By S.L. Hansen
LINCOLN (SNR) - The Lincoln chapter of Legatus, a Catholic organization for business leaders, kicked off 2015 with installation of new officers and planning for their 10th anniversary.
The officers were installed at a Mass in the John XXIII Center in Lincoln, celebrated by Bishop James D. Conley. Bishop Conley was also the keynote speaker at the dinner that followed.
Legatus of Lincoln was chartered June 21, 2005, the 48th chapter of Legatus since the organization was founded by entrepreneur Thomas Monaghan 28 years ago. Twenty-four couples – local business owners/leaders and their spouses – were inducted as members.
Msgr. Liam Barr, pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Lincoln and Legatus chaplain, had been working for Monaghan at the Ave Maria School of Law in Michigan when he was called back to the Diocese of Lincoln in 2003.
Because Msgr. Barr had served as Legatus chaplain there, he knew the advantages the group provided through its three-fold purpose of encouraging business leaders to study the faith, live it out and spread the Good News. He assured Monaghan that he would start a new chapter of Legatus in Lincoln.
The former Domino’s Pizza tycoon was dubious that a chapter would be sustainable in such a small community, but he was happily proved wrong – very wrong.
“We are actually the largest in the country, proportionate to the Catholic population,” Msgr. Barr reported. “[Monaghan] is delighted, of course, that it has gone so well.”
At last week’s induction Mass and the dinner following, there were “86 or 88 people” present, estimated newly commissioned president Dave Curry.
In the five or six years since he and his wife became members, Curry has seen Legatus help Catholic business leaders grow more comfortable with being able to share their faith in the workplace.
“Too often, corporate leaders are reluctant to share their personal thoughts, their faith…They want to avoid undue influence,” Curry explained. “Tom Monaghan’s theory is that we should be the exact opposite of that… We’re in a unique position in the business world to live out our faith and essentially make it part of our evangelization.”
As Msgr. Barr put it, “A layperson can go where I could never go… They have opportunities to witness that I will never have, and as laypeople, they can do it better.”
Curry noted that each Legatus member finds his or her own way of making their faith known.
This year, he is privileged to be able to keep a beautiful cross on his desk at work, the cross that Legatus chapter presidents hand down to their successors each year. It is a sign of his belief to others in the workplace, which can instigate conversations.
“My office knows that I’m Catholic, and they come to me if they have questions,” he said. “I’m a convert, so I can relate to non-Catholics. We have some interesting lunches.”
Msgr. Barr has seen Legatus’ positive influence on many members.
“I found a lot of the members more outspoken in their secular lives and more confident in witnessing the positions of the Church on different social issues,” he said.
Business leaders often appreciate the fact that Legatus is not a fundraising organization. The group exists simply to encourage and inspire its members to grow in their faith and witness.
Each month, Legatus hosts a gathering that includes confession, Mass, a social hour and dinner featuring a keynote address. The group has heard from many national and international speakers, as well as locals with their own inspiring stories.
Members also meet in smaller, male- or female-only groups of 10 or 12, called forums. Committed to absolute confidence, forum members are able to share their needs, struggles and triumphs with other like-minded people and receive advice, encouragement, prayer and support.
“Our purpose is to share our lives and to be positive influences on each other,” Curry said.
Once a year, the Lincoln and Omaha chapters gather for a joint meeting. Sometime in late summer or early autumn, the Lincoln members will host Omaha’s members at the new Newman Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
Nationally, Legatus members are invited on an annual pilgrimage to Rome as well as a three-day summit conference, featuring internationally acclaimed speakers at a beautiful resort.
Curry said chief executive officers, presidents, owners and other executives of all kinds of businesses are part of the group.
“If you’re a business person and think you have some interest, please check the website and send that inquiry in. We’d be happy to listen,” he said.