On the balmy evening of May 10 at Tulsa’s historic Holy Family Cathedral, the newest Legatus chapter joined for rosary, Confession and Mass, officiated by their new chapter chaplain, Monsignor Dennis Dorney. Immediately following was the investiture of its first 21 members, each of whom was personally greeted and congratulated by Legatus executive director, Stephen Henley. A celebratory reception and dinner commenced at the elegant Agora Event Center, with its breathtaking panoramic views of the Tulsa skyline.
Spring cocktails and hors d’oeuvres of tantalizing salmon, coconut chicken, and crab cakes with chutney, followed by entrée creations of cardamomcrusted beef filet, tomato-pesto stuffed chicken, and seared salmon, greeted the new chapter-guests. The dessert finale showcased a choice of triple chocolate crème and vanilla Bavarian crème cakes.
Featured speaker for the evening was Pete Burak, director of i.d.9:16, the young adult outreach of Renewal Ministries. The group delighted in his captivating presentation on how to reach out effectively to millennials.
The spectacular celebration was well deserved indeed.
About two years ago, when Tulsa’s Bishop David Konderla was newly installed, Legatus Central Region director, Ken Darnell, along with Stephen Henley and Central Region chapter development officer, Carmen Tate, reached out to him in efforts to embed a fresh chapter there – in a part of the country where Catholics make up only three percent of the population. The bishop warmly welcomed them and affirmed their objective straightaway – and in December 2016, formally approved the chapter’s intent to launch.
In spring 2017, Legatus hosted the initial cocktail reception at the Bishop’s residence for interested Tulsa-area prospects . And the rest is history. Bishop Konderla not only extended unmistakable support, he attended most precharter events during the crucial development year. The chapter attained its 21-member threshold in April.
“It makes a huge difference to have strong patronage from the bishop,” says Darnell. “Bishop Konderla — who also attended the evening’s dinner celebration — provided invaluable support and credibility to our new chapter.”
His Excellency then named Monsignor Dennis Dorney, pastor emeritus of St. Mary’s Parish in Tulsa and a longstanding priest in the diocese for over 40 years, as the chapter’s premier chaplain.
“The Tulsa members are a hearty group of people,” says Darnell. “They’re serious about their faith, and a close-knit and active bunch.” He is honored to have worked so closely with them over the pivotal months preceding chartering, particularly those who have generously partnered on the board, meeting monthly to stay abreast of developments and propel the chapter toward official status.
President and CEO of Tulsa’s Littlefield Agency – a thriving advertising and marketing agency – David Littlefield will serve as the chapter’s first president. One of Littlefield’s clients in Oklahoma City had recommended him to Darnell. The two have since developed a special camaraderie.
“I had never heard of Legatus until last May,” Littlefield says. As empty-nesters, he and his wife Marellie had been looking for an opportunity to grow spiritually as a Catholic couple. “So we went to the kickoff event at the bishop’s residence last year, and we joined right then.”
He sees unusual advantages to Legatus that he can get nowhere else.
“We truly look forward to that monthly meeting with rosary, Confession, Mass, dinner, and a great Catholic speaker,” explains Littlefield. “This to me is part of the ‘magic’ of Legatus – a monthly retreat where we spend time with like-minded Catholics and business people. It affirms and teaches us.“
But Legatus’ impact goes well beyond the get-togethers, he adds. “It’s an amazing tool that helps me do business effectively in a secular world, and helps keep me grounded.” In his Tulsa ad agency business – in a region where Catholics are few and far between – 13 of 24 employees are Catholic. “I like to think that says something.”
And Littlefield has great plans for the new Tulsa chapter.
“Once we’re up and running, I hope to expand into the Legatus Forums realm, to give our members opportunity for muchneeded peer-confidentiality in whatever they’re encountering professionally or personally. And as a chapter, we’ll offer consistently engaging monthly events – of which the ‘secret sauce’ is great Catholic speakers,” he says.
But this is by no means ‘the David Littlefield show,’ he says. “I may be president of the chapter, but Marellie and I are every bit doing this as a couple.”
Further, he says the new chapter wouldn’t exist without the priceless efforts of its initial officer team: vice president, Joe Moran – a retired manufacturing executive who is very active in the Diocese of Tulsa; treasurer Blake Atkins – a convert to Catholicism and well-respected CPA and attorney; membership director Kathy Craft – an active Catholic involved in the diocese as well as local and national organizations and colleges; and of course the chapter’s chaplain, Monsignor Dennis Dorney – who is also active in Catholic Charities and a Catholic hospice home.
“And most especially,” he says, “without the leadership and direction of Ken Darnell and Carmen Tate, we wouldn’t be where we are right now.”
CHRISTINE VALENTINE-OWSIK is Legatus magazine’s editor.