When Archbishop J. Michael Miller took his post in 2009 as leader of the Catholic Church in Vancouver, he brought something unique back to his native Canada — experience as a Legatus chaplain.
He had served as co-chaplain of Legatus’ Houston Chapter before being appointed secretary of the Congregation for Catholic Education at the Vatican.
“Business leaders have a key role in the social, economic and political life of any community,” he said. “Legatus helps them live out being Catholic precisely in their commitments as business leaders.”
As Legatus’ second Canadian chapter, Vancouver chartered with 22 member-couples on March 3, just 18 months after its first exploratory meeting.
The evening began with rosary and Mass celebrated by Archbishop Miller at The Terminal City Club, followed by the chartering ceremony. Instead of a speaker after dinner, Legatus founder Tom Monaghan answered questions from membership chair Murray Neilson in a fireside-chat format.
The main point of Legatus, Neilson said, is to encourage influential people to “nourish their faith.” Underlining Legatus’ unique focus, he pointed out that while lawyers might be more articulate and academics more intelligent, CEOs are more influential.
“Everyone looks up to CEOs,” he said, “not necessarily for the right reason, but they do because they’re successful.” Therefore, he added, it’s good for them to be formed as role models.
Archbishop Miller said that he was interested in forming a chapter when he first came to Vancouver, but set it aside to work on other initiatives like the new archdiocesan center, which opened in March 2015.
“The genius of Legatus is that it’s a simple idea — business leaders coming together for prayer, fellowship and formation,” Archbishop Miller said. “Legatus doesn’t exist for philanthropic work. It simply assumes that its members do good works on their own. It’s a simple idea, and I think that’s Legatus’ strength.”
The chapter held its first informational meeting in September 2014. Giovanni Bitelli, senior vice president of a Vancouver brokerage firm, attended and joined that evening.
Legatus, he said, has a unique role to play in forming Catholic business leaders.
“There are three things about Legatus that are different than almost anything my wife and I do,” he explained. “First, spouses are a key part of Legatus. Together we are the member. Number two: Nobody asks me for money or to participate in another project. It happens everywhere else all the time. I can relax here. The third thing is that Legatus brings the rosary, Mother Mary, and the Mass to our lives. It blends with who we are.”
Chapter president Patty Neilson and her husband Murray also attended the chapter’s initial meeting and signed up that evening.
“As former evangelical Protestants, we had a strong community of fellow believers, but when we became Catholic 10 years ago we really had no community,” she explained. “We started to come to Legatus and there was this community of like-minded people who believed what we did. We have tremendous fellowship and learn from great speakers. It’s become an important source of community within the Church for us.”
PATRICK NOVECOSKY is Legatus magazine’s editor-in-chief.