked 38 girls in a Catholic secondary school classroom why they thought families in the United States would sponsor them financially.


Milwaukee Legate Chris Hoar founded Caritas for Children in 1998

The girls told Hoar that the American families, whom they had never met, proBaBly wanted them to have a Better life and Be educated. But none of the students could say what would motivate people living tens of thousands of miles away to sponsor them

A silence fell over the girls when Hoar told them the answer.

“Because they love you,” said Hoar, president and founder of Caritas for Children, a Milwaukee-Based nonprofit that is also the only Catholic child-sponsorship organization in the United States.

New Evangelization in action

That scene captured an essential truth about the bonds that develop between Caritas’ sponsoring families and the young children in Africa, Poland and Latin America who rely on the financial support to receive an education and have their basic needs met, with the hopes of fulfilling their human potential.

“The families really do fall in love with the children,” said Hoar, 63, a member of Legatus’ Milwaukee Chapter. “They’re realizing what it means to love one another, what it means to love my neighbor, to reach out to somebody else. It really is a spiritual encounter to do this.”

Hoar founded Caritas for Children in 1998, shortly after he and his wife adopted two children from an orphanage in Częstochowa, Poland. Hoar originally established Caritas as a resource to help Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago to facilitate international adoptions from Poland.


Chris Hoar poses with ministry partners in Uganda in July 2015

But Hoar saw an opportunity to do more, so Caritas for Children expanded into a child-sponsorship program that today supports children in Poland, as well as several locations in Africa, Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

Caritas for Children today is engaged in several other initiatives that include outreach programs for young adults and students, mission trips to Caritas locations in countries like Uganda, Kenya and Nigeria, as well as support programs for religious congregations that partner with Caritas to assist the children in their local communities.

A connecting thread through Caritas’ activities is the New Evangelization, which Hoar says invites all to discover the joy of believing, serving and encountering Jesus Christ in one another.

“We didn’t start off thinking that way,” Hoar explained. “We discovered it as a result of the people coming to us who had sponsored children saying things like, ‘Chris, I thought this would be helpful for the child’ and ‘I just didn’t realize how good it would be for me, how much I get out of it.’

“I think we’re getting people to come in, listen and understand the Gospel message in a new way that binds people together in a very special way.”

Spiritual bonds

Bishop Donald Hying

Bishop Donald Hying

Bishop Donald J. Hying of Gary, Ind. — a former auxiliary bishop in Milwaukee who has known Hoar for about six years — said Caritas makes a “substantial impact” in helping Catholic organizations in developing countries provide children with food, clothing, shelter, education and hope for a better future.

Bishop Hying also said that Hoar knows the value of cultivating strong relationships and bonds of friendship between sponsors, religious communities and children.

“He’s helping people to see the overall spiritual mission of Caritas so that it’s more than simply providing material aid, but really a way of living out the faith, a way of evangelization, a way of spreading God’s life and love in the world,” Bishop Hying explained.

Father Richard J. LoBianco, Caritas’ director of Catholic Mission and the New Evangelization, said Caritas for Children focuses on connecting one child with one family at a time.

“It’s like sowing seeds that really grow into something greater in the Kingdom later,” Fr. LoBianco said. “We say our core mission is child sponsorship, but we see our mission as creating communities of Caritas where it all really connects together with Christ at the center.”

Father LoBianco describes Hoar as someone who knew early on that God had called him to do something with his life beyond making money.

On the business side, Hoar helps operate Caritas Vehicle Services, a division of Fleet Services, Inc., which maintains vehicle fleets belonging to religious communities. Caritas for Children, Fr. LoBianco said, enables Hoar “to live out his true passion, his vocation as a Christian.”

Walking with the poor

Father Richard LoBianco

Father Richard LoBianco

Hoar, who grew up Catholic, said his work with Caritas for Children and his experiences in the mission fields have deepened his own faith life. The work, he said, has brought him closer to understanding the Gospel.

