Tag Archives: pandemic

From probation officer to priest, chaplain was ‘a late vocation’

MONSIGNOR ROBERT JAEGER OF COLORADO SPRINGS MEETS MINISTRY CHALLENGES DURING PANDEMIC

When Monsignor Robert Jaeger is not at St. Paul Church in Colorado Springs, CO, where he is pastor, he can be found downtown in the chancery as vicar general for the Diocese of Colorado Springs.

Monsignor Jaeger, 69, has also been chaplain of the Colorado Springs Chapter, sponsor for Legatus Summit West next month, since it chartered 10 years ago. He recently spoke with Legatus magazine.

How is the Colorado Springs Chapter doing?

We’re in pretty good shape. We’ve maintained consistent membership. We have a good community of people to be with, from all walks of life, from different businesses and lines of work. The thing we share in common is our Catholic faith, with the members living it out in their own lives and in their own businesses.

How has the coronavirus pandemic impacted the chapter?

We weren’t able to meet for a couple of months. The coronavirus curtailed some of our socializing. Normally in July, we do a picnic of some sort or go somewhere for a social engagement. We have one planned now at a local country club with big rooms where food will be catered and everyone will be at a safe distance from one another.

We had our last meeting at St. Paul’s, in the parish hall. We scattered the tables around, each at a safe distance, and had a meal catered. We had our speaker via Zoom. It all worked out pretty well. There were 34 people in the room, and we had Mass and Confession beforehand. We also had about 10 members watching via Skype.

How has the pandemic affected your role as a pastor?

Since the beginning of the pandemic, I’ve said Mass every day. We stream it online so people can watch live at home and later when they want. We called everyone in the parish at least once a month to check in with them, and I do other taped messages on a regular basis to keep some kind of contact on a regular basis with everybody. I think that’s important to bring some stability and confidence, to let people know the Church is still here for them.

What’s one thing people are surprised to learn about you?

I’m a late vocation. I was ordained when I was 39. I worked in parole and probation in Illinois for five years and then I did the same thing in Las Vegas for 10 years. I enjoyed the work, and I enjoyed the people I worked with. Basically, you’re a social worker in that role, sometimes a babysitter. Everybody needs somebody to talk to, sometimes a shoulder to cry on.

How did you transition from probation officer to priest?

My older brother is a priest. He went to the seminary right out of high school, and I had given it some thought many other times. I dabbled in seminary two or three previous times, but it didn’t take then. But I kept close to the Church. I had priest-friends, and I was close to the bishop, who urged me to pursue a vocation. After 10 years in Las Vegas, I decided I should really take a look at the priesthood. If you feel the Lord calls you, you need to give it an honest shot.

Is there anything else you’d like to emphasize to Legates?

Our basic premise is to be ambassadors for Christ. Are you witnessing Christ in your family, in your place of business, and everywhere else, so that the faith is fully connected and integrated into your whole life wherever you are?

5 plague saints who spared nothing

By early July, the coronavirus pandemic claimed more than 507,000 people worldwide, with almost a quarter of the global fatalities occurring in the United States, where more than 125,000 people had died since February.

Pandemics are nothing new; humanity has been ravaged by them throughout history. In Christian Europe, the clergy, religious, and laity often responded to pandemic outbreaks with heartfelt prayer and acts of penance.

Five canonized saints are spotlighted here for their care of the sick and dying during plague times, at the risk of their own lives. Their responses, rooted in Jesus’ commands to care ‘for the least of these,’ show how they were willing to lay down their lives for their neighbors.

St. Charles Borromeo

Milan cardinal perdured with his stricken, abandoned flock

In 1576, St. Charles Borromeo (1538-1584), a leading figure of the Counter-Reformation, was serving as cardinal- archbishop of Milan when famine, and later a plague broke out.

In stunning similarity to recent events, the city’s economy collapsed and health conditions deteriorated; the local governor and many nobility even fled Milan. But not Archbishop Borromeo, who stayed behind to care for the affected and minister to the dying.

“I have sought outside priests, and not in vain, but we need still more,” Archbishop Borromeo said in a sermon wherein he asked for assistance from the religious superiors of monasteries and religious congregations in his diocese.

With civic officials abandoning their posts, Borromeo issued critical guidelines to control the plague’s outbreak and organized makeshift hospitals. He donated his clothes and tapestries, and spent his own money, even going into debt, to feed as many as 70,000 people daily.

The saintly archbishop also organized processions. Though he shuttered churches to prevent the plague from spreading in enclosed spaces, Borromeo ordered outdoor altar spaces to be built outside each church or chapel for the faithful’s spiritual needs.

Having never contracted the plague, the archbishop credited his good health to fasting and prayer. In his sermon to religious superiors, Archbishop Borromeo vowed to care for any of them if they became ill.

He was canonized in 1610.

St. Virginia Centurione Bracelli

Widowed mother created hospital refuges for sick, underprivileged, and destitute

A widow and mother of two young children by the time she was 20, St. Virginia Centurione Bracelli (1587-1651) spent most of her adult life doing charitable works and assisting the poor, sick, elderly, and abandoned in Genoa.

When her mother-in-law died in 1625, Virginia turned her home into a refuge for the poor, founding the Cento Signore della Misericordia Protettrici dei Poveri di Gesù Cristo (The Hundred Ladies of Mercy, Protectors of the Poor of Jesus Christ).

The house was overrun when plague and famine struck Genoa in 1629. To house the sick, Virginia rented the vacant convent of Monte Calvario and had extra housing constructed. By 1635, Virginia was caring for 300 patients. The local government officially recognized her institution as a hospital.

