Tag Archives: Ralph Martin

A passion for the gospel

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

Deacon Larry Oney

Deacon Larry Oney

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

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

Humble beginnings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Faith and works

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Countering materialism

Ralph Martin

Ralph Martin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Legates witness history

Double canonization features double themes: Second Vatican Council and the family . . .

cover-june14When the Vatican announced last fall that Pope John Paul II would be raised to the honors of the altar on Mercy Sunday 2014, no one was surprised. In fact, shortly after his death on the eve of Mercy Sunday 2005, the faithful insisted on his canonization.

Italians held signs aloft at his funeral that read “Santo Subito!” or “Sainthood Now!” Nine years later, their demands were met with nearly a million people on hand to witness the largest gathering at the Vatican in history.

Between 800,000 and 1 million people jammed St. Peter’s Square on April 27 spilling out down the Via della Conciliazione all the way to the Tiber River and dozens of squares in Rome, most watching on big screens set up for the canonization of two popes: John Paul and John XXIII.

Witness to history

Don & Michele D’Amour

Don & Michele D’Amour

Dozens of Legatus members were among the pilgrims witnessing history. Not only was it historic in terms of size, but it was the first time the Church has canonized two popes at once — and it was the first canonization with two popes present at the altar, as Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI concelebrated the Mass with his successor Pope Francis.

Donald and Michele D’Amour, members of Legatus’ Western Massachusetts Chapter, were in St. Peter’s Square, halfway between the altar and the obelisk.

“It was a powerful and humbling moment for me,” Michele said. “It was humbling to be among all the pilgrims, stretching for miles beyond the Vatican, which really was symbolic of the solidarity in Christ that we have in the universal Church.”

Brian & Bernice Follett

Brian & Bernice Follett

“These newly canonized popes,” Don added, “were great leaders who had the courage to be faithful and make things happen for the good of the Church and the world. In the presence of four popes, you felt the continuity, how they helped each other bring renewal to the Church and bring the gospel to the world. It was inspiring and gave a lot of food for thought.”

Brian and Bernice Follett, members of Legatus’ new chapter in Austin, Texas, watched the canonization ceremony from the roof of a convent adjacent to St. Peter’s Square. The couple attended John Paul’s beatification in 2011, but had a much better view this time around.

“It was a phenomenal experience to have two popes canonized at once and to see Pope Francis and Pope Benedict together,” Brian said. “I remember John Paul’s 1987 visit to Phoenix where I lived after college. I wasn’t practicing my faith much, but I listened to him on the radio. He has meant a lot to me over the years, so this canonization was very special.”

Scott and Lannette Turicchi of Legatus’ Hollywood Chapter brought their three daughters along for the canonization, having a prime spot on the convent roof with the Folletts.

“It was one of those moments in time that you just can’t really describe but you’ll never forget,” said Lannette, who recently wrapped production on her John Paul documentary, The Prophet of Our Time. “For seven years my children watched me make a movie about this pope, so to share the moment with them was very special. They knew they were witnessing something that would never happen again in their lifetime.”

Pope of the family

Scott & Lannette Turicchi

Scott & Lannette Turicchi

In his homily at the canonization Mass, Pope Francis declared John Paul II the “pope of the family” to great applause from the massive congregation. The Holy Father prayed for the new saint’s intercession as the Church prepares for the Synod on the Family in October, saying that “from his place in heaven, he guides and sustains us.”

Speaker and author Jason Evert, who also attended the canonization, told Legatus magazine that John Paul said, in a private conversation many years ago, that if he was remembered by history, he would like to be known as the “pope of the family.”

“When he was called the pope of the family, that was my favorite moment of the whole canonization,” Evert said. “I was thrilled that Pope Francis alluded to that passing conversation that John Paul had. It was how he wanted to be remembered.