“I love to go to the mission field to see the kids,” Hoar said. “It’s amazing how it truly makes a difference in people’s lives. I think that’s what we’re all called to do here, one way or another.”

Hoar’s experiences with Caritas for Children have also helped give him deeper insights into the special way in which Christ identifies with the poor.

“Walking with the poor is one way, first of all, that you encounter Christ,” Hoar said, who quoted John 13:34 as the whole basis for Caritas’ ministry. In that passage, Christ tells his apostles: “I give you a new commandment: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, so you also must love one another.”


Chris Hoar poses with children from Uganda in July 2015

Said Hoar: “Christ commanded us to love one another. In that regard, we get to understand what that really means — and the rewards from giving are far greater than from receiving.”

A Legatus member since 1999, Hoar said he attends most of the Milwaukee Chapter’s monthly events. Several of his fellow Legates have sponsored children through Caritas, he said.

“I’ve gotten to meet a lot of fine people through Legatus. When you find yourself surrounded in community with other like-minded people, it’s a great thing,” said Hoar, who added that Caritas for Children is poised for continued growth in its apostolate.

“God loves us,” he said. “He doesn’t ask much of us. All he wants us to do is love one another. And when we do that, the world is a better place.”

BRIAN FRAGA is a Legatus magazine staff writer.

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Legatus & New Evangelization

Editor PATRICK NOVECOSKY writes that the culture war is a spiritual battle for souls . . .

Patrick Novecosky

Patrick Novecosky

by Patrick Novecosky

In case you haven’t noticed, we’re at war. We’re at war with radical Islam and we’re in the midst of a fierce culture war — a war of ideas over the best way to live.

What this all means, when you get right down to it, is that we are in a war for souls. The devil knows his time is shorter now than it’s ever been, so he’s hard at work trying to distract us from the reality of Christ’s victory on Calvary. Satan’s first trick is to convince people that God isn’t real. When that lie takes root, his Culture of Death spreads like wildfire.

The chair of the Democratic National Committee recently said that killing a seven-pound baby in utero is not only okay, it’s an expression of “personal liberty.” The New England Journal of Medicine reports that 18% of patient deaths in Belgium come from either lethal injection/assisted suicide or from being put into a deep coma and left to die. Nearly half of the euthanasia deaths in that country are not reported. And throughout the Western world, the fundamental building block of society — marriage and the family — is facing a full-frontal assault from secularists and the gay lobby.

It seems to me that Legatus was founded 28 years ago for a time such as this — the era of the New Evangelization. With 87 chapters and well over 5,000 leaders, Legatus is a small but powerful army of business and cultural leaders who are tasked with turning back the tide of secularism by learning, living and spreading the Catholic faith in their businesses, their families, and their communities.

The men and women of Legatus are born leaders — Type A personalities. As leaders being formed in the faith, Legates are a force for positive change in the world. By living our Catholicism courageously, we ourselves are changed to become more like Christ. The joy that comes from our prayer and deep friendship with the Lord — despite our own sufferings and the Culture of Death pressing in around us — is transformative. We are called to radiate that joy, which is infinitely attractive.

In fact, Pope Francis told young people at World Youth Day in Rio last year that joy is essential to winning the culture for Christ. “Evangelization in our time will only take place as the result of contagious joy,” he said.

We live in an illogical age where the best-reasoned theological arguments are not likely to sway people, but joyful Catholicism has a great chance of moving mountains and winning disciples to Jesus Christ. After all, the Church exists to evangelize and so do we!

PATRICK NOVECOSKY is Legatus magazine’s editor-in-chief.

Our founder looks to the future

JOHN HUNT describes founder Tom Monaghan’s long-term vision for Legatus . . .

John Hunt

John Hunt

Earlier this year Tom Monaghan, our founder and chairman, spoke to the board of governors on Legatus’ growth and mission over the past 27 years. He shared his vision for Legatus well into the future — perhaps even past his service to the Church.

He had been encouraged to memorialize his aspirations for this lay organization he loves so much such that the permanence of its mission will remain as testament to his vision. In his remarks to the board last February, he highlighted some of the traits of the Legatus executive — the Catholic leader in the marketplace who requires nurturing in order to fulfill his or her role as leader, mentor and confidant.

