FARMINGTON – If a dynamic keynote speaker is any indication of future success, the just-launched Hartford chapter of the evangelizing group Legatus is off to a promising start.
Dr. Paul Voss, a Catholic father of five and professor of Renaissance literature at Georgia State University, held a roomful of executives and their spouses spellbound at the Country Club of Farmington April 30 with a lively talk and PowerPoint presentation on the relationship between faith and business. Calling himself “a Catholic free-marketer,” Dr. Voss defended capitalism, saying, “We have to remember that the free market is not free. It never has been free. The admission price to the amusement park of free-market economic activity is your individual integrity and honesty.”
He said there is almost nothing in the Catechism of the Catholic Church about the business world. The patron saint of business is almost unknown – Saint Homobonus (“good man”), whose biography has not even been translated into English. Papal pronouncements have focused more on workers than on the businesses they work for, he said. But Pope Benedict XVI’s 2009 encyclical Caritas in Veritate (“In Charity and Truth”) states that because of global changes in how business is conducted, “there is ... increasing awareness of the need for greater social responsibility on the part of business” (paragraph 40).
In other words, Dr. Voss said, business is good if it is responsible and honest.
It’s the kind of message that was meant to resonate with the successful men and women who are founding and forming this local chapter of Legatus, 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. Archbishop Leonard P. Blair, when he was Bishop of Toledo, helped that organization to grow in Michigan and Ohio and now wants to see it take hold here.
“Legatus is not some personal project of mine; it’s simply a national organization that I’m familiar with,” Archbishop Blair told the Transcript before the Mass at the Church of St. Peter in Farmington that preceded the reception at the country club. “This [organization] is directed toward business leaders and their spouses, and in my experience with them it has been very good to try to engage them in a way that they can bear witness to the faith in everyday life and exercise their responsibilities as business leaders. So in that sense I’m very happy to give it all the help and encouragement that I can.”
Legatus – Latin for “ambassador” – invites members to be ambassadors for Christ (2 Cor 5:20), according to its website, www.legatus.org. Membership is by invitation and 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.
John Trecker, Northeast Region development officer, said one goal of the new chapter is to grow it to 20 member couples (spouses are welcomed as full members) so that it can be chartered and self-governing.
Robert and Karen Goldschmidt, of Bloomfield, are founding members of the new chapter. Mr. Goldschmidt was also a co-founder of the Manhattan chapter and, following his career in the leveraged buyout business, was the first chief financial officer of the Archdiocese of New York.
“It’s a tie between the world of God and the business world,” Mr. Goldschmidt said. “When you’re with a group of CEO types, you all enjoy certain types of speakers, and we enjoy talking about certain things and how to bring the impact of the church into the business world.”
Mrs. Goldschmidt said that members tend to be “very sharp people” who are also practicing Catholics. “It’s nice to see because the world is so cynical about [business]. ... This is a nice group; it’s uplifting; you know you’re not alone.”
Elizabeth Rubino, trustee of St. Peter Parish in Farmington, is founder and owner of Ultimate Nutrition, a Farmington-based business. She and pastor Father Thomas J. Barry, chaplain of the local Legatus, visited the group’s headquarters in Florida and then attended the first informal meetings at the rectory in Farmington.
Dr. Peter Decker, former dean of the School of Medicine at the University of Connecticut, was approached by his pastor, Father John W. McHugh at St. Ann Parish in Avon, who asked him if he would be interested in spreading the faith in the business community. “I said, ‘Sure, I do that all the time with my medical students,’” he said.
Archbishop Blair reminded the group that Pope Francis says we are all missionary disciples. “Most Catholics don’t think of themselves as missionary disciples,” he said. But, “Each in our own way has to stand up and be counted.”
He said the experience of Legatus gives something to its members but it also asks something, “and that is to be ambassadors for Christ. Not with the sash coming down the front, not that kind of ambassador, but in quiet ways, prayerful ways, by giving example.”