“I think it ties in very well with the upcoming synod,” he said, “because John Paul’s writings — in particular the Theology of the Body and his appreciation of human love and his love for families — is really going to play a key role in the synod. The truth is that as the family goes, so goes the whole world.”

Author and theologian Ralph Martin agrees.

“John Paul II actually spent a lot of time with families,” said Martin, a consultor to the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization and member of Legatus’ Ann Arbor Chapter.

“He went on camping trips with young couples and young people, and he encouraged them in the vocation of marriage and family,” Martin said. “He not only taught about it in his post-synodal exhortation Familiaris Consortio (1981), but he modeled it in almost unforgettable images of him loving people, hanging out with lay people, sharing the life of the people.

“Long before Pope Francis ever said, ‘You’ve got to have the smell of the sheep on you,’ John Paul had the smell of the sheep on him,” Martin explained. “He really modeled that in a wonderful way.”

Bookends of Vatican II

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI embraces Pope Francis at the canonization Mass on April 27

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI embraces Pope Francis at the canonization Mass on April 27

The canonization also highlighted the fact that John XXIII, led by the Holy Spirit, called the Second Vatican Council while John Paul II, himself a father of the Council, spent his pontificate explaining and implementing its teachings.

Pope Francis noted in his homily that both new pope saints “lived through the tragic events of the century but were not overwhelmed by them. These were two men of courage, filled with … the Holy Spirit. In [them] there dwelt a living hope and an indescribable joy.”

Evert pointed out that John Paul II — like the first Pope John Paul — took his name from John XXIII and Paul VI, both fathers of the Council.

“These two new saints were bookends of the Second Vatican Council,” he said. “John Paul saw his name as integral to his pontificate, implementing the Council’s directives. Key to that are religious freedom, the role of the Church in the modern world, calling the laity to take part in the New Evangelization, and building a culture of life and civilization of love.”

The confusion that occurred after the Council wasn’t the intended result, Martin observed. “But John Paul got the whole thing back on track and was able to interpret the Council for us. Through his very long pontificate, he was able, issue by issue, to clarify carefully the Council’s teaching and really put us on a solid foundation for its implementation in the future.

“He called the synod of 1985 that was so important in laying down guidelines for how to properly interpret the Council,” he said. “He made a major contribution to safeguarding the fruits of the Council for the Church.”

Lannette Turicchi of Legatus’ Hollywood Chapter expressed hope that the two new saints of Vatican II would inspire the faithful in the years to come.

“I hope it’s a new springtime for the Church,” she said. “Our Church is what we make of it. If we allow apathy, we’ll get apathy. If we promote love, we’ll get love. Whatever our actions are, that’s what’s going to prevail.”

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

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.

The Urgency of the New Evangelization

Legate Ralph Martin says the Church wants all Christians to spread the Good News . . .

MartinThe Urgency of the New Evangelization
Ralph Martin
Our Sunday Visitor, 2013
128 pages, $11.95 paperback

Even though it’s been a Catholic buzzword for two decades, most Catholics don’t know much about the New Evangelization. A member of Legatus’ Ann Arbor Chapter and a consultor to the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization, Martin gives the faithful a breakdown of what it is, how to engage in it, and why it is so crucial to every Christian right now.

In his book, subtitled Answering the Call, Martin lays out an easy-to-adapt method for sharing the reality of Christ and the Gospel — for non-believers as well as those no longer practicing the faith.

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Will Many Be Saved?

Legate Ralph Martin’s book delves into the Catholic answer behind an old question . . .

Will Many Be Saved?
Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2012
336 pages, $24.00 paperback

A member of Legatus’ Ann Arbor Chapter, Martin delivers a timely book. Subtitled What Vatican II Actually Teaches and Its Implications for the New Evangelization, the book tackles the question of whether and how people who have not had the chance to hear the gospel can be saved.

This has become a much-debated topic in current theology. Martin focuses primarily on the history of the debate within the Catholic Church, but his discussion is relevant to the debate in churches around the world.

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