Such individuals, in his view, are the most ethical group of leaders in the country. They are creative problem-solvers, visionaries, motivators, competitors, risk-takers, long-term thinkers, and they are, in a nutshell, the heart and soul of the laity in the New Evangelization.

A significant attribute of Tom Monaghan’s plan when he, inspired by the Holy Spirit, founded Legatus in 1987 was the sense that Legatus should always be populated by the true leaders of the business community, the culture and the Church. At its founding, Legatus’ threshold for membership was $4 million and 50 employees. To encourage membership growth, the criteria were reduced over time to $3 million and 30 employees. Subsequently, the revenue component was raised to $5 million where it is today. In actual fact, the criteria for membership in Legatus are substantially as they were at Legatus’ founding — more than 27 years ago.

Earlier this year, the board of governors acknowledged this static membership component and adopted reasonable increases to membership criteria for 2015. Bear in mind that these changes do not affect the membership of any current Legatus members. They are, however, intended to acknowledge the impact of inflation on the economy — and on the Legatus membership criteria since 1987.

Effective Jan. 1, 2015, the following changes will become effective. Minimum number of employees: 40. Minimum annual revenues: $5.5 million. Financial Services Assets Under Management: $250 million.

These changes are intended to assure the integrity of the criteria and are subject to further modification in the future. Our regional directors and I are available to respond to any questions you may have.

JOHN HUNT is Legatus’ executive director. He and his wife Kathie are charter members of Legatus’ Chicago Chapter.

Engaging a culture in decline

Legate Dr. Tim Gray leads the Augustine Institute’s mission to re-evangelize Catholics . . .

cover-sept14Less than a decade after launching its mission to train workers for the New Evangelization, Denver’s Augustine Institute has grown into one of America’s most popular Catholic graduate programs.

Named for a saint who lived in times remarkably similar to our own — and led by Dr. Tim Gray, a member of Legatus’ Denver Chapter — the institute offers on-site and distance education classes toward master’s degrees in theology and leadership for the New Evangelization. Other offerings include catechetical and youth ministry programs and leadership formation for parishes and dioceses.

Renewing Christendom

The idea for the institute grew out of conversations among Catholic leaders in a group that included Archbishop Charles Chaput, who led the Denver archdiocese at the time. The early envisioning sessions were a team effort, said Jonathan Reyes, Augustine’s co-founder and first president.

Reyes, who now leads the U.S. bishops’ department of Justice, Peace, and Human Development, said he remembers sitting under a photograph from Denver’s 1993 World Youth Day, talking about what to call the institute.

“That’s when the name Augustine emerged. I said, ‘Hey, I think it should be called Augustine,’ and everybody said, ‘That’s it!’ Augustine lived at a time when there was massive cultural transformation and the Roman Empire itself was falling, yet it was also a time that gave birth to the renewal that became Christendom. We thought Augustine was the perfect bridge figure.”

Gray concurs.

Jonathan Reyes

Jonathan Reyes

“Augustine taught Christians how to live well in a declining culture and to be a light to renew it, to bring about a new and better culture. That’s really what we are trying to do.”

Gray said AI students learn a Catholic biblical worldview from Augustine’s writings that engages a secular world. “Augustine used all these great gifts to bring about a season of transformation for the Church that would last for generations. That’s what we want to give our students.”

From humble beginnings in rooms rented from the chancery and with an enrollment of 35 students, the institute outgrew its space within just two years, relocating to larger quarters in Loretto Heights. A few years ago, the institute moved to its own building in Greenwood Village, south of Denver, thanks to the generosity of a Legatus-member donor who offered a lease at a discounted price with a purchase option.

After starting with an on-site master’s program, Augustine added distance-learning, the YDisciple program for parish youth ministries, the Symbolon catechetical program, and training for parishes and dioceses on the New Evangelization, adult faith formation and the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults.

