June 4, 2014: Two chapters charter on the same day, one with record membership . . .
More than 27 years after its founding, chapters in two states contributed to a record-breaking day in the history of Legatus. For the first time, two chapters chartered on the same day, one of them with a record number of member-couples.
Both the Lafayette-Acadiana (Louisiana) and South Bend-Elkhart (Indiana) chapters chartered on June 4. And Lafayette rallied to charter with 53 CEO members, besting the Orange Canyons Chapter’s 38 couples in November 2011. Both new chapters are dedicated to St. John Paul II.
Legatus’ fifth Louisiana chapter grew quickly after its first chapter event in February, when 13 prospective couples gathered and nine of them joined that night. Two months later, with about 16 couples already registered as members, the chapter hosted EWTN’s Raymond Arroyo as its speaker.
“Once they saw the format and the quality of speakers, it lit a fire under everybody,” said chapter president S. Craig Henry. “We’re fortunate because Lafayette has a very Catholic-rich culture.”
The area also has a booming energy sector and a large pool of young entrepreneurs, Henry said. The chapter’s average age is 50, and the youngest member is 30 years old.
Lafayette Bishop Michael Jarrell celebrated the chartering Mass at St. Pius Catholic Church. He was joined by Legatus’ international chaplain Bishop Sam Jacobs, Lafayette vicar general Monsignor Curtis Mallet, Baton Rouge chaplain Monsignor Miles Walsh, Fr. Bryce Sibley and Fr. Louis Richard.
The evening’s festivities continued at the City Club at River Ranch, where members were delighted to hear from Legatus founder Tom Monaghan in the form of a question-and-answer session led by their chapter president.
“People loved it,” Henry said. “Tom Monaghan was blown away by how many members we had. He challenged our chapter to be a Confession chapter because he really wants Legatus members to use the opportunity for Confession before their monthly Mass.”
Sheila Zepernick, whose husband Gus is the chapter’s vice president, said Legatus has been a great blessing to them.
“I’ve been inspired by all the young couples with busy families who want to be part of this and have a Catholic date night once a month,” she said. “It’s just beautiful. We don’t have date- night opportunity like this with any other organization.”
A thousand miles north of Lafayette, Legates from Northern Indiana gathered for their chartering Mass with Fort Wayne-South Bend Bishop Kevin Rhoades at St. Patrick’s Parish in South Bend, Ind. He was joined by concelebrant Fr. Terry Coonan, the chapter’s founding chaplain.
The celebration continued at LaSalle Grill in downtown South Bend with remarks from Bishop Rhoades, Legatus executive director John Hunt, chapter president Kurt Meyer and others.
Meyer said he and his wife first heard about Legatus shortly after Christmas, just in time for the chapter’s first meeting in February with Legatus founder Tom Monaghan.
“I started researching Legatus and I said, ‘Julie this is for me. It’s the right time, right place. I think this is what God’s telling me to do: to blend my Catholic faith and my business leadership skills,’” he said. “Being able to blend your business skills with your faith is very hard in today’s world, but it’s more important than ever.”
Father Coonan agreed. “Legatus brings these important Catholics together to talk about things and learn how to survive the struggles of business life with your faith intact.”
Mike Witous, who joined the Grand Rapids Chapter last year, transferred to South Bend when it was launched earlier this year.
“When Tom Monaghan spoke to our meeting a few months ago, he said one of the reasons he started Legatus is because he wanted to give people a better chance of going to heaven,” he explained. “I wanted to help build this chapter for similar reasons.
“As Catholics it’s nice to be able to share your faith publicly and comfortably,” Witous explained. “Unfortunately, too often we are apologetic for being Christian these days.”
Bishop Rhoades, who presided over the Fort Wayne Chapter’s chartering last December, said he was delighted and surprised at how quickly two chapters developed in his diocese.
“Legatus has given a new impulse of faith, and I feel it tonight,” he said. “These people have busy lives and they see a lot. But this is impacting them in a way that other organizations don’t because it’s dealing with their spiritual life, their relationship with the Lord, with the Church.
“I think Legatus is going to bear a lot of good fruit in our diocese beyond this immediate circle. I expect we’ll see growth in numbers, but even more importantly a growth in virtue that can happen through membership in Legatus.”
PATRICK NOVECOSKY is Legatus magazine’s editor-in-chief.