FARMINGTON – While serving as Bishop of Toledo, Archbishop Leonard P. Blair took a special interest in an evangelizing organization called Legatus, increasing membership in the local chapter from 23 to 60 active members over five years. Now, under his guidance, a chapter of Legatus will have its kickoff event at the Church of St. Patrick, 110 Main St., on April 30.
The event will begin with confessions and recitation of the rosary at 5:30 p.m. Archbishop Blair will celebrate Mass at 6. A dinner will follow at the Country Club of Farmington, 806 Farmington Ave., featuring a keynote address on “The Catholic Work Ethic” by Dr. Paul J. Voss, a noted teacher, business leader and public speaker. Dr. Voss is president of Ethikos, a consultancy specializing in culture, leadership, paradigm shifts and ethical decision making.
Legatus is an international organization of business and professional men and women dedicated to spreading the Catholic faith. It was started in 1987 in Michigan by Domino’s Pizza founder Thomas Monaghan. In 2007, largely under then-Bishop Blair’s initiative, membership in the Michigan-Ohio area dramatically increased, spawning more chapters in other areas. There are now some 1,200 members in 80 chapters worldwide, according to Northeast Region development officer John Trecker.
In a statement, Archbishop Blair said: “My association with Legatus spans many years and places, including Michigan and Ohio as well as Rome. I have witnessed firsthand the impact Legatus can have in strengthening the faith commitment of corporate executives and their spouses. Legatus members commit themselves ‘to study, live, and spread the Catholic Faith in their business, professional, and personal lives,’ so as to become its ‘ambassadors’ in today’s society. The approach is both relaxed and yet focused, as members gather socially in an atmosphere that builds up faith and prayer and promotes discussion of topics of interest. And it is a golden opportunity for spouses to focus on their faith together. It is my hope and prayer that Legatus will be successfully launched in our Archdiocese as it has been in so many other dioceses throughout the country.”
Mr. Trecker said Legatus of Hartford began in February. “What we’re trying to do is to build something that’s never been done before in Hartford – a Catholic business community,” he said.
Legatus – Latin for “ambassador” – invites members to be ambassadors for Christ (2 Cor 5:20), according to its website, www.legatus.org. Membership is open to qualifying Catholic board chairs, presidents, CEO’s, owners, managing directors or partners, publishers and executive vice presidents of businesses and professions that meet certain personnel and value guidelines.
Archbishop Blair chose Father Thomas J. Barry, pastor of the Church of St. Patrick, as chaplain of Legatus of Hartford. Father Barry will hear confessions, celebrate Mass and deliver a homily at monthly meetings at his church.
“The archbishop’s opinion, his belief, is that we need to have a strong Catholic witness in the business community, and of course Hartford has a strong business community tradition,” Father Barry said. “Archbishop Blair saw the impact it had in his own diocese in Toledo, and he wanted to have the same thing happen here while he is archbishop. It’s going to take some development, but it’s off to a good start.”
That good start came primarily through the efforts of people like Bob O’Hara, head of global compliance at United Technologies Corp. Father Barry reached out to Mr. O’Hara because he is involved in many Catholic activities. Mr. O’Hara attended the first organizational meeting and asked, “What’s the hook? What are you looking for in the way of contributions, in the way of effort?”
He said he was told that the main contribution was faith formation. “Father Barry said, ‘I need you to [evangelize].’ I said, ‘Okay, I think I can do that.’”
He got his wife, Rosanne, on board, and he recruited several couples from his parish, St. Catherine of Siena in West Simsbury.
“This organization gives you the confidence and gives you the support structure to talk with like-minded, like-placed individuals in society that share your Catholic faith and are willing to grow in the faith but also act their faith in their professional careers and their professional lives,” he said.
Ralph Chappano, president and founder of Office Furniture Rental Alliance, is one of Mr. O’Hara’s recruits. Mr. O’Hara approached him at an event for Malta House of Care.
Mr. Chappano said he has always been a practicing Catholic and that he had 12 years of Catholic education. “And my faith is very important to me and my family, so when I looked at this, it’s a unique organization from my perspective,” he said.
His perspective is as a businessman who started a national company, an enterprise that often presents ethical challenges, he said.
“It’s a demanding process, and, as I said, it’s conflicting at times. It’s easy to get misdirected, and surely through my faith we try to maintain consistency and fairness through that journey.”
He said Legatus allows business, personal and family life, and faith to form a “three-legged stool” that stands on its own.
Mr. Trecker said that one goal of the Hartford chapter is to grow to 20 member couples (spouses are welcomed as full members) by July 1, at which time the chapter can be chartered and be self-governing with its own board of directors and self-sustaining through member dues.
Before working for Legatus, Mr. Trecker was a missionary for FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students), a national Catholic outreach group to college students. He then attended seminary and spent time in a monastery, but he never lost his missionary zeal.
“What I wanted to do was find an organization where I could help develop inroads for the Gospel in the business community in America, and Legatus is one of the very few organizations that do that,” he said.
John Lariviere is Northeast Region director of Legatus and a member of the New York City chapter. “I got invited by a friend, and that’s how we do it. It’s very much a relational thing. The way we grow Legatus is one by one. Usually a friend will reach out to another friend,” he said.
Being a CEO can be lonely, the former leader of a venture capital firm said, and it’s helpful to find a good peer group. “There are lots of other organizations and groups out there, but they’re not Catholic and they’re not faith oriented, so it’s wonderful to discover this and to experience it with your spouse,” he said.
There is no cost to attend the April 30 meeting, but the registration deadline is April 20. Contact John Trecker at firstname.lastname@example.org or 917-975-1737. For more information, call Ralph Chappano, 860-338-3600.