Dr. Edward Sri

Dr. Edward Sri

By 2012, the Augustine Institute had risen to No. 3 on the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) list of lay ecclesial ministry master’s level formation programs. Interest also is building in AI’s outreach to parishes and dioceses through partnerships with Ignatius Press and Lighthouse Catholic Media, which distribute materials for the YDisciple and Symbolon programs.

Two lungs

Dr. Edward Sri, Augustine’s vice president of mission and outreach, said AI sees itself as a think tank for the New Evangelization with two lungs: one for the graduate school, which trains those who want to work in the Church or learn more about the faith, and the other for parish programs.

An important aspect of the institute’s work with parishes, Gray said, is using technology to create programming that is effective in educating laypeople.

“Pope John Paul II said the New Evangelization must be new in method and expression. We’re really trying to do that with the technology.”

Mark Giszczak, assistant professor of Sacred Scripture, speaks with students

Mark Giszczak, assistant professor of Sacred Scripture, speaks with students

The graduate school, Sri added, largely attracts laypeople, but also some religious, priests and deacons. Graduates often go on to become Catholic school principals, religious- education directors and campus ministers.

Gray said the curriculum is designed to meet the needs of the New Evangelization by showing students how the truths of the Church fit into cultural engagement with post-modernism. “They want to know how we tell the truth of the faith so that it’s compelling for people in modern culture.”

For parishes, the institute developed YDisciple to serve the estimated 88% that have no full-time youth minister — and Symbolon as an adult evangelization program that can be used with groups, including RCIA, as well as by individuals or families.

YDisciple uses small groups and adult leaders to disciple teens in an environment where they can learn about their faith.

Archbishop Samuel Aquila

Archbishop Samuel Aquila

Gray said his 15-year-old son Joe has been in a YDisciple group for the last year. “It’s had a huge impact on him. As a parent, I’ve loved knowing every week the topics they’re discussing so I could talk with Joe about it.”

Symbolon, on the other hand, is aimed at adult Catholics, many of whom have never had a deep conversion, Sri said. The 20-part program covers everything from human sexuality to the sacraments.

“When we created this, we brought in catechetical experts from around the U.S. and Canada to help,” he said. “They encouraged us to use the beauty of tradition, the saints and the arts to engage the culture. The teaching is orthodox and it’s calling people to conversion.”

And in October, AI will launch another adult faith formation program called Lectio. Gray said such programs are important because the New Evangelization requires an engaged laity.

Building the Church

Father Scott Traynor, chaplain of Legatus’ Denver Chapter and rector of St. John Vianney Seminary in Denver, said the Augustine Institute has a passion to serve the New Evangelization in an innovative way.

“It’s exciting to see an organization that is creative and using new technology to deliver content,” he said. “It’s not just your typical nice thing. It’s really taking a look at where people are, and how the Augustine Institute can help them grow in faith and provide resources and trained people to accompany them in doing that.”

Denver Archbishop Samuel Aquila called AI a blessing for his archdiocese and an example of the New Evangelization at work.

Dr. Tim Gray

Dr. Tim Gray

“I have had the opportunity to know many graduates of the Augustine Institute, and I am continually impressed not only by their knowledge and understanding of Church teaching, but more importantly by their love for Christ and for his Church.”

Asked what makes the Augustine Institute different from other similar academic programs, Reyes said, “It’s mission-oriented, the mission being the New Evangelization understood as not just new techniques, but a vision of a kind of personal formation and transformation of the culture with a deep understanding of culture, what’s at stake and what the issues are in the world.”

In today’s secular culture, Gray said, Catholics will only succeed in their faith with good formation. “We’re at a point in the culture today where we have to be well formed to sustain our Catholic identity.”

At the time of the 2012 CARA study, Augustine had 288 degree candidates and 23 certificate candidates, putting it in third place behind Boston College and Franciscan University of Steubenville. Today, more than 300 students from 40 U.S. states and places as far away as Australia, Europe and Asia are enrolled on campus and through distance-learning.