Virginia cared for the spiritual and temporal needs of the women in her houses, teaching them religion and how to earn a living. She had a church built in honor of Our Lady of Refuge, where the women who worked with her formed two congregations: the Sisters of Our Lady of Refuge in Mount Calvary, and the Daughters of Our Lady on Mount Calvary

Though the plague in Genoa eventually ended, Virginia’s hospital continued caring for the sick. Virginia devoted her later years to serving the poor, mediating peace between noble families and working to reconcile civic and ecclesial authorities.

The most well-known quote attributed to Virginia is: “When God is the only goal, all disagreements are smoothed out, all difficulties overcome.” She was canonized in 2003. Her remains are still mostly incorrupt.

St. Jose Brochero

20th-century Argentinian priest befriended lepers, became one

Affectionately known during his lifetime as “the Gaucho priest” and the “cowboy priest,” St. Jose Gabriel del Rosario Brochero (1840- 1914) could often be found riding through Argentina on a donkey, with a poncho over his shoulders, a sombrero, and a cigar in his mouth.

Father Jose, who traveled long distances in Argentina to serve the spiritual needs of his flock with his Mass kit, prayer book, and an image of the Blessed Virgin Mary, was well-known for his motto: “Woe if the Devil is going to rob a soul from me.”

He was particularly devoted to the poor and sick people of his huge parish. He cared for the ill during a cholera epidemic in 1867. He befriended a parishioner with leprosy, an affliction that Father Jose would himself contract.

The leprosy eventually caused Father Jose to lose his sight and hearing in later years, and forced him to relinquish pastoral duties. He spent his last three frail years living with his sisters in Cordoba.

Before taking his last breath on Jan. 26, 1914, Father Jose’s last words were, “Now I have everything ready for the journey.”

A few days after his death, a Catholic newspaper in Cordoba wrote: “It is known that Father Brochero contracted the sickness that took him to his tomb, because he visited at length and embraced an abandoned leper of the area.” He was canonized in 2016. 

St. Sebastian

3rd-Century Roman army captain’s intercession still sought during plagues

The common image many have of St. Sebastian (AD 256 – 288) is of a young man tied to a post or tree, his body “full of arrows as an urchin” for his fidelity to Christ. 

According to tradition, Sebastian was born in Gaul, went to Rome, and joined the army of the emperor Marcus Aurelius Carinus. An excellent soldier, he became an army captain and a member of the Praetorian Guard to protect the emperor Diocletian, who was persecuting Christians. 

It is said that Sebastian, a Christian, joined the Roman army to protect Christians from the emperor’s persecutions. However, Diocletian ordered Sebastian to be executed after learning he was a Christian who had converted Roman soldiers. 

Tradition says Sebastian survived being shot with arrows and nursed back to health, only to later be clubbed to death upon returning to Diocletian and chastising him.

 In medieval Europe, Sebastian’s intercession was often sought during outbreaks of the plague. The image of the martyr shot with arrows, and surviving, may have been seen as a symbolic Christian response to the pagan deity Apollo, the archer-god who sometimes shot his enemies with plague-infested arrows.

In 680 AD, Sebastian was credited with defending Rome from a pestilence. As a patron of soldiers whose intercession was sought during plagues, Sebastian was a popular saint during the Middle Ages, and a favorite subject for Late Gothic and Renaissance artists. He is buried along the Appian Way in Rome.

St. Roch

Divested riches and adopted poverty, to be Christ-presence to poor and sick

Saint Roch (1295 – 1327) was a Third Order Franciscan who, having lost both parents when he was 20, inherited a sizeable fortune. But he chose to divest of his worldly possessions when he visited Italy as a mendicant pilgrim in the early 14th century.

During his Italian journey, a plague struck the northern Italian town of Acquapendente. Roch did not hurry away to preserve his life as others did, but offered himself in the service of his brethren in Christ. He tended to the sick in several hospitals throughout Italy, curing many people with the sign of the cross and the touch of his hand.

In Rome, according to tradition, he healed a cardinal by blessing the prelate’s forehead; the sign of the cross miraculously remained.

Roch was ministering to plague victims in Piacenza when he himself finally fell ill. He was expelled from the Italian town and sought refuge in the woods, where he recovered and is said to have performed several miraculous healings.

Upon returning to his French homeland, he was thrown into prison, where he spent five years. As he lay dying there, a tablet appeared upon the wall on which an angelic hand wrote in golden letters the name of Roch, and the prediction that all who invoke his intercession would be delivered from the plague.

Shortly after his death, miracles were reported through his intercession. He is still invoked against plague. He was later canonized by Pope Urban VIII.

BRIAN FRAGA is a Legatus magazine staff writer.

To honor those in uniform, vote for principles they defend

“God is our refuge and our strength, an ever-present help in distress. Thus we do not fear, though earth be shaken and mountains quake to the depths of the sea” (Ps. 46:2).

The year 2020 has brought many opportunities to say this prayer, whether because of the chaos caused by a pandemic or the deliberate actions of those who want to destabilize our way of life through riots they tried to justify by hijacking a man’s tragic death.

Fr. Frank Pavone

God is our help, and he sends help in leaders who acknowledge His Word, and in servants who give themselves to protect His people.

While most of us took unprecedented steps to keep our distance from others, first responders and health care professionals put themselves on the front lines, going directly to those who needed their help. In the midst of riots, police braved physical danger and insults to keep us safe.