Thousands more are being reached through the institute’s parish and diocesan programs. In just four months, Gray said, AI has sold more than 4,000 Symbolon DVD sets, half of them to parishes.

“When we started,” Reyes said, “we weren’t quite sure what was going to happen, but it’s a testimony to God’s mercy and the Holy Spirit that we’re doing really well.”

JUDY ROBERTS is Legatus magazine’s staff writer.

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Face-to-face with a saint

Legates recount meeting with Saint John Paul II and how he touched their lives . . .

As the world’s attention turned toward Rome for the April 27 canonization of Pope John Paul II, Legatus members reminisced on the profound effect the new saint had on Legatus’ founding and growth.

John Paul’s prophetic call for the New Evangelization — one of the hallmarks of his 26-year papacy — has led Legates to think of creative ways to live out this call in the workplace, as well as in their families and communities. Often a meeting with the late pontiff confirmed a Legate’s Catholic faith or inspired a deeper commitment to Jesus Christ.

Holy Spirit moment

Legatus founder Tom Monaghan looks on while  St. John Paul II greets his wife Marjorie on May 7, 1987

Legatus founder Tom Monaghan looks on while St. John Paul II greets his wife Marjorie on May 7, 1987

In the case of Domino’s Pizza founder Tom Monaghan, his first meeting with St. John Paul II inspired him to create Legatus. Monaghan had always been a great admirer of the Holy Father because of his Polish background.

“I was brought up in an orphanage with Polish nuns and lots of Polish kids,” he explained. “Because of this, I always felt an affinity for all things Polish.”

Monaghan met the new saint for the first time on May 7, 1987. At the time, Monaghan was in Venice, Italy, for an international meeting of YPO — the Young Presidents’ Organization.

Cardinal Edmund Szoka, then-archbishop of Detroit, asked Monaghan if he wanted to attend a private Mass with the Pope, so he made the hop from Venice to Rome.

“During Mass, I received the Host directly on my tongue from Pope John Paul II, and he stood 12 inches away from me,” Monaghan said. “His eyes looked into my eyes. I will never forget that moment.”

After Mass, the 30 people who had attended Mass went to the papal library. The Pope greeted each person, spoke to them and gave them a rosary. About 45 minutes later, Monaghan got the inspiration to create Legatus based on the YPO model.

Holy encounters

Nancy Gunderson (in white, beside the Pope) places her hand on St. John Paul II’s hand, while Lynn and Michael Joseph (directly behind the Pope’s chair) look on.

Nancy Gunderson (in white, beside the Pope) places her hand on St. John Paul II’s hand, while Lynn and Michael Joseph (directly behind the Pope’s chair) look on.

Bob and Nancy Gunderson, members of Legatus’ Milwaukee Chapter, went on a Legatus pilgrimage in 1999. During a Wednesday general audience in St. Peter’s Square on Oct. 6, the Legatus group was brought forward for a photo with the Pope. Nancy was placed right next to the Holy Father.

“I knelt down to be at his level,” she said. “His arm was on the arm rest and I grabbed his arm.”

When he looked up at Nancy, she told him that everyone in Milwaukee was praying for him and that they all loved him. He smiled at her.

“It was such a thrill to be in the presence of someone you knew to be a saint,” she said.

Mike and Lynne Joseph, members of the Orange County Chapter, were standing right behind John Paul that day. Lynne reached out and put her hand on the Pope’s shoulder.

“It was a thrill just getting close enough to him to be able to pat him on the shoulder as he sat in his chair under a canopy looking out at the throngs of worshippers who filled St. Peter’s Square,” Mike said. “John Paul’s health was definitely in decline at this point. He didn’t say very much, but being in his presence was a very moving experience.”

Fr. Joseph Cocucci holds hands with St. John Paul II in 1983

Fr. Joseph Cocucci holds hands with St. John Paul II in 1983

Father Joe Cocucci, assistant chaplain for Legatus’ Wilmington Chapter, met John Paul as a young priest in 1983 during a general audience in St. Peter’s Square. When the Holy Father came down to shake hands, security called the young priest forward.