As we were living through all this, American astronauts went into space from American soil, using American equipment, for the first time in years, to continue to exert the unquenchable human spirit of discovery and conquest.

And our president continued to strengthen and expand our military, keeping its focus not on endless wars in other countries but on protecting our own. He called on governors and mayors to do their utmost to protect people from a novel virus and from violent mobs. He also defended our constitutional liberties in the face of various Democratic governors who went too far in suspending the exercise of basic freedoms — including freedom of religion — during the pandemic.

This kind of leadership manifests a balance central to Catholic social teaching: the need for law and order, one that does not dominate but rather stimulates human freedom and advancement, faith, and family.

Two gestures of President Trump in the midst of this should have the attention and gratitude of every believer.

Undeterred by the threats of violent mobs, he walked to St. John’s Episcopal Church, across the street from the White House, and held up the Word of God for all to see. The historic church was boarded up after rioters set fires there the day before, in an act that made even many on the Left incredulous.

Holding that Bible summed up all he has done, through his executive authority, to protect our freedom to believe, teach, preach, and live our faith.

He likewise made a previously scheduled visit to the Shrine of Pope John Paul II in Washington, honoring that great advocate of life and religious liberty, and signing an executive order further protecting that fundamental right.

The Founders of our great nation understood that unless we and our elected leaders acknowledged God’s law above all, our efforts to craft human laws that are just would fail. They knew that unless the people were guided by religion and morality, their attempt to govern themselves would also fail.

We have reached a moment of historic significance. It’s time to honor all those in uniform – many uniforms – that embody the kind of self-sacrificing service at the heart of the Gospel and the pro-life message.

And it’s time to exercise our citizenship in an unprecedented way, as informed and active voters in this year’s elections, influencing as many other voters as we can. The Lord calls us to recognize that politics can indeed serve the vision the Gospel lays out for us: a people taking refuge in God while sacrificing themselves to protect the vulnerable; a people using all the tools a strong nation provides to protect all the rights and liberties our human dignity already possesses.

FATHER FRANK PAVONE is national director of Priests for Life and worldwide pastoral director of Rachel’s Vineyard and Silent No More.

Heroic leadership in a time of crisis

Guided by faith and experience, Legates prioritize taking care of business and people amid a languishing pandemic.

Crises are times for heroes, and during the COVID-19 pandemic it is often requiring heroic leadership on the part of executives to keep their businesses afloat and their employees secure while continuing to serve the public good.

Manny Montanez, Dr. Rudolph “Rudy” Moise, and Tony Sarsam are three Legates who have responded with judicious courage. Montanez and Moise drew in part from their military experience, while Sarsam continued to revitalize a company that was struggling financially even before the coronavirus struck.

Here are their stories.

COMBAT READY

Manny Montanez told his story of faith and combat in the July 2015 issue of Legatus Magazine, from his devout upbringing to the serious leg injuries he suffered in the Vietnam War courtesy of a strike from a rocket-propelled grenade.

“My faith has always been a major part of my life,” said the Orange Coast Legate and former Legatus West regional director. “Sometimes I’d wander, but I was always rooted in my faith.”

His war injuries left him with grim reminders in the form of constant pain and a limp these past 51 years. But his ability to work and succeed despite difficulties no doubt empowered him to handle unanticipated obstacles to running a business — like in a pandemic. 

As CEO and president of his Irvine, California-based general contracting business, EG Montanez Construction, Inc., Montanez made some timely adjustments to keep his projects progressing while safeguarding the well-being of his employees.

There was initial disruption, as they were nearing the final stages of a project in San Bernardino and anticipating a new project in Los Angeles. The San Bernardino project continued with some tweaks to the timetable, while the Los Angeles job was delayed due to directives from the mayor’s office. “In the construction business, schedules are critical and sometimes difficult to balance,” said Montanez, “but in this instance, everyone was affected and understanding of the need to reassess.”

The key to working through the pandemic, he said, is to communicate well and to ensure that “everyone involved, directly and indirectly, is well versed and on the same page as it relates to the project, personnel, and communities where we have exposure.”

That’s where faith and war experience kick in.

“As a combat-wounded veteran, my first instinct is to stress how this pandemic is affecting everyone, and give peace of mind to all our staff and their families that we will be all right, God willing,” Montanez said.

Employees experienced the expected uncertainties — about their own health and that of their families, as well as job security. But with communication and understanding, Montanez believes everyone has risen to the occasion.

“You realize early on when you hire, work, and interact with someone their level of maturity and calmness during challenging times,” he said. “As a seasoned CEO, you always want to be prepared … [It’s] a challenging time personally, emotionally, and professionally for all, but there is no time for ‘woe be me’ attitudes.”

Instead, Montanez emphasizes that “we are all there for each other.”

The guiding principles of his company are faith, family, community, and career. The fact career comes last “doesn’t imply we don’t work hard, but it is to remind us what is most important,” he said.

And faith is at the top of the list

“I make sure early on in any business and working relationship, that I am grounded in my faith and a true believer. Every day is a gift,” Montanez said. “I call it ‘Faith Under Fire’ — stay calm, and pray earnestly.”

EASING PANDEMIC PAIN

Dr. Rudy Moise, an osteopathic physician who specializes in general practice and pain management, is president of Comprehensive Health Center, a full-service primary care practice in North Miami, Florida. With a prepandemic load of 100 patients a day, decisive steps had to be taken for the safety of both patients and staff.

“To avoid our 45 employees, and patients, from being infected, we are starting to use telemedicine, contacting our patients via video call,” said Moise, a Miami Legate. “For the walk-in patients, we screen them outside, checking their temperatures to see if they have any symptoms. If they do and they are stable, we send them home for 14 days. If unstable, we refer them to the local hospitals.”

That protocol was preceded by in-house meetings to educate staff about COVID-19 and establish safety rules including full-body protection. After Florida’s governor issued a stay-at-home order, daily patient flow dropped to the single digits, and some employees feared they might lose their jobs. “But I kept every single employee, though it was very challenging for the company,” Moise said. “With a lot of prayers, we survived, and all employees were extremely grateful.”

His experience as a U.S. Air Force flight surgeon gave Moise plenty of crisis training — including the investigation of the crash of a fighter jet, which required collecting the pilot’s remains and breaking the news to his family. He also received extensive training for dealing with mass casualties with chemical or biological warfare. “I utilized some of this knowledge for my own office as well as for giving advice to community organizations,” he said.

 As a Haitian American, he also was part of a panel of physicians and bioscientists that advised the Haitian government on how best to prepare for the pandemic before it struck their nation.

 And in a generous outreach to the local community, Moise used his professional connections to donate 12,000 N-95 respirators to Miami’s Jackson Memorial Hospital, 1,500 to Miami Dade Ambulance, and 2,000 to the Orange County Fire Department in Orlando.

 PEOPLE FIRST

 When Tony Sarsam took over as CEO in March 2018, Borden Dairy was staggering in debt, largely due to the lingering impact of aggressive acquisitions made three decades before. Already sporting an impressive track record as a C-suite executive in the food industry, he set to work rebuilding the Borden brand and business, from renegotiating with lenders to giving a face-lift to the iconic “Elsie the Cow” logo.

But with raw milk prices rising and thousands of dairy farms going out of business, the Dallas-based company filed for debt reorganization under Chapter 11 bankruptcy in January 2020.

Then along came COVID-19 and the lockdown.

“The pandemic brought an immediate and serious threat to Borden,” said Sarsam, a Dallas Legate. “In addition to the concern for ensuring the safety of our 3,300 team members, we instantly lost most of our school and restaurant business, which is one-third of our revenue.”

Sarsam favors a “people first” management style, so it was natural that he’d take care of his Borden family first. “Once we were satisfied that we had a plan to keep our employees as safe as possible, we were faced with adjusting our business to meet the realities of this incremental profit loss,” he explained.

 Furloughs were issued only to those who lost all their work, such as school-route delivery drivers — around 100 workers. Others were invited to volunteer for time off, and a “significant number” accepted that option.

Then came adjustments to manufacturing schedules to match reduced product demand. “When we presented the idea of adjusting factory schedules to our employees, they readily understood the need and flexed to accommodate,” Sarsam said. “I believe the work we did to communicate openly and Tony Sarsam honestly with our team went a long way toward ensuring a quick transition to this ‘new normal.’”

It was a leap of faith. The pandemic was going to force Borden Dairy to burn cash even in the midst of bankruptcy. “We simply had to have faith that the other side of ‘new normal’ would come in time to right the ship,” said Sarsam. 

On the bright side, as a food producer, Borden Dairy is considered an essential business and could remain open without interruption. But it was something more than that. 

“The Borden team, like most in the food industry, saw its work as a matter of vocation — to keep America fed,” Sarsam said. “We are proud of the fact that we never missed a beat during this difficult time.” 

The company still needed saving, however. Sarsam sought a merger with Dean Foods, a rival that also was going through bankruptcy, but Dean was bought by another interest. Then Sarsam and Borden found a lifeline: a major contract with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to provide 700 million servings of milk over 30 weeks to nonprofits throughout much of the nation. 

“When the USDA program was announced, we saw this as a great opportunity,” he said. “Our team went right to work on the extensive application process.” Borden’s contract was the largest of any dairy, he added. 

Following the sale of Borden Dairy in a June bankruptcy auction, the company enters its next phase of recovery — but you can bet Sarsam will continue to let faith be his guide.

“My faith provides critical foundational principles that inform the way I lead at work and have allowed me to ‘act on instinct’ during this two-fold crisis,” he said. “I believe it has made a big difference.”

GERALD KORSON is a Legatus magazine editorial consultant.


A servant’s heart

Borden Dairy CEO Tony Sarsam summarizes his guiding faith principles for leading his company:

Love your neighbor as yourself.
How would I want to be treated in this crisis? My concerns and fears are not much different than those I serve. 

Jesus is the ultimate model of servant leadership.
My role as a leader is to perfect my service to the organization — and to model the “servant’s heart” I expect from others.

Speak truth.
I try to communicate directly, openly, and acknowledge my mistakes and ignorance. It is often a challenge to remain ever-charitable, but that choice has never let me down. Expressing positive expectations.

Seek to do more.
We gave instruction to our team to not only provide flawless service to our customers, but to look for more opportunities to serve in the community.

Doctor offers thoughts from the bedside amid the pandemic

As an infectious disease doctor who specializes in HIV, I never imagined that my entire medical world would be turned upside down. Due to the coincidence of being on call the last week of February, I took care of the first patient in our state with pneumonia caused by SARS-CoV-2. During the next eight weeks, standard medical care came to a halt as our entire group focused on caring for patients admitted to the hospital with COVID-19 pneumonia. (Note: The novel coronavirus is named SARS-CoV-2, while COVID-19 refers to the disease the novel coronavirus causes.)