“I grabbed my friend Dr. Henry Bender, and we moved to the front row,” Fr. Cocucci explained. “When the Pope got to me, I got nervous and began to speak in Italian.”

His friend Henry and his wife had foster children back in the U.S., including a little girl with developmental problems named Sara. Doctors were having a hard time helping her.

“When the Pope got to Henry, he asked him to please pray for ‘my daughter Sara.’ The Pope replied slowly, ‘I will pray for Sara,’” Fr. Cocucci said.

Over the next year, Sara’s condition inexplicably improved — astounding all doctors. “We attributed her improvement to Pope John Paul II’s prayers,” said Fr. Cocucci.

The name of Jesus

Prominent author and speaker Ralph Martin, president of Renewal Ministries and a member of Legatus’ Ann Arbor Chapter, met John Paul half a dozen times. In the late 1970s, Martin spent an evening with the Holy Father at the invitation of Brussels Cardinal Leo Suenens. The conversation revolved around renewal in the Church, Martin explained. The Pope asked each of those present to share their testimony.

St. John Paul II embraces Legate Ralph Martin in May 1981

St. John Paul II embraces Legate Ralph Martin in May 1981

“Then, at the end, he gave his testimony, saying that when he was a little boy, his father asked him to pray to the Holy Spirit every single day and ask God for guidance,” Martin explained. “He said he had been praying to the Holy Spirit every day just like his father taught him.”

Another profound meeting came in 1994. Martin had an audience with the Pope and presented him with his new book, The Catholic Church at the End of an Age: What is the Spirit Saying?

“When I gave it to him, he said, ‘I read it already,’” Martin said. “I almost fell over at that point, and then he said, ‘Ralph what is the Spirit saying to the Church?’

“I knew he didn’t want the whole 300-page answer, so I said, ‘Holy Father, I think what the Spirit is mainly saying to the Church is Jesus.’ And then the Holy Father took my hand and he said, ‘Jesus.’ I said, ‘Jesus,’ and he said, ‘Jesus.’ We just stood there for a couple of minutes saying the name of Jesus together, and it was just a moment of profound communion in the Lord.”

Doctor to a saint

Dr. Vincent Fortanasce, a member of Legatus’ San Juan Capistrano Chapter, went to Rome in August 2000 to volunteer as a doctor with the Knights of Malta. During one of the general audiences, he noticed how bad John Paul’s health was. As a neurologist, he wondered if the Pope’s Parkinson’s disease was being treated correctly and voiced this concern to a friend, Monsignor Vittorio Formenti.

Dr. Vince Fortanasce poses with a portrait of St. John Paul II in his office in Arcadia, Calif.

Dr. Vince Fortanasce poses with a portrait of St. John Paul II in his office in Arcadia, Calif.

The next day, a group of Swiss Guards found  Fortanasce at a clinic near the Vatican and asked him to follow them. Within minutes, he was introduced to John Paul’s doctors.

“We spoke for half an hour and went over the Pope’s X-rays and medications,” Fortanasce said. “As I was walking out the door, I was motioned to go up a corridor. I walked into a room and found Pope John Paul II sitting by the window, reading a book.”

John Paul asked Fortanasce about his mission. The Legate told him that his life’s mission was to defend life — stopping things like human cloning and embryonic stem-cell research.

“The Pope told me that the real problem was that man believes he is God, and that man is afraid of death because he didn’t have God,” said Fortanasce. “And so people want to do everything possible to postpone death, even at the cost of taking another person’s life.”

John Paul told Fortanasce not to give up and not to expect people to listen.

Fortanasce ended up recommending another medication and an appropriate exercise regimen. The Vatican “paid” him by sending him holy water blessed by the Pope.

All of these Legates said they knew Pope John Paul II would be canonized one day.

“He was my No. 1 hero in the world,” said Monaghan. “He had a presence. He was a man’s man, an intellect and an actor.”

SABRINA ARENA FERRISI is Legatus magazine’s senior staff writer.