For our patients, the key to good medical care depended on the extraordinary dedication of our nurses. They suffered the same shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) as the doctors, but they went in to provide care at the bedside day in and day out. The care they provided was heroic. I’ve told many of my colleagues that I thought heaven would be full of nurses, and they “might” let the occasional doctor in as well.

We’ve learned a tremendous amount in the last few months. We did make mistakes early on. Initial guidelines recommended early intubation with the use of a ventilator until clinicians observed that patients did very well with very high flow supplemental oxygen and thereby often could avoid intubation. Randomized trials now indicate that the use of the antiviral medication Remdesivir and the use of anti-inflammatory steroids can be beneficial.

The most painful aspect of this epidemic has been that patients and those that are most vulnerable are forced to be alone. Families cannot sit with their loved ones in the hospital; chaplains often have very limited access; our elderly in our nursing homes are often deprived of family visits. As Christians, we are first and foremost a people of hope because Jesus is the light that overcame the darkness, Who conquered death and never leaves us alone. But it is easy for us to forget. By calling on the name of Jesus and by praying with our patients, we can rekindle that hope. There is no contradiction inherent in being both a doctor and a deacon. Both allow us to participate in the healing power of grace.

Anxiety and outright fear is a commonality in the midst of any new epidemic, whether it’s HIV in the 1980s, Ebola in West Africa, or this global pandemic. Caution and prudence is always warranted. But above and beyond that, anxiety and fear should be acknowledged, and we need to support one another as we venture into the unknown. Finger pointing, “blame-gaming,” and politicization of this epidemic is understandable, but often it is more destructive than constructive.

Poorer communities where many families often live closely together (without back yards) are being hit much harder. Many of our churches and inner-city Catholic schools that were struggling in the best of times will not be able to stay open without our help. Instead of retreating into our “safe bubble,” we need to reach out and offer assistance. Kindness and mutual support in the midst of this challenge is what we need.

DEACON TIMOTHY FLANIGAN, M.D., Boston Chapter Legate, is professor of medicine and infectious diseases at the Alpert Medical School of Brown University in Providence, RI. He also is a permanent deacon in the parishes of St. Theresa and St. Christopher in Tiverton, RI.

Pushing through today’s ‘red-light-green-light’ business jam

Business was great. The economy was humming. Sales were at all-time highs. Then the pandemic hit.

“Our business pretty much dropped 80 percent across the board,” said Dave Anderson, president of Brand RPM, a Charlotte-based company that produces apparel and merchandise for corporations and athletic teams. 

In late March, most of the nation’s governors issued stay-at-home orders, and mandated all businesses deemed “nonessential” to shut down in an attempt to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, which by early June had already killed more than 110,000 Americans.

The shutdowns and social-distancing protocols arguably saved lives and prevented numerous hospital intensive care units from being overrun with COVID-19 patients. But those measures have come at a steep cost. 

More than 21 million people in the United States were still out of work in early June. The national unemployment rose to about 13 percent by late May, a figure not seen since the Great Depression of the 1930s. The country has been officially in recession – since February – and businesses are struggling. Some may not recover.

While weathering the economic storm, some business leaders have deftly adapted their companies to the new reality, repositioning their organizations for growth and charting new paths for a post-pandemic future. Legatus magazine spoke with two Legates who lead companies, one small and one large, to see how the pandemic has changed those businesses, both in the short-term and over the long haul.

Furloughs, pay cuts, new offerings

 Anderson, the president of Legatus’ Charlotte Chapter, said the first three months of 2020 were “the biggest months” ever for his company of 110 full-time staff employees. But as the pandemic hit the United States in earnest, Anderson knew he had to act quickly.

 “The first thing we did was furlough 10 percent of our staff,” said Anderson, who added that everyone else in the company took a 50-percent pay cut. Those moves helped to prevent layoffs.

 Anderson and his team also examined their cash flow and consulted computer models to see what they could expect with the virus-ravaged economy over the next six to nine months.

 “As a small business, if you don’t have cash, you’re out of business,” Anderson said.

 Brand RPM pivoted from its core apparel and branded merchandise business to becoming a large provider of personal protective equipment – face coverings, hand sanitizers, gloves, and disinfectant wipes – to companies such as Lowe’s, which purchased two million masks in April.

 “Funny enough, we had our largest revenue month in our company’s entire 12-year history in April,” Anderson said. “And probably 90 percent of it, I never touched; I just droppedshipped masks from the suppliers to the customers.” 

Anderson said Brand RPM is looking to be a reliable source of “PPE” for companies as they reopen across the country amid their states’ loosening restrictions. Anderson expects the demand for masks, hand sanitizers, and gloves to be steady over the next year to 18 months.

 “We think our overall numbers for the second half of the year won’t be what they were in the past, but we hope that with the pivot to PPE, it’ll help us make up some of the lost ground,” said Anderson, who has already started to bring back some of the furloughed staff employees full time.

 Working from home … works

 One lasting effect that Anderson expects the pandemic to have will be more companies such as Brand RPM encouraging their employees to work from home.

“We were already doing teleconferencing and videoconferencing,” Anderson said. “I think that will be a more common theme moving forward as more companies see that working from home really works.”

By mid-October, Anderson hopes his company will have regained its equilibrium, though he added that “everything is a moving target.”

In the meantime, he has found a valuable resource in his fellow Legates and other CEOs with whom he can bounce off ideas and ask questions. 

“We’re all in this together,” Anderson said.

 From millions monthly, to zero

Pat Molyneaux grew his fourth-generation family flooring business, Molyneaux, into a thriving enterprise with 12 locations in Pennsylvania. But within a week of his state shutting down from coronavirus, Molyneaux suddenly had to lay off 95 percent of his employees.

“We went from making close to $2 million a month in revenue to zero,” said Molyneaux, a founding member of Legatus’ Pittsburgh Chapter.

“We grew this business in my 30 years here… and overnight it’s taken away,” Molyneaux said.

But that reality sparked a conversion of sorts as Molyneaux began to see that he had made the family business into an idol. Having a strong balance sheet and a successful enterprise had become the most important things in his life.

 For Molyneaux, that epiphany cast the first ten verses of 2 Corinthians 12 into sharper focus. In those verses, St. Paul speaks of being given a thorn in the flesh to keep him humble, and how God’s power is made perfect in someone’s weaknesses.

 “For a co-owner and member of the executive team, that is the verse for these times,” Molyneaux said. “Whether it’s as a pastor, a bishop, or whether it’s as a C-level executive, how can we become both strong and weak?”

 Molyneaux identifies strength as having the capacity for meaningful impact, and weakness as vulnerability.

 Grace makes business stronger

“After I repented and hit that point of deeper conversion,” Molyneaux said, “I feel like the Lord was opening my mind and giving me the grace of more creativity around what we needed to do to use this opportunity to make the business stronger. I feel like that was a grace.” 

Molyneaux said his company has started to change its primary business model from showrooms in brick-and mortar buildings to a “shop from home” approach where a design consultant visits the customer at home. 

“That’s the way the industry is going. People want that convenience. Most of our shopat-home appointments are through the roof this month,” said Molyneaux, who added that in-store appointments were already on the decline but that the pandemic accelerated that trend. 

Molyneaux said this year also provided an opportunity for his company to move into kitchen remodeling. Those changes may not have been possible before quarantines and social distancing forced him to reexamine his approach to business.

“As human beings, idol worship is a real temptation,” Molyneaux said. “I think often our businesses, what we accumulate through our businesses, can become idols. The rhythms and processes of work can become idols. This gave us a chance to expose those idols.”

 BRIAN FRAGA is a Legatus magazine staff writer.

Nod to pandemic advances modern Christian persecution

On May 8, 2020, a document titled Appeal for the Church and the World: to Catholics and all people of good will was published [which this author signed]. Its initial signatories included, among others, three cardinals, nine bishops, 11 doctors, 22 journalists, and 13 lawyers. It is astonishing to see how representatives of the ecclesiastical as well as political and media establishment have, in obeisance to the prevailing uniform thinking, unanimously sought to discredit the concerns expressed in the Appeal and squelch any further discussion with the “knock-out argument” that it is mere “conspiracy theory.” I remember a similar form of reaction and language under the Soviet dictatorship, when dissenters and critics of the prevailing ideology and politics were accused of being complicit in the “conspiracy theory” disseminated by the capitalist West.

The critics of the Appeal refuse to consider the evidence, such as the official mortality rate (for the same time period) of the 2017–2018 flu season, as compared with the current COVID-19 epidemic in Germany. The mortality rate of the latter is much lower. There are countries with moderate coronavirus security and prevention measures that, due to their implementation, do not have a higher mortality rate. If the mere acknowledgment of the facts, and discussion about them, is labeled as “conspiracy theory,” then anyone who still thinks independently has good reason to be concerned about the possibility that subtle forms of dictatorship exist in our society. As is well known, eliminating or discrediting societal debate and dissenting voices is a chief characteristic of a totalitarian regime, whose main weapon against dissidents are not factual arguments, but rather demagogic and popular rhetoric. Only dictatorships fear objective debate when there are differing opinions.

The Appeal does not deny the existence of an epidemic and the need to fight it. However, some of the security and prevention measures involve imposing forms of complete surveillance over people. Under the pretext of an epidemic, such measures violate fundamental civil liberties and the democratic order of the State. Proposals regarding compulsory vaccination, with no alternative to the state-approved vaccine, and which would inevitably restrict personal liberties, are also very dangerous. Such measures and proposals are accustoming citizens to forms of technocratic and centrally directed tyranny — and civic courage, independent thinking, and, above all, any resistance, are being severely paralyzed.

One aspect of the security and prevention measures that have been similarly implemented in almost all countries is the drastic ban on public worship. Such bans have existed only in times of systematic Christian persecution. The absolute novelty, however, is that in some places, State authorities are even prescribing liturgical norms to the Church, such as the manner of distributing Holy Communion. This is a clear interference in matters that pertain to the immediate authority of the Church. History will one day lament the “regime-clerics” of our time who subserviently accepted such interference by the State. History has always lamented that, in times of great crisis, the majority remained silent, and dissenting voices were stifled. Therefore, the Appeal for the Church and the World should at least be given a fair chance to initiate an honest debate, without fear of social and moral reprisals, as befits a democratic society

May 13, 2020 + Athanasius Schneider, auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Saint Mary in Astana, Kazakhstan This piece, written by Bishop Athanasius Schneider, appeared originally in the German Catholic newspaper Die Tagespost in May 2020.

When summer vacation begins in March

For Legate Kevin Kelly, Ohio’s recent coronavirus stay-at-home orders were less of an imposition and more of a joy.

Two of his eight children came home from college, joining two of their younger siblings, and overall, Kelly said, everyone liked having extra “hang-out” time. They watched movies, prayed the rosary together and on Sundays, gathered in one spot for a live-streamed Mass, something Kelly seized as an opportunity to talk about the Mass and its meaning in their lives.

Although state-enforced sheltering-in orders have been stressful for many households, for families whose lives are informed by the Catholic faith, increased togetherness has often been more blessing than blight.

Some enjoy, others not so much. “It feels a little awkward saying it, but we’ve actually enjoyed it,” said Dr. Christopher Stroud, a Legate whose household includes his mother and mother-in-law plus five children between 11 and 22. “It’s been like an extended spring break or extended Christmas vacation.” During the shutdown, they selected movies for everyone to view, played board games, and had long discussions, discovering a greater sense of closeness, interdependency, and solidarity.

Still, not everyone shares that experience. Higher rates of some kinds of domestic violence, child abuse, and suicide were reported amid the sheltering-in restrictions, according to Dr. Susan Hatters Friedman, a professor of forensic psychiatry at Case Western Reserve University, writing in the New York Daily News. In addition, a FoxBusiness report said attorneys were seeing an increase in divorce inquiries with one lawyer predicting the quarantines could hasten divorces for marriages on the brink.

Greg Schlueter, who leads a family-focused ministry known as Mass Impact, said even among Catholic parents, social media postings indicated that not all took delight in having more time with their children. For him, that revealed a crisis at the heart of the crisis. “Too many of us ‘good Catholic parents’ have delegated our unsurpassed, irreplaceable appointing and anointing. Too many of us are languishing without knowing and embracing God’s vision for our marriages, families, and homes.”

Reorienting responsibility. Schlueter, a father of six, has tried looking upon the coronavirus restrictions as an occasion for families to more fully recognize and rely upon Christ, and for parents to reclaim responsibilty often consigned to churches and schools. “It’s almost as if God reached into our activity-addicted, spaz-fest culture of delegated parenthood and said, ‘Stop!’ Or rather, with regard to rediscovering and living in our God-designed nature: ‘Start!’”

Through its “I Love My Family” program, Schlueter’s ministry encourages families to dedicate weekly time to meaningful conversation and prayer, making their homes places of ever-deepening encounter with Christ.

The ministry provides a “Live IT Gathering Guide,” available free online, and can be used to discuss and pray over the Sunday Mass readings. The guide includes an outline with prayers and questions for strengthening family relationships. It is coordinated with a “Family Road Trip” radio broadcast on which several families discuss their own experiences with weekly “Live IT” meetings. “I Love My Family” also offers in-person meetings for groups of couples and families, but with those suspended during the coronavirus restrictions, some groups have met on Zoom and the ministry has aired an interactive Parental Pow-Wow on Facebook and YouTube.

Schlueter said many families who start “Live IT” gatherings in their homes previously had some practice of formal family prayer, such as the rosary, but not a way to engage in meaningful, relational encounters with each other. When they overcome the initial awkwardness, he said families often experience transformation.

Kelly noted that although his family has not incorporated “Live IT” into their prayer times, he has seen its fruit in other families and in one of his own sons, who went through a period of not relating to his faith. Through participation in a “Live IT” youth gathering, “He became really alive in his faith and learned it.”

Boosting communication. Steve Findley, whose family used “Live IT” for about six years, said their communication improved to such a degree that he can’t imagine what sheltering-in with six children from 6 to 20 would have been like without it.

His wife, Lorna, noticed very few challenges during the stay-at-home restrictions. “I think our ability to handle this and be happy in it is largely due to the amount of communication we have in our prayer life and faith. Having that focus makes all the difference.”

Their family has learned to open up and discuss their struggles through the weekly “Live IT” gatherings, which provide opportunities to affirm, seek forgiveness, and to pray with and ask for prayer from each other. Sharing and discussing a problem with the family, she said, lightens the burden for those who are struggling. “Being a bigger family, it’s always a noisy challenge because everyone wants to talk at the same time, but it’s great to be able to communicate and respect each other.” Because of the gatherings, Lorna said, “Without a doubt, our faith, our marriage, and everything across the board has grown.”

Even though she initially was uncertain about the effect that sheltering-in would have, she found the result has been something of an answer to prayer. “The way God can do good through hard things is so evident . . . Really, very quickly, the good fruit of it was abundantly obvious from the get-go.”

Schlueter said “Live IT” participants like the Findleys have embraced the coronavirus circumstances as a way to spend meaningful time together, recalibrate who they are, and go deeper into their souls, marriages, and families.

Purifying priorities. Liz Erickson, whose family is part of the “Live IT” ministry, said sheltering-in has given her and her husband, Walt, more quality time. They have been praying together more as a couple, and with their six children. This has extended to her parents, siblings, and their families, who have begun praying the rosary together on Zoom every Sunday. “That was not happening before,” she said.

Stroud, an obstetrician/gynecologist, said he has heard many stories like his own of families who are seeing the benefit of slowing down and being at home during the coronavirus restrictions. At his Legatus men’s forum recently, he said one of the questions the members considered was “what will you do differently post-pandemic?” “A lot said they were going to try to be less busy and savor going to Mass more. It was kind of a universal response and I would certainly echo that. Why did we need an international pandemic to tell people to slow down and be less scheduled?”

He sees the stay-at-home orders as a good time to learn to love people for what makes them unique. “Sometimes the things that make a family member unique can get under your skin. It’s a good time to thank God for their uniqueness, and a good time to reflect on how we have to love each other, and that it’s not always rainbows and daffodils.”

JUDY ROBERTS is a Legatus magazine staff writer

Returning to normal – can we get there from here?

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to unprecedented levels of government action to slow its spread and to mitigate its effects.

The new coronavirus appears to cause death in one to two percent of cases compared to about one death in 1,000 cases for influenza. But unlike influenza, there is currently no preventive vaccine or proven antiviral treatment. The new coronavirus overwhelmed hospital capacity in parts of Italy and threatened to do so in New York City.

With a vaccine still a mere wish and a year away at best, might we hope for “herd immunity”? With COVID-19, that would require 50 percent to 80 percent of the population to be immune by infection or vaccination. Based on current data, we are less than one percent of the way there.

Extreme social distancing in spring has prevented hospitals from being overwhelmed, so we did flatten the curve. Let’s hear it for solidarity!

But when can we “reopen” society? When the disease does not threaten to overwhelm hospitals, and case counts are low enough to be identified and isolated, and their contacts are identified.

How will reopening progress? Per the 10th Amendment of the Constitution, decisions for reopening areas are made at the state level, perhaps at local levels in states that delegate this authority. Some have already begun gradual reopening using the three phase scheme recommended by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) as a guide.

As reopening progresses, governors will be looking for

  • Decreasing numbers of cases
  • Sufficient hospital bed and intensive-care bed capacity
  • Availability of personal protective equipment (PPE), particularly masks and gowns
  • Readily available testing
  • Sufficient public health investigative capacity

Expect incremental changes based on weighing risk of disease transmission against economic necessity. Activities might be allowed to recommence sequentially along these lines:

  • Medical procedures, starting with the most urgent
  • Businesses with minimal face-to-face customer interaction
  • Other businesses
  • Gatherings with moderate numbers of persons or face-to-face contact
  • Larger gatherings and restaurants

COVID-19 may have catalyzed some permanent changes, speeding the adoption of telecommuting in businesses and distance learning for more college courses. Sick-leave policies and social mores may get more people to stay home while suffering from respiratory infections, and people may more consistently observe cough etiquette. Perhaps a greeting that transmits fewer viruses than handshaking will be adopted. And maybe we’ll wash our hands more frequently and stop touching our faces unthinkingly.

We could get lucky: the virus might be seasonal, so that it fades away during the summer without human effort; or researchers might demonstrate the effectiveness of an antiviral drug that reduces morbidity and mortality without extraordinary social-distancing edicts.

Fondly should we hope, fervently should we pray…

PAUL R. CIESLAK, M.D., is a member of the Catholic Medical Association and a public health official for the state of Oregon. He lives with his wife and family in northeast Portland.

In pandemic’s wake – sailing toward a more crisis-resilient society

As COVID-19 recedes, the “normal” to which we return will differ from its pre-Corona counterpart. Changes will be good and bad, short-lived and lasting, predictable and unforeseen. Despite the unknowns, we can count on one inevitable truth: other crises lurk. Are we ready for the next one?

As we approach Fathers’ Day, we should assess our crisis preparedness by asking how well we fulfil the primary responsibilities that belong to us as parents versus those assigned to other institutions — such as federal, state and local governments, public companies, organized religions, charities, and other non-profits. Consider this: when schools closed, politicians worried how children were to be fed. Public schools, after all, have assumed the responsibility of feeding kids during school and oftentimes before and afterward. Politicians also worried about how working single mothers could make alternative arrangements for their kids, and so they lurched to set aside billions of federal dollars for nationally funded daycare.

When the government scrambles during a crisis to feed and babysit kids across the country, then we have a problem. I cling to the belief that parents are responsible for providing for their kids.

To this end, we should revisit the suggestion from long ago that families should build three to six months of emergency funds to cover food, rent, insurance, loan payments, and other expenses in the event of job loss. Some will argue it is too hard to do this in today’s complex society. It was never easy. But without emergency savings available when a crisis hits, many are caught flatfooted and immediately look to Washington and state capitols for help.

To be sure, as charitable people, our best instincts are to help those in need, and we do. But this shouldn’t imply that we transfer our family responsibilities to government bodies. Perhaps we should examine what personal spending priorities we have placed ahead of crisis preparedness.

A related issue is the relationship between crisis preparedness and the role of fathers. COVID-19 has illuminated the crisis of fatherlessness that has metastasized over the last 50 years. Tens of millions of kids live in father-absent homes. Almost 50 percent of these kids with single mothers live below the poverty line. These fatherless kids struggle on a good day, even before a new virus upends their world. Chances are that these moms don’t have “build a three-month contingency fund” at the top of their to-do lists. A crisis naturally is going to hit families harder where a provider is absent in one of the key roles that fathers traditionally play.

Other species — think of birds — decided long ago that it takes two parents to raise their young, often with one guarding the nest while the other hunts. Humans resembled our feathered friends for thousands of years before we let a variety of forces in recent decades render fatherhood optional, obsolete, or even sinister. What were we thinking? Now government scrambles to play the roles that two parents, working together, were designed to fulfill. Why did we think that government, of all things, should be entrusted to do something as important, complicated, and demanding as parenting?

Before the next crisis comes knocking, we should save, assess our spending priorities, and prepare for the challenges that we, like it or not, will face again. All fathers should assess how well they have equipped their families to weather the next storm. And all of us – including public policy makers, religious leaders, and business executives – should re-examine the traditional roles fathers have played in support of their families and ask why these roles have been ignored, undermined, or transferred to other parties.

BILL MCCUSKER is the founder and CEO of Fathers & Families, Inc. He is a retired business executive who spent 35 years with global professional services firms. He is a former Peace Corps teacher in Fiji and a graduate of the University of Notre Dame (B.A.) and the University of Michigan (M.B